A 5 Day Road Trip Around West Cork And Kerry (Full Itinerary)

west cork and kerry road trip
Photo left: LouieLea. Right: ghotion (Shutterstock)

Howaya! This road trip guide is part of our 5 days in Ireland travel series.

In a nutshell, the series is made up of 5 different ways to spend 5 days in Ireland.

Each guide (you can find them all here) visits different counties and contains a full itinerary for each day along with advice on where to sleep and grab a post-adventure pint.

In this guide, you’ll find a 5-day road trip that’ll take you through the mighty West Cork for a couple of days before tipping on to Kerry. Dive on in below.

The West Cork and Kerry Road Trip

  • Day 1: Kinsale and West Cork
  • Day 2: West Cork
  • Day 3: West Cork and Kerry
  • Day 4: Kerry
  • Day 5: Kerry

Day 1: Kinsale to Skibbereen 

Now, this road trip starts in Kinsale – if this isn’t convenient for you, or if it makes more sense for you to start it elsewhere, e.g. Cork City, fire away.

Just adjust the route as you see fit. Over the course of day 1, expect coastal views, long walks, gorgeous little seaside villages and plenty more.

1. A saunter and some coffee in Kinsale village (arrive at 10:00)

colourful street in kinsale
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

We’re going to kick things off with a slow saunter around the picture-perfect little seaside village of Kinsale.

If you’ve never been here before, you’re in for a treat. Kinsale is colourful and its narrow streets are guaranteed to delight. If you fancy a coffee, head into the Cosy Cafe and grab a cup to go.

2. A ramble at the Old Head of Kinsale (arrive at 11:30)

the old head of kinsale loop walk
Photo via Failte Ireland

Stop number 2, the Old Head of Kinsale, is a handy 20-minute drive from Kinsale village. This is the perfect place to stretch the legs and to soak up some of Cork’s gorgeous coastline.

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.

The Old Head of Kinsale walk handy 6 km (roughly 1.5 hour) loop walk that takes in remarkable coastal views at every turn. Take your time and enjoy the gush of Atlantic wind that’ll clatter you from every angle.

3. The sandy shores of Inchydoney Beach (arrive at 12:30)

Inchydoney beach cork weather
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Stop number 2, Inchydoney Beach, is a 1-hour spin from the Old Head and it’s arguably one of the best beaches in Cork. Inchydoney Beach is a lovely little addition to your first day on the road.

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 lungful of pre-bed sea air and it’s even better if you want to head off on a daytime stroll.

4. Clonakilty for lunch (arrive for 13:40)

Clonakilty village
Photo by Marcela Mul (Shutterstock)

You’ve likely worked up a fierce hunger at this point, so point the car in the direction of Clonakilty and head for Richy’s Restaurant (there’s plenty of Clonakilty restaurants to choose from).

Clonakilty village is a short 10-minute drive from Inchydoney Beach. When you’ve finished eating, have a post-feed ramble around the town.

There’s a fair few things to do in Clonakilty if you fancy staying in the town.

5. Drombeg Stone Circle (arrive for 15:00)

Drombeg stone circle cork
Photo by Brian Morrison

We’re off to see one Drombeg, one of Ireland’s best-known stone circles, next and you’ll find it 20 minutes away from Clonakilty.

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.

6. Spinning through Glandore and Union Hall (arrive for 16:00)

glandore in cork
Photo by Chris Hill

We’re going to take a little bit of time to spin around Glandore and Union Hall, two of the most beautiful little towns in Cork, next.

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. Take your time and arrive at Union Hall for around 16:00.

7. Climbing Knockomagh Hill (arrive for 16:30)

Knockomagh woods skibbereen
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Our final stop of the day, Knockomagh Hill, is a 20-minute drive from Union Hall. A stroll here is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in West Cork.

This climb here is fantastic. When I did this with my dad a few years back, it took us roughly an hour and 15 minutes to get to the top.

It can be done much quicker but we kept stopping to admire the view out over Lough Hyne. 

The trail is well maintained, and there’s plenty of places to stop for a couple of minutes for anyone with low fitness levels. Here’s a guide to the Lough Hyne walk to dip into.

8. Food, pints and a bed for the night in Skibbereen

bar in the shandon
A book and a pint

Our base for night 1 is the little town of Skibbereen. Thankfully, it’s a handy 10-minute spin from Knockomagh Hill.

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. 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.

