The Baltimore Beacon is one of the more iconic of the many Cork attractions, and it’s well worth a visit!
The Irish coastline is famed for its rugged beauty, dramatic cliffs and charming towns, but it does occasionally throw up the odd curiosity too!
A mighty example of that would be the bizarrely cone-shaped Baltimore Beacon on the beautiful Cork coast.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from where to get parking at the Beacon to the story behind what is one of our favourite places to visit in West Cork.
Need-to-knows before visiting the Baltimore Beacon in Cork
Although a visit to the Baltimore Beacon in Cork is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Located on the wild south-west coast of county Cork, you’ll find the beacon in Baltimore. It’s around a 90-minute drive from the city of Cork via the N22. T
he beacon itself is a further 6-minute drive south to the coast, though if you really want to soak up the stunning scenery then you can take on the breezy half hour walk from town.
Driving down south along Beacon Road from Baltimore, you’ll eventually come to the end of the road where there’s room for around 5 cars.
3. The nickname
With a nickname that’s arguably even stranger than the shape of the white tower itself, there’s plenty of mystique here! Known locally as “Lot’s Wife”, the strange name is a reference to a Biblical story of a woman getting turned into a pillar of salt.
4. Getting up to the beacon
Once you’ve exited your car, it’s then a short, steep walk through a field to reach the beacon. Though the scenery around you is gorgeous, the walk can be slippy/muddy at times and also note that beacon is situated on a tall cliff with no barriers. So be wary of any sudden gusts of wind too.
The story behind the Beacon in Baltimore
The history of the Beacon goes back over 200 years. Following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the British decided to build a series of lighthouses and beacons along the coast as part of a warning system.
The waters around this corner of Ireland (and in many parts of the country) can get very wild, at times, and you’ll find ancient shipwrecks dotted around our little island.
By the 1840’s, the lighthouse at Baltimore had been vandalised and fallen into disrepair. Because of its huge importance to fishermen and other sailors, it needed to be reinstated.
By 1849 the 50ft high white Baltimore Beacon that we know and love today had been completed, with the small sphere at the top added at a later date.
The Baltimore Beacon Walk
If the sun’s shining, then the walk up to the beacon from Baltimore is a lovely little stroll that’s easy on the legs for walkers of most fitness levels.
This is one of our favourite walks in Cork, and it’s a great spot to catch the sunset before you nip into one of Baltimore’s pubs.
The trail to follow
Starting from the 800-year-old Dún na Séad (or grab a coffee from Glebe Gardens and sup while you go!), head south from the charming harbour and follow the curving Beacon Road.
You’ll find yourself walking between stone walls and a patchwork of small fields and eventually you’ll see the beacon’s white conical shape in the distance. Make the short scramble up from the car park to reach the iconic beacon.
How long it takes + safety
The Baltimore Beacon Walk from the village shouldn’t take any longer than 25 minutes each way, however, allow more time as you’ll want to soak up the views.
The trail takes you along a narrow country road with plenty of bends, so care is needed – stay tight to the side of the road and walk on the grass where possible.
Things to do near the Baltimore Beacon
One of the beauties of the Beacon is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Baltimore Beacon (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Whale watching
Yes, you can go whale watching in Cork! Appreciating the amazing coastal views is all well and good but how about getting up close? Several tours leave from Baltimore and set off into the waters around Baltimore, Sherkin Island and Cape Clear Island.
2. Barleycove Beach
Just under an hour’s drive from Baltimore, Barleycove Beach is a gorgeous sweeping sandy beach in a sheltered bay between Mizen Head and Lyroe peninsula.
Relax on the beach, go for a walk along the glorious coast or grab a serious feed at the nearby Beach Bar. There’s a reason this is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in West Cork.
3. Mizen Head
For many seafarers of yesteryear, the dramatic cliffs of Mizen Head were the last they saw of Europe before heading off to the new world across the Atlantic Ocean. Just over an hour’s drive from Baltimore, that stunning ragged coastline is a deadly spot to take in the majesty of the Wild Atlantic Way. Don’t miss the expansive wildlife or the Signal Station Visitor Centre.
4. Brow Head
At a latitude of 51.43ºN, Brow Head has the distinction of being the most southerly point of mainland Ireland (beating Mizen Head by a mere 9 metres!). There’re some lovely scenic walks in this area and you’ll no doubt come across the ruins of some old mining houses along the way (this was a strong mining area from the mid-19th century until 1906).
5. Sherkin Island
One of the most accessible islands in Ireland, the ancient shores of Sherkin Island are only 10 minutes away by ferry from Baltimore. Summer is an especially enchanting time to visit as there’s loads going on here! From tons of live music to the Sherkin Family Regatta, as well as its three sandy beaches, it’s well worth a visit.
6. Cape Clear Island
Not only is Cape Clear Island Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island, it’s also an official Gaeltacht area, giving it a unique and distinct identity. A 40-minute ferry ride from Baltimore, you’ll be treated to a splendid view of the rugged coastline, Fastnet Rock and – if you’re lucky – some whales or dolphins along the way!
FAQs about visiting the Baltimore Beacon
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Baltimore Beacon Walk to where to park.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is there parking at the Beacon?
Yes, but it’s very limited – there’s room for around 5 cars. If you plan on visiting the Beacon during the summer months, take the walk from the village or arrive early.
Is the Baltimore Beacon Walk worth doing?
Yes! If you leave from the village, it’s only 25 minutes or so away and the scenery that surrounds you for a good chunk of the walk is spectacular.
Is there much to see near the Beacon?
Yes – you’ve everywhere from Brow and Mizen Head to Barleycove and much more a stone’s throw away.