This detailed road trip guide packs in 30+ of the best things to do in West Cork over 4 long, lovely days on the road.
Like all of our Ireland itinerary guides, It’s been designed to make planning your West Cork Ireland trip easssssssy.
Here’s a look at a West Cork map with each of the days roughly plotted out.
The best things to do in West Cork
Sound good? Lovely. Here’s what you’ll be doing over each of the 4 days
Still need convincing? Here’s a look at some of the places we’ll be exploring on this West Cork Ireland itinerary:
Day one kicks-off our adventure in style.
We’re going to start our 4-day road trip by taking in a handful of some of the best things to do in West Cork, with a mix of adventurous and chilled activities for you to get stuck into.
Here’s where Day 1 will take us.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 1!
Grabbing coffee in Kinsale and heading for a ramble
Tackling a stroll around the Old Head of Kinsale
Another ramble – this time on the sandy shores of Inchydoney Beach
A spot of lunch in Clonakilty
Drombeg Stone Circle for a gander
A spin through Glandore and Union Hall
A climb to the top Knockomagh Hill (the view is insaaaane)
Rain gear (weather dependent)
Day 1 Stop #1 – Kinsale for coffee and a stroll along its gorgeous streets
// Arrive to Kinsale for 9:00 //
I’m making an assumption that you’re not living or staying in Kinsale, and that you’ve had to travel to get here.
And are in need of coffee ☕
Grab a some caffeine (the Cosy Cafe is gooood).
Take some time to ramble around this gorgeous little town. It’s colourful, narrow streets are guaranteed to delight.
Day 1 Stop #2 – The Old Head of Kinsale
// Kinsale town to the Old Head of Kinsale – 20-minute drive (leave Kinsale at 9:40 and arrive at 10:00) //
Our next stop is the Old Head of Kinsale to stretch the legs and to soak up some of Cork’s gorgeous coastline.
This walk is a handy 6 km (roughly 1.5 hour) 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.
Day 1 Stop #3 – The sandy shores of Inchydoney
// The Old Head of Kinsale to Inchydoney Beach – 1-hour drive (leave the old head at 11:30, arrive to Inchydoney for 12:30) //
Inchydoney Beach is a lovely little addition to your first day on the road.
It’s racked up plenty of awards that have crowned it Ireland’s best beach over the years.
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 lungfull of pre-bed sea air (the view from the grassy verge near the car park is cracking) and it’s even better if you want head off on a stroll.
Well worth dropping by.
Day 1 Stop #4 – Clonakilty for a spot of lunch
// Inchydoney Beach to Clonakilty – 10-minute drive (arrive to Clonakilty for around 13:40) //
You should have worked up a fierce hunger at this point, so point the car in the direction of Clonakilty and head for Richy’s Restaurant.
When you’ve finished eating, have a post-feed ramble around the town.
Keep an eye out for the gorgeous Teach Beag pub in the picture below, but don’t let its gorgeous exterior tempt you in for a pint – we’ve lots more driving to do.
Day 1 Stop #5 – Drombeg Stone Circle
// Clonakilty to Drombeg Stone Circle – 20-minute drive (arrive to Drombeg for around 15:00) //
Next up we’re heading to check out one of Ireland’s most well known stone circles.
Drombeg Stone Circle is easily accessible, and therefore often mobbed with visitors.
As we’ll be visiting in the afternoon, we’re likely to hit some peak visiting hours, but don’t let that put you off.
Drombeg Stone Circle is aligned to sunrise at the Winter Solstice and boasts 13 stones still standing out of the original 17.
During excavations in the late 1950s, cremated bones were found wrapped in thick cloth.
Nearby, you’ll find the remains of two prehistoric stone huts, which may have been occupied until the 5th century.
You can find out more about it’s history with the lads at Megalithic Ireland.
Day 1 Stop #6 – Spinning through Glandore and Union Hall
// Drombeg to Glandore and on to Union Hall – 15-minute drive (take your time and arrive to Union Hall for 16:00) //
We’re going to take a little bit of time to spin around the gorgeous fishing villages of Glandore and Union Hall.
