South Dublin’s Rocky Shore -10

Going back to the last resort, catch a 45 to the last resort

Shankill Beach was base camp for the exploration of South Dublin’s Rocky Shore. There remains a short stretch of coast leading down to County Wicklow. The border with Wicklow, if physically marked, would be logically defined by the Dargle River. However, the shiring of Wicklow was rather late, in 1610, making it Ireland’s youngest county. By then Bray was well established. Walter de Ridelsford built his castle in 1172, at the time of the Norman conquest, protecting his lands on either side of the Dargle. De Ridelsford was granted a license by King John in 1213 to hold a weekly market and Bray was born. The border is therefore defined by property more than geography, and joins the coast just south of the parkland of Woodbrook Golf Course.

A grubby industrial estate is an unpromising introduction to the Garden County, but soon you’ll come to the Dargle River. On the far bank the northernmost of three Martello Towers guarding Bray”s coastline from Napoleon, and the only one surviving, stands on a promontory above the harbour. Of a night, the moon being high, one would often see Bono clad in white shift and holding aloft a candelabra, flit in circles around the glass parapet, composing the lyric to his latest ouevre. Since his leaving all is dark, hardly a ghost remains. Perhaps he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

What I would be looking for is a pint. And lo, what should appear between the train tracks and the harbour only the Harbour Bar. Built as fishermen’s cottages in 1831, the pub has been serving thirsty seafarers and wayfarers for a century and a half. What better place to drown the Fisherman’s Blues.

And I know I will be loosened 

From the bonds that hold me fast 

And the chains all around me 

Will fall away at last

And on that grand and fateful day 

I will take thee in my hand 

I will ride on a train 

I will be the fisherman

With light in my head 

You in my arms

To recap then, we set off from Shankill Beach and followed the coastal path to Killiney Beach. Past Killiney DART station you can take the underpass to Strathmore Road and climb to Vico Road. Alternatively, if the tide allows, go farther along the beach and cross over the Dartline. Vico Road takes you down towards Sorento Terrace, visible to your right. At the junction, follow Sorento Road north which takes you to Dalkey Train Station. That section is about 6K  and will take an hour and a quarter. 

Cross the tracks to Ardeevin Road and keep on for the Metals. The Metals begin at the Quarry and the route is well signposted to Sandycove and Glasthule Train station. From there, cross the main road and straight on down to the seafront where the People’s Park will be to your left. It takes three quarters of an hour to get to the People’s Park, and we’ve walked 9k in total.

After that, we explored Dun Laoghaire’s seafront, all the way to the West Pier. That’s another forty five minutes, just over 3k, an hour and a half for the round trip. Three and a half hours walk so far for 15k.

Returning south, at the People’s Park again, keep to the coast from Teddy’s and around Scotsman’s Bay to the Forty Foot. Make your way to Bulloch Castle, down to Bulloch Harbour, and then follow Harbour Road and Convent Road into Dalkey. It’s fifteen minutes from Scotsman’s Bay to the Forty Foot and the same to Bulloch Harbour. Another twenty will take you to Coliemore Harbour, but allow some time to explore Dalkey. 4k of a walk since Scotsman’s, just under an hour.

Having explored Dalkey, take the southern route out via Coliemore Road, which leads all the way back to the Vico Road. Within ten minutes of leaving Coliemore Harbour you should reach Sorento Park and will have closed the loop. That’s four and a half hours walking for about 20k. 

Finally, another hour will take you back to Shankill Beach, five and half hours for the full walk. Overall, the route measures about 25k. but there are all sorts of detours and variants as we’ve seen. The nine parts described here involved five separate trips, although I’ve trod these highways and byways many more times than that – and will again.

Meanwhile, the South Dublin Rocky Playlist is provided for your wining and dining pleasure. I’ve tried to keep to local talent as much as possible but obviously strayed a bit at times.

Reverend Sisters, (Clodagh Simonds), Swaddling Songs/Mellow Candle (1971)

The Poet and the Witch (Clodagh Simonds), Swaddling Songs/Mellow Candle (1971)

Orinoco Flow (Enya, Roma Ryan), Watermark/Enya (1988)

And it Stoned Me (Van Morrison), Moondance/Van Morrison (1970)

Sheep Season (Simonds, A.Williams, D.Williams), Swaddling Songs/Mellow Candle (1971)

Thousands are Sailing (Chevron), If I Should Fall from Grace with God/The Pogues (1988)

The Captains and the Kings (Brendan Behan), Revolution/The Dubliners (1970)

