Cork City and its surrounding coastline towns and villages make the perfect starting point for escaping into the West and the Wild Atlantic Way. This 4-Day itinerary will bring you south to the historic harbour town of Kinsale, West along the Atlantic coast and then over the mountains into Kerry. It covers quite a lot of ground so be prepared for some driving. However, the scenery is breath-taking, the landscape is rich in stories and history.
It’s time to explore our maritime paradise.
This medieval harbour town has reinvented itself in recent years as a foodie paradise, packed with great restaurants, cafes, gastropubs and coffee-shops.
Must-see experiences include the majestic cliff-top bastions of Charles Fort, the fearsome guardian of the harbour, and local cafes, bistros and gastro-pubs like The Bulman, which you will find just beneath the fort, in its own little harbour.
Head west to Mizen Head, Ireland’s most southerly point. It’s 115kms and just over two hours by main roads and could be longer if you follow the Wild Atlantic Way, so budget in some time. There is no real hurry.
At the Mizen you will find the old cliff-top signal station which was the last sight of Ireland for countless thousands of emigrants heading to North America. The Mizen Head Visitors Centre is perched high above the cliffs on this treacherous, rocky coast. After visiting the centre, take the short drive to nearby Three Castle Head and walk across the cliffs to the ancient Dun Lough Castle ruins. It was built in 1207 by the chieftain of the notorious O’Mahony clan. This remote cliff-top castle saw many sieges, battles and sea-raids and remains a wild and slightly foreboding place to this day.
Travel On – to nearby Crookhaven, a gorgeous little harbour village, where you can order crab sandwiches and coffee in Billy O'Sullivan's Bar on the pier. Watch the yachts and the fishing boats as they come in to dock after a day at sea. On bright summer nights, it’s a magical place.
Drive for two and a half hours via Glengariff (where you may want to stop and take a ferry to the beautiful sub-tropical formal gardens at Garnish Island) and over the mountains via the Healy Pass into Kerry. Travel on to Portmagee, the starting point for two mile walk to the ruins of a signal tower that offers amazing views of world famous Skelligs Rocks.
These jagged rocks are a UNESCO World Heritage, once home to ancient monastic settlements and – more recently – the odd Jedi Master (the rocks were used as the location for Luke Skywalker’s exile in the latest Star Wars movies). You can take a boat trip out to the islands from Portmagee.
Return to the picturesque fishing village of Portmagee, where you will find welcoming restaurants, pubs and places to spend the night.
Spend your day on and around Inch Beach, 5kms of Atlantic-washed sands and one of the most famous (and most filmed) beaches in Ireland. The Dingle Peninsula offers many attractions including coastal path walking, surfing, and Sea Kayking. You could kayak from Dingle Harbour around to Inch Beach, a trip that takes you through waters rich with sea life including dolphins and whales.
Or If You Don’t Want To Spend Your Day On The Beach – Hop on a boat from Dingle to the Blasket Islands. There are a number of ferry operators, eco tour and Charter Hire companies which can take you from the popular harbour town to the folklore-rich Blaskets. The biggest island, the Great Blasket, has 1100 acres of unspoilt, mostly mountainous terrain, rich in birdlife, which has been largely left to the wild since the last human occupants of the island left in 1953. After seeing this remote, now deserted island, return back to Dingle and enjoy a meal or a drink in one of the many friendly pubs and restaurants.