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

Day 5. West Cork

West Cork is one of my favourite places on earth.

The wild, ever-changing landscapes, the isolation and the people make it an absolute gem of a place to spend a day or 10.

Take your time today. Enjoy every second of it. And don’t be afraid to deviate off the itinerary and take any and every road and notion that captivates you.

1. Soaking up wilderness and isolation at Brow Head

Clonakilty to Brow Head – 1 hour and 23-minute drive (leave Clonakilty at 8:30 and arrive at Brow Head for 9:55). You may have heard me raving about Brow Head before – it’s justified, trust me!

Visiting places like Brow Head is what exploring Ireland is all about; experiencing the beauty of our island in its rawest, wildest form.

No fancy visitor centers. No crowds. Just nature, as it was intended. In my opinion, these are the best places to visit in Ireland.

It’s the off-the-beaten-track adventures that take a trip from brilliant to out-of-this-world.

There’s limited space to park at the top of the hill, and the road up, as you can see from the video above, is insanely tight – but it’s amazing.

2. Admiring the views on the Sheep’s Head drive

sheeps head drive cork
Photo via Failte Ireland

Brow Head to the tip of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and on to Bantry – 2 hours and 5-minute drive (we’re going to allow for 3 hours for stop-offs – leave Brow Head at 10:35 and arrive to Bantry for 1:45).

For those of you that are avid walkers, you could easily spend a couple of days on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, absorbing yourselves in the many wonderful walks that the areas boasts.

For this road trip, we’re going to drive around it and hop out of the car whenever the notion takes us.

Measuring around 21km in length and roughly 4km across its widest point, Sheep’s Head is home to bucket-loads of wild, untouched scenery, picturesque loughs and other-worldly coastal views.

Ladies and gents – take your time here.

Bask in the silence. Let the winds down. Let the brisk coastal air slap against your face. And just relish every second of the glorious scenery that lays all around you.

3. Bantry for a bite to eat

Bantry village in cork
Photo by Phil Darby (Shutterstock)

You should arrive in Bantry for 1:45 hungry, a little jaded from the driving, but full of the giddiness that accompanies a drive like Sheep’s Head.

Head straight to Ma Murphy’s for food. Make sure and stock up on coffee before leaving – we’ve a long, lovely journey before we reach our final destination for the night.

4. Hitting up Healy Pass 

Healy pass
Photo by Jon Ingall (Shutterstock)

Bantry to Healy Pass – 48-minute drive (leave Bantry at 14:45, arrive at Healy Pass for 15:35). Healy Pass is hands down one of the craziest roads that I’ve ever driven on in Ireland.

The road, which was constructed in 1847 during the years of the famine, looks like a giant snake from above, slithering its way through the two highest summits in the Caha mountain range.

Cafe aside, Healy Pass is a corner of Ireland that looks like time passed it by and forgot all about it, leaving it untouched and unspoiled – magic.

When I visited recently, I met 2 or 3 other cars, max, and from talking to people who live in the area, it’s easily missed/over-looked. Drive the road and pull in (where possible) at the top for a view.

5. Your First Glimpse of Kerry

Glanmore lake healy pass
Photo by walshphotos (Shutterstock)

No travelling needed for this one – you’re already there! So, I didn’t realise how close to the border of Kerry the Healy Pass actually is – it’s literally kissing it.

Keep driving up along the Healy Pass (keep going past the café) until you reach the brow of a hill and you see a ‘Welcome to Kerry’ sign.

Just past the sign there’s space for 3 or 4 (depending on how well people have parked) cars. Pull in. Get out of the car. And walk up the grass hill to your left. The view above is what you’ll be treated to.

6. The Postcard-Perfect Town of Allihies for the Night

Getting to Allihies west cork
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Healy Pass to Allihies – 58-minute drive (we’re going to allow for 2 hours for this final stretch of today’s trip – leave Healy Pass at 15:20, arrive in Allihies for 17:20).

I did the drive from Healy Pass to Allihies very recently, and it’s one I’ll remember for a long time to come. Like Sheep’s Head, the drive out to Allihies is sensational.

This corner of Ireland possesses the unique ability to make you feel like you’re the only person left on earth. It’s just you, the mountains, the wind and the waves.

The best recommendation I can give you with this stretch of the road trip is to get lost. Literally. Take the roads that tickle your fancy. Follow your nose. And just being curious and inquisitive.

Let the Wild Atlantic Way do the rest.

When I visited here earlier this year, I checked into the Seaview Guest House – you can stay where you want but I’d 100% recommend this place!

After dumping my bags I strolled the short distance to O’Neill’s pub and grabbed some food and a pint – you should definitely do the same! A cracking end to a long, eventful day.

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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