Day 2: Skibbereen to Bantry

Day 2 takes us into the belly of the Wild Atlantic Way. We’ll be travelling from Skibbereen, our base on night 1, right the way along the coast to Bantry.

Today is packed 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 boasts by the bucket load.

1. Gawking at some panoramic views from Mount Gabriel (arrive for 10:30)

view from mount gabriel
Photo by Corey Macri (Shutterstock)

We’re going to kick-start today with a spin-up around Mount Gabriel. It’s a 30-minute drive to the summit from Skibbereen.

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 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.

2. Having a nosey around Mizen Head (arrive for 12:00)

Mizen Head
Photo by RR Photo (Shutterstock)

Stop number 2, Mizen Head, is a 40-minute drive from Mount Gabriel. Kick your visit off by spending a bit of time wandering around 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 and across the beautiful arched bridge above.

Take your time walking around and admiring the views that lay as far as the eye can see. We’ve a long drive and walk ahead of us, so fuel up with a hearty lunch at the cafe at Mizen Head.

3. The Sheep’s Head Way Cahergal Loop (arrive for 15:00)

sheeps head drive
Photo by Phil Darby/Shutterstock.com

It’ll take you 50 minutes to get from Mizen out as far as the Butter House in Ahakista (the starting point for a fine looped walk!)

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. We’re going to recommend that you head off on the 3-hour Cahergal Loop.

Expect unparalleled views along with plenty of peace and quiet throughout. Here’s a detailed guide to help you navigate the walk.

4. Bantry House (alternative option)

Bantry house and gardnes
Photo by dleeming69 (Shutterstock)

OK – if you don’t fancy heading off on the walk or if it’s absolutely lashing down and you don’t fancy getting drenched, take the 45-minute drive from Mizen Head to Bantry House.

This place looks like something from another world. Bantry House was originally constructed in the 18th century, but it didn’t open to the public until the 1940s.

The gardens here are gorgeous and they’re the perfect spot for a ramble to round off your day. You can also stay here, interestingly enough.

5. Bantry for the night

Bantry village in cork
Photo by Phil Darby (Shutterstock)

That was a long day of walking and driving! 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 feed. We’re going to round the evening off with a few pints in Ma Murphy’s pub right across the road from Fish Kitchen.

Day 3: Bantry to Kenmare

Day 3 will see you explore another chunk of West Cork (a good bit of the Ring of Beara) before making your way into the Kingdom of Kerry, where you’ll be spending the final 2 days.

On day 3, you can expect some very bendy roads, a hungry hill and one of the best national parks in the country.

1. The bendy road at Healy Pass (arrive for 11:50)

Healy pass
Photo by Jon Ingall (Shutterstock)

Grab a lie-in on the morning on day 3 and then take the 45-minute drive from Bantry to the Healy Pass.

Healy Pass is hands down one of the craziest roads that I’ve ever driven on in Ireland. The road here was constructed in 1847 during the years of the famine.

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

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.

2. Getting lost near Hungry Hill (arrive for 12:50)

hungry hill west cork
Via Google Maps

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 bit 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.

The drive from Healy Pass to Hungry Hill should only take you around 25 minutes.

3. The gorgeous drive to Allihies (arrive for 14:30)

Getting to Allihies west cork
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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.

You’ll get the view above right before you begin your descent into the village. There’s only a little bit of space to pull in, so be careful!

If you fancy, drop into the Allihies Copper Mine Museum to learn about what happened when rich copper deposit was discovered in the area in 1812.

4. Lunch in O’Neill’s (arrive around 15:00)

O'Neill's Allihies
Photo by Chris Hill Photography (via Tourism Ireland)

If you fancy a feed, tip into O’Neill’s in Allihies village (you can’t miss it). I was here for dinner a while back and the stew was the business.

If you arrive on a warm day, there’s a decent bit of seating outside and you’ll be able to enjoy the view across from the pub while you eat.

5. The Coastal Drive to Eyeries (arrive around 16:00)

eyeries in west crok
Photo by Chris Hill

The drive from Allihies to Eyeries only takes around 22 minutes, but it packs a mighty punch. It hugs the coast and takes you along many a quiet road.

Take your time and stop whenever the notion takes you. The colourful village above is what awaits you in Eyeries. 

6. Gleninchaquin Park (arrive for 17:00)

glenchaquin park
Photo by Johannes Rigg (Shutterstock)

Our final stop of the day before heading onto Kenmare is the incredible (and often-missed!) Gleninchaquin Park.

