Looping round an especially harsh and rocky part of the peninsula on the R575, you’ll come upon ALLIHIES, its brightly coloured houses dramatically huddled together against the leathery creases of Slieve Miskish’s western flank and blessed with superb sunset views. In 1812, the Industrial Revolution descended on this most remote corner of Ireland with a vengeance, bringing state-of-the-art engineering and Cornish mining techniques to work the copper ore in the mountains above the village. At any one time, up to 1500 people, including women and children, worked for the mines here in desperate conditions, until their closure in the 1880s, when many of the miners emigrated to the huge copper lode in Butte, Montana. The story is now engagingly told at the excellent Allihies Copper Mine Museum, set up by a group of dedicated local enthusiasts, in a renovated Methodist church that was built for the immigrant Cornish miners. Highlights of the thoughtful displays include video recollections of local men who worked in the mines when they briefly reopened in the 1950s, bits of ore that you can handle and a small-scale reconstruction of a steam pump. In addition, a network of signposted trails has been laid out in the surrounding countryside, allowing you to take in ruined mine buildings and spectac- ular views. One of the trails leads down to Ballydonegan Strand (beware the currents when swimming), 1km to the southwest – this sandy beach is actually composed of crushed quartz produced in the copper extraction process.
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