Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

Day 4. Cobh, Kinsale and Clonakilty

Day 4 is a BELTER. Get a decent feed in Dungarvan and prepare yourself for one of my favourite legs of this trip.

1. Colourful houses, a grand aul Cathedral and a prison in Cobh

Ireland in February 2020
Photo by Brian Morrison via Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland

Our first stop of the day is Cobh – it’s a 1-hour spin from Dungarvan and it’s home to plenty more than the colourful houses above.

Cobh is a gorgeous little town, with plenty of stuff to see and do, so we’re going to spend a good chunk of time exploring it! When you arrive, head for St. Coleman’s Cathedral’s and get to the car park.

If you want to see St. Coleman’s Cathedral and the colourful houses from the view above, you’ll need to head for ‘Spy Hill’. Pop it into Google maps and you’ll find it handy enough.

From here, it can be a little tricky based on your height, as you’ll need to peer over/climb up onto a wall which obstructs the view. If you climb it, be careful! The view above is what awaits!

For those of you that are fond of architecture, nip back up to the cathedral and take a look inside.

Named after the patron saint of the diocese, St. Colman Mac Leinin, the structure was inspired by the great cathedrals of medieval France.

Admire it from the outside as it towers over you and then take a ramble inside and enjoy the magnificent design of its interior.

2. Spike Island (Ireland’s Alcatraz)

spike island cobh
Photos by Irish Drone Photography (shutterstock)

Our third and final stop in Cobh is Spike Island. Often referred to as ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’ online, Spike Island was named Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards 2017.

You’ll need to grab a ferry from Cobh which takes between 10 and 20 minutes to reach the island.

In the last 1300 years, Spike Island has hosted a 6th century Monastery, a 24 acre Fortress, the largest convict depot in the world in Victorian times and centuries of island homes.

The island’s history has included monks, monasteries, rioters, redcoats, captains and convicts.

Today the island is dominated by Fort Mitchel, a fortress that became a prison holding over 2,300 prisoners.

3. Kinsale for a ramble and a bite to eat

colourful street in kinsale
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

We’re off to Kinsale, next. It’s a 45-minute drive from Cobh. If you can, aim to arrive for around 14:00. 

I’ve been here a handful of times before, but I keep coming back as it’s always a lovely little town to have a ramble around and grab a bite to eat.

Take a bit of time to wander around the town and then head for food. Drop into the Lemon Leaf Cafe for food and grab a cup of coffee to-go.

4. A stroll around the Old Head of Kinsale

the old head of kinsale loop walk
Photo via Failte Ireland

The drive to our next stop, the Old Head of Kinsale, won’t take any longer than 20 minutes in the car (leave Kinsale at 14:50 and arrive at 15:10).

This walk is a handy 6 km (roughly 1.5 hours) loop walk that takes in remarkable views at every turn.

The Old Head of Kinsale is a magnificent narrow promontory into the Atlantic Ocean which rises hundreds of feet from the sea with craggy cliffs. Take your time and enjoy the gush of Atlantic wind that’ll clatter you from every angle.

5. A ramble along the sand to round off the day

Inchydoney beach cork weather
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The Old Head of Kinsale to Inchydoney Beach – 58-minute drive (arrive to Inchydoney for around 17:38)

The promise of a stroll on a beach like Inchydoney to round off a day of exploring is enough to help you power through the last of the journey from Kinsale.

Now, I’ve parked in the hotel car park beside the beach before as I wanted to use the bathroom, but there are signs up specifically stating that the car park is for customers use only.

Use it at your own risk or grab a coffee or a bite to eat in the hotel first.

I really do love this place. It’s amazing at sunset if you just fancy getting a bit of pre-bed sea air (the view from the grassy verge near the car park is great) and it’s even better if you want to go for a stroll.

Well worth dropping by.

6. Clonakilty for the night

Clonakilty village
Photo by Marcela Mul (Shutterstock)

Inchydoney Beach to Clonakilty – 8-minute drive (arrive to Clonakilty for around 18:30) I’ve stayed in O’Donovan’s Hotel in Clonakilty previously, loved it and would 100% recommend it.

The hotel, décor and the place in general was pretty dated, but that, and the wonderful staff, gave the place a charm that I find rare to come by in hotels in Ireland.

It was also a couple of seconds from this pub…When I was here in the winter of 2017, the hotel bar was virtually empty. I moseyed on down, grabbed a table and ordered fish and chips and a pint of Guinness.

