Mizen and Sheep’s Head Peninsula Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet on Mizen Head and Sheep’s Head Peninsula
West Cork is a place apart with narrow lanes covered in red-flowered Fuschia bushes, hidden beaches, colourful villages and towns, piers for access to the islands and a sense of independence where creative people flourish. The scenery is wild and spectacular on this southern end of the Wild Atlantic Way. There are built heritage sites such as castles, lighthouses and grand houses. The gardens are many and filled with sub-tropical plants and there are walks on the headlands such as Fastnet Walks, the Sheep’s Head Way and many others.
1 Scenery- You’re never far from the Atlantic here and the area has some of Ireland’s best coastal scenery with many hidden coves and bays.
2 Quaint Colourful Villages and towns-
Skibbereen is the largest town in West Cork, with colourful streets, many shops and some important cultural attractions. Schull is a colourful village on the Mizen Peninsula overlooking a boat filled bay with great artisan food producers and creative shops. Bantry is a buzzing colourful market town at the head of a beautiful bay with an artisan market each Friday including some of the best food from the area. Visit colourful towns and villages along the peninsulas of West Cork. Castletownshend by the coast is approached down a steep hill and has a church with Harry Clarke stained glass windows. Nearby Glandore and Union Hall featured in the film The War of the Buttons.
3 Islands –Take a short ferry ride to one of the islands of West Cork. ( The islands are currently scheduled to open visitors after 11th August 2020, due to Covid-19. )
4 Watersports –There are lots of watersports for young and old. Beaches along the coast are ideal for swimming or relaxing. Best in Baltimore, Castletownsend, Schull and Crookhaven.
5 Artisan Food Producers –
Buy artisan food direct from the producers at local markets, in shops or taste in the restaurants. THere are Michelin Star restaurants and othr famous pubs, cafes all serving great local foods. Take part in the annual A Taste of West Cork food festival each September.
Top 10 Things to Do in Mizen Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Ireland.
1 Drive in West West Cork
As you drive into West West Cork from Cork city and cross the bridge at Roscarberry you enter a part of the country largely unspoilt by modern life. Take a turn down a lane and find a stone circle or a crumbling castle. To drive the full Mizen Peninsula from Roscarberry to Bantry will take a day, allowing for stopping. The drive from Roscarberry to Mizen Head along winding lanes takes a little over an hour non-stop.
The Sheep’s Head drive from Bantry will take two and a half hours non-stop but you’ll be tempted to break the drive in Durrus, Ahakista or Kilcrohane or some of the viewing points along the way. You can also walk out to the Sheep’s Head lighthouse from the car park at the headland, details of the Lighthouse and other loop walks.
2. Mizen Head Lighthouse
At the tip of the Mizen Peninsula is a lighthouse reached by a footbridge, a Signature Key Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way route. Beneath you, the Atlantic waves crash against the dramatic cliffs. An interpretative centre shows how navigation was managed to ensure safety at sea and how the lighthouse keepers lived in this remote location. Be sure to get a photo of the red lantern on the western side of the lighthouse.
Nearby are Barleycove Beach, Dunlough Bay and Three Castle Head, which has a great walk across the headland to view the ruins.
3. Kayak in West Cork
Become part of nature as you kayak the crystal clear Atlantic water in Union Hall or Lough Hyne near Skibbereen. Family Fun trips take 2 hours in double kayaks for family groups. For experienced kayakers, there are longer trips during the day and at night for adults a moonlight kayak trip with a local expert to explain what you’re seeing as the wildlife come to check you out.
4. Food in West Cork
West Cork is the base for many artisan producers and Co Cork produces 70% of these foods in Ireland. At country markets, you can meet the producers as they sell cheese, meats, bread, soaps, plants and much more. Morning markets are held in Bantry on Fridays, in Skibbereen on Saturdays and in Schull on Sunday mornings (Summer only). Many restaurants in West Cork use local ingredients to produce award-winning food.
The A Taste of West Cork is a 10-day festival spread over towns, villages and islands celebrate the artisan food producers of West Cork with visits to producers, chef demonstrations and talks as well as food trails.
5. Walks of Sheeps Head and Mizen Peninsula’s
Sheep’s Head Way comprises up to 90 km of walking trails on the unspoilt Sheep’s Head Peninsula which juts out into the Atlantic between Bantry Bay to the north and Dunmanus Bay to the south. You can follow a walking trail on the Waymarked route, or hire a guide for a hard day or full day for more experienced walkers. The price of the walk depends on the number of participants with a maximum of 10 people. There are loop walks, ridge walks and guides can be booked for small groups.
The Fastnet Trails are principally located on the southern side of the Mizen Peninsula from Church Cross in the east to Goleen in the west. There are seven Trailheads – places where you can park the car, study a map board and set off on a waymarked walk. Many are scenic walks are linear or loop walks with easy routes, some along quiet country lanes.