You’ll find this award-winning family-owned park and farm in County Kerry, a 45-minute drive from Eyeries.

Gleninchaquin Park is home to seemingly-endless breath-taking scenery, gorgeous streams, long mountain paths, lakes, waterfalls and mountain views.

7. Kenmare for the night

Kenmare town kerry
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

When you’ve had your fill of the park, head off on your merry way in the direction of Kenmare (it’s a 30-minute drive).

If you’re looking for a place that’s good value and a handy walk to the village, Davitts Guesthouse is a great option.

I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Coachmans Townhouse Hotel (same distance from the village but a little bit more expensive).

If you hop into our Kenmare hotels guide you’ll find plenty of other places to stay.

Day 4: Kenmare, Killarney and More

OK, so, as there was a lot of driving involved yesterday, I’m going to recommend that you base yourself in Kenmare for two nights.

Driving tends to play a big part in most road trips, but there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a car for days on end.

Day 4 is going to be nice and active. You’ll have the chance to hike, walk, cycle and whittle away some time in buzzy pubs.

1. A hike on Torc (start at 11:00)

walking on Torc Mountain
Photo by Randall Runtsch/shutterstock.com

Our first activity on day 4 is the Torc Mountain walk, a 30-minute drive from Kenmare. There’s a 4.5-kilometre hike here that offers some of the best views in the county.

We’ve written a full guide to the hike that you can follow here. You’ll also be able to have a nosey at Torc Waterfall if you give this a crack.

This walk should take you no more than 2.5 hours, but this’ll depend on pace and fitness levels. Another good nearby walk is the one up Cardiac Hill.

2. Lunch in Killarney

where to eat carlingford
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

If you fancy a feed, tip into Killarney town for a post-hike bite to eat. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Here are a few Killarney food guides:

3. Killarney National Park (arrive for 15:30)

killarney national park walks
Photos via Shutterstock

Aim your car (or bike if you fancy renting one) in the direction of Ross Castle, next. There’s a big car park there where you can plonk it for a while.

You’ll find Killarney National Park south and west of the town of Killarney, enveloped by rugged mountains, like the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland.

Nestled at the foot of these mountains are the magnificent lakes of Killarney. It’s here, where the mountains meet the shores of the lake, that you’ll find the 26,000 acres Killarney National Park.

4. Head for a stroll around Ross Castle

ross castle kerry
Ross Castle by Tourism Ireland

Ross Castle is a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages and its from here that you can kick off several of the Killarney National Park walks.

Although the date of when the castle was founded is unknown, it’s thought that it was built in the late 15th century by one of the O’Donoghue Ross chieftains.

Head off on the guided tour. It takes 40 minutes and it’ll give you an insight into the history of the castle.

4. Soaking up the scenery at Ladies View (arrive for 17:30)

Ladies view killarney
Photo by Borisb17 (Shutterstock)

Ladies View is about 19 km from Killarney on the road that’s going to take us back to Kenmare (our base for night 4), and this is where you’ll start getting stuck into the Ring of Kerry.

Park the car and nip into the little cafe if you fancy a coffee or a light bite to eat. The view here is just sensational.

You can get to the section in the photo above by carefully walking up along the road away from the car park and by turning right when you come to a little opening in the trees.

5. Moll’s Gap (arrive for 18:30)

walks in killarney
Photo by LouieLea (Shutterstock)

Moll’s Gap is 8-minutes up the road from Ladies View. Keep heading along the road until you reach the Avoca Cafe on your left. Park up here and hop out of your car.

Moll’s Gap is a bendy pass that offers spectacular views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the surrounding area.

It earned its name from Moll Kissane. Moll ran a shebeen (a pub ran during a time when the sale of alcohol was prohibited) in the area during the construction of the original Kenmare Killarney road in the 1820s.

She was well-liked in the area. Possibly due to the fact that she sold homemade poitin and whiskey to the men working on the road. Chill here for a bit and admire the view.

7. Back to Kenmare for the night

Kenmare town kerry
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

You’re a handy 10-minute drive from Kenmare. Again, if you’re looking for a place that’s good value and a handy walk to the village, Davitts Guesthouse is a great option.

Round-off your day with some food (Mick & Jimmy’s Restaurant is top-notch) and a post-adventure pint.

