Alright, I am smitten with Ireland. Especially with West Cork. So much beauty, that my heart and mind sometimes just fail to take it all in. Nonetheless, a visit to West Cork never fails to calm my soul. After years of traveling all corners of County Cork: from Cobh, to Kinsale, Skibbereen, Sheep’s Head, Beara Peninsula and back, I finally feel ready to share my best of the best of West Cork. Hold your horses, this is one massive West Cork travel guide.
Can’t make it to West Cork fast enough? Check my recipe for a true Irish Brown Bread to bring some Irish feels into your life pronto. Ready to discover the Best of West Cork?
West Cork in three words?
Rugged, kind and restorative
The red fuchsia is West Cork's signature wild flower.
Beautiful Montbretia growing along the Irish country lanes.
Best of West Cork travel guide
A travel guide for vegan foodies and explorers.
Discover the beauty of County Cork, Ireland.
Eat a good chowder
Ok, so when I travel, I tend to be less strict with my vegan diet, opting for vegetarian usually, or fish (sometimes). Before I went vegan, I have eaten my fair share of seafood chowders and two places never disappointed me. The beauty of a good chowder is that is’s always different, because it’s made mostly with what the fishermen brought in earlier in the day. My favorite places for a good chowder are: Fishy Fishy in Kinsale and The Brick Oven in Bantry.
Satisfy your foodie cravings at a local farmer’s market
Hands up for the best farmer’s market in West Cork: the Skibbereen Farmer’s Market. The market starts every Saturday at 9:30 am and remember, the early bird catches the fattest worms. Look out for a blue food truck! The lovely ladies serving the best vegan grub in the county. Also, there’s a stall by The Hungry Crow who does delicious vegan sweet treats. Check them out! Oh, and that super long line in front of the coffee truck? Yap, totally worth it. Before I forget, the farmer’s market in Clonakilty is not too shabby either. This one takes place every Friday.
Baltimore, 68 Bridge Street, Skibbereen
A beautiful garden that is well worth a visit and the best cake in the area. The Glebe Gardens is one of my favorite places to recharge and get my hands on delicious, home-made food. The do lush cakes as well. They recently opened up a place in Skibbereen too, minus the garden.
Get the best cliff views
Nohoval Cove, Nohoval
When I first discovered that stunningly beautiful and remote cove, I was about to give up and trying to find a spot where to turn my car around. Fear not. The road there is small and narrow and you’ll think “This isn’t going to get me anywhere” about 10 times at least. When the cove opens and you climb up the cliff, you’ll be rewarded with a view that’s just out of this world. How to get there: Either Google-map it or head to Nohoval, take the L3215 going East, and take the 3rd road on the right which will be at a small T-crossroad. Follow the road down to the cove.
Spend a day at the beach
County Cork and Wets Cork in particular, sports plenty of delightful beaches. Some of my favorites are: Inchydoney Beach, Owenahincha Beach, Barry’s Cove, Barley Cove Beach and Silver Strand Beach on Sherkin Island.
Discover Lough Hyne
This saltwater lake is a hidden gem. Special tipp: Kayaking at dusk with Atlantic Sea Kayaking. Watch the sun settle and the stars appear over the serene beauty of Lough Hyne. Priceless. There are also two Holy Wells that can be visited. Even when you’re not catholic, or religious at all (hands up), visiting these wells provides you with an insight into Irish tradition and customs.
Explore a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area
Baile Bhurine / Ballyvourney
There isn’t really much to see in the town itself. Although there is a lovely restaurant and shop right at the end of town called Mills Inn. But before you rest there, head to St Gobnait’s House and Holy Well (follow the blue signposts that lead right to it from the main road). It’s a pilgrimage site for St Gobnait – the woman of the Bees – with a distinctive pagan origin. There’s information material onsite about the pilgrimage. Did you see the bees carved in her stone pedestal? Also note the deers. She founded her church in Ballyvourney after spotting nine white deers on those grounds. Over a window of the ruined church you can also spot a Sheela na gig, a figurative carving of naked women displaying her lady bits. Read more about St Gobnaits house.
A fairy walk not just for children
Fairy Walk, Rineen Woods, Castlehaven
It’s a bit tricky to find, but maybe that’s just the way the fairies prefer it? Have a stroll around Rineen woods and discover charming fairy houses. Some are tucked away and hard to find, some are meant to be found. Feel free to leave a little token for the fairies too.
Experience the (almost) untouched wilderness – drive the Ring of Beara
The Ring of Beara is a 140km coastal road around the Beara Peninsula. This remote area is County Cork at its roughest. Especially the Northern side (Allihies, Eyeries and Ardgroom) offers stunning views and usually less traffic than its more famous neighbour, the Ring of Kerry. Don’t miss Garinish Island: lovely gardens and seal watching. Oh, and the only cable car in Ireland can transport you out to Dursey Island, you or one cow that is.
Gougane Barra is associated with Saint Finbarr, who is said to have built a monastery nearby during the 6th century. St Finbarr is the patron saint of Cork and as legend has it, Finbarr banished the great serpent Lú from this very lake , and in doing so, Lú created a channel which is now the river Lee.
Put on you hiking boots, we get outdoorsy
Sheep’s Head Peninsula
Sheep’s Head offers some of the best hiking trails in the county. Most popular are the short and long loop around the peninsula. Both bring you out to a little white Lighthouse tucked away in the rugged cliffs. A darling place, but never underestimate the Irish weather. It was out there that I got bruises thanks to a sudden hailstorm.
Ultimate wild West Cork extravaganza: Three Castle Head
This place is truly something else. It’s situated north of Mizen Head and by far more spectacular. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the car park to the castle. From the car park, pass the gate and walk up the road. The path to Three Castle Head will lead left over the green fields and hills. Only at the very end, the hills allow you a first glimpse of the old ruins by the lake. Mind, the ruins of the 12th castle and lake are all on private property, but in the last couple of years, the owners have set it up for visitors. 2018 update: the coffee place is no longer open! However, it used to be a hidden gem, not so much anymore, but that hasn’t affected its charms yet. The map below shows you the location of the “car park”.
The Beacon, Baltimore
Nohoval Cove, the best cliff view of County Cork
Cakes at Glebe Gardens
Glebe Gardens, Baltimore
View from the Ring of Beara coastal road
Colourful houses in Clonakility
St Gobnait's House, Ballyvourney
Fairy home in Rineen Woods
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Meet Miss Walter’s
Hi, I’m Jennifer. I create sweet vegan recipes and take semi-messy photos of food. I’m always hunting for good places to eat and where to go to for my next cup of Oat Latte. A supermarket is usually the first place I visit in a foreign place. I created Miss Walter’s so that you can wow your vegan an non-vegan friends alike with decadently delicious vegan recipes. Also, I’ll share my favourite foodie spots from my travels with you.