When it comes to walks in Cork, you’ve an endless number to choose from.
But, for some weird reason, in many guides to the best things to do in Cork, the county’s rambles get overlooked, which is odd, as there’s some great ones to head off on!
In the guide below, you’ll discover our favourite long and short walks in Cork City and across the wider county.
Our Favourite Walks in Cork
The first section of our Cork walks guide tackles our favourite walks and hikes in Cork. Below, you’ll find some lengthy hikes to some forest walks.
As always, for any longer walk or hike, make sure you plan your route in advance, check the weather and let someone know where you’re going.
1. Gougane Barra – Sli an Easa Trail
One of our favourite walks in Cork is a short but strenuous 1.8km loop walk near Ballingeary. It starts and ends at the lower car park in Gougane Barra Forest Park and takes about an hour.
The reason for the slow rate of progress is the strenuous incline, ascending and descending 65 metres, and the frequent need to pause in your tracks and enjoy the scenic views.
You’ll pass several white cascading waterfalls and plenty of wet rocks before reaching the panoramic viewing platform beneath the peak of Tuarin Beag.
Admire the Coomroe Valley and Guagan Barra Loch before moving on to another viewpoint providing spectacular mountain and valley views.
2. The Scilly Walk Loop
You might even spot seals, herons and cormorants. Follow the path through the trees before ascending a pretty steep hill.
There’s a reason this is widely regarded as one of the best walks in Cork – expect stunning views of Kinsale Harbour and the town from around the halfway point.
3. The Lough Hyne Hill Walk
This Lough Hyne Walk is arguably the most overlooked of the many Cork walks. This a stroll with nature and some of the most breathtaking views in West Cork.
Start and finish at Skibbereen Heritage Centre and allow at least an hour for the 5 km walk (2.5km each way).
The Visitor Centre has exhibits about Lough Hyne, Ireland’s First Marine Nature Reserve. Pick up the leaflet which describes 9 points of interest along the walk.
The well-signed nature trail zig-zags through woodland up Knockomagh Hill (197m elevation). If you’re in search of forest walks in Cork, you can’t go wrong here!
4. Lady Bantry’s Lookout at Glengarriff
Within the beautiful Glengarriff Nature Reserve, the walk to Lady Bantry’s Lookout is 1 km and takes about 30 minutes. It’s moderately steep with steps in places.
Start at the car park and head south along the trail. Cross the footbridge and follow the path, which was an ancient road down the Beara Peninsula.
Cross the road and begin a steep ascent to the lookout, passing a Strawberry Tree which fruits in late summer. You’ll be rewarded with fantastic views over Glengarriff to Garinish Island, Whiddy Island and Bantry Bay. Return the same way.
Cork walks that hug the coastline
The next section of our guide tackles Cork walks that take you long the coast on cliff trails that offer stunning ocean views.
Now, please ensure you use caution while rambling along any of the many coastal walks in Cork – expect the unexpected and never get too close to the edge.
1. The Ballycotton Cliff Walk
The Ballycotton Cliff Walk is arguably one of the best walks in Cork. This is a spectacular 8 km walk suitable for all ages and most fitness levels.
Having said that it does run along the clifftop and has many stiles so it won’t be suited for those with mobility issues.
The trail delivers non-stop views with picnic tables and benches if you fancy a picnic or a rest. Start the walk in Ballycotton village near the lifeboat station and finish at Ballydreen Beach. Allow 2 hours.
It’s a well-worn path with meadows on one side and sea views on the other. Highlights along the way include Ballytrasna Beach and views of Ballycotton Lighthouse which is painted black.
2. The Dursey Island Loop
If you’ve reached the tip of the Beara Peninsula, you should hop over to Dursey Island via Ireland’s only cable car. After that exhilarating ride, follow the purple arrows along the road which is part of the long-distance Beara Way.
Along the 14kmn walk which takes at least 2.5 hours, you’ll pass the remote villages of Ballynacallagh and Kilmichael with its ancient ruined church.
Continue for 3km, enjoying spectacular views of the Beara Peninsula before passing the ruins of Signal Station at 252m elevation. Descend along green paths and rejoin the outward trail at Ballnacallagh, returning to the cable car.
