What to do in Cork (Cork City, Baltimore, Mizen Head, Bantry), 200km, 4-7days
This southern exploration is a great route and one of my favourite in Ireland. If the sun is shining then driving or cycling along the narrow country roads by the sea with the sides of the road alive with the fiery orange of the wild montbretia flower then it is one of the best places in the country.
What to do in Cork - Bandon (26km from Cork)
After heading south west out the N71 from Cork City the first major town you come across is Bandon. Situated on the River Bandon, it will be your first introduction to some of the bright multi-coloured towns you will come across on this trail. Lots of bright colours, lots of fresh flowers hanging from the lamp posts and lots of activity. Bandon has plenty of history with a 240year old bridge, 400 year old church that is now the West Cork Heritage Centre (Christchurch) and 200year old vegetable and meat farmers market. Bandon is a very nice town but not a patch on the towns further west.
What to do in Cork - Clonakilty (50km from Cork)
One of the most colourful and well presented towns in Ireland. ‘Clon’ is the start of West Cork where the Cork accent gets stronger and it now resembles singing rather than talking. Clonakilty is always near the top of the list in ireland’s tidy towns competition. The town is full of good restaurants and pubs. It is the birthplace of one of the founders of the Republic of Ireland, Michael Collins and there is a museum in Clonakilty in his honour. An unusual little feature in Clon is the West Cork Model Railway Village (www.modelvillage.ie) which is a handmade village of what life was like back in the 1940’s and 50’s. Tours can be taken on a road train and takes 30minutes. In the middle of September every year there is the International Guitar Festival that is a great ‘little festival’ in the town. Galley Head lighthouse is 16km south of Clonakilty
Inchydoney Beach (blue flag) is 6km from the town and is a superb beach, or two long beach’s separated by a small headland that gives great views of both sides. There is also a 4 star hotel, Inchydoney Island Hotel, located at this junction and plenty of camping spots for tourists backpacking.
One thing that can be done in many places in west Cork is sea kayaking. I did an unusual sea kayak near the village of Unionhall. It was unusual because it was in the dark. The moon means it is not pitch dark but also you are in an inlet and not in the wide Atlantic so it is also safe. The reason for doing it in the dark is for the bio-luminescence in the water. This crazy phenomenon is amazing. As you paddle along you think that your eyes are going funny as you see little sparks in the water. But in the more secluded spots if you move your paddle or your hand then the water lights up with sparks of green and purple. The best way of describing it is like hundreds of fire flies underwater that only light when you move them. These tiny organisms make for a very exciting evening. The tour was very informative about the bio-luminescence and of the local history and can be carried out in several places and not just Unionhall. www.atlanticseakayaking.com
Drombeg stone Circle 4km south west of Rosscarbery is one of the best kept stone circles in Ireland. It measures almost 10mtrs (30ft) across and dates from approximately 900BC
What to do in Cork – Skibbereen (80km from Cork)
By now you will be familiar with cosy colourful towns and the strong accent and Skibbereen fits into that mould. A good hub for which to base further afield activities but also a great little town to ‘have the craic’. The Heritage Centre provides history on the town and of the Great Famine which happened between 1845-50. In terms of percentage of people affected in any country it was one of the most devastating in world history.
Lough Hyne is the largest sea water lake in Europe 5km south of Skibbereen. It is always warmer than the sea and hence contains fish that are usually found in much warmer countries. The Knockonagh Forest Walk is perfect to get a view of the lake and sea together.
What to do in Cork – Baltimore
It is west of Skibbereen that west Cork really comes into its own and for both the peninsula out to Baltimore and the next one, Mizen Peninsula, to the west the views are stunning. 13km along winding roads and bright orange ditches is the village of Baltimore which is great for sightseeing. Most things to do and see in Baltimore involve getting on a boat, whether this is fishing (sea or fresh water), kayaking, whale or dolphin watching or visiting some of the nearby islands
Islands: From Baltimore you can take a boat to Cape Clear, Sherkin and Heir Islands. All of these islands have great walks and stunning beaches. The islands are all of a similar size and can be walked around in half a day. Sherkin Island is the closest and is only a 10min ride across the harbour, Cape Clear is a gaeltach which means they speak Ireland’s native language, Irish, normally. They still have good English so don’t worry about that. It is a 45min ride (www.cailinoir.com) and goes 4 times a day during the summer (Jul-Sept), €16 return. Heir Island tours can be got to from the town of Schull for €15. www.heirislandferries.com. Tours can be taken to Fastnet Rock which is a bird colony but is only a rock outcrop with a lighthouse that warns sailors of the impending dangers.
