If you head out of Skibb on the Baltimore road and take a left turn after about 3km, you’ll come upon Lough Hyne after a further 3km or so. Ireland’s first marine nature reserve, this tidal lake is joined to the sea only by a narrow channel, known as the rapids, but reaches depths of 45m in places. A combination of warm waters from the Gulf Stream and diverse habitats – sea caves, whirlpools, shallow and deep areas – supports an astonishingly rich variety of saltwater species here, over a thousand in less than a square kilometre. Many are rare species that are generally only found in the deep ocean or the Mediterranean, such as the triggerfish and the red-mouthed goby. Sheltered by varied slopes of gorse, woods and bare rock, the placid waters are also popular among swimmers and kayakers. To make the most of a visit, see the exhibit at the Skibbereen heritage centre first, where you can also pick up a brochure for the Knockomagh Wood Nature Trail. Beginning where the road from Skibb meets Lough Hyne, at its northwestern corner, this two-kilometre trail zigzags upwards and westwards past fine viewpoints of the lake, ancient sessile oaks and bluebell meadows, to the 197-metre summit of Knockomagh Hill, which affords a panorama of the coastline stretching from Galley Head in the east to Mount Gabriel above Schull.
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