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Two unforgettable days in West Cork



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The magic of West Cork is that there’s always something more to see and do along its spectacular coastline. From Kinsale to Skibbereen and beyond, you can cover a lot of ground in a couple of days or rest up in the one spot and explore.

The glorious seascape between Kinsale and Skibbereen is peppered with dramatic forts and lighthouses and equally arresting views around every bend. With tales of invasion and shipwreck, this historic part of Ireland holds many stories for its visitors to uncover as they wind their way along its stunning coast.

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Explore Historic Kinsale

On a calm day, the harbour in Kinsale reflects colourful shopfronts and historic buildings like the perfect picture postcard. Kinsale is the first (or last) stop on the Wild Atlantic Way and is an unmissable haven for foodies, with plenty of history and interesting walks to help build up your appetite.

Heritage Walks

A great way to get your bearings in Kinsale and to uncover the secrets of the place is on the Heritage Walk. Your guide, Kinsale native Dermot Ryan, has plenty of rich history to draw upon. The town dates back nearly 1000 years and was the site of a famous battle between Irish, English and Spanish forces that proved the swansong for Gaelic Ireland. 

Charles Fort

As you wander along the harbour, watch out for the signposted Scilly Walk, which takes you along a coastal trail to picturesque Summercove. Stop at the Bulman Restaurant and take in the views with a coffee before heading up the road to Charles Fort, a star-shaped military fortress constructed in the 1600s. 

Kinsale Harbour Cruise

You can also get spectacular views of Charles Fort aboard The Spirit of Kinsale,  as you finish off your evening with a cruise. Of course, you can't leave Kinsale without trying one or two (or let’s be honest, three or more) of its famous restaurants.
 
On Market Street, Bastion is an intimate wine bistro that like most Kinsale restaurants makes the most of superb local seafood to earn itself a Michelin star.  Three other Kinsale eateries rate a Michelin mention, including the, ahem, catchily-titled Fishy Fishy,  Max’s Wine Bar on Main Street and nearby Finn’s Table. 

The Old Head Kinsale & Signal Tower

If you continue on your journey from Kinsale to Clonakilty, make sure to take the road south along the coast to Old Head of Kinsale, a stunning peninsula jutting over three kilometres into the Atlantic Ocean, with a sense of history to match its spectacular setting. The Old Head Signal Tower is definitely worth a visit  – with many wreck artefacts from the sinking of the Lusitania just off Kinsale Head.

 
 

Time to visit Clonakilty 


Clonakilty, shortened to ‘Clon’ by locals, is a vibrant and colourful town and a real must-see on your trip. 
 

True to another West Cork tradition – great food with a distinctly local flavour – Clon also enjoys a special place in Irish history as the birthplace of Michael Collins. 


 

Michael Collins Centre

Even his arch-rival Eamon de Valera conceded that “history will recognise the greatness of Collins.” And so it has proved, with the legend of ‘the Big Fella’ growing year by year. You can find out more about this West Cork legend through stories and interesting memorabilia at the Michael Collins Centre, which was set up by family members, halfway between Clonakilty and Timoleague.

Inchydoney Beach

If you’re visiting Clonakilty on a Friday don’t miss the Farmers Market where you can assemble a ‘locally-grown’ picnic before heading to the stunning white strand of Inchydoney just ten minutes away. A true highlight of the region, you could easily spend an afternoon wandering the beach or trying your hand at surfing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.

 

Cork Whale Watch

You can easily reach Skibbereen on the main road from Clonakilty in 30 minutes, but you should make a little time to travel the quieter route through the beautiful fishing villages of Glandore and Union Hall, connected by the unique one-way Poulgorm Bridge. A real highlight in Union Hall is the Cork Whale Watch with local marine expert Colin Barnes who will take you in search of humpbacks, fin and mink whales and bottlenose dolphins.  

 
 

Skibbereen


Skibbereen, as you’ve probably guessed, is 'Skib' to the locals, whose easy-going attitude to life will have no truck with multi-syllable names. ‘Skib’ is the acknowledged capital of West Cork and has colourful streetscapes and a buzz that’s palpable in the air.
 

Cycle Tours and Bike Hire

Skibbereen is a great base from which to cycle this part of West Cork and you can rent all you need for your trip from Cycle West Cork. Ease yourself in gently with a  short spin out to Tragumna Beach or keep going up the (steep!)  headland with stunning views across Toehead Bay.
 

Farmers Market

This part of West Cork is all about the food, so you won’t want to miss some of the best local produce at Skib’s famous Saturday Farmers Market. Mingle with the locals, sample craft foods and find all you need for a picnic on Tralispean’s sandy beach, just ten minutes out the road. 
 

Fastnet Trails

It’s no surprise that you could hike for days around Skibbereen, given its stunning setting. Test your boots with The Lisheenacrehig Loop Walk, an easy 7.5km trail that winds past Kilcoe Church with its beautiful window, designed by the renowned artist Harry Clarke.


 

Lough Hyne


Lough Hyne, the only saltwater lake in Europe, is a ten-minute drive (or a 40-minute cycle) from Skibbereen and a scenic haven of kayaking, snorkelling and generally exploring the wonderful marine life of the region. A nice option if you’re feeling adventurous is a night kayaking on the lough with Atlantic Sea Kayaking, which could prove a highlight of the whole trip – something to ‘tell the folks back home’.


 

While you’re in the area...


Stop off for a ramble in Kilbrittain, midway between Clonakilty and Skibbereen. There’s a great choice of looped walks from the village to suit every level of walker. The Kiln Walk is a particular favourite, taking you through 14.5km of incredible scenery, south to Courtmacsherry and returning to Kilbrittain with amazing views over the bay.
 

 
 

If time permits…

Keep going on to Bantry and the Beara Peninsula. Like we said at the start, West Cork never runs out of things to see and do.

After you make your escape in Cork, it's time to start thinking about what you'll discover next on the Wild Atlantic Way. Want to go further afield? Find out more about how to Keep Discovering other regions of our amazing island...

 

When was the last time you went exploring?

Make the plan, take the trip, book that break!


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