West Cork

Top 10 in Mizen and Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Ireland

Spectacular Scenery – Fuchsia covered lanes- Walks – Water sports – Islands – Food

Bantry House

Schull West Cork

Colourful villages and Towns









Where is the West West Cork

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 the 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 or at local markets, shops or taste it in the restaurants.  There are Michelin Star restaurants and other famous for seafood or fine dining .   Take part in the annual September festival  “A Taste of West Cork”.

Pub on Mizen Head

Mizen Head Lighthouse








Top 10 Things to Do in Mizen Sheep’s Head  Peninsula, Ireland.


What To Do

In West West Cork


Drives 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 near the tip.


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 at the red lantern at 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.


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. 



– Sheep’s Head, Fastnet Trails, Three Castle Head

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 carpark. Walk for about 1 hour across a marked route to the castle ruins by a small lake. Well worth the journey.


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.


Island Visits

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.


Pubs and Music 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 a representative sample.

De Barra’s, Main Street, Clonakilty – In one of Ireland’s prettiest towns with bright flower baskets outside and famous for music.

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 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 eat 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.


Heritage Sites

Roscarberry Village is a planned village and worth viewing as you drive west towards Skibbereen (more)

Drombeg  Stone circle is an ancient monument overlooking the sea, off a lane near the village of Leap. This is one of Ireland’s best-preserved stone circles, is free to visit and the site also has a fulacht fia (ancient cooking site).

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.

Skibbereen Heritage Centre beside the river has a Famine Exhibition, a genealogy service and Lough Hyne Heritage Exhibition. The Abbeystrewery Famine Graveyard just outside the town is also worth a poignant visit.

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. 

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 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.


Cape Clear Island

Sailing Trips West Cork







Family Fun on the Mizen and Sheep’s Head Peninsula

Things to Do Family Fun in West West Cork

Swim in the Sea and West Cork Beaches

There are many sandy family-friendly beaches in West Cork for all age groups and free to use. Swim in the sea or surf the waves.  Our blog on Cork beaches has details on the best beach t to suit your children’s ages, as not all beaches have sand.


Fastnet Lighthouse

Take a family day trip to Cape Clear Island and then around Fastnet Rock lighthouse. This trip is very weather dependent and takes place in high summer only. A private Charter can be organized for a group up to 12 people


Heron Gallery and other Artists

There are many artists living and working in West Cork. One of the most creative has opened the Heron Gallery in Ahakista, on the Sheep’s Head. The gallery shows the art inspired by local animals and driftwood while the garden is a child’s playground of creativity. The cafe serves delicious vegetarian food. Dunbeacon Pottery makes hand-thrown pots the colour of the sea.

Dun an Oir crafts on the north side of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a children’s delight. Take a look at ActivityDays for other artist’s workshops.

Sea Safari

Take a sea safari from Baltimore to view the marine life and birds which populate the area. Dolphins and seals are easy to spot and whales can also be sighted in the rich feeding grounds.



West Cork has many lovely walking and cycling routes to suit all fitness levels. Guides are available for some such as the Sheep’s Head Way. There are also many quiet country lanes where traffic is infrequent.

6 Sailing

There is a sailing school on one of the islands near Skibbereen. Bring a picnic and enjoy an empty beach or take a sailing or kayak trip with the family.


Surfing or  Snorkelling

Go Surfing the wild Atlantic waves in  Barleycove, with all equipment provided. Snorkel in Lough Hyne, Ireland’s only seawater lake, to see the marine life up close.


West Cork is well served with playgrounds on the edge of most towns and villages – just ask where they are. I like the Schull playground overlooking the sea or the Ballydehob playground beside a 9 arch bridge, which carried the rail line in years gone by but is now open to pedestrians.


Most small hardware shops sell fishing nets and crab lines (safe for children). Children check rock pools on the beach at low tide to see what can be caught. On piers at low tide children have traditionally fished for crabs in the seaweed. All creatures caught and stored in a bucket of saltwater are returned to the sea at the end of the fun. A fishing guide for a day is available. Bass sea fishing is best done near Rosscarberry.

Wet Weather Days

What to do on those wet days?

Bantry Cinemax offers to pre-book service.

Skibbereen has a pottery painting drop-in centre and its Uillinn Centre has interesting exhibitions. 

There are craft workshops which can be pre-booked with activity days with local artists. 


Altar Dolmen, West Cork, Ireland.

The Fish Basket at Long Strand serves freshly cooked fish daily









Distance driving to Beara 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…)

Information provided by ActivityDays.ie

Ruined abbey on Sherkin Island

Sherkin Abbey

A Country lane Mizen Peninsula







This information sheet was compiled by Activity Days Ireland to help plan a holiday in Ireland. Contact ActivityDay.ie to help plan your holiday in West Cork and along the Wild Atlantic Way.




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