A Guide To The Mighty Glengarriff Nature Reserve (+ 4 Walks Ye’ll Love!)

Glengarriff nature reserve
Photo left: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH. Photo right: Pantee (Shutterstock)

A morning spent rambling around Glengarriff Nature Reserve is one of my favourite things to do in West Cork.

Glengarriff is surrounded by beautiful nature and what better way to enjoy it than by escaping to this nature reserve for a ramble through the woodlands at Glengarriff Nature Reserve.

The reserve covers a whopping 300 hectares of new and old oak and is a great place to stretch the legs on a walk. 

In the guide below, you’ll find my favourite Glengarriff Nature Reserve walks along with everything you need to know before you go. 

Some quick need-to-knows about Glengarriff Nature Reserve 

Glengarriff Nature Reserve walks
Photo via Google Maps

Although a visit to Glengarriff Woods is pretty straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Glengarriff Nature Reserve is just 1km from Glengarriff village in County Cork on the Kenmare Road (N71).

2. Admission

Getting into the Glengarriff Woods is free of charge. There is a parking area, walking trails and picnic areas but no toilet facilities available.

3. Opening hours

I can’t for the life of me find information on the opening times for Glengarriff Nature Reserve. From what I can tell (this could be wrong!) the car park is open 24/7.

A brief history of Glengarriff Nature Reserve 

In the 17th and 18th centuries the woodlands around Glengarriff were extensive and often used for the timber industry.

In 1751, much of the area became part of the estate of the White family, who also owned Bantry House. In the early 1800s, the White’s built a hunting lodge in the middle of the woodland and established a deer park.

During this time, the forestry was largely protected from exploitation with the White family even undertaking some planting of Scot’s pine imported from Scotland. 

In 1955, the state acquired 380 hectares of the woodland for commercial forestry. While this led to much of the oldest oak being felled, the importance of conservation for the remaining area was recognised in the 1970s. 

In 1991, the area known today as the Nature Reserve was designated and transferred to management by National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Glengarriff Nature Reserve walks

The Glengarriff Nature Reserve walks are up there with the best walks in Cork, and for good reason!

There are several different walks to choose from, depending on how long you have and your fitness level. 

1. Waterfall Walk

Glengarriff nature reserve
Photo left: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH. Photo right: Pantee (Shutterstock)

To reach the waterfall in Glengarriff Woods, you need to leave the carpark following the track to the north.

Once you reach the public road, you need to turn left and cross a stone bridge over the Canrooska River. From there, take the right path at the picnic table and follow the riverbank to the waterfall.

It’s especially impressive after rain when it’s flowing heavily and is a great spot to have a picnic. You can head back to the car the same way or continue on the Esknamucky Trail.

  • Distance: 0.5km
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

2. Esknamucky Walk

Glengarriff woods
Photo via Google Maps

This walk climbs up through the woods for incredible views over the treetops to the mountains. It combines the Waterfall Walk with these impressive viewpoints for a decent hike. 

It leaves from the carpark and heads north towards the public road. You then veer left to cross a stone bridge over the Canrooska River. You’ll find a picnic table where you can stop for a break before following the path along the river to a small waterfall. 

From there, the trail climbs a little to a series of beautiful viewpoints over the surrounding forest and mountains.

Your legs then get a bit of a rest with a descent to a forest track through Eucalyptus trees. You then have to turn left off the forest track down to the public road and then onto the River Walk to head back to the car. 

  • Distance: 2.8km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

3. Big Meadow Walk

This slightly longer walk in Glengarriff Woods takes you to the unique Big Meadow, an area of old grassland with anthills, wildflowers and stately oaks.

The trail follows the River Walk at first until the footbridge. From there it crosses a second bridge and turns right to the meadow. 

Once you’ve enjoyed the beautiful grassland, you can turn left through the Beech, Eucalyptus and Scot’s Pine to a small lake.

