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Things to do in West Cork

It’s no wonder they call West Cork “A Place Apart”. Nature sets the pace in this beautiful south west corner of Ireland – stretching from smart south-coast Kinsale to three rugged westerly peninsulas reaching into the wild Atlantic: Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head and Beara.


West Cork is the place many Dubliners head for – leaving hurried city lives behind to play along the long zig-zagging coastline, and walk or ride through peaceful inland woods and valleys. Hundreds of inlets, tiny coves, safe harbours and blue-flag beaches are just right for long active days in the salty air – learning to sail, surfing, diving, whale watching, island-hopping, bird spotting, kayaking on a salt-water lake in the moonlight, messing about in boats. Or simply eating a fresh crab sandwich on a quayside.

Thanks to its gentle and generous Nature, this corner has a wonderful food culture. West Cork’s farmers, award-winning artisan producers and chefs are leading Ireland’s culinary revolution. From traditional pubs to world-class restaurants in West Cork, at local farmers’ markets, and long-established food festivals, you can enjoy great food right across West Cork.


There’s something restorative about the temperate climate and sub-tropical gardens, the tranquil lanes thick with fuchsia and monbretia, the sudden glimpses of water through the trees, the shifting light, and the soft greens, greys and violets of bays and distant mountains. There’s edge-of-the-world drama too: climbing up to a mountain pass through ever-changing weather, crossing the bridge to the end of Mizen Head with the Atlantic crashing below, or taking the cable car to Dursey Island - one of over a hundred West Cork islands. Seven of these are inhabited, including Ireland’s most southerly community on Oiléan Chléire (Cape Clear) “the storytellers’ island”, where Irish is spoken as a first language, and there’s an independent way of life.

Beyond Cape Clear, the imposing Fastnet Lighthouse stands on a rock known as Ireland’s tear drop – for emigrants to the new world, this was their last sight of their native land. The whole coast echoes with history – ancient sites, ruined castles, coastal forts, copper mines. Cork is proudly ‘the rebel county’ and it was here, at Clonakilty, that Michael Collins – ‘the Big Fella’ – lived and died.


West Cork is both very Irish, and quite cosmopolitan – for many have ‘blown-in’ on the winds and stayed to make this beautiful place their home. There’s a strong creative community here. Arts and crafts, storytelling and traditional music thrive – as do scores of cultural festivals.


People here value the good things in life. It feels warm-hearted and kind. It’s a place that takes its time and helps us to slow down … It’s A Place Apart.


As well as the below places to visits, sights to see and areas to explore, there is an abundance of West Cork activities and things to do in West Cork and hotels in West Cork to choose from.


Baltimore Beacon

has Breathtaking views of Baltimore Harbour , Sherkin Island , the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary of the Ilen river is an ideal area for a quiet peaceful walk. more info


Sherkin Island:

Short ferry trip of just 10 minutes across the harbour from Baltimore boasts of beautiful golden sandy beaches including Silver Strand and Trabawn and scenic walks Cape.


Cape Clear Island:

Is an excellent location for bird watching, megalithic standing stones, and a heritage centre that traces the history and folklore of the island with ferry services from Baltimore –on a scenic passage journey time 40 Minutes.


The Glebe Gardens & Gallery Baltimore:

is open from May to end of September.


Lough Ine:

Is Natural Sea Water Lake with woods all around, ideal for walks; you can climb Lough Ine hill on a pathway through the woods. From the top, you have a 25 Miles view of the country side.


Heir Island:

Is situated in Roaring Water Bay with a beautiful sheltered beach and quiet walks has an all year ferry Service from Cunnamore near Church Cross or Summer time only from Baltimore at 11am and 2.15pm.


O’Driscoll Castles:

are situated in Baltimore , Sherkin, Cape Clear , Old Court and Lough Ine RNLI Lifeboat Centre is on the seafront at Baltimore Harbour. Fastnet Lighthouse : may be views by Ferry from Baltimore weather permitting, Summer time only.


Skibbereen Heritage Centre:

The Great Famine Commemoration Exhibition commemorates the tragic period in the 1840s that is known in Irish History as the Great Hunger. Skibbereen was one of the worst affected areas, and the events of the era are depicted using local characters and events.


