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Skibbereen to Baltimore Cycle on the Wild Atlantic Way

Get rough and ready along Cork’s glorious shoreline

Lively Skibbereen is the perfect base for a short and picturesque 35km cycle around West Cork that acts as a grand escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Get away from it all when you take to the pictorial surrounding areas of Skibbereen, pulling away from traffic as your route opens up and takes you off the main road. You’ll get up close and personal with untold beauty and nature on a relaxing cycle along this route.
For most visitors, this trek will take just under two and a half hours, however if you’re up for a bit of exploration and sight-seeing, we recommend extending the cycle to take in the beautiful village of Baltimore, adding just over an hour to your journey for a total of around three hours and thirty minutes. 


•    Region: Haven Coast
•    Highlights: 
SkibbereenLough HyneBaltimore
•    Distance: 35km
•    Duration: 
2 hours 20 min / 3 hours 30 min including Baltimore extension  
•    Start / finish point:
•    Difficulty level: Medium
•    Terrain: Tarmac for the loop, some uneven surfaces to Baltimore and back


Skibbereen – Oldcourt – Munning South / 35 mins / 9.5km

Munning South – Pookeen – Glannafeen – Knockanoulty / 31 mins / 5.3km

Knockanoulty – Ballylinchy – Baltimore / 18 mins / 5km

Start out at the Heritage Centre for an easy loop as far as Lough Nacartan and choose then whether to detour down to the bustling fishing village of Baltimore for a refreshing challenge. Before that, you’ll get acquainted with the twists and turns of rural Irish townland and the colourful aspects that give these areas real character, from the hard-working seafarers at Oldcourt Boats on the River Ilen between Skibbereen and Baltimore, to the mountains of Pookeen. 

The quaint country roads of Knocknoulty and Ballylinchy act as a gateway to Ireland’s past while the towering Baltimore Beacon provides a particularly enjoyable course where you’re likely to mostly encounter fellow cyclists on their way out to this iconic structure. Here you’ll find an interesting clash of nature as the Atlantic Ocean meets a nearby sheltered bay, resulting in wild waves on one side and calming still waters on the other. It’s strongly encouraged to take on this aspect of the route during the daytime, so as to avoid any potential cliff-top scrapes under cover of night.

Wooden boats off Baltimore Harbour
Traditional wooden boats off Baltimore Harbour

Baltimore – Lough Hyne - Ballylinchy – Knockanoulty / 18 mins / 5km

Knockanoulty – Glannafeen – Pookeen – Munning South / 31 mins / 5.3km

Munning South – Knockataggart – The Railways – Skibbereen / 35 mins / 7km

Things get a little tougher once you follow the small country roads along the linear route past Knockomagh Wood to Baltimore, past the quite magical Lough Hyne, which has some very steep hills, narrow roads and uneven surfaces so be sure to take care along the route. Lough Hyne owes its tranquillity to being protected from the worst of the winds by steep hills on three sides. If you feel like a challenge, climb the wooded Knockomagh Hill behind the lake to get an unsurpassed view of Baltimore, Roaringwater Bay and Carbery's Hundred Isles

The rapids of Lough Hyne in West Cork
The Rapids of Lough Hyne | Image via Baltimore Town House

Baltimore's history has always been shaped by the sea, so much so that in 1631 much of the population was carried off by pirates never to be seen again – an event known as the ‘Sack of Baltimore’. The castle of Dún na Séad (Fort of the Jewels) from which the village takes its Irish name was also attacked by seaborne invaders more than once in its long history. Happily, the village recovered fully from these early setbacks and today the labyrinth of creeks and islands, that were once the haunt of pirates, is a playground for seafarers of a more peaceful kind.

Baltimore Castle by Raymond Fogarty
Baltimore Castle | Image via Raymond Fogarty

Water-based activities like sailing, angling, diving and whale watching are what now draw many visitors to Baltimore and the isles, but there is also plenty to enjoy without leaving dry land. From an eclectic mix of festivals and events to bars and restaurants, there’s lots of places where landlubbers rub shoulders with seasoned sailors.

Knockanoulty serves as something of a mirror as you loop through Baltimore via Ballylinchy and back again before powering along for just over half an hour until you arrive at Munning South. From there, it’s a 7km glide all the way back to gorgeous Skibbereen. 

Nearby Highlights  

•  Pay a visit to the 13th century Dún na Séad Castle in Baltimore which includes a pirate exhibition detailing the famous ‘Sack of Baltimore’ in 1631 when the village was attacked by Algerian pirates from the North African Barbary Coast. If you’re there in June, check out the quirky Baltimore Pirate Festival
•  Swing by the Skibbereen Heritage Centre and discover the rich history of Lough Hyne, Ireland’s first marine nature reserve. 
•  Bushe's Bar in Baltimore is a great meeting point with an open terrace that acts as a warm communal area and the perfect spot to kick back and take in a glorious view of the harbour as the sun sets. 
•  As night prepares to fall, why not take to the waters for a night-time kayak? The good folk at Atlantic Sea Kayaking provide an unforgettable experience under the stars, lit up by the marine life beneath the waters of Lough Hyne and Castlehaven Bay.
•  Glebe Gardens is a beautiful spot also worth discovering and exploring.
•  You can also join your guide on a boat and see the sights of the West Cork coastline, including a seal colony and the various birdlife that populate the region. Later, try some off-boat fishing before sailing back to one of the local restaurants to have your catch prepared by the resident chef at Casey’s Bar in Union Hall. Be sure to check beforehand! 
•  From Baltimore, explore the islands of West Cork, Sherkin and Cape Clear and try your hand at the numerous fun activities available including diving and sailing.
•  Explore the secrets of the area with a two-to-three hour morning hike along the coast of West Cork with a talk on foraging seaweed, local history and wildlife followed by lunch in the fishing village of Union Hall. Here you’ll enjoy local artisan food with which to sample your gathered seaweed before spending the afternoon kayaking, taking in islands, cliffs and caves along the way. 

Extra info

Find a full list of amenities and services in Skibbereen and Baltimore by searching their names via our handy directory and avail of a tune-up from the friendly and dedicated team at Cycle West Cork, who offer bike hire and guided or self-led tours compete with safety gears and maps. 

Header image credit: Chris Hill