Three Castle Head – on the Mizen Headland rather than turning for the lighthouse continue to the end of the road to Dunlough Bay car park. Walk for about 1 hour across a marked route to the castle ruins by a small lake. Well worth the journey.
6. Cycling in West Cork
Bikes can be hired in Bantry, Glengarriff or Castletownbere for a day or longer. We offer self-guided routes along the Sheep’s Head route, as the Mizen Head route can be busy with cars.
There are no cycle paths in West Cork and the best area at present.
7. Visit the Island’s of West Cork
West Cork has many islands, each with its own character and points of interest.
Whiddy Island in Bantry bay has a regular ferry service from the town with walks, a pub and amazing views. Islands off the south coast include Sherkin Island, Cape Clear, Hare Island, Long Island, all part of Carbery’s Hundred Isles. All have permanent residents.
Sherkin Island has an old ruined abbey, narrow lanes to walk, a lovely beach and a pub.
Take a day trip to Cape Clear, an Irish speaking island, with its country lanes, heritage centre, birdwatching, a goat farm and gin distillery.
8. Music and Pubs of West Cork
Best Pubs of West Cork for music and craic – There are many great pubs all over west Cork, often run by the same families for generations. The few mentioned here are just representative sample.
Bushe’s Bar, Baltimore – At the top of the pier in the coastal village of Baltimore is a square of pubs and cafes. Sandwiches, a meal or a quick drink before taking the boats to Sherkin Island and Cape Clear depart from the pier. Great atmosphere and views from the outside seating.
Levis Corner House, Ballydehob A small pub on Main Street, an old-style shop and pub in one room. It features live music with a variety of bands playing or vinyl records for you to play
Hackett’s, Schull– on a cold winter’s day enjoy a bowl of warming soup or in summer sit outside and watch the world go by.
O’Sullivans, Crookhaven – Overlooking the bay near Mizen Head eats outside on a warm day with views of boats at anchor. One of the best places in West Cork for an open crab, prawn or smoked salmon sandwich.
Arundels on the Pier, Ahakista – This pub serving great food overlooking Dunmanus Bay with tables overlooking the bay, just beside the pier. Drop-in for lunch or pre-book dinner.
9. Gardens and Big Houses
Bantry House Gardens and Glebe Gardens are among the best in the area. The Atlantic Gulf Stream ocean current gifts West Cork with a year-round mild climate which enables an abundance of lush planting. The West Cork Garden Trail includes the gardens open in June and some are open all summer. Be inspired by these gardens, some with cafes.
10. Heritage Sites
Skibbereen Heritage Centre beside the river has a Famine Exhibition, genealogy service and Lough Hyne Heritage Exhibition. The Abbeystrewery Famine Graveyard just outside the town is also worth a poignant visit.
In Baltimore is a restored castle (small charge) and down a lane near Ballydehob is a beautifully restored peach coloured private castle overlooking the sea.
Franciscan Abbey, Sherkin – just above the Pier on Sherkin Island is a ruined Franciscan abbey. The ferry from Baltimore takes you to the island in 10 minutes.
Altar Wedge Tomb – West of Schull in a field overlooking the sea is a Wedge Tomb, with a small car park beside the road.
Kealkil to the northeast of Bantry has a particularly fine stone circle.
Killnauren Pillar Stone Bantry – On a road behind the Westlodge Hotel is a sign for Killnauren Stone Circle. The stone has engravings still visible on it.
Distance driving to Skibbereen from Irish Airports
|Airport||Distance||Time||Towns Travel through||Places to Stop|
|Cork||2 hrs||The route is Cork on N71 to Schull and is the main Rute via Bandon, Clonakilty, Roscarberry, Skibbereen and Schull. The R585 to Kealkil, then Bantry, Ballydehob and Schull have fewer towns to visit.||Towns of Clonakilty (N71) with Michael Collins Museum worth visiting. Beal na Blath (R585) where Michael Collins memorial is 6km off route at Crookstown.|
|Kerry||60km||2 hr to Skibbereen||Airport beside N22 to Killarney, and Ballyvourney, then Ballingeary, Bantry and Skibbereen.
The more scenic route from Killarney is along Lakes of Killarney to Kenmare, Glengariff, Bantry and Skibbereen.
|Stop at Muckross House and Farm in Killarney. Take a jaunting car in Killarney. Stop at Molls Gap for lunch at Avoca|
|Shannon||175km||3 hr to Kenmare||Shannon Airport via Limerick ( ring road around the city), N20 to Mallow, Cork city Link road, then the N71 to Skibbereen. This is the main route and quickest.||Avoid Limerick on the ring road, avoid Cork on the ring road. Stop in Blarney to see castle or Clonakilty town.|
|Dublin||360km||5hrs + to Kenmare||Take M8 from Dublin, then in Cork through Tunnell (to avoid city) and follow the route above from Cork||Stop at Rock of Cashel on way south (just off the motorway, Guide organised…)|
Contact Activity Days Ireland for the best locally guided Experiences or get a day of activity planned for you.
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