You have your pick of pubs in Kenmare Village. I spent a night in PF McCarthy’s a while back and the pints and staff were both brilliant.

Day 5: Kenmare to Portmagee

The final day of this road trip takes us from Kenmare to the little village of Portmagee. Grab a lie-in and hit the road for 11:00.

There isn’t a huge amount of driving needed today, thankfully! We’re going to break up any time in the car with plenty of walks! 

1. A walk along Derrynane Beach (arrive for 12:00)

Derrynane Beach
Photo by Dwyerkev (Shutterstock)

Our first stop of day 5, Derrynane Beach, is 50-minutes along the coast from Kenmare. Derrynane is widely regarded as one of the best beaches on the Wild Atlantic Way.

You’ll find the beach just two miles north of Caherdaniel on the Ring of Kerry. The minute you step out of the car and start to soak up the view, you’ll understand why so many people recommended adding it to your Kerry itinerary.

Derrynane Beach is beautiful. It’s reasonably sheltered and boasts a natural harbour, and there’s a lifeguarded on duty during the summer months. A great little spot to clear the head.

2. The little village of Waterville (arrive for 13:30)

Waterville Kerry
Photo by JordiCarrio (Shutterstock)

Waterville is a short 18-minute drive from Derrynane. This is the perfect spot for a bite to eat if you’re in need of a feed or a coffee.

If you fancy something to eat, I can’t recommend An Corcan Restaurant enough (the steak sandwich here is very tasty!)

Hop out of the car and head for a ramble along the sea-front. Keep an eye out for the statue of Charlie Chaplin – Waterville was one of his favourite holiday destinations. 

3. Road trippin’ along the Skellig Ring (start at 14:30)

kerry ireland skellig ring
Photo via Google Maps

The next two hours are going to be special. You’re about to travel along an 18km route that links Waterville to Portmagee via Ballinskelligs.

Expect raw, wild, magnificent scenery, with the jagged outline of Skellig Michael on the horizon rarely far from view.

The Skellig Ring is a very straightforward drive. You’ll discover the best it has to offer as you spin along it. The one stop-off point I’m going to recommend is the Kerry Cliffs.

4. The Kerry Cliffs (arrive around 15:00)

the kerry cliffs
Photo by Mark Heighes/shutterstock.com

I’ve visited the Kerry Cliffs twice now, and on both occasions, I was one of maybe 2 or 3 other people that were there at the time.

The cliffs, which are over 1,000 feet (305 meters) high, offer spectacular views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island.

This is one of those places that makes you really aware of how powerful mother nature is. The thunderous crash as waves collide with sharp cliff face rings out in your ears constantly.

5. Valentia Island (arrive whenever)

geokaun mountains kerry
Image © The Irish Road Trip

Our final stop on this 5-day trip takes us out to Valentia Island – one of my favourite places in Ireland. 

Our first stop-off is the car park near Bray Head. For those of you that fancy a walk, you can do the Bray Head Loop Walk if you like.

When you’re ready, make your way up to the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs. There’s a €5 entry fee and, after you’ve paid it, you’ll start the steep ascent towards one of the best views in Ireland.

I’ve done a reasonable amount of travelling outside of Ireland, and there are very few places that I’ve been to that offer a view as spectacular as the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs. Kick-back, relax and just soak up what lies before you.

6. Portmagee for the night

Portmagee in Kerry
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

Valentia Island is right next to Portmagee, so you’ve a handy spin to your base for the final night of this road trip. 

I’m going to recommend that you stay in The Moorings Guesthouse, which is at the heart of the lovely little village of Portmagee.

Check-in and then head down to the bar for some food and a couple of pints. You’ve earned them.

You may have seen videos from this pub back when Star Wars was being shot in the area (Mark Hamill was shot pulling a pint at the bar).

And that’s a wrap

Hopefully you’ve found the above guide useful. Is it perfect? Absolutely not! We couldn’t squeeze in many of the best things to do in Kerry, like a spin around the Dingle Peninsula.

5 days is a tiny amount of time. You always run the risk of trying to squeeze in too much. if you fancy exploring Dingle, you could always cut across from Killarney on day 4.

If you fancy seeing what other road trips Ireland has to offer, hop into our road trip hub. You’ll find itineraries for every type of trip.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a wedding photographer, I shoot all over Ireland but like it most out Wesht. You’ve hit every sweet spot for me with this trip. Especially Eyeries which is such a hidden gem. Well done!

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