The Beara Peninsula (pronounced 'Barra') is a massive prod of rock heading out into the Atlantic from the SW of Ireland, and bounded like its brethren on either side by deep drowned river-valleys or rheas. To get around the edge of this visually astonishing landmass you have to drive an almost infinite number of zigzags along the coast. This doubles the miles which any sensible crow would fly, but it does make for a grand day out.
We toured round some shops in Bantry first thing, then went to Bantry House to see how the other half lived, and then headed out to the far end of Beara because there, luring Andrew like a beacon, is the Dursey Island Cable Car. Dursey Island is one of many scattered around the coast, right out at the very tip and with a small amount of habitation, old monastic ruins, excellent bird-watching, etc. In 2006 it had a population of 6. It is separated from the mainland by a churning anxious race of tidal water, which attacks itself and battles against the wind in all directions. It looks to be less than quarter of a mile across, but I wouldn't want to swim in it, or even try to row a boat across. It churns. It boils…. Not because of rocks and breakers but just because the waters are fighting against each other and unable to establish any kind of supremacy in one direction or the other.
Back in the 60s, someone (English?) decided to sling a cable-car across and built a pair of flimsy-looking towers, with about 6 or 7 steel wires between them, and a stop-house at each end, and a small cabin about the size of a sofa which trundles between them. We do know the cabin has been replaced at least once because we saw an old one being used as a chicken house. The new one doesn't really look much more substantial to be honest.
Andrew fixed on this contraption as a destination and drove with a warm enthusiasm all the way there - fifty or sixty winding miles - with a subtle smile on his face. Boys' toys. It took all the afternoon to get there… and when we did, I can tell you the extreme difference in our reactions was funny. He was profoundly disappointed to see the cable car was closed for maintenance… and I was heartily, joyously, pusillanimously relieved not to have to be persuaded to go in it.
The only compensation for him was to meet and talk to the three fine engineers doing the actual maintenance. They were all Cork men, from the county council. They spoke softly in that lovely accent, which reputedly comes from the French influence, and has so much courtesy and listening in it. They had to clean up the bearings and so on, using little scrapers to clean off the old oil and muck, and replace the nylon wheels which (I could easily see) had dented down after a year's use. They laughingly assured me the whole thing might look rusty but 'sure, that's only superficial, it's as safe as…..' and that 'the cables are fine - they are an inch thick'. They let me take their photograph, we had a laugh, and then two of the three of them set off on the lid of the damned cable car, to test it. We were watching from the car park, and saw them standing about on its top as it slowly trundled out across that dark and dangerous water. They had a little railing to save them if a gust of wind knocked them over, and maybe a little bit of string tied to their waists, but they were like little lads on a spree, as it shook and shivered its way through the flimsy rusty steel tower and out across into the far sunlight.