Summer in Dublin (Reilly), Bagatelle/Bagatelle (1980)

Don’t Bang the Drum (Mike Scott, Karl Wallinger), This is the Sea/The Waterboys (1985)

She’s a Mystery to Me (Bono, The Edge), Mystery Girl/Roy Orbison (1989)

In Dreams (Roy Orbison), In Dreams/Roy Orbison (1963)

Love Shack (Pierson, Schneider, Strickland, Wilson), Cosmic Thing/ B52s (1989) 

Don’t Go (O Maoinlai, O Braonain, O’Toole)), People/The Hothouse Flowers (1988)

Silversong (Clodagh Simonds), Swaddling Songs/Mellow Candle (1971)

Zoo Station, (U2), Achtung Baby/U2 (1991)

In Darkness Let Me Dwell (Dowland), Songs from the Labyrinth/Sting (2006)

Sweet Thing (Van Morrison), Fisherman’s Blues/The Waterboys (1989)

Blackbird (Lennon, McCartney), The Beatles/The Beatles (1968)

Fisherman’s Blues (Scott, Wickham), Fisherman’s Blues/The Waterboys (1988)

The Last Resort (Ashford, Bonass), Sit Down and Relapse/Stepaside (1979)

South Dublin’s Rocky Shore


-1 Shankill to Killiney.

Right now, we are caught in something of a bubble, constrained to our particular bailiwick. But bubbles are the thinnest of membranes, we can see with our minds and soar with our imaginations. Often, we can find paradise on our doorstep. Living along the east coast is a boon in many ways. The view is an ever open doorway, unlocking life’s treasure chest. The sea is a conduit for our dreams and adventures, a balm on life’s troubles and constraints. The sea alone, this side of space, coats the orb on which we balance, and the means, this side of flight, by which we can traverse it.

I find myself hugging the coast. Wicklow and Dublin are my usual stomping grounds. That’s a good stretch of coast from the Boyne estuary and Drogheda to the Avoca River and the port of Arklow. I’ve written recently on Drogheda (Counties Louth and Meath, I know), Malahide, and Swords. Howth and Raheny await my attentions. Here, I intend to map out the joys of Dublin’s south coast.

I was recently atop Bray Head, and the view looking north is an inspiration. From soul to sole; the plan formed for a good walk, or series of walks, from Shankill along the sea shore to Killiney, ascending to the Vico Road and on to Dalkey, then downhill via the Metals to Dun Laoghaire. Then, or another time, pick a way back along the rocky shore via Bullock Harbour, Dalkey and the Colliemore, returning by the Vico to Shankill.

2017-01-21 10.36.46Shankill (from the Irish ‘old church’) is Dublin County’s southernmost town. It has a population of just over 14,000, Dublin’s suburban expansion transforming what was once a small village. The bridge at the north end of the Main Street, the old Dublin Road, crosses the now defunct Harcourt Street Line, the original rail connection between Bray and Dublin in 1854. A little later, the coastal route pushed through to Dun Laoghaire and on to Westland Row. Today, this route provides the Dartline commuter rail service from Greystones to Howth and Malahide in North Dublin. 

A long suburban road falls from the bridge towards the beach, passing Shankill Dart station on the way. Shankill beach is a thin strip of shingle slung below low, rapidly eroding cliffs. I parked at Corbawn Avenue, just north of the entrance to the beach and, with the sun on my back, hiked along the playing fields to gain the pathway leading down to Killiney Strand.

Killiney Bay

Killiney Bay has excited comparison with the Bay of Naples, and though such comparisons are often strained, on a glorious day such as this you can see the connection. The bay is framed to the south by Bray Head and the Sugarloaf Mountains, attractively conical peaks the larger of which gives a passable imitation of a volcano. The names of the roads mirror the conceit: Vico, Sorrento, Capri and San Elmo. Above, Killiney Hill stands sentinel, crowned by its obelisk. The craggy coast is clad in woodland and expensive villas, this is the address for the rich and famous.

Snaking along the lower reaches of the headland, the Dartline hugs the coast to Dublin. The views it offers of the bay are worth the fare, in spades. Strand Road runs the far side of the track, a connection between the high road and Killiney Dart Station. At the southern end is Holy Child College, a fee paying Catholic secondary school for girls founded in 1947. It is run by The Society of the Holy Child Jesus, an international community of Roman Catholic sisters which was formed in England in 1946 by Cornelia Kennedy.