3. The Seven Heads Walk
Opened in 1998, the Seven Heads Walk extends in a loop around the peninsula from Timoleague Village through Courtmacsherry, before skirting Dunworley Bay to reach Barry’s Point, Ardgehane and Ballincourcey incorporating many historic sites and stunning scenery.
The full walk takes at least 7 hours, but there are many short cuts and loops you can take if necessary.
It starts and finishes at the bridge in Timoleague, famous for its 13th century Franciscan Abbey, passing mud flats popular for birdwatching, Courtmacsherry Hotel, former home of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork and the historic Templequin Graveyard.
4. Old Head of Kinsale Loop
The stunning Old Head of Kinsale walk takes around 1.5 hours to complete the 6 km loop walk and its suitable for all the family.
It starts and ends at the Specked Door Bar and Restaurant near Garrettstown Beach, a convenient place to down a pint of ale or a meal as a fitting reward.
This is one of several Cork walks that delivers dramatic Atlantic views from the clifftops and passes a Celtic Fort built circa 100BC.
Other highlights include a memorial to the crew of the RMS Lusitania which sank just offshore, and the black-and-white Kinsale Lighthouse.
5. Bere Island (various)
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to walks on Bere Island. There are at least 10 loop walks incorporating parts of the long-distance Beara Way with extensive views across to the Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountains on the mainland.
The Ardnakinna-West Island Loop starts and ends at the western pier and ferry point. Mostly on public lanes with a few off-road sections, this 10 km walk takes around 4 hours.
Purple arrows mark the route which goes anti-clockwise along the coast before heading inland at Ardnakinna Lighthouse with views down over Bantry Bay.
Cork City walks
There are plenty of things to do in Cork City, and many of the city’s top attractions can be visited on some of the city trails.
Below, you’ll find some newly marked trails, like the Shandon Mile, to some family friendly Cork City walks, like the ones in Tramore Valley Park.
1. The Shandon Mile
Next up is the Shandon Walk (or the ‘Shandon Mile’). This is one of the shorter Cork City walks, but it packs a punch, as it takes you around one of the older sections of Cork City.
This is a well-marked walk with signs throughout to guide you. Along the trail, you’ll pass everything from old churches and galleries to theaters and cafes.
The walks kicks off at Daunt’s Square and finishes on North Main Street, near the site of Skiddy’s Castle (keep an eye out for the plaque).
2. The University Walk
The Cork University walk also kicks off at Daunt’s Square and continues along the Grand Parade up to Bishop Lucy Park (a fine spot for a stroll!).
It keeps going through to South Main St, on to Washington St. and then down to Lancaster Quay, before entering the beautiful grounds of Cork University.
If you’re after Cork City walks that are nice and handy and that take you through the University grounds, you can’t go wrong with this one.
3. Tramore Valley Park
A visit to Tramore Valley Park is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Cork City. It’s in the city, but it’s out of the way enough to make you feel like you’ve ventured to the countryside.
There are a few different rambles that you can head off on here, and they’re pretty easy. If you want to stretch out a walk, leave the car where it is and walk from the city to here.
4. The Blackrock Castle Walk
This lovely loop walk follows a former railway line, now paved over as a recreational trail with benches where you can kick-back with a coffee.
Although it’s 8 km long and takes about 1.5 hours, it is level and full of interest. Start and end at Blackrock Castle, about 2km outside Cork on the banks of the River Lee.
Pass the former Albert Road Station and Atlantic Pond on the paved footpath. After Blackrock Station (which has a nice mural) the gravel footpath follows the river.
Cross the bridge over the Douglas Estuary and continue on the signposted trail back to the castle (the Castle Cafe is one of the best places for brunch in Cork… just so you know!).
Family-friendly walks in Cork
The second last section of our guide tackles Cork walks that’ll appeal to those looking for a relatively handy ramble with the family.
Below, you’ll find everything from strolls in Blarney Castle to forest walks in Cork that offer stunning scenery throughout.
1. Carrigaline to Crosshaven Greenway
This easy 5 km walk along the Carrigaline to Crosshaven Greenway can start and end at either town depending on where you’re coming from.
It’s a linear walk which will take about 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace, but if you have to return the same way, it’s twice as long, of course.
The route is entirely off-road making it perfect for cyclists and walkers (but cyclists must give way to pedestrians, just so you know the code). It’s also nice and level, following a former railway.