The evening consisted of myself, two local aul lads and the barman, all sat back, in comfortable silence, eating and watching a re-run of a David Attenborough documentary.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I have been using your guide for the past few months to plan my Ireland trip set for April 2019. I figured it was about time I dropped a comment!! 🙂 Your guide has helped me tremendously as it seems to encompass everything we are looking to find in Ireland…. raw natural beauty, unique experiences, good coffee, and good beer! Can’t thank you enough. I hope to comment again once we return!

    • Ah, thank you. I’m glad. Getting comments like this make it worth it.

      I hope you’re trip goes well.

      Cheers,

      Keith

  2. This is seriously the best travel guide ever. I was getting stressed because I’ll be solo traveling all of March and haven’t planned much (by design) and this gives the perfect outline of exactly the things I want to do and see. So thank you for the enormous amount of time this must have taken. So much appreciated.

    • Haha! Cheers dude.

      Glad you found it useful. This took roughly 3 weeks of research and writing… and rewriting.

      I hope the trip goes well.

      Keith

  3. We’re traveling to Ireland in November, 2019 and thank you very much for your outline and information. Question: On maps, it shows Northern Ireland almost like another country. Do you need anything to pass from Ireland to Northern Ireland and back, or is it all in the same? Seems trivial, but it could make a big difference if we plan to do things in Northern Ireland and then we could possibly not have the proper travel documents. Also, do you know if your passport is all you need or if you need a travel visa? Thanks for your time. Have a great day!. WandanTexas

    • Hi Wanda,

      You’re welcome.

      Northern Ireland is technically part of the UK, so it is regarded as a different country.

      Currently, there is no form of ‘hard’ border, but there’s been a lot of talk about the potential of one with Brexit looming.

      If you’re driving a rental car, this is where things can get tricky. I had one from Europa car recently and was told I’d be automatically charged (they have GPS devices within the rental) whenever my car passed into Northern Ireland – the max total charge was 90 euro, I believe.

      If you’re renting a car, be sure to check this in advance.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  4. Hi,
    This is a great guide, but if you had a few extra days…
    Three Castle Head is also stunning. You are close enough to it when you are heading for brow head. Well worth it!
    Lough Hyne in Skibbereen is also beautiful, lovely forest walk and salt water lake to swim in. Night time kayaking with the bioluminescent water a must!
    Enjoy,
    Joanne

    • Thanks for the recommendations Joanne.

      Love Lough Hyne in particular. Did the forest climb with my dad last summer on a hot day in July – great spot!

  5. Question for Keith and others. We have a wonderful opportunity to spend a month in Ireland and in previous trips we’ve enjoyed many of the same activities you do…hiking, enjoying the featured sights and geography in general, informal dining, great pubs, etc. We have never been north of Westport, county Mayo. Would it be worth it to spend a week in the Sligo / Donegal region? If yes, we would rent a house for the week. Is there a town that would be central to this region that you could recommend as a home base? We would be there in late August/early Sept 2020.
    Thanks in advance for your response (or anyone else who could add their thoughts)

    • Hi Bill.

      Abbbbbbbbbbbsolutely spend a week in Sligo and Donegal.

      There’s a tonne of things to do in both, regardless of whether you decide to do something active or just chill.

      Personally, I’d spend half in Sligo and half in Donegal.

      Here’s a guide to 48 hours in Sligo that should help, along with a 3-day guide to the best things to do in Donegal.

      In terms of where to stay – I love Strandhill and Rosses Point. For Donegal, it’s hard to beat Ardara.

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

  6. Hi Keith,
    I am planning our road trip to Ireland in october and I love your Instagram account. I like to use your suggestions for our schedule.
    On day 11 you suggest to leave Westport and Achill on the same time (16:55) ? So this is a pretty long day 😉 I prefer to stay an extra night on Achill Island. What do you think?
    Thanks
    Uli

    • Aha! OK, that’s clearly a mistake on my part. I’ll get those times updated!

      I love Achill, personally.

      There’s nothing bad that can come from a second night spent there.

  7. Hi Keith,

    I am considering travelling to Ireland this summer via road-trip and AirBnBs. While researching, I found your blog and found it very helpful and resourceful.

    I am travelling from New Delhi (India) with my extended family (infants, toddlers, siblings, wife, parents etc.). Assuming this might be our only trip to Ireland together as a family, I am interested in covering Ireland comprehensively within a limitation of 11-13 days.

    Is it possible to shorten the suggested 18-day itinerary to the above duration by bypassing some of the locations or sites. I understand this would mean we missing a few locations, but need your help.

  8. Really digging this blog!! I have the travel blog so bad and Ireland is next on the list – your recommendations are speaking to me! Thanks for taking the time to create all the wonderful road trips / ideas.

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