Angling: Pollock and mackerel are to be found just off the harbour. There are licensed deep sea angling companies that can bring you further from shore to cast your skill to catch skate, cod, conger and sharks among others. www.wreckfish.com
Kayaking: A good way to explore the coves and caves on the west coast around and to exert yourself before settling down in the evening. www.atlanticseakayaking.com
Whale and dolphin watching: Twice a day from April to June and 3 times from July to August. Cost €50 per person for 4hr tour. www.whalewatchwestcork.com
Festivals: The main festival in Baltimore is the Seafood Festival which is on at the end of May each year and allows you to taste the delights of the surrounding seas.
What to do in Cork - Schull and Mizen Head (110km from Cork)
You head south off the N71 in the lovely sounding village of Ballydehob. The roads are small and the scenery stunning as you enter into Schull and it gets even better as you continue to roll south to the most southerly point in Ireland Mizen Head. Mizen Head is a slow 33km from Ballydehob where sheep and some narrow lanes are your companion.
Scuba Diving: There are plenty of wrecks to explore on the south coast and there is a dive centre in Schull. www.divecology.com
Culture: In Schull there are art galleries, farmers markets, traditional music in the pub to enjoy. Walking, hiking and bike hire are also a good way of seeing the local hills.
Mizen Head: The spectacular end of Ireland that boasts narrow roads, cliffs and a lighthouse at the very edge. There is a visitors centre there to give more information about the area. Three Castle head is just north up the coast which are actually 3 walled houses built in the 16th century that look out on the raging ocean.
Barleycove Beach: Close to Mizen Head on the way from Schull you will pass one of the most spectacular beaches in Ireland in Barleycove Beach. On the road you are gazing down at this large sandy beach and wish you could jump all the way down. The dunes at the back were actually put there by a tidal wave from the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and are now part of an area of conservation.
What to do in Cork – Bantry
Another well turned out town with more flowers and coloured houses that sparkle in the sun. Bantry has a lovely centre full of life and activity and open spaces all at the head of Bantry Bay. There is plenty of history like most of Ireland and places like Bantry house and the French Invasion exhibition centre are worth a visit. Just south of the town is the ancient Kilnaruane Carved Pillar Stone that still stands from early Christian times.
Whiddy Island sits just off the coast and is only a 15min ride from Bantry. The island is still inhabited mainly by fishermen. The ferry leaves from Bantry all year round. www.whiddyislandferry.com
Bere Island is a historical island that is still lived on today and has many exhibitions and historical attractions on the island. It can be got to by taking a boat the town of Castletownbere that go all year round but more crossing are scheduled in the summer. www.bereislandferries.com
What to do in Cork – Need to Know
Cork city can be accessed by bus from most major cities, Dublin (3.5hrs, 8 per day, €22 return), Limerick (1.8hrs, 10 per day, €19 return), Waterford (2.2hrs, 10 per day, €28 return), Killarney etc with Bus Eireann. www.buseireann.ie
Bantry to Cork (2hrs, 9 per day, €25 return)
By rail you can get to Cork from Dublin (every hour, 2.5hrs, €15), Limerick (every 1.5hrs, 2hrs, €26 with one change). Trains can also be got from Killarney. There are no trains to Bantry. www.irishrail.ie
Practicalities – About Ireland
- €1 =€1, USD$1=€0.77
- Language – English, Irish. The Irish language (gaelige) is thought in schools from 5-18yrs old but approximately only 5% of Irish people speak it on a full time basis. These area’s are called the Gaeltacht and are mainly in the west of Ireland
- Flights- www.aerlingus.com, www.aerarann.com, www.ryanair.com (budget), www.ba.com but most European airlines have flights to Dublin, Cork or Shannon (Limerick) and several American airlines fly to Dublin
- Buses: Dublin Bus (www.dublinbus.ie) is the city bus company in Dublin and has an extensive network. Bus Eireann (www.buseireann.ie), Kavanagh buses (jjkavanagh.ie) are the nationwide bus companies that serves other towns and cities across Ireland. Their main bases are in busaras on Store Street in the city centre for Bus Eireann and for Kavanaghs.
- Irish Rail (Iarnrod Eireann) are the railway company and serve all major cities. www.irishrail.ie
- Car Rental: All the main car hire companies are in Ireland such as Rentalcar.com (www.rentalcars.com), Irish car rentals (www.irishcarrentals.com), Hertz (www.hertz.ie), Avis (www.avis.ie), Europecar (www.europecar.ie), Car Hire (Thrifty) (www.carhire.ie)
- Accommodation – €50 per night for an average double room in a city
- Population of Ireland – 4.56million
Map of Ireland
|The Burren - Kilfenora|
|Cliffs of Moher|
Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor, Ireland
Carrauntoohil, Kerry, Ireland
|Killarney National Park|
Killarney National Park, Ireland
Bentee, Kerry, Ireland
Valentia Island, Ireland
Skellig Michael, Kerry, Ireland
Molls Gap, Ireland
Lough Hyne, Ireland
|Cape Clear Island|
Cape Clear Island, Cork, Ireland
Mizen Head, Ireland
My Photo Gallery of Ireland