2. Ballincollig Gunpowder Trails – Powdermills Trail
Exploring part of the historic Ballincollig Regional Park, the Powdermills Trail is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked of the many Cork walks.
This is one of four interesting trails exploring this heritage park. Starting on the banks of the River Lee near the Refineries, this 5 km trail passes the Gunpowder Mills and Steam Stove before doubling back to take in the former Coal Store and Magazines, returning to the starting point again.
Pick up a leaflet to learn more about Ballincollig’s military heritage and gunpowder works on Ireland’s largest industrial archaeological site and allow 90 minutes to explore.
3. The Woodland Walk at Blarney Castle
The Woodland Walk is one of three waymarked trails through the extensive grounds, starting and finishing at the castle.
Highlights include the Fern Gardens and Horses Graveyard, the Bee Observatory where Blarney honey is made, the lake, Himalayan walk to the old lime kiln and the Belgian Beds.
This wooded loop walk takes about 90 minutes on well-trod “fairy” paths with shallow steps in places.
4. Courtmacsherry Coastal Loop
Courtmacsherry Coastal Loop is a treat, teeming with birds, flowers and wildlife to keep you company on this 5 km loop trail.
Also known as the Fuchsia Walk due to the flowering hedges of wild fuchsia, it starts in the village of Timoleague.
You can even bring the dog on this walk, but they must be on a lead. The trail is signposted in a clockwise direction, heading along the coast and mud flats before cutting inland back to Courtmacsherry in time for a pot of tea or a well-earned pint.
The route is generally undulating and includes forest paths, fields and quiet roads with great views.
5. Doneraile House and Wildlife Park
Doneraile Court and Wildlife Park is another great, family friendly walk in Cork and it’s here that you’ll find one of the most beautiful estates in Ireland.
Straddling both sides of the stunning Awbeg River, the Doneraile was once the residence of the St. Leger family and the house dates back to the 1720s.
There are several trails to head off on here, ranging for short and sweet to long and still reasonably handy. More info here.
Long distance walks in Cork
Many of the better-known Cork walks will take you several days to complete, like the mighty Beara Way which follows a good chunk of the Ring of Beara.
However, there’s also the incredible Sheep’s Head Way, which gets overlooked by some. You’ll get an insight into both below.
1. The Beara Way
The Beara Way is one of five trails that have been upgraded to National Long Distance Trails (NLDT) status.
This strenuous scenic loop trail runs for 206 km around the Beara Peninsula and time should be measured in days rather than hours.
We recommend allowing 9 days to complete it. Start and finish in Glengarriff and follow yellow arrows on a walk that ascends 5,245 metres.
Established in the 1990s by a co-operative of local volunteers and landowners, highlights include a spell on Bere and Dursey Islands, bogs, cliffs, woodland, moorland, dramatic coastlines and the idyllic villages of Allihies and Eyries.
2. The Sheep’s Head Way
The Sheep’s Head Way overlaps with the southernmost part of the Wild Atlantic Way and offers some of the best coastal scenery in Europe, never mind Ireland!
Starting in Bantry, the main route covers 93 km around the Sheep’s Head Peninsula as far as the lighthouse with optional extensions to Drimoleague and Gougane Barra along the ancient pilgrim’s trail of St Finbarr’s Way.
Allow 5-6 days and follow the “yellow walking man” markers. It has an ascent of 1,626 metres and includes Cahergal, Letter West, Kilcrohane, Durrus, Barnageehy and back to Bantry.
Best walks in Cork: What have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant Cork walks from the guide above.
If you know of any walks in Cork that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments section below. Cheers!
FAQs about Cork walks
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the best hikes in Cork to the best forest walks in 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.
What are the best walks in Cork to try today?
The Ballycotton Cliff Walk, Lady Bantry’s Lookout at Glengarriff, The Lough Hyne Hill Walk and The Scilly Walk Loop.
What forest walks in Cork are worth rambling along?
Gougane Barra – Sli an Easa Trail, The Lough Hyne Hill Walk, Ballincollig Gunpowder Trails – Powdermills Trail and The Wood Walk at Blarney Castle.
What Cork City walks are worth a shot?
The Blackrock Castle Walk, Tramore Valley Park, The University Walk and The Shandon Mile.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.