The Lough Hyne Visitor Centre explains the unique nature of this salt water marine lake, Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve.

Other features include an archaeology trail of the Skibbereen area, displays on the Old Gasworks Building and information on the species living on the River Ilen.


The Skibbereen Heritage Centre now offer Genealogical RC church records for Skibbereen, Rath and the Islands of West Cork Ireland as well as the Griffith’s Valuation for the greater West Cork area, the Tithe Applotments etc.


The Skibbereen Heritage Centre houses the 1901 and 1911 Census records and provides helpful information for those seeking genealogy information covering Skibbereen town & District, West Cork Ireland. Their website lists the townlands recorded in each census. These records are available for sale in printed form and the staff of the heritage centre are often able to look up information requested via email. Please include all of the information that you have.



West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen

The West Cork Arts Centre was established in 1985 in Skibbereen. A publicly funded arts facility the West Cork Arts Centre works with local, national and international artists, art organisations and other such agencies to create opportunities and develop exhibition programmes for the people of West Cork to have access to, and engage with, local and global arts.
With year round exhibitions taking place at the West Cork Arts Centre, their diverse exhibition programme includes all aspects of contemporary arts practice from drawing, painting, and sculpture to performance and film.


Liss Ard Gardens, Skibbereen, West Cork, Ireland South

At Lissard 200 acres of woodlands, meadows, lakes and waterfalls are being devoted to Irish Nature. This unique approach to garden design concentrates on the ecological development of the garden placing Man as the centre of perception within Nature. The design includes quiet walks and areas of contemplation as well as Art work by James Turrell, in the form of the Irish Sky Garden. Follow the suggested routes experiencing the beauty, wonder and tranquility of these gardens. The garden will reach maturity in 30 to 50 years time.


The magnificent gardens and woodlands at Liss Ard add to the uniqueness of the estate. Throughout, there are specially designed pathways and walkways that accentuate the guest's appreciation of Irish flora.
In addition to the main Lake Abisdealy, there are a number of ponds and a waterfall dotted around the estate, that create a feeling that can only be compared to that in the Garden of Eden.
The Crater was created for the Irish skies to be appreciated by the spectators lying on the stone structures at the bottom - the dome-effect that is created in the elliptical frame is truly an unforgettable experience.


The attractive village of Castletownshend in West Cork

is situated on the coast about 8km from Skibbereen. The village developed around the castle, which was built in the mid 1600s by the Townshends and is the seat of the family. The steeply inclined main street runs down to the castle, the quayside and the harbour.

The village sits on the north side of Castlehaven Harbour in the parish of Castlehaven, which owes its name to the castle that protects the haven. Anciently it was called Glanbarrahane, named from a deep rocky glen dedicated to St. Barrahane, a local 5th century hermit saint.

A unique feature of Castletownshend is the two sycamore trees growing in the roundabout in the centre of the village. The present sycamores replace two trees planted in the 1800s. Also to be visited is Egon Ronay pub and restaurant - Mary Anne's Pub and Restaurant, home base of the famous Castlehaven Gaelic Football Club.


Saint Barrahane's Church (church of Ireland)

stands on a hill overlooking the village close to the castle. It contains beautiful stained glass windows and many historic relics and memorials to the families of the village. Of particular note are three large stone tablets, which tell the history of the founding families, many of whose members are buried in the graveyard attached to the church.

Somerville and Ross

Somerville and Ross were the pseudonyms of cousins Dr. Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Florence Martin, pen name Martin Ross (1862-1915), who wrote a series of humorous novels and short stories. Most of their books were set in a background of West Cork at the turn of the century and told of the experiences of an Irish Resident Magistrate. Their best know writings were first published in 1928 under the title The Irish R.M. Complete and later Experiences of an Irish R.M. The Irish R.M. and The Real Charlotte were serialised for television in the 1980's. During their life together the cousins resided at Drishane House on the outskirts of Castletownshend village. Violet Martin died in 1915 from the effects of a riding accident some years earlier. Edith Somerville continued to live at Drishane between her travels abroad until her death in 1949 at an advanced age. Somerville and Ross are buried in the graveyard at the rear of St. Barrahane's Church, marked by two simple headstones. In the church is the organ Dr. Somerville played for many decades.