We’ve no specific stops or places to visit in either town, but you can’t drive through this neck of the woods and not take some time to ramble around.
Give yourself 45 minutes and stop-off anywhere that tickles your fancy.
Day 1 Stop #7 – Climbing up Knockomagh Hill
// Union Hall to Knockomagh Hill – 20-minute drive (leave Union Hall at 16:00, arrive to Knockomagh Hill for 16:20) //
I put out a post on Instagram recently and asked people to recommend the best things to do in West Cork.
A lot of the recommendations were for places that I had already heard of but a few, like the one for Knockomagh Hill, we’re completely new to me.
This climb is fantastic.
It took us (myself and the aul lad) roughly an hour and 15 minutes to get to the top, but this was due to the fact that we kept stopping to admire the view.
Throughout the climb you’ll come across lovely old stone steps like the ones pictured below.
The trail is pretty well maintained, and there’s plenty of places to stop for a couple of minutes for anyone with low fitness levels.
Here’s the view that you’ll be treated to when you reach the top.
That’s Lough Hyne over my left shoulder.
Spend some time working up an appetite here – we’re off for dinner next.
Day 1 Stop #8 – Food, pints and a bed for the night in Skibbereen
// Knockomagh Hill to Skibbereen – 10-minute drive (leave Knockomagh Hill at 18:20, arrive to Skibbereen for 18:30) //
I’m a huge fan of Skibbereen.
Often referred to as ‘the Capital of West Cork’, it’s a gorgeous, lively little town that’s a great base for exploring some of the best that West Cork has to offer.
Check in to your B&B (we’re recommending Annie Mays Bed & Breakfast – if you’re looking for somewhere else to stay, open this map and zoom in on Skibbereen)
When you’re ready, take the 2-minute saunter down to An Chistin Beag and grab a feed.
It’s been a busy aul day.
If you’re hankering for a pint or two, nip down the road to Cahalanes Bar, and spend a couple of hours kicking-back and rounding the day off in style.
I’m a little bit excited for day 2.
Although we’re not going too far in terms of distance, we’re soaking up a tonne of West Cork’s magic.
Let’s get cracking.
Here’s where we’re taking you on day 2.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 2
Coffee in Baltimore
Cape Clear Island and the Teardrop of Ireland
A bite to eat in Baltimore
Whale and dolphin watching in West Cork
Panoramic views from Mount Gabriel
Schull for the night
Rain gear (weather dependent)
Day 2 Stop #1 – Coffee in Baltimore
// Skibbereen to Baltimore – 20-minute drive (leave Skibb at 8:40, arrive to Baltimore for 9) //
Our first stop for the day is going to be the base for a lot of the days activities.
First, we’re going to grab a cup of coffee (or whatever tickles your fancy) to go from Glebe Gardens.
Once you’ve your hand wrapped around something hot, we’re going to have a ramble around the absolutely beautiful little village of Baltimore.
Day 2 Stop #2 – Cape Clear Island and the Teardrop of Ireland
// The Fastnet tour leaves from Baltimore – make your way to the ferry for whenever your tour is due to begin (note the ferry is weather dependent and runs from April to August) //
Our second stop of the day takes us on-board a ferry to Cape Clear Island.
Cape Clear is the southernmost inhabited part of the island of Ireland and has a population of over 100 people.
The ferry takes 45-minutes to get to Cape Clear, as you pass through the beautiful waters of Roaring Water Bay and arrive at the North Harbour on Cape Clear Island.
When you reach the island, a shuttle bus service leaves from the North Harbour, taking visitors to Cape Clear Heritage Centre for the Fastnet multimedia exhibition.
When you’ve finished up at the exhibition, make your way back down to the ferry.
The final lap of the trip takes you around Fastnet Lighthouse, often referred to as ‘the Teardrop of Ireland’, as it was the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America.
Here’s a fantastic look at the lighthouse from every angle, thanks to Tom Vaughan.
