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  • Writer's pictureGregory Besterman

Top 10 Things To Do In West Cork

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Healy pass in West Cork

West Cork is a wonderful place to be, but don’t just take our word for it. If you’re planning on taking your luxury staycation in Ireland (or travelling from further afield), be sure to add these sights and experiences to your bucket list…

1. Travel Back in Time to Bantry House

It would be easy to spend an entire day in Bantry House, where guests are free to explore the expansive and manicured gardens, the house itself, and the sumptuous tea rooms. The house represents generations of love and care from the same family line who call it home today, and it offers a fascinating glimpse of life in Ireland over the centuries.

Wander the gardens at your own pace, take in the stunning views the house has over Bantry Bay, and enjoy a picnic basket (just remember to order in advance) with stunning views over the grounds.

2. Take a Dip at the Glengarriff Blue Pools

Next on our list of top ten things to do in West Cork is Glengarriff, a stunning village within Bantry Bay. The area features a nature reserve – boasting over 300 hectares of beautiful, unspoiled land with plenty of walks and some incredible views of the harbour. There’s also a children’s playground and, of course, the Blue Pools.

The Blue Pools are popular with wild swimmers and kayakers. If you’d rather stay dry, a ferry will run you over to Garnish Island, where you can tour the house and gardens.

3. See Ireland’s Final Goodbye at Mizen Head

Mizen Head is Ireland’s southernmost point. Those emerald isles give way to a dramatic panorama of salt-sprayed rock and a horizon that doesn’t end until it reaches the shores of North America.

For hundreds of years, Mizen Head has reached out into the Atlantic like one final wave goodbye to travellers leaving Europe for good. Countless people have given Mizen Head a lingering glance from boats embarking on long journeys, which means anyone looking to trace their roots back to Ireland should carve out the time to visit this dramatic landscape.

Mizen Head features plenty of safe pathways, bridges, and viewing platforms, along with a visitors’ centre and signal station, where you can learn more about the site’s history.

4. Dinner at Restaurant Chestnut

If you’re looking to experience the very best of Irish hospitality, then Restaurant Chestnut should land at the top of your bucket list. From the emphasis their chef places on natural, local ingredients – a true taste of what Ireland’s unique landscape has to offer, shaped by the creativity of Restaurant Chestnut’s talented staff – to the warm and cosy atmosphere within its walls, this is the place to be.

Perfect for a blustery dinner or a long, summery al fresco experience, don’t miss the opportunity to stop for a bite here.

5. See the Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle is a popular destination for travellers. The Castle standing today was built in the fifteenth century, but the spot has been used for fortifications since the medieval period.

The Castle is very well preserved, but the main draw for most is, of course, The Blarney Stone. Kissing the stone famously bestows the gift of the gab – provided you’ve got the stomach for lying down and hanging your head over the castle’s parapet.

Thankfully, these days, there are plenty of safeguards in place. Millions of people have travelled to kiss the stone so – even if you don’t have the stomach for it – it’s a great atmosphere to experience for yourself.

6. Whale Watching in Baltimore

The devoted zoologist Dr Nic Slocum offers responsible and unobtrusive tours of the waters just off Baltimore, where whales, dolphins, seals, porpoises and sea birds like puffins and gannets are regularly spotted going about their days.

The ability to preserve and experience these incredible animals in their natural habitat is something Ireland holds very dear. This is one of those not-to-be-missed experiences – something that will inspire the entire family and remain a fond memory for decades to come.

7. Drive Healy Pass

Ireland boasts plenty of scenic, winding roads that are there to be driven, even if you’ve got nowhere particular to be. For us, Healy Pass is always worth recommending.

It showcases the very best Ireland has to offer – and, if you’re a fan of driving, gives you a challenge worth accepting as you weave along a road carved into (and sometimes around) the vibrant, dramatic landscape that Ireland is famous for.

8. Experience Bull Rock (and Cow and Calf) For Yourself

It’s safe to say that Bull Rock will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. An imposing island just off the Beara Peninsula, the narrow passageway that cuts through the centre of this giant has earned it the name of ‘The Entrance to the Underworld’.

A few buildings, long since abandoned, appear cut into the very face of the rock itself, along with a lighthouse that towers over the boat tours that run throughout the day. The sight of this gravity-defying island will have you transfixed, as if you’ve been transported onto the set of an otherworldly film.

Bull Rock is the main draw, but it is accompanied by two more islands – Cow Rock and Calf Rock – that add even more drama to the scene.

9. Spend a Day in Drimoleague

Drimoleague is a small village with a lot of history. If you know any O’Donovans, then Drimoleague will be of particular interest, as its home to the ruin of Castle Donavan (AKA O’Donavan’s Castle), which was very active during the 16th century.

The remains make for a beautiful sight against a dramatic sky – something Ireland is very good at producing.

Drimoleague offers some lovely places to eat and more walking trails than you could complete in a week on your feet. It’s known as ‘the walker’s junction’, and for good reason. If you’re a fan of fishing, there are also some great angling spots in the area.

10. Cross the Sound to Dursey Island

While most of the islands off Cork’s coast are no longer inhabited, Dursey Island is still home to a few locals.

Dursey Island is picturesque and peaceful, but one of its biggest selling points for visitors is the fact that, to get over there, you’ll need to ride the cable car. The surrounding waters are busy with activity from the local wildlife – including dolphins – and some incredible walks unspoiled by modern buildings or traffic.

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