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Haven Coast Touring Route: 2 Days

You’ll truly experience the enchanting Wild Atlantic Way of life in the relaxed surrounds of the southerly Haven Coast. Though it’s a restorative and peaceful place, it’s also buzzing with creativity, as a whole host of artists and craftspeople call the lush green landscape of West Cork home. Between their artwork and the delicious array of local artisan foods on offer, we can guarantee you’ll enjoy your stay!

Key stats

Region:
Haven Coast
Highlights:
Kinsale, Skibbereen, Baltimore, Lough Hyne
Duration:
2 days
Distance:
86.8km (Day 1),
91.3km (Day 2)
Total Drive Time:
1h 46 mins (Day 1),
2h 30 mins (Day 2)
Starting point:
Kinsale
Finishing point:
Baltimore


This wonderful two-day driving route will take you through some of the Haven Coast’s many memorable highlights, from the signal tower at the Old Head of Kinsale, through vibrant towns like Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Baltimore, and even includes a romantic, moonlit lake adventure...

 

Day 1

 

Stage 1: Kinsale

The Irish heritage town of Kinsale is known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, so foodies will especially enjoy this leg of the tour. Before you settle down to dine though, take a walking tour with Dermot Ryan (founder of the Kinsale History Society). You’ll learn about the town’s rich cultural heritage, visiting landmarks like Charles Fort and the Church of Saint Multose. Afterwards, you can sample some of Kinsale’s tasty seafood wares in Fishy Fishy, one of the many quality restaurants in the town’s famous Food Circle

 

Stage 2: Kinsale town to Old Head of Kinsale
(15km via R600 and R604)

No trip to West Cork is complete without a visit to the dramatic Old Head of Kinsale (22 minutes away), which protrudes 3km into the crashing Atlantic. From the roof of the newly-restored signal tower, you’ll enjoy fabulous views of Kinsale’s iconic lighthouse (established in the 17th century) at this Signature Point. There’s a Lusitania Museum there too, as this was the nearest land point to the site where the famous ship sank in 1915.


Kinsale Harbour, County Cork
Kinsale Harbour
 

 

Stage 3: Old Head of Kinsale to Clonakilty
(71.8km, via R600)

From Kinsale, make your way towards the bustling town of Clonakilty, but be sure to stop for a refreshing stroll along golden Garretstown Beach (36 minutes away) en route. Grab a coffee at the Pink Elephant before continuing on the R600 to Timoleague Abbey (25 minutes), an impressive Franciscan structure that dates back to 1240. Explore the old railway line that runs from Timoleague to Courtmacsherry (5km) along the mouth of the estuary, before hopping back in the car. Another recommended stop-off before you reach your destination of Clonakilty is the Michael Collins Centre. This fascinating space explores the legacy of Collins, aka ‘the Big Fella’, a charismatic soldier and politician who played a major role in the story of Irish independence, right up until his untimely death in 1922. Afterwards, stay on the road for ‘Clon’, as it’s known locally. This little town will steal your heart away; its brightly-painted traditional shop fronts and blooming flowers add a splash of colour to narrow, bustling streets.
 
There’ll be plenty of craic to be found after the sun sets too. When you’ve enjoyed a hearty dinner, settle in for a lively trad music session in one of its many pubs before laying down for the night.

 

Day 2

 

Stage 1: Clonakilty to Skibbereen
(68.8km via R597 & R598)

Next morning, you’ll pass through the picturesque villages of  Rosscarbery and Glandore as you make your journey towards Skibbereen; the ‘soul of the south-west’.  This market town is steeped in history; the local heritage centre is housed in the award-winning Old Gasworks Building – exhibitions there include the Great Famine Commemoration, where you can learn about this tragic chapter of Irish history. But it’s a friendly, buzzing town too. Pop into the Church Restaurant (a former Methodist church) for a fresh ‘tide to table’ lunch, before taking a stroll through its streets and chatting to locals.
 

Kinsale Harbour, County Cork
Lough Hyne

 

Stage 2: Skibbereen to Lough Hyne (15.3km) to Baltimore
(7.2km, both via R595)

When you’ve had your fill, make your way towards magical Lough Hyne, for a unique maritime experience. Year-round, Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking leads an atmospheric night kayak out onto the water, where you can admire silhouettes of the seabirds on the bank, the moonlight reflected on the water, and, at certain times of year, astonishing bio-luminescence. Another option is a Whale Watch West Cork tour with sealife enthusiast Nic Slocum, out of the nearby, historical town of Baltimore. The clear, unpolluted waters off West Cork provide a feeding ground for dolphins, basking sharks and humpback whales, and Nic runs daily trips all year round, though tours are more regular during summer months. Back on dry land, look out for what’s probably Baltimore’s best-known landmark; the Beacon positioned high on a cliff edge at the harbour entrance – it offers breath-taking views out to sea. Finally, put your head down in one of the town’s many charming hotels and B&Bs.

 

Related activities

Nearby highlights

  • On remote Sherkin Island you can roam through the ruins of a 15th century Franciscan abbey
  • Inchydoney is one of the coast’s most beautiful beaches
  • Cape Clear and Heir Islands can both be accessed from Baltimore  

Haven Coast Signature Points

 

Mizen Head

From the rugged clifftop of Mizen Head in Cork (Ireland’s most southwesterly point), you can see imposing Fastnet Lighthouse. It sits on a rock known as ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’, since it was the last sight of Ireland emigrants had as they left during the Great Famine (1845-1849).


Old Head of Kinsale

From the Signal Tower on this scenic headland in Cork, you’ll be afforded fantastic views of the ocean, Kinsale’s picturesque 17th-century lighthouse, and Kinsale’s world-renowned golf course.
 
There’s plenty more to be experienced along the Wild Atlantic Way once you’ve finished exploring the Haven Coast. Travelling north, you’ll pass into the rugged Southern Peninsulas, for which we have two fantastic one-day itineraries in Bantry and Dingle. Visit our directory for more information on accommodation, food and things to do.