If you’re debating staying in Baltimore in Cork, you’ve landed in the right place.
You’ll find Baltimore in West Cork, where it’s surrounded by scenery, islands and endless things to see and do.
Boasting a colourful history (it was a pirate base at one point!), Baltimore is a picture-perfect starting point for tackling many of the best things to do in West Cork.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do in Baltimore to where to eat, sleep and drink in what is arguably one of the most scenic towns in Cork.
Some quick need-to-knows about Baltimore in Cork
Although a visit to Baltimore in West Cork is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
2. A fine base for exploring
Baltimore is the ideal place to base yourself in as it is very close to some of the best things to see and do in West Cork. You can take a trip across the waters to the islands, visit castles and the nature reserve, visit the colourful market town of Skibbereen or the very grand Bantry House and Gardens.
While the name Baltimore might be more familiar to some as Maryland’s most populous city in the States, the original name comes from the Irish Dún na Séad, which translates as the ‘Fort of the Jewels’).
A brief history of Baltimore in West Cork
The history of Baltimore in Cork is long and colourful, and I’m not going to do it justice with a few paragraphs.
The overview below is just that – an overview. Intended to give you a taste of the history that’s soaked into every inch of this little village.
The seat of an ancient dynasty
As is the case with many of Ireland’s towns and villages, Baltimore was once the seat of two prosperous families that belonged to an ancient dynasty – the Corcu Loígde.
There’s some great stories tied to the village during this time. Grab a coffee, visit here, and step back in time for a few minutes.
King Henry VIII
Following King Henry VIII’s proclamation of himself as the King of Ireland in 1541, successive English monarchs led a prolonged conquest of the country, and an English colony was founded in Baltimore by Sir Thomas Crooke in 1605.
Crooke leased the land from the O’Driscoll clan, and it was a lucrative hub for pilchard fisheries, later becoming a pirate base.
The 17th century
Baltimore became a market town in the 17th century, granting it the right to hold weekly markets and two annual fairs.
A raid of the town in 1631 by Barbary pirates depopulated it, with its occupants sold into slavery and the rest fleeing to other areas.
Repopulation started again in the 18th century, and the village prospered once more only to suffer again when the Great Famine hit in the 1840s.
Things to see and do in Baltimore
There’s a handful of things to do in Baltimore and hundreds of things to do a short spin away from the village.
Both of the above combined make Baltimore in Cork a great base for a road trip! Here are some of our favourite things to do in Baltimore.
1. Whale watching
Fan of the ocean’s most magnificent mammal? There are several whale watch tours that leave from Baltimore, as it is the centre of whale watching in West Cork.
You will probably be able to see dolphins all year round, and from April to December, you might catch a glimpse of minke whales and harbour porpoise too.
The late summer/early autumn months offer the promise of sighting humpback and fin whales when they come inshore to feed. It is also possible to see the animals from vantage points on the shore.
2. The Baltimore Beacon
The Baltimore Beacon is a whitewashed tower that guards the entrance of the harbour and is the village’s major landmark.
Thanks to its appearance, the landmark is known as Lot’s Wife by the locals after the biblical figure mentioned in Genesis 19 who looked back as God destroyed Sodom and was turned to salt for her pains.
Visit the landmark for dramatic and incredible views out over the ocean and the surrounding coastal landscape.
3. Take a ferry to Sherkin Island
Sherkin Island is a mere three miles long with a population of 100, and only a ten-minute ferry ride from Baltimore.
It’s the perfect day out and offers gorgeous views of the Atlantic from its hill tops, and glorious sandy beaches crying out for exploration.
History lovers will find plenty to intrigue them on the island. Wedge Tomb is the island’s oldest archaeological monument and is located at Sherkin’s western end.
The megalithic tomb has been dated to approximately 2500 BCE – 2000BCE, i.e. about four thousand years ago, and is the earliest evidence of human activity on Sherkin, suggesting that an established community occupied the island at the time.
