Kenmare to Bantry:120 miles / 3 hours 18 minutes at 30mph
Kenmare to Dursey Island
Leaving behind the boutique charms of Kenmare, follow the road as it weaves and dips along one of wildest stretches of coastline – the Beara Peninsula. It’s an incredible drive, with craggy hills crashing down to the sea, tiny villages and sheep that seem to cling to the edge of rocky paths. Beara’s landscape offers a proper get-away-from-it-all feel, with scenery that is haunting, dramatic and rugged.
A line of brightly colored houses and lively pubs mark out the village of Allihies, known for its copper mines. You can trace the story of this 19th-century industry and its effect on the village at the Allihies Copper Mine Museum. After that, follow one of the short coastal looped walks, with blasts of invigorating Atlantic air and jagged seacliffs.
From Allihies, sweep out to the tip of the Beara Peninsula and one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s most curious attractions, Dursey Island.
Dursey Island to Glengarriff
Separated by a narrow slice of water known as Dursey Sound, Dursey Island is the proud owner of Ireland’s only cable car (be sure to check running times before arriving). For those visiting, the car is a quirky transportation from Ireland’s mainland to a paradise island and a land that time forgot.
But for visitors to the area, it's the views afforded of the foaming Atlantic waters thrashing below that is the real attraction of this little trip. They're likely to be some of the more memorable images of your Wild Atlantic Way journey.
The beneficiary of Ireland’s only cable car, Dursey Island sits on the tip of the Beara Peninsula. A haven for ornithologists, the island is easily walkable and boasts vast panoramas, seascapes and a churning Atlantic Ocean soundtrack.
Dursey itself measures a modest 4 miles long and 0.9 miles wide and is easily walkable, with few climbs. Importantly, the island does not boast any shops, pubs or restaurants, but what a perfect place for a picnic!
Say goodbye to Ireland’s only cable car on your return, and point your car towards Glengarriff, along the Beara Peninsula’s wild southern coast.
Glengarriff to Bantry
Along the way to Glengarriff, the Wild Atlantic Way continues to zigzag as the landscape slowly changes from rocky and rugged to green and wooded. This part of the peninsula is well known for its gardens, with the unusual Ewe Sculpture Garden just outside Glengarriff being one of the most intriguing.
This verdant Eden high on a hill is a glorious jumble of waterfalls, bridges, sculpture, games and trails. Just off the coast of Glengarriff is another unique spot: the garden island of Garnish. Boats bring visitors out to explore the Grecian temple, clock tower and beautiful Italian gardens here, and along the way you might even spot some local seals.
Continuing along the road to Bantry, it’s worth stopping off at Manning’s Emporium in the tiny village of Ballylickey where you can taste some of the local produce that is making West Cork a gourmet heartland.
Bantry itself is an enjoyably busy town, with great seafood restaurants (try the Fish Kitchen), traditional pubs and a lively weekend food market. Undoubtedly, the highlight here is Bantry House, a country home of exquisite grandeur. Wander through the delightful gardens, take in the glorious views over Bantry Bay, and relax with afternoon tea in the elegant surrounds of the library.