Day 2 Stop #3 – A bite to eat in Baltimore
// The tour should take around 3 hours and get you back to Baltimore for 12:30 //
We’re on a bit of a tight schedule if we’re going to make it in time for our next tour.
When you get back to Baltimore, head straight for An Sibin Gastro Pub (or wherever you fancy – here’s a map full of great places to eat. Just zoom in on Baltimore).
Eat up and get back down to the ferry departure point to catch your second boat of the day
Day 2 Stop #4 – Whale and dolphin watching in West Cork
// Arrive to the departure point for 14:00 sharp //
Hands down one of the best things to do in West Cork is experience the magnificent wildlife that roams its waters.
Hopefully your stomach isn’t feeling dodgy after the first trip…
Our 4th stop of the day takes us aboard the Baltimore Sea Safari for an unforgettable experience.
We’re going to take the 2-hour trip which, according to the organisers is ‘a thrilling fun-packed coastal sightseeing tour of the West Cork coastline, with whale, dolphin, seal and wildlife watching.’
The tour takes you through areas where they’ve spotted wildlife in the past, so the chances of seeing something are high.
Keep an eye out for Harbour Porpoise, which are a regular sighting during this trip, Basking Sharks (here’s a video to check out that shows West Cork’s Basking Sharks in action), Ocean Sunfish, Sea Turtles and Jellyfish.
This really is an experience and a half.
Day 2 Stop #5 – Gawking at some panoramic views from Mount Gabriel
// You’ll finish up the tour at around 16:40. The spin from Baltimore to Mount Gabriel takes 45 minutes, so you’ll arrive for 17:25 //
We’re going to round off today with a spin up around Mount Gabriel.
Hit play below to see what you can expect.
Mount Gabriel is roughly 407m high and is accessible via a road that serves the radar installations at the summit which is open to the public.
When you reach the top you’ll be treated to (on a clear day) views over Schull Harbour, Long Island Bay, Roaring Water Bay (and its many islands) along with a peek at the mountains of the Beara Peninsula and South Kerry.
Take some time to soak up the views that lay all around you.
Day 2 Stop #6 – Schull for the night
// Take is easy on your drive up and around Mount Gabriel and aim to be in Schull for around 18:30/19:00. //
We’re going to spend night two in the lovely little town of Schull.
Check into your base for the night and chill for a while – it’s been a long aul day at sea.
When the hunger pangs get the better of you, head on down to Hackett’s Bar where we’ll be grabbing food and kicking back with a few tipples for the evening.
Day 3 takes us into the belly of the Wild Atlantic Way.
We’ll be travelling from Schull, our base on night 2, right the way along the coast to Bantry.
Today is packed with with lots of active things to do in West Cork that’ll immerse you in a special kind of beauty that this corner of Ireland has by the bucket load.
Here’s where we’re taking you on day 3.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 3!
Brow Head – one of the wildest places in Ireland
A nosey around Mizen Head
The Sheep’s Head Way Cahergal Loop
Bantry for a post-walk coffee and cake
A walk through Glengarriff Nature Reserve
Bantry for the night
Rain gear (weather dependent)
Day 3 Stop #1 – Embracing the Beauty and Remoteness of Brow Head
// Schull to Brow Head – 30-minute drive (arrive for 9:00) //
In my mind, places like Brow Head are what exploring Ireland is all about; experiencing the islands beauty in its rawest form.
No fancy visitor centers. No crowds. Just nature, as it was intended.
As you can see from the footage above, I was recently perched at the top of the steep hill at Brow Head in West Cork, gazing down the narrow grass lined road that leads to Crookhaven.
Visit this place. It’s an experience and a half.
Here’s what it’s like when it isn’t raining cats and dogs.
Day 3 Stop #2 – Having a nosey around Mizen Head
// Brow Head to Mizen Head – 20-minute drive (leave Brow Head at 9:40, arrive to Mizen for 10:00) //
You’ll find Mizen Head listed on many travel forms as ‘the Best thing to do in West Cork’.