4. Visit Fastnet Lighthouse and Cape Clear Island
The island is Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island and the birthplace of Saint Ciarán. His well is one of the first features you will see when you arrive at the island and if you visit on 5 March, you can join the islanders in their celebration of his feast day.
5. Try the Lough Hyne hill walk
The walk takes you up the hill that overlooks the Lough Hyne Nature Reserve. It’s 197 metres high and will take you about an hour depending on how fit you are.
Remember your camera phone for Insta-worthy pics at the top, and dress appropriately – walking boots, water-proof clothing and thin layers.
6. Head off to the mighty Mizen Head
Want to stand on Ireland’s most southerly point? Mizen Head is a sparsely populated peninsula that looks out over the Atlantic, with the Mizen Head Signal Station and Visitor Centre at its head.
The Visitor Centre is an award-winning maritime heritage museum with lots of fascinating exhibitions and displays about seafaring and humanity’s relationship with the sea.
The Signal Station is the old Keeper’s House and offers a glimpse into lighthouse keeping in Ye Olden Days. Keepers at the station lived and worked here from 1909 when it was built up until the station’s automation in 1993.
7. Or grab a view and a half from Brow Head
Brow Head is the southernmost point of the Irish mainland, and well worth a visit for its scenery. There’s a narrow road that takes you up to the headland where you will find the ruins of a former watch tower. There are also ruined houses there that were abandoned many centuries ago and well worth exploring.
8. Head for a paddle at Barleycove Beach
Located in a sheltered bay between the Mizen Head and Lyroe peninsulas, you can walk barefoot on its pristine sands and admire the views over Cork’s coastline.
Its sandy dunes were formed after a tidal wave hit the area post the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, and they provide a habitat for an incredible variety of wildlife.
Where to stay in Baltimore in Cork
If you fancy staying in Baltimore in Cork, you’re spoiled for choice for places to rest your head, with something to suit most budgets.
Note: if you book a stay through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
Casey’s Of Baltimore is one of our favourite hotels in West Cork. This is a beautiful hotel where you can choose between staying in the hotel or in one of the two-person lodges, or the two-roomed suites. It’s a treat for all those looking for a short country break.
Rolfs Country House and Restaurant is a family-run business that has been on the go since 1979. The converted old farmhouse and courtyard is set in 4.5 acres of lovely grounds and gardens, and the al la carte restaurant and wine bar is award-winning. It overlooks Roaring Water Bay in Baltimore.
B&Bs and guesthouses
If you’re a fully-signed up member of the ‘breakfast is the best meal of the day’ club and fancy experiencing the famous Irish fry, then numerous Baltimore B&Bs and guesthouses offer you the opportunity to breakfast like a king.
So, there are plenty of great places to eat in Baltimore in West Cork. Casey’s of Baltimore describes its food as its raison d’etre, and it uses fresh, organic produce as much as possible.
Bushe’s Bar offers very reasonably priced sandwiches and soups, with excellent pints of Guinness to wash it all down.
Visitors rave about the open crab sandwiches. Some other great options are Glebe Gardens, the Anglers Inn and La Jolie Brise.
There’s plenty of great pubs in Baltimore where you can kick-back with a post-adventure drink, if you fancy.
Along with the Bushe’s Bar, the Algier’s Inn and Jacob’s Bar are our go-to spots in the town.
FAQs about visiting Baltimore in West Cork
Since mentioning the town in a guide to West Cork that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Baltimore in West Cork.
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.
Are there many things to do in Baltimore in Cork?
While there isn’t a huge number of things to do in Baltimore, it’s still well-worth staying in: the village is small, the pubs are traditional, the food is great, the area that surrounds it is incredibly scenic and its close to plenty of things to do.
Are there many places to eat in Baltimore?
For a small village, Baltimore in Cork is home to plenty of great places to eat. From Casey’s and Glebe Gardens to the Anglers Inn and La Jolie Brise, there’s plenty of places to eat in Baltimore.
What are the best places to stay in Baltimore?
If you’re after hotel vibes, Rolfs Country House and Casey’s Of Baltimore are two great shouts. There’s also loads of B&Bs and guesthouses, too.
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.