I love doing weekend trips around Ireland any chance I get. I’m slowly ticking every hike and town off my list. I spent a lot of summers in West Cork as a child and looking back I remember always being in the sea, eating great food and feeling like it was a total other world. Amazingly nothing has changed since.
Since it was the bank holiday weekend, we arrived in Bantry on Friday evening and stayed until Monday mid-day hence we managed to get loads in, but I have made a list of the top things to do. I’ve also included where we stayed and my top food spots for your visit. There is a rough itinerary grid at the end of the post of what I would suggest doing each day to get the most out of your visit. Hope this helps!
Night kayaking – do not miss this!
This is a must! Regardless if you like water sports or not. Don’t let the idea of kayaking put you off as it’s an activity for everyone, of all activity levels. It’s a 2 persons kayak so if you are worried just team up with someone strong.
The company we went with was Atlantic Kayaking. I had actually been kayaking before with Jim, our guide in Loughhine and I didn’t expect the night time kayaking to top that experience, but it did!
The meeting point was near the village of Castletown-send (although the tours to go from a few locations). We met at 9 pm (almost my bed time!) and the guide took approx. 2.5 hours (incl. set up etc.). I was struggling to think where I would get the energy for kayaking over that time, but the time flew. After putting on our gear (all supplied by Jim) he gave us a quick run through from how to row to what the guide entailed. As soon as I knew it I was wide awake at 9:30pm. Jim is fascinating and talks in depth not only about the sea life but the history of where we were.
Let me quickly touch on the kayaking part. Honestly you won’t even break a sweat and it’s as easy as sitting on a couch drinking tea in motion. The highlights of this tour is the bio luminance of the algae, the star gazing and history (possible wildlife encounters like seals) along with the over whelming sense of peace being out in extreme darkness amongst the sound of the sea – it’s pretty surreal. We were very lucky to go on a very still night, so we got to kayak out to the caves and had a clear view of the sky.
Book in advance Atlanticseakayaking.com
Three Castle head walk
We diverted here on our way to Mizen head. It’s one of the most scenic walks I have done over rolling hills with stunning cliff to the left dotted with castle ruins its approx. 20-25-minute walk to reach the end point where you then walk back on yourself (almost all downhill on the way back). The walk isn’t challenging but there are a few steep ascents and I would advise runners or shoes with a good grip. There is a café at the car park (closed when we arrived) but it is supposedly great, and a lot of you guys had suggested I go!
The perfect Instagram spot. Even though I didn’t actually get a picture there I can imagine it’s a big one! It had a cool panoramic view of the coastline and Sherkin Island. You drive up to a small parking spot and walk about 3-4 minutes to get to the tower, (watch for the cows on the way up and don’t try pet them like some tourists who were ahead of us did!). It’s situated near Baltimore, so we made this pit stop