Sheep’s Head Walks, Cork, Ireland.
The Sheep’s Head Peninsula, West Cork is 1.5 hours west of Cork city and has some of the most spectacular, unspoilt scenery in Ireland. It has 90 km of walking routes following lanes and rough terrain along waymarked routes. There are loop walks along the headland and on this blog we give information on the map link for some of our favourite walks which can be downloaded as well as notes or cheat sheet information.
The area is mostly a Special Area of Conservation and National Heritage Area. Dogs are not allowed on the Sheep’s Head walks as the local farmers still graze sheep on the commonage areas. The area was designated as a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) in 2009, an area of high-quality sustainable tourism. Guides can be orgainsed for groups by contacting ActivityDays, but you will not need a guide for the Lighthouse walk. ActivityDays can organise accommodation in hotels, glamping pods or in one of the many self-catering properties in the area. A photography walking guide can take you to get the best photographs of the area for a half day.
Drive the northern side of the peninsula along the Sheep’s Head Way from Bantry to the headland via the village of Kilcrohane where you can find detailed maps of the walking routes on the peninsula. Return along the southern side of the peninsula via the villages of Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus which also has maps if you prefer to start from here. Each of the 20 loop walking routes is colour-coded. Always wear suitable walking boots, carry water, snacks and a phone as well as rainwear. Some of the terrain is challenging so be sure to choose a route suited to the weather.
Easy Walk – Sheep’s Head – Lighthouse Loop
This walk is the one with the most spectacular views on the Sheep’s Head. Drive to the car park and cafe at the western end of the peninsula.
Description:– Grade 2- Moderate to Strenuous 2 hrs, 4km
This route is the most popular and has a hard gravel path for most of the way along the Dunmanus Bay side of the headland. The route is close to the cliffs and has a recently placed bridge across a soggy area. The route passes the helipad for the Sheep’s Head Lighthouse. Climb the steps to the lighthouse for the best views. Return along the same path or for the more energetic takes the left fork for a walk along the Bantry Bay side of the headland. At Daingean Fort (Waymark no 272) go right back to the car park at Toureen. Map Link
Whiddy Island Loop Walks
Mostly on flat and some suited to buggies along quiet lanes.
Description:-Grade 2 – Moderate, 2 hours
Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay is now part of the Sheep’s Head Way. Take a ferry to the island from Bantry pier. Maps at top of the pier and walk the Sheep’s Head routes on the island. Highlights are the Fort to the east of the island and views of Bantry Bay from the western end of the island. The walks are mostly on flat tarred roads and some are suited to buggies with very little traffic. Very suited to children as the walks are easier than other Sheep’s Head walks. The bar on the island may be open (ask Tim the Ferryman). There are no shops on the island so it’s best to bring a picnic.
Sheeps Head – Coomkeen Loop
A Walk suited to the family with older children
Description:– Grade 2- Easy walk, Takes 2.5 – 3 hrs for a 7km loop walk.
Head west from Durrus village taking the right at Ross’s Pub for St James’s Church. Turn right and almost immediately take the middle of 3 lanes, signposted Coomkeen. Continue on to the car park at Boolteenagh.
The route starts here with orange arrows on Way-marked and heads westerly along the ridge. It follows the old lake road path which leads onto a tarred road. Follow the fingerpost signs for the Coomkeen loop walk and they will lead you back to the car park at Boolteenagh. This route takes you past the Durrus Cheese plant [visits available on Mondays on application] and some of it is on boggy soil so walking boots are advisable.
Mount Corrin Loop
Mount Corrin is the hill overlooking Dunmanus Bay from the southern side. The tradition is to take a stone to the top to add to the pile. The map details the full walk, but we usually drive to the top of Mine Road to start the walk.
Description:– Grade 4- Strenuous, Length 17 km , Time 9 hours.
This walk starts at Durrus village and is mostly on lanes and off the main road. It is a long walk over the mountain. We suggest taking two cars. Drive one car to the eastern side of Mount Corrin and park by the stand (go west from Durrus village, first left, next right and up to top of the hill). This parking area is called Barr a Bhealaigh ( top of the road) and you can see Dunmanus Bay on one side ( below) and to the south Carbertys Hundred Isles. Take the second car back downhill, take first left and this brings you onto the main road. Take next left up L8451 to top of hill and car park by base of Mount Corrin.
Walk the hill to the top from the western side and down the eastern side of the hill. The route from the base of the hill to Durrus village was closed in 2020. This walk will take 3 hours
Seefin Loop – Sheep’s Head
This ridge walk from Ahakista to Kilcrohane gives stunning views of Dunmaus Bay, Bantry Bay, Mizen and Beara Peninsula. For expert walkers, it can continue directly to the Peakeen Ridge Walk.
Description:– Grade 4 Strenoious, 4 hrs, Loop, 13 km from Ahakista Pier.
The Seefin Walk is suited to good weather as the loop walk is along the ridge of the Sheep’s Head between Ahakista and Kilcrohane. Great views of the Bantry and Dunmanus Bay, the Mizen and Beara peninsulas and West Cork Islands. The route starts at Arundel’s by the Pier Pub in Ahakista, where you park the car. Go west and take a right after 100m and you will see a fingerpost sign with blue arrows for Seefin. Continue along the lane until you reach the top f the hill, and at the Windy Gap Junction ( Way Mark 165) turn left for Kilcrohane. The route takes you past an old rural ground, and along an old road.
The Cheat – leave 1 car at Kilcrohane and the drive back to Ahakista to start the walk, it is a difficult walk along the ridge and needs good weather and no low cloud. Cuts walk time by half, or leave car at end of Peakeen Ridge if plan to do both on the same day.
Peakeen Ridge Loop
This ridge walk is best walking west towards the headland, giving stunning views and a taxing walk. Needs good weather to do safely.
Description:– Grade 4- Strenuous, 6 hrs walk, Start Kilcrohane.
The Peakeen Ridge Loop is best done in good weather as you walk along the ridge or top of the mountain. This walk will take you up hills and down through long grass with stunning views along the route. Walk along the waymarked route west past the Pieta statue for the best views. Map link.
The cheat for this if you have a group with two cars allows a walk on the ridge and shortens the walk by half, focusing only on the best scenery. Leave your passengers in Kilcrohane village from where they can walk uphill. Take two cars to the Black Gate or on the northern side of the headland at a small car park (turn right up the lane at Black Gate). Take the second car to the top of the hill at the car park above Kilcrohane, and meet the rest of your party.
Contact us with any comments on this post- we love recommendations. The Sheep’s Head is also a great route to cycle- contact ActivitytDays for local bike hire.