This piece is from issue two of Go Wild Magazine.
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 head for to play along the zigzagging coastline, and walk or cycle through peaceful inland woods and valleys.
The Wild Atlantic Way’s southern starting point is the coastal town of Kinsale, only 20 minutes south of Cork City and its international air and sea ports. As with the wider West Cork region, the town is renowned for its gourmet food and it is the gateway to the south coast of West Cork. The highlight of this section of the Wild Atlantic Way is the Old Head of Kinsale. Designated as one of Cork’s three signature discovery points, the dramatic outcrop of land includes the recently restored Signal Tower which offers expansive views of Ireland’s south coast.
The Wild Atlantic Way passes through a necklace of pretty coastal towns and villages as it winds its way around the south west coast. The busy town of Clonakilty is a hive of activity all year round, with a comprehensive calendar of festivals and events. The riverside town of Skibbereen hosts a thriving arts and cultural scene and is an ideal base for anyone wishing to explore Cork’s west coast. Visits to Cork County Council’s Michael Collins House in Clonakilty and Heritage Centre in Skibbereen are a must for anyone with an interest in Irish history.
The well-known village of Baltimore is situated ten minutes south of Skibbereen. The historic harbour-side village provides visitors with a variety of water-based activities, including whale watching. A number of boat operators provide exhilarating trips along the coast to view whales and dolphins in waters hosting a plethora of marine species.
Across the island-dotted waters of Roaringwater Bay lies the first of West Cork’s three peninsulas – Mizen Head. On its eastern shore, the peninsula is lined with a series of charming villages and small towns leading to Ireland’s most southerly point – Mizen Head – a signature discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way. Those seeking a breathtaking experience can venture across the dramatic footbridge, which provides the only access route to the lighthouse, towering high above the swirling waves of the Atlantic below.
To the north of Mizen Head lies Dunmanus Bay, separating Mizen from the smallest of the local peninsulas – Sheep’s Head. The area is renowned for unique accommodation experiences and numerous walking trails. The Sheep’s Head Way is a multi-day walking trail that must be experienced by any avid walker. For more time-limited visitors, there are plenty of loop walks with varying degrees of difficulty.
Anyone with saltwater in their veins should venture on the Bantry Blueway kayak trail. Recently developed by the port company, the blueway provides a waymarked route around the inner bay between Bantry Town and Whiddy Island. This blueway is the first in a series of trails that will be developed along the West Cork coast in coming years through the cooperation of local communities, Cork County Council and the Port of Cork. www.blueways.ie
The last of West Cork’s three peninsulas stretches out to the Atlantic as you depart from the village of Glengarriff. The terrain on Beara is rugged and in stark contrast to the gently rolling hills around Kinsale and Clonakilty. The tip of the Beara Peninsula is the site of the Dursey Island Cable Car. Ireland’s only cable car provides access to the island of Dursey for residents and visitors alike. Operated and maintained by Cork County Council, this signature discovery point is a must-visit location for anyone seeking unique experiences along Ireland’s west coast.