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A family getaway in West Cork



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West Cork’s spectacular landscape holds many secret places, just ready to explore with the family. From fairy trails to dolphin watching, there’s plenty to discover along its beautiful coast. 

Exploring Kinsale

As the kids ask ‘are we there yet?’ shortly after you leave Cork City, the answer is probably yes! Kinsale, just a 40-minute drive from the city, is a great base for your family trip around West Cork. Described as ‘ridiculously pretty’ by travel writers, you’ll soon see why, as you wander its colourful streetscapes, picnic on its lovely beaches or take the kids in search of dolphins or whales. 
 

Charles Fort

Even smaller children should be up for the short Scilly Walk
from Kinsale Harbour along the coast to Summercove and on to the impressive Charles Fort, with incredible sea views towards the Old Head of Kinsale. It’s the finest surviving examples of a ‘star fort’ in Ireland, so there is loads to explore here; you won’t want to miss the Family Trail around the fort or the seasonal themed treasure trails.  

 
 

Kinsale Harbour Cruise

If you’re visiting on a Wednesday, pack a picnic at the Kinsale Farmers Market and take it with you on the Kinsale Harbour Cruise. The boat trip is only an hour long, so ideal for smaller children who can keep an eye out for sea life and point out all the places they have visited as they sail past.

Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse

If you’re travelling on to Clonakilty, make sure to go out the coast road to the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse.

It’s a lighthouse – what’s not to like?! You can’t walk there, but a shuttle bus will whisk you along in no time. There is, of course, a jaw-dropping view from the top. There’s lots of history to explore, and you can see how the old lighthouse machine cranked into action. Kids will love it. 
 
Heading west from the Old Head of Kinsale, you’ll find two gorgeous beaches – Garrylucas Beach and White Strands. In between is the Stranded Café if you want to stop for lunch.

 
 

Visiting Clonakilty

A little further down the road is the vibrant and colourful town of Clonakilty, shortened to ‘Clon’ by locals. It’s one of the best places in West Cork for families, with beaches, an adventure park and its famous model railway.

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Clonakilty Beaches

Clonakilty is the beach capital of West Cork, with 90% of the region’s beaches within 20km of the town. Take a picnic to Red Strand with views of Galley Head Lighthouse, try surfing with the Inchydoney Surf School or go for a sunset stroll followed by fish and chips on Owenahincha Beach.

West Cork Model Railway Village

Ireland’s only model village is a must-see on your trip to Clon. Step back into the 1940s and explore West Cork’s towns, its people and railway in miniature. Stop for tea in an original train carriage with views across the bay and finish off your trip with a 30-minute jaunt around Clonakilty on the Road Train. 

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Clonakilty Park Adventure Centre

If you fancy a freefall jump with the kids (yes really!), you can try it out at the adventure centre in the grounds of Clonakilty Park Hotel. Trek through the air on high ropes, scream down the zip line and catch the view from the 65ft climbing wall as you navigate the course over two hours. 
 
The fishing village of Skibbereen is not far down the road from Clonakilty, but it’s well worth taking the time to plot your route along the coast through the pretty little fishing villages of Glandore and Union Hall. 

Whale and dolphin watching

While you’re in Union Hall, you have the perfect chance to search out Fungi’s relations on a four hour trip with Cork Whale Watch. Depending on the time of year, you can see bottlenose dolphins, basking sharks and the smaller minke whale. You might even spot the acrobatic humpback whale or the truly magnificent fin whale, the second largest animal ever to have lived.  After your sea adventure, stop for tea in the Castle at Castletownshend before continuing on to Skibbereen.

 
 

Close to nature in Skibbereen

Skibbereen, affectionately known as “Skib” to the locals, is a great base to explore even further into West Cork. It’s fair to say it’s buzzing, with its colourful streets and friendly locals. 
 
Hire bikes for the kids at Cycle West Cork and explore around the town. Or if they’re feeling up for an adventure, you can reach the little beach of Tragumna in just 30 minutes with the promise of a swim to cool off. After that, it’s not much further on to Lough Hyne, one of the real undiscovered treasures of West Cork.

Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne is the only saltwater lake in Europe and a real scenic haven for kayaking, snorkelling and generally exploring the wonderful marine life of the region. A really special option if you’re feeling adventurous is night kayaking on the lough, a highlight of the whole trip and something the kids will want to share with their friends back home.

Baltimore

Baltimore is just 15 minutes from Skibbereen and you could easily spend a few hours wandering this beautiful village. From here you can take the ferry to the Irish-speaking community of Cape Clear with incredible views out to Fastnet Rock and its iconic lighthouse. 
 
The kids will also love a visit to Cleire Goats Farm - an easy walk from the harbour – with the promise of a goat’s milk ice-cream to keep them going.

 
 

While you’re in the area…

Garretstown Wood

Garretstown Wood, just outside Ballinaspittle, is a good spot for an afternoon amble along one of its looped walks. Check out the Spa Bathing Bath – an old spring well said to have restorative powers – on the southern end of the wood.

Kilbrittain

It’s worth taking a short detour on the R603 towards Kilbrittain. Just before a bridge over its namesake river, Kilbrittain Woods/Waterfall Park pops up on the right with a fabulous walk through the woods that includes a fairy trail that the little ones will love.

Timoleague Abbey

Timoleague gets its name and character from a historic abbey founded in 1240 AD that defines the town. There’s plenty of parking with nice river views and picnic tables if you fancy stopping here for a family lunch.

 

If you MORE have time in West Cork…

Keep driving on through Bantry to find yourself on the Beara Peninsula. You will not want to miss the trip on Ireland’s only cable car across to Dursey Island.

After you explore 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?

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