· Castletownshend Harbour
· Village Church
· Somerville and Ross Graves
· Toe Head


Glandore Stone Circle:

This lovely recumbent stone circle is locally known as the Druid's Altar and is located on the edge of a rocky terrace with fine views to the Atlantic Ocean .

Drombeg stone circle also known as The Druid's Altar, is a Recumbent stone circle located 2.4km east of Glandore, County Cork, Ireland. Latitude: 51.564553N Longitude: 9.08702W), Drombeg is one of the most visited megalithic sites in Ireland. The area of the circle has been covered in gravel to protect it from the volume of visitors.


The stone circle consists of seventeen closely spaced stones spanning 9m in diameter, of which 13 survive. The most westerly stone (1.9m high) is the long recumbent and has two egg shaped cup-marks, one with a ring around it. A Cork-Kerry type stone circle, it is flanked by a pair of 1.8m high axial portal stones, which provide a south-west axis, and orientate the monument in the direction of the setting sun during the midwinter solstice. The stones in the circle have been shaped to slope upwards to the recumbent stone, the midpoint of which was set in line with the winter solstice sunset viewed in a conspicuous notch in the distant hills. While the alignment is good, it is not precise.


The ruins of two round stone walled conjoined prehistoric huts and a fulacht fiadh lie just 40m west of the monument. Evidence suggests the fulacht fiadh was in use up until the 5th century AD. The larger of the huts had a timber roof supported by a timber post. The smaller hut had a cooking oven on its east side. A causeway leads from the huts to the cooking place (fulacht fiadh) featuring a hearth, well and trough in which water was boiled by adding hot stones.


Schull Planetarium West Cork

This is the only planetarium in West Cork. With an eight-metre dome it can display the night sky and any configuration of stars, which could have been seen from the northern hemisphere in recorded history. Its opening hours vary, July and August have the most extensive hours and there are daily demonstrations and simulations. There are also public shows and special events are advertised. It's possible to book privately also. Shows are on 8pm onwards.


Garnish Island Italian Gardens at Glengariff:

Located in the sheltered harbour of Glengariff in Bantry Bay West Cork, in Southwest Ireland, Garnish is a small island known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty.

The island is open to visitors each day from 1st March to 31st October.  During the winter months, from November to February, it is closed to visitors except by special arrangement. Garnish is reached from Glengarriff by ferry.

Garnish is renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, changing continuously with the seasons. The vivid colours of Rhododendrons and Azaleas are at their best during May and June, whilst the hundreds of cultivars of climbing plants, herbaceous perennials and shrubs dominate from June to August. Autumn colour, particularly on the magnificent heather bank, is rich during the months of September and October.

Because of its sheltered situation and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream the climate is almost subtropical, and  favourable to the growth of ornamental plants from many parts of the world. Winters are mild, and frosts are light and of short duration.

Even for those who are not particularly interested in gardens, Garnish is an attractive place to visit. There are many attractive views of the scenery of the surrounding district from the island. Garnish and its surrounding waters are quite rich in wildlife, the seals which frequent the rocks on the southern shore being of particular interest to many visitors.

There is also a walkway to a martello tower. Ferries leave from the seafront in the village of Glengarriff .


Clonakilty Model Railway Village:

Take a trip to the Model Railway Village for a fun and memorable day out on your visit to Clonakilty and West Cork.
Walking into the model village you step back in time and see life as it was in the 1940's. See the old West Cork railway line portrayed in delightful miniature serving the towns of Skibbereen & Baltimore,amongst others. The models are handmade at the model village to a scale of 1:24.
Depicting busy market days, this is a joyful discovery for young and old alike. Relax in the tea room, set on one of the authentic train carriages with a view of Clonakilty bay.


Old Head Lighthouse

is one of the major lights on the south coast and also serves as a guide to the entrance of Kinsale Harbour.

The first official Lighthouse was one of six erected around the coast by Sir Robert Reading under letters patent granted him by King Charles II, l3tb November, 1665. The cottage type lighthouse had an open coal fire in a brazier on its roof.

