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
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
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
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
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
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.