I’ve heard the expression ‘Write about what you know,’ many times, so that’s what I’m doing right now. I grew up in West Cork, so I think I can say that I’m quite familiar with the place. I have been known to get lost trying to drive home, but that’s beside the point.
Sights to See
I think most locals would agree that the coastal towns hold a little more appeal to the typical tourist.
Clonakilty has DeBarras, a pub that features live music every week. and Inchadoney for your sunbathing. Inchadoney is a beautiful beach that also has a surf school in the summer, with some nice mellow waves to ease you into the sport. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can travel to nearby Long Strand, which has typically bigger waves and a tight surf scene.
If surfing isn’t your thing, there is a hotel and spa right beside the beach.
Bantry is beautiful. If you’re planning a really relaxed holiday in picturesque surrounding, Bantry’s a good option, with a nice bay to admire. Local attractions include Garnish Island, a beautiful island in Bantry bay. The island has gardens with many exotic plants that amazingly thrive because of a unique micro-climate on the island.
Gougane Barra is in my opinion the most beautiful part of West Cork. Carved out by a glacier during the last Ice Age, it looks like a giant punched into the earth in rage, leaving a massive hole in the mountain. The bottom is filled by a black, calm lake. You would be forgiven for mistaking it for Canada, with the gnarled spruce trees dotting the steep slopes. It has a beautiful church built on an island on the lake, which is an extremely popular location for weddings.
Cape Clear is Ireland’s southern most island, a 45 minute boat ride from the coastal town of Baltimore. It is a gaeltacht island, which means that Irish is the first language (though everyone speaks English also), so it is a good location to experience a less tainted Irish culture.
It is an amazing location to see wildlife. It is one of the most popular locations for bird-watching in Ireland. There are also many whale sightings and you can even take a whale watching tour from nearby Baltimore. For anyone interested, you can book a tour here.
Lough Allua, Inchigeelagh
In my opinion, this lake is one of the most beautiful places in West Cork. My father and I sometimes take the Canadian dugout canoe out on the lake, and I wish we had time to do it more. Lough Allua is a long lake, it actually seems more like three lakes connected by a river.
It is one of the most popular pike fishing locations in Ireland, producing monstrous fish that would almost make you afraid of swimming. Tig Na Spideoga is a great fishing lodge, where you can you can stay in traditional thatched cottages and rent boats to take out on the lake.
Where to Eat
The Mills Inn, Ballyvourney
Again, this one is close to where I live, but let me tell you. Anyone who has been to this bar and restaurant will tell you that its food is fantastic. I recommend the sirloin steak, which is definitely better quality than many that I have tried in Ireland.
The owners of The Mills also own 9 White Deer Brewery, and serves a selection of beers brewed in the village of Ballyvourney. I have a friend who swears by Lon Dubh, a stout brewed at this brewery, and available on tap at The Mills.
If you would like to check out the Mills, you can check out the menu here.
Toons Bridge Shop and Pizza, near Macroom
I may be a little biased because this is near to where I live at the moment, but Toons Bridge Cafe has the best pizza I’ve ever tasted in Ireland. (Sorry guys, but Sicily just has the edge)
Besides pizza, the cafe also has great beers including Hairy Goat, and also a wide range of cheeses and meats. The pizzas make you think you’re in Italy, the tapas board transports you to Spain and the beer reminds you that you’re still in Ireland. From time to time, the cafe has live music. While the musicians play to a packed room, you can sit and get a wine or a beer.
Box of frogs, Bantry
This gem of a cafe has some of the nicest cake and coffee that I’ve found in West Cork. The coffee seems to be a hit with anyone I’ve spoken to. Couple great coffee with friendly staff and decent prices on food, its definitely a good choice for a pit-stop on your travels. You can check out their webiste here.
The New Haven, Schull
A great choice for tourists and locals alike, this isn’t just a seafood restaurant. You can also buy pizza and steak, so if you’re with that one fussy guy, there’s something for him too. The staff are helpful and the price is decent, especially for a small town. You can check out the useful Schull website here.
Where to Play
Funmanway, in Dunmanway
Funmanway is an outdoor Adventure land, located just outside Dunmanway town. There’s a variety of activities, including paint-balling, zorbing, mountain boarding and kayaking. If you’d like to learn more, check out their website here.
Atlantic Sea Kayaking, Skibbereen
While the town of Skibbereen itself might not have much, but Atlantic Sea kayaking is definitely something worth checking out. There are tours from various locations around Skibbereen. I would recommend Lough Hyne, a beautiful inlet, surrounded by stunning scenery. This marine lake was Irelands first marine Nature Reserve. Alantic Sea Kayaking have a website with more info.
Aqua Adventures, Baltimore
If you’d like to try your hand at diving, then Aqua Adventures is a good choice. Options range from guided snorkelling tours to diving deep to see the many ship wrecks surrounding Baltimore. You can also take diving courses to advance from beginner. If you want to learn more, you can check out their website.
Those were a few of my top picks for what to do in West Cork. I hope you enjoyed reading. I know there’s a tonne of things that I didn’t include, so help me out in the comment section!