West Cork is one of Ireland’s most magical regions boasting a rich history, rugged mountains, beautiful scenery, pretty coastal towns and villages and an unhurried pace of life. Add to this unspoilt sandy beaches, extensive mountain and lowland trails and you’ve got the perfect destination for a walking holiday. So if you’re looking for somewhere to explore and to get away from the stress of urban life, look no further than West Cork…
The following are some of our recommendations for a walking tour in West Cork. You can take a tour with an established operator in the area, or explore the area for yourself on a self-guided walk. Tourist information offices and local shops in the West Cork area will provide advice and walking maps for you!
The Beara Way…
The Beara Peninsula incorporates a lot of the South West corner of Ireland. This is quite a long trek, about 120 miles in total, 65 of which are along country roads. But the Beara Way is probably one of the best ways to explore West Cork and its breathtaking beauty. You don’t have to walk all of it though if you’re doing a self guided walk, just pick sections of it.
The trail begins at Glengarriff, located overlooking Bantry Bay, and ends at Kenmare on the Ring of Kerry. The Beara Way takes in peaceful country trails and boggy hilly terrain, and many walking tour operators take in the entire walking route in a week long package
From Glengarrif you head towards Adrigole, taking in the stunning views of Bantry Bay. From here it’s on to the picturesque fishing port of Castletownbere. This is the main town on the Beara Peninsula and has a full range of services. It’s also still one of the largest fishing ports in Ireland.
From Castletownbere, you could take a short boat trip to Bere Island, which is populated by a sheep farming and fishing community, of approximately 200 people. After your return from the island, you follow the route from Castletownbere to Eyeries. This part of the Beara Way will bring you through the Slieve Miskish mountains with wonderful views of Coulagh Bay. This area is rich in megalithic remains, with stone forts, and tombs from the Bronze Age period of Ireland’s history.
The next part of the walking tour will take you from Eyeries to Lauragh. Again you will have terrific views from the hilly terrain, and this area itself is a glaciated valley. The foliage on this part of the route is well worth checking out, taking both mountainous pine and tropical plants such as rhododendrons.
After Lauragh you could take the route to Kenmare, along the base of the Caha Mountains, which has lovely views of Louth Inchiquin. Kenmare, the end point of the Beara Way, a town formed in the 17th Century on the banks of the Roughty River, is an interesting market town and well worth a visit.
Find out more about the Beara Way.
The Sheep’s Head Way…
This walk consists mainly of hilly terrain and incorporates the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and the greater Bantry area of West Cork. Starting from Bantry, it goes out to the west of Bantry Bay on the northern side as far as Sheep’s Head, and back east to Bantry on the southern side along the shores of Dunmanus Bay. Villages along the route include Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus.
The Sheep’s Head Way gives you spectacular views of Bantry and Dunmanus Bays. There are many historical and archaeological monuments along the way as well, and in keeping with the special beauty of the peninsula, only stone and oak direction posts have been used for the walking routes. Again, like the Beara Way, you could book this route from a local walking operator, or plan the route yourself!
Find out more about the Sheep’s Head Way.
Southern Islands walking trips…
You can also take in a walk of the Southern Islands of West Cork. Starting from Baltimore Harbour, you can take a pleasant boat cruise out to Sherkin Island, with the wonderful nature sights of bird colonies and plant life to greet you. The walks on Sherkin Island are on country roads, and after Sherkin you can take a ferry out to Cape Clear Island, with stunning views of the Schull Peninsula.
Cape Clear Island has a rich and varied history of archaeology, culture, nature and wildlife. There are stunning views of Mizen Head and Fastnet Rock from here. After your trip to the islands you can take a leisurely cruise back to Baltimore and view the islands of Roaring Water Bay.
There are a number of walking groups in the West Cork area, which organise your walking holiday for you! Here’s a list:
Clonakilty Walking Group organise walks in and around the Clonakilty area. You can also opt for mountain climbing if you wish.
Rosscarbery.ie operate in the Rosscarbery area of West Cork.
West Cork Walking Festival in May…
West Cork Walking Holidays are such a popular attraction in the area – there’s even a walking festival held here every year. The West Cork Walking Festival takes place in mid-May and gives plenty of information to the keen walker about the most popular routes to take in the West Cork area, and takes in a few routes in the area too over the weekend! The Festival takes you on guided walks around the Sheep’s Head and Beara Peninsula, and you will visit the pretty villages of Allihies, Ardgroom, Bantry, Castletownbere, Dunmanway and Ballylickey.
Find out more about the West Cork Walking Festival.
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