A Guide to Lough Hyne: Walks, Night Kayaking + Things to Do Nearby

lough hyne skibbereen
Photo left: rui vale sousa. Photo right: Jeanrenaud Photography (Shutterstock)

The ramble at Knockomagh Woods by Lough Hyne is one of my favourite walks in Cork.

Now, if you’re not familiar with it, Lough Hyne is one of the most beautiful places to visit in West Cork!

Just 5km from the town of Skibbereen, this serene seawater lake became Ireland’s first and only Marine Nature Reserve in 1981.

Visitors to the area can head off on the Lough Hyne walk (it takes you up into Knockomagh Woods) or try the very unique Lough Hyne night kayaking (more on this below)

Some quick need-to-knows about Lough Hyne

 

Although a visit to Lough Hyne in Cork is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find Lough Hyne in West Cork, a stone’s throw from Skibbereen (roughly 5km away) and 10 minutes from Baltimore (one of the most popular places to try whale watching in Cork).

2. Size

Lough Hyne is just 1km long and ¾km wide, but what makes it different from other lakes is the tidal exchange of waters through a narrow channel known as “The Rapids”.

Twice a day, Atlantic saltwater flows in via the Barloge Creek, rushing over The Rapids at 16km/hour, so don’t get caught in the rush! It creates a lake of unusually warm oxygenated seawater which support marine plants along with 72 different species of fish.

3. Parking

If you pop ‘Lough Hyne car park’ into Google Maps you’ll find a couple of pokey places to park up. There’s limited parking here, so it can be tricky to grab a space on a warm summers day.

4. Bioluminescence and night kayaking

Lough Hyne is famous for its after-dark kayaking experience which is made all the more interesting by the luminous phosphorescence in the lake. The water of Lough Hyne comes alive with bioluminescence, so you’ll have stars below you and, on a clear night, stars above.

The Lough Hyne walks

Photo via rui vale sousa (Shutterstock)

There are a couple of different Lough Hyne walks that you can head off on but the best, in my opinion, is the one that takes you up into Knockomagh Woods.

In fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s up there with the best things to do in Cork. It’s slightly off-the-beaten-path, which means it’s rarely too crowded.

1. How long the walk takes

If you can, you should allow around 45 minutes to reach the top (this allows time for stopping at the viewpoints (literally holes in the trees) and then 15 – 30 minutes at the top for soaking up the views. The walk back down shouldn’t take more than 25 – 30 minutes, depending on pace.

2. Difficulty

This Lough Hyne walk is strenuous enough, as it’s a steep climb to the top, however, it should be doable for people with moderate fitness levels. The one thing to note is that the ground is very uneven, so caution is needed.

3. Where to start the walk

This Lough Hyne walk kicks off right from the parking area. When you hop out of your car, you need to walk up the road to this point. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you see the stone steps.

4. The climb to the top

The climb to the summit is an enjoyable one, as you make your way through lush, sheltered woodland en route to the top. When you reach the summit, you’ll be treated to magnificent views of Lough Hyne and the surrounding countryside. 

The Lough Hyne night kayaking experience

lough hyne skibbereen
Photo left: rui vale sousa. Photo right: Jeanrenaud Photography (Shutterstock)

Atlantic Sea Kayaking offers a Lough Hyne night kayaking experience with a difference. The trips take place in the moonlight/starlight on this bio-luminescent saltwater lake.

There’s something truly special about being out on the water at dusk, watching seabirds returning to their roost. If you’re lucky, you may get a flaming sunset or see the rising moon with a canopy of stars appearing one by one.

The adults-only trip take 2.5 hours and departs an hour before darkness. Suitable for beginners, you’ll be in double kayaks with safety equipment included in the €75 price. 

Things to do near Lough Hyne

One of the beauties of doing the Lough Hyne walk mentioned 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 Lough Hyne (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Sherkin Island

Beach on Sherkin Island
Photo by Sasapee (Shutterstock)

Ten minutes by boat from the mainland in Roaringwater Bay, Sherkin Island (Inisherkin) boasts a sheltered pier, beaches, nature-filled walks and an operational Marine Station. The ruins of Dunalong Castle near the pier was once home to the O’Driscoll clan. Sights include a box-shaped megalithic tomb, remains of two forts and a 15th century Franciscan Friary. 

2. Whale-watching

Photo by Andrea Izzotti (Shutterstock)

Spot minke whales, dolphins, basking sharks, harbour porpoises, turtles, sunfish and seabirds on an unforgettable whale-watching trip out of Baltimore, West Cork’s centre for such trips. Discover everything you need to know in our Cork whale watching guide.

3. Cape Clear Island

Photo left: Roger de Montfort. Photo right: Sasapee (Shutterstock)

Just off the southwest coast of Cork, Cape Clear Island is Ireland’s southernmost inhabited area. This official Gaeltacht island is divided east-west by a narrow isthmus aptly named The Waist. It’s popular for sailing, hiking, bird-watching and fishing with trips to the iconic Fastnet Lighthouse.  

4. Mizen Head

Photo left: Dimitris Panas. Photo right: Timaldo (Shutterstock)

Start at the Visitor Centre on Mizen Head and learn about the Rescue Tide Clock. Tour Mizen Head Signal Station with its Marconi radio room, built to save ships from  the treacherous rocks. Cross the arched bridge, go seal-spotting, watch gannets diving into the deep waters and keep an eye open for whale spouts just offshore.

5. Barleycove Beach

Photo left: Michael O Connor. Photo right: Richard Semik (Shutterstock)

One of the world’s finest beaches, Barleycove Beach is a stretch of golden sand between two headlands on the Mizen Peninsula. It has a “floating bridge” to preserve the extensive dunes from foot erosion.

There’s parking, a solitary hotel and a beach bar restaurant. This is one of the best beaches in Cork (and arguably the best of the many West Cork beaches) for good reason.

FAQs about visiting Lough Hyne

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is the Lough Hyne night kayaking experience like to which walk is the best.

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 Lough Hyne worth a visit?

Yes! Regardless of whether you’re visiting to do the Lough Hyne walk or if you’re just there to see the lake, Lough Hyne is a gorgeous, scenic little slice of West Cork.

What is there to do at Lough Hyne?

There’s the Lough Hyne night kayaking experience (like above) and the various different walks that you can head off on.

Is there much to see near Lough Hyne?

  • Sherkin Island
  • Whale-watching
  • Cape Clear Island
  • Mizen Head
  • Barleycove Beach

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.

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