It’s definitely one of the most visited attractions in the area, anyway.
I visited here recently in the summer of 2018, and it really is an experience and a half (the ice cream is also savage…)
The Mizen Head Signal Station was built to save lives off the treacherous rocks at Ireland’s most south-westerly point.
Kick your visit off by spending a bit of time wandering around the the Maritime Museum and Heritage Attraction.
From here, take a stroll down towards the Signal Station – it’s a 15 minute walk along a gravelly path, down 99 steps (these were closed on the day that I visited) and across the beautiful arched bridge.
Take your time walking around and admiring the views that lay as far as the eye can see.
Day 3 Stop #4 – Lunch at Mizen
// Nip into the cafe at Mizen Head after you’ve explored the area (Spend an hour wandering around and arrive back to the cafe for 11:30) //
We’ve a long drive and walk ahead of us, so fuel up with a hearty lunch at the cafe at Mizen Head.
If you haven’t packed any snacks or water, grab some here and pop them in your bag.
Day 3 Stop #5 – The Sheep’s Head Way Cahergal Loop
// Mizen Head to the Sheeps Head Way – the starting point is a 50-minute drive from Mizen (leave Mizen at 12:30, arrive to The Butter House in Ahakista for 13:20) //
Sheep’s Head is the headland at the end of the Sheep’s Head peninsula, nestled between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay.
The peninsula is extremely popular with walkers, with more than 20 looped walks to choose from.
The Sheep’s Head way is a roughly 88 km long-distance trail that follows old tracks and roads around the peninsula.
For this road trip, we’re going to head off on the Cahergal Loop.
The lads at the Sheep’s Head Way have created a detailed guide to help you navigate the 3-hour Cahergal Loop walk.
You need to start it at the Black Gate/Alice West Centre (15-minute walk from The Butter House).
Here’s a quick guide on the walk (via the lads at the Sheep’s Head Way)
- From the car park at the Alice West Centre follow the purple loop walk arrows along the public road
- At way marker no. 3 turn left off the road.
- Keep going up the track until you reach way marker no. 15 and turn left.
- Cross the peninsula to the Bantry Bay side until you reach the car park at Cahergal.
- Keep left after going over the timber stile and cross the road where you will go over another timber stile passing way marker no. 206.
- At way marker no. 238 keep left and turn right at the finger post sign for “The Poet’s Way” and go off road over a timber stile (way marker no. 65)
- Follow the way markers until you meet no. 348. Turn left here and keep going straight until way marker no. 354 and turn right.
- Continue down to the public road and back to the Alice West Centre.
If you’d like to explore some of the other walks in the area, the Sheep’s Head way website is a fantastic resource.
Day 3 Stop #6 – Bantry for a post-walk coffee and cake
// The Sheeps Head Way to Bantry – 20-minute drive (finish up the walk at 16:30 and arrive in Bantry for 16:50) //
We’re going to refuel with a light snack after the walk in a place called Organico Cafe in Bantry.
Grab a coffee and treat yourself to a homemade cake (the powerballs also look delish).
Day 3 Stop #7 – A walk through Glengarriff Nature Reserve
// Bantry to Glengarriff Nature Reserve – 20-minute drive (leave Bantry at 17:10, arrive to the nature reserve for 17:30) //
You’ll be burning some amount of calories today.
Our final activity for day 3 is the High Walk in Glengarriff Nature Reserve.
This walk is a 2.8k, 90 minute stroll.
Otherwise known as the High Walk, this trail climbs up through the woods for some fantastic views over the trees to the mountains beyond.
Here are several guides for the various different walks you can embark upon.
We’ve recommended the High Walk as you’ve already exerted a good chunk of energy during your walk earlier at Sheep’s Head.
Day 3 Stop #8 – Bantry for the night
// Glengarriff Nature Reserve to Bantry – 20-minute drive (leave the reserve at 19:00, arrive to Bantry for 19:20) //
That was a long day of walking – still with me? Let me know in the comments below.