Born Cornelia Peacock in Philadelphia in 1809, she married an Episcopalian minister, Pierce Connelly with whom she had five children. The couple converted to Catholicism, but Pierce pushed on towards the priesthood. Cornelia took vows of permanent chastity and in 1847 became a nun. but a long and bitter legal dispute with her estranged husband followed. He, ironically, had grown jealous of her attachment to the faith.

For all her sorrows, the order Cornelia established was run along the lines of the Jesuits and encouraged its students to express themselves through Art, Music and Drama. In that respect, they encouraged a glitterati of artistic alumnii: writers Eavan Boland and Maeve Binchy amongst the best known.

Reverend Sisters, I remember were it yesterday

standing young and green before the wisdom age and your black habits wrought

The sisters also fostered the talent of a trio of girls: Alison Bools, Clodagh Simonds and Mary White, together known as Mellow Candle. In their mid teens they put together demo tapes and in 1968, aged just fifteen, they cut their first single Feeling High in London. As with much of the band’s work, commercially it disappeared without trace. Two years later, Alison, at art college, and Clodagh, returned from a sojourn in Italy, or perhaps just Vico Road, reformed Mellow Candle augmented by two guitarists. 

Reverend Sisters I remember everything you see

all your words and teaching left some imprint on my memory

though I’m sad it had to be this way

as you said we change with every day

Reverend Sisters though I hate to say it

now the veils are lifted from my eyes and I can see

Reverend Sisters/Mellow Candle

Mellow Candle

These merry pranksters went on trips around the bay, played in the company of Doctor Strangely Strange, Thin Lizzy and Horslips, and signed with Deram records. The fully electric quintet that cut their only album, Swaddling Songs, comprised the twin female vocal with Clodagh on keyboards, guitarist Dave Williams who married Alison at a ragged Lizzy stadium gig, ex-Creatures bassist Frank Boylan and drummer William Murray. Swaddling Songs is a gem, a shining example of music transcending genres and time. In its own time it was completely ignored. 

I was one of a handful who bought it, as fans do, but weirdly it attained cult status two decades later and is now a collectors item. Mellow Candle’s music is unclassifiable. When ascribed genre, they were often labelled folk-rock, or Celtic-rock, neither being particularly accurate. They were a genre unto themselves: Breton sea shanties, renaissance music, choral, folk, and prog rock in a joyful collision – baroque and roll perhaps; their sound poised forever on the event horizon in some other universe.

I suppose, life and school in such a locale would tend to lead the soul towards all things maritime and wild. One can imagine Simmonds out on the strand, or bathing off shore. My younger self tended a lot towards such imaginings, but dreams can come true. 

At a summer gig in the summer of seventy one, Mellow Candle played support to Thin Lizzy in Blackrock Park. The park made a natural amphitheatre sloping down to a pond, with the bandstand an island in the water. Not being ones to hold back, and it being a glorious day, the girls plunged into the water for the finale and formed a pre-Raphaelite tableau of bathing nymphs. But then, on such a day, who could resist the urge to join them? So, here’s to swimmin’ with Clodagh Simonds.


Pity the poet who suffers to give

sailing his friendship on oceans of love 

strange harbour soundwaves break out of his reach

love is a foreigner to the queen of the beach 

The Poet and the Witch/Mellow Candle 

One Night in Shankill


Shankill is Dublin County’s southernmost town. It has a population of just over 14,000, most moving in over the last forty years around what was once a small village. The bridge at the north end of the Main Street (Dublin Road), crosses the defunct Harcourt Street Line, which closed in 1958. This was the original rail connection between Bray and Dublin in 1854. A little later, the coastal route pushed through to Dun Laoghaire and on to Westland Row. This is the surviving route, running all the way north to Belfast and south to Wexford. It provides the  Dartline electrified commuter rail service from Greystones to Howth and Malahide in North Dublin.  

Until the M11 bypass in 1991, Shankill lined the main road from Dublin to Bray. It’s still a busy route, but more pleasant with enhanced village life. Once past the village Main Street an avenue of trees forms a green tunnel from Woodbrook to Bray and the Wicklow border. The village trees are endangered by a recent public transport plan which, whatever its practical benefits, could have dire consequences for the visual amenity. 

For this painting, I’ve stopped on the southern carriageway of the Main Street, heading home from Dublin. Our Ford Focus seems blue in the glare of the green traffic lights behind me. Across the road the main glow of lights marks Brady’s Pub. In the dark is the Street Food outlet, best viewed by day with a lively sidewalk scene. Bernardo’s chipper is out of frame. A couple of pedestrians wander between pub and chipper. Decisions, decisions. A bus heads into the distance towards Bray.