The stunning Barleycove Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in Cork.
Barleycove Beach like no other. Yes, that sounds like an incredibly cliched thing to say, but how many other Irish beaches do you know of that were created by a tsunami?!
More on that later, but if you’re down in this gorgeous corner of Cork then definitely make the time to visit the very mighty Barleycove Beach.
In the guide below, you’ll find info on everything from where to park to what to see and do a stone’s throw from the sand.
Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!
Some quick need-to-knows about Barleycove Beach in Cork
Although a visit to Barleycove Beach in Cork is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Please pay careful attention to the final point about swimming. Water safety needs to be considered before ever entering the water.
Around a 2-hour drive from Cork City, Barleycove is located on the remote Mizen Peninsula. It’s also perfectly in-between Mizen Head and Brow Head – the two southernmost points of mainland Ireland. The area around here is stunning and demands plenty of exploring!
The car-park access road runs along a narrow causeway bisecting Lissagriffin Lakes. At the north end of this causeway there is narrow bridge, where you can turn left for Mizen Head or right back to Goleen village. As this is one of the most popular beaches in West Cork, it gets busy during the warmer months, so arrive early.
3. Tsunami (yes, tsunami!)
Probably the last thing you’d imagine to be associated with any of the many beaches in Ireland, the sand dunes of Barleycove were actually formed thanks to the catastrophic Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.
The resulting tsunami swept out towards Ireland forming 15ft waves and caused a huge displacement of sand in Barleycove that has remained virtually unchanged.
Barleycove becomes a popular spot for swimming in the summer with plenty of people making their way down to splash about in its cool waters.
Keep in mind that lifeguards are only on duty during the summer months and that proper care is ALWAYS required when entering the water – if in doubt, keep your feet on dry land!
About the breath-taking Barleycove Beach
Nestled in between the rising green hills of the beautiful Mizen Peninsula, Barleycove Beach is a gently curving golden beach formed of an extensive landscape of sand dunes stretching far inland.
There’s loads to do in the surrounding area but Barleycove is a deadly place to chill out on sunny day and appreciate the unique surroundings of this most unlikely of beaches.
Designated as a Special Area of Conservation by the European Union, Barleycove Beach is also an area housing a wide of amount of interesting wildlife and habitats – don’t be surprised to see horses and other animals grazing on the neighbouring hills while you’re sunbathing!
Things to do at Barleycove Beach in Cork
If you don’t fancy a paddle, don’t worry – there are plenty of other things to see and do at Barleycove Beach that make it a great spot for a day trip.
1. Head for a ramble
Located between Mizen Head and Brow Head, Barleycove Beach is blessed with two fine spots for a ramble on either side. There are trails for each peninsula and the rugged coastal views are as mighty as you’d expect!
For a walk with a few historic curiosities, head east for just under an hour and you’ll find a collection of megalithic tombs and stones on the north side of the Crookhaven Inlet.
2. Enjoy a meal with a view
Feeds don’t come much better than relaxing on the spacious wooden deck of the Beach Bar Restaurant with a plate of food and sweeping views of the Barleycove landscape!
With a focus on fresh seafood dishes, there can’t be many better things than enjoying a fish and chips meal alongside a smooth pint with the lush Cork coast unfolding out in front of you. This is one of the best hotels in West Cork for good reason.
3. Soak up a mighty view
As tragic as the Lisbon Earthquake was, the resulting tsunami certainly carved out a unique scene down here in southwest Cork.
Thanks to the rolling sand dunes, falling green hills and the beach’s golden arc, it’s one of the most spectacular beaches along the Wild Atlantic Way.
And speaking of the Atlantic, continue the stunning views by rambling down to Mizen Head or Brow Head for some really striking coastal vistas.
Things to do near Barleycove Beach
One of the beauties of Barleycove Beach 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 Barleycove Beach (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. 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 a 10-minute drive from Barleycove, that stunning ragged coastline is a deadly spot to take in the majesty of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Drop into Signal Station Visitor Centre to learn more about the area and don’t miss its wildflowers and sightings of dolphins, whales, seals, gannets, kittiwakes and choughs.
2. Brow Head
At a latitude of 51.43ºN, Brow Head proudly owns the distinction of being the most southerly point of mainland Ireland (beating Mizen Head by a mere 9 metres!).
There are 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).
Built over 200 years ago due to the threat of a French invasion, Brow Head Signal Tower is a ruined but unmistakable sight.
3. Fastnet Lighthouse
Lying 6.5km southwest of Cape Clear Island, Fastnet Lighthouse is Ireland’s most southernly point and home to a pretty epic lighthouse! Because of the wild Atlantic seas and strong gales along the Cork coast, it was clear that by the mid-19th century a lighthouse was needed.
After the first was deemed not strong enough, a second (and current) lighthouse was built in 1904. Leaving from Schull and Baltimore, you can take a 2-3-hour ferry tour to get right up close to this iconic Irish structure!
4. Cape Clear Island
Not only is Cape Clear Island Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island, it’s also an official Gaeltacht area, giving it its own unique identity.
A 40-minute ferry ride from the port of Baltimore, you’ll be treated to a splendid view of the rugged coastline and – if you’re lucky – some whales or dolphins along the way!
There’s a number of fascinating archaeological sites once you reach land – look out especially for the spectacular 12th century ruins of St Kieran’s Church.
5. Whale watching tour from Baltimore pier
Appreciating the amazing coastal views is all well and good but how about getting up close? Just under an hour’s drive from Barleycove, there’s loads of opportunities to see whales up close if you take a tour from the charming port of Baltimore.
And it’s not just whales you’ll see along the way – keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, seals and all sorts of coastal birds too! See our guide to whale watching in West Cork for more info.
FAQs about visiting Barleycove Beach in Cork
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where to park at Barleycove Beach to whether or not it’s OK to swim.
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 it easy to get parking at Barleycove Beach?
During the summer months, Barleycove Beach gets busy, so it’s advised that you get there early if you want to park at the main car park mentioned above.
Is it safe to swim on Barleycove Beach?
Although Barleycove Beach lost its Blue Flag status in 2020, it’s still a popular destination for swimmers. Swimming on Barleycove Beach is only safe if you exercise caution and only enter the water when and where it’s safe to do so.
Is there much to see near Barleycove Beach?
There’s an endless number of things to see and do near Barleycove Beach in Cork, from Mizen Head and Schull to Crookhaven, Skibbereen, Cape Clear and much more.
Saturday 24th of July 2021
Does Barleycove beach have facilities i.e. bathrooms and a place to change?
Monday 26th of July 2021
Hey Sarah! I was at Barleycove last summer and I didn't see any (we changed in the car after the swim).