During 1804 the Revenue Commissioners instructed that a temporary 6 ft diameter lantern he constructed with 12 oil lamps and reflectors to replace the original coal fire. Then, in July 1812, this temporary lighthouse was replaced by a more permanent building with suitable light apparatus. The design chosen was similar to that of the new lighthouse then being built at Baily, Howth Head - a 42 ft (12.8m) high tower with a concentric keeper’s dwclling around its base. The fixed white light was established on 16th May, 1814, at a height of 294 ft (89.6m) above high water and was made up of 27 Argand oil lamps, each with its own parabolic reflector. In clear weather it could be seen 23 miles away. The outer wall was whitewashed, making the station more conspicuous during the daytime.

Following a general lighthouse and lightvessel inspection in July 1843 it was decided that Old Head, with Cape Clear, was too high and often obscured by low cloud. A new site was duly chosen, towards the point of the headland, at a lower height. By 1853 the new station was finished at cost of £10,430.37. The fixed white light was established on 1st October, 1853, at a height of 236 ft (72M) above high water. The light source was a multi-concentric wick oil lamp with a range ol 21 miles (33 km) It was visible from Charlesfort, in Kinsale Harbour, seaward to Seven Heads. The 100 ft (30.5M) cut stone tower was plastered and painted whitc with red bands (this was changed in 1930 to black with two white bands). When the present light was estabrished, the 1814 light was discontinued and reduced in height. The stones were used for constructing the Horse Rock Beacon in Courtmacsherry Bay.

Towards the end of 1890 it was recommended that a fog signal for Old Head should he installed. It was suggest that electricity be introduced, along with a ten wick oil burner and, despite the large expenditure, the burner was in operation by September 1892. Three cannons were installed and established as a log signal in 1st February 1893. A third keeper was appointed and two succesive. reports were fired every 10 minutes.

Following an enquiiy from the Mercantile Marine Service Association in Liverpool in January 1903 the

Light was changed to double flashing, incandescent vapourised paraffin and substitute cotton powder for the fog, alterring the fog signal to two successivc reports every 6 minute The new light and fog signal were established on 17th December 1907.

On 1st June 1934 the character of the explosive fog signal was changed to 1 report every 5 minutes. Then in 1972 all explosive log signals around the coast were discontinued and Old Head acquired the siren fog signal from the discontinued Poer Head fog signal station, of 3 blasts every 45 seconds. The siren was replaced in December 1985 by an electric horn with the same character and controlled by a videography fog detector The optic was converted from vapourised paraffin to electric on 25th April 1972, with a standbyn generating set in case of mains electricity failure.

When the Daunt lightship was withdrawn, the radio beacon navigational aid was transferred to

Ballycotton and Old Head on 28th August 1974. Sadly on 1st April 1987, the light was made automatic and the keepers were withdrawn.


Bantry House and Gardens

Bantry House contains furniture, paintings and other objects d'art collected in the 19th century. The gardens are laid out over seven terraces, the last four linked by a monumental flight of steps atop 100 stairs (the "Stairway to the Sky) - the only one in Ireland.


Ring of Beara, West Cork & Kerry

The Beara Peninsula offers some spectacular scenery and wonderful walks.  The peninsula is  remote with bleak moorland and sparsely populated fishing villages. The main traditional tourist attractions on the peninsula are the ruins of Dunboy Castle, Puxley Mansion, The Copper Mines Museum in Allihies,  Garnish Island in Glengariff, Dereen Gardens, (privately owned but open to the public).



Many people come just to enjoy the wild and untamed nature of the place and the magical coastline.


The "Ring of Beara" is a tourist trail for cars which follows the roads for about 195 kilometres circumnavigating the peninsula. It starts in Kenmare Co Kerry, crossing the Healy Pass through Adrigole, passing the fishing port of Castletownbere, Allihies, and turns off to Dursey Island, Eyeries and Ardgroom, ending in Glengariff West Cork. The area has had a long connection with the sea; Castletownbere is one of Ireland's largest fishing ports and has diving, sailing and boating facilities.


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