Wild Atlantic Way in Cork
Find your safe harbour as you weave your way along the exhilarating Wild Atlantic Way between Ballydehob and Kinsale
The food. The fields. The easy-going West Cork vibe. And oh, that ocean: sparkling in picturesque port towns; crashing against wave-scarred cliffs; hiding hulking sea giants – and glowing by night as if by magic. Follow this fairytale trail between Ballydehob and Kinsale, and be rewarded with a true natural treasure: the Old Head of Kinsale.
Celts and copper mines, castles and coastal thrills, fill your first day with "craic" galore as you begin your journey through the heartlands of West Cork.Explore Day 1
A truly traditional village
Set against the graceful backdrop of the Twelve Arch Bridge, cosy Ballydehob village is endearingly unassuming. Steal an hour to poke around the Gurtnagrough Folk Museum, packed to the rafters – literally – with contraptions and curios dating back as far as the 1700s. Or delve into the fascinating life of wrestling champion, Danno O'Mahony, at the Irish Whip Bar! Just one of the intriguing tales told by the proprietors, the O'Briens. If you have more time, climb Mount Gabriel, where copper was mined 4,000 years ago and stone remnants of the Celts still stand.
Ride on the crest of the waves
West Cork is a nature-lover’s delight. These waters host a thrilling range of marine wildlife – porpoises, dolphins, seals, minke, fin and humpback whales, and even an occasional basking shark. Birdwatchers should look out for kittiwakes, gannets and puffins, among other species. Our advice? Take a whalewatching tour so you can see some of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. If you have more time, experience the islands: hitch a ferry ride to Heir Island and the unforgettable Island Cottage Restaurant or make a beeline for Cape Clear Island during its annual Storytelling Festival (September).
Entering an incredible waterworld
By day, enjoy the natural wonders of this marine nature reserve, packed with a multitude of marine life that call Lough Hyne’s salt water home. By night, fall in love with a star-lit kayaking session through waters twinkling with bio-luminescence. Alternatively, row out to Castle Island, home to the ruins of Cloghan Castle and the legend of Labhra: the king with donkey’s ears!
A Druid's Altar that has stood the test of time
Jutting up out of the ancient earth, the 17 free-standing stones of Drombeg have reached to the same Glandore sky for 3,000 years. Arranged symmetrically with a pair of tall portal stones forming the entrance, this sacred place is known as the Druid’s Altar, and remains adorned with the shell and flower offerings of countless, nameless visitors. Place your own offering and feel the pervasive sense of the past emerge. Feeling sentimental? Pop over to Castletownshend for a photo opportunity beside one of the last standing old-fashioned Telefón (telephone) boxes in Ireland!
The story of the Big Fella, Michael Collins
From precocious schoolboy to revolutionary leader... peer into the life of the Big Fella: Clonakilty’s most famous son. Rebellion and legacy, love and war all play out in the Michael Collins Centre’s audiovisual show, before you step outside to the quiet, grassy ambush trail where Collins met his untimely end in 1922.
If you have more time, take the weight off at De Barra's and enjoy one of the best pints and trad sessions in West Cork.
Get ready for sprawling luxury, saintly retreats and more seaside showstoppers.Explore Day 2
Yearning for some old-world glamour?
Kickstart your day with a full Irish breakfast, including local specialty, Clonakilty Black Pudding. Then prepare for elegance at Lisselan Estate, which has slumbered in Robinsonian elegance on the banks of sleepy Argideen River since 1853. The 80-acre Lisselan Golf Club is surrounded by mature woodlands and boasts one of Ireland’s most scenic – and challenging – golf courses; while the wider grounds include the ancestral home of Henry Ford – and the current home of a vintage Ford fleet. Continue your journey with a walk along Inchydoney Beach: a seemingly endless expanse of pale sand and perfect surf. Voted “Best Beach in Ireland” by Tripadvisor's Travellers Choice Awards.
If these walls could talk...
The Franciscan monks sure picked a pretty spot when they established Timoleague Abbey way back in 1240. The secretive wall passages, stunning stonework and towering bell-tower make this building irresistible to intrepid explorers. Outside, uninterrupted views of the bay hark back to a time when ships delivered goods straight from the river into the Abbey’s cellar. Come at festival time to catch the whole village out in force for the traditional Timoleague Festival (August). Pig race, anyone?
Old Head of Kinsale
Take a deep breath as you stop and stare at the Old Head of Kinsale, its sheer cliffs topped with that iconic striped lighthouse. The air here is a tonic, ruddying your cheeks and brightening your eyes with the ocean’s tang. Rather appropriately, the wedge-shaped headland jutting out into the Atlantic is part of a world-class links golf course; while the vast sea beyond conceals the wreckage of the tragic Lusitania, a British ocean liner sunk by a German torpedo during World War I. If you have more time, the Kinsale Gourmet Food Festival (October) is unmissable – but Fishy Fishy Café and Michelin-starred Bastion Restaurant are year-round culinary delights.