Tonight, we’re staying at the Bantry Bay Hotel. Head on back to your hotel and chill for a while.
When you’re ready to eat, take the 2-minute stroll to Fish Kitchen for a hearty bite to eat.
We’re going to round the evening off with a few pints in Ma Murphy’s pub right across the road from Fish Kitchen.
We’re on to the final day of the West Cork road trip.
Today, we’re going to pack in some incredible little villages, a unique experience or two and, of course, loads more.
Here’s where we’re taking you on day 4.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 4!
The Winding Road at Healy Pass
Getting lost near Hungry Hill
Ireland’s only cable car
The wonderful drive to Allihies
The Coastal Drive to Eyeries
Rain gear (weather dependent)
Day 4 Stop #1 – The Winding Road at Healy Pass
// Bantry to the Healy Pass – 45-minute drive (leave at 9, arrive for 9:45) //
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.
Healy Pass is a corner of Ireland that looks like time passed it by and forgot all about it, leaving it untouched and unspoiled.
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 of Healy Pass on one side, and then Kerry on the other (the photo below shows the Kerry side).
Day 4 Stop #2 – Getting lost near Hungry Hill
// Healy Pass to Hungry Hill – 25-minute drive (we’ll leave the pass at 10:30 and the plan is to, yep, get lost up around Hungry Hill) //
For me, a big part of any road trip is taking those random little turns that catch your eye, as they often lead to some unexpected piece of scenery that you never knew existed.
OK, they can also lead to being stuck behind a tractor down some narrow country lane for half an hour, but they’re still worth taking the risk on.
I love the area that leads up to and that surrounds Hungry Hill.
Spend some time enjoying the drive, the landscape that envelopes you and take a turn down any random road that catches your eye.
Day 4 Stop #3 – Coffee and a bit of breakfast
// Hungry Hill to Cametringane 15-minute drive (arrive for 11:40) //
We’re going to head to Cametringane for coffee (and breakfast if you didn’t manage to get food in Bantry) at The Fuchsia Café.
I visited the cafe earlier this year and can vouch for the coffee and full Irish (with Clonakilty pudding…).
Chill for a bit and then get back on the road.
Day 4 Stop #4 – Ireland’s only cable car
// Cametringane to the cable car departure point – 45-minute drive (arrive for 13:30) //
One of the most unique things to do in West Cork is to jump aboard the cable car to Dursey Island.
Originally opened in 1969, the Dursey Island cable car remains, to this day, the most used means of transport across the choppy waters of the Dursey Sound.
The cable car runs 250m above the sea and takes just 10 minutes to transport explorers from the mainland to the most westerly of West Cork’s inhabited islands.
When you reach the island, have a ramble around and enjoy spectacular views of the Beara Peninsula.
Day 4 Stop #5 – The wonderful drive to Allihies
// Dursey island departure point to Allihies – 20-minute drive (give yourself some time to soak up the scenery and arrive for 15:40) //
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.
As was the case with Hungry Hill, 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.
Nip into the village and get out and stretch the legs.
If you fancy it, drop into the Allihies Copper Mine Museum to learn about what happened when rich copper deposit was discovered in the area in 1812.
Day 4 Stop #5 – The Coastal Drive to Eyeries
// Allihies to Eyeries – 30-minute drive (we’re going to allow for an hour. Leave Allihies at 16:30 and arrive for 17:30) //
I love this drive.
It hugs the coast and takes you along many a quiet road en route to the colourful little village of Eyeries.
Take your time on this drive and stop whenever the notion takes you.
Here’s what awaits you in Eyeries.
And that’s a wrap on our 4 day road trip
Our West Cork road trip comes to an end in Eyeries.
You can finish the trip here, or you could always extend it into Kerry and beyond by following our 18-day coastal road trip guide.
If you’re still reading, I salute you – thanks for the support.
Are there something brilliant to do in West Cork that I missed? Are there any West Cork pubs, restaurants or hotels/BnBs that should be added? Let me know in the comments below!