You’ll soon head towards the public road, but you need to turn left onto a track just before it to head back to the turnoff to the Lady Bantry’s Lookout. 

If you still have plenty of energy you can climb to the lookout, or simply head back to the carpark to complete the 3km walk. 

  • Distance: 3km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

4. Lady Bantry’s Lookout

Glengarriff fores
Photo by Juan Daniel Serrano (Shutterstock)

The ramble up to Lady Bantry’s Lookout is my favourite of the 4 Glengarriff Nature Reserve walks. This steep but rewarding path is great on a fine, clear day.

It heads south from the main carpark across the footbridge and straight on the footpath which follows the line of an ancient road down the peninsula. It then crosses the public road and begins the challenging ascent.

The steep hike gets you to the top of a lookout which offers an incredible panoramic view over Glengarriff and Bantry Bay, including Garnish Island and Whiddy Island. 

  • Distance: 1km
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

5. The River Walk

Glengarriff Nwaterfall
Photo by Pantee (Shutterstock)

For a short introduction to Glengarriff Woods, this gentle walk through old oak trees follows the Glengarriff River.

It begins from the main car park and heads across the footbridge and to the left. It’s a mostly level trail and allows you to take the time to appreciate the nature of the woods.

If you look into the river, you might even be able to spot a Freshwater Pearl Mussel, which live to over 120 years old.  

  • Distance: 1km
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

What to do near Glengarriff Woods 

One of the beauties of Glengarriff Nature Reserve 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 Glengarriff Woods  (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Garnish Island

garnish island
Photo by Juan Daniel Serrano (Shutterstock)

The beautiful Garnish Island is the perfect addition to your trip to Glengarriff Nature Reserve. The 37-acre island is located just off the coast from Glengarriff in Bantry Bay. You need to hop on a ferry to get there, but the pretty gardens and historical buildings are worth the trip.

2. Whiddy Island

whiddy island
Photo by Phil Darby (Shutterstock)

On the other side of Bantry Bay, Whiddy Island is off the coast from Bantry Town. With just a short ferry ride, you can head across and enjoy the beautiful untouched wilderness and wildlife on the island, as well as some of its military history. It’s particularly popular with bird watchers and nature photographers. 

3. Bantry House and Gardens

bantry house
Photo left: MShev. Photo right: Fabiano’s_Photo (Shutterstock)

Bantry House and Gardens is a former stately home and estate overlooking Bantry Bay. It’s just outside of Bantry Town and the house, gardens and tearoom are open for visitors to go and explore. It’s popular with weddings and other events and also has an onsite B&B in the restored rooms. 

4. The Beara Peninsula

ring of beara
Photo by LouieLea (Shutterstock)

The Beara Peninsula is the stunning piece of coastline in West Cork. The peninsula is known for its coastal scenery with rugged mountains and ocean. It’s commonly explored by driving or cycling along the Ring of Beara, a scenic route that traces the coastline with plenty of stops on the way.

5. Bere Island

Bere Island Cork
Photo by Timaldo (Shutterstock)

Another island off the Beara Peninsula, the relatively small Bere Island has a thriving community and a rich natural and cultural heritage. It’s known for its beautiful scenery, friendly locals and interesting history with plenty of activities and things to do on the island. You can catch the ferry from Castletownbere across to Bere Island.

FAQs about Glengarriff Nature Reserve

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what Glengarriff Nature Reserve walks are worth doing to that there is to see nearby.

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 much to do at Glengarriff Nature Reserve?

Yes – there are 4 excellent walks, ranging in difficulty, at Glengarriff Woods. My favourite, as mentioned above, is the one that leads to Lady Bantry’s Lookout.

Is there parking at Glengarriff Woods?

Yes, there’s a decent bit of parking at Glengarriff Woods. Unless you visit on a warm summers day, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting parking.

What is there to see near Glengarriff forest?

As the nature reserve is located on the Beara Peninsula, there’s an endless number of things to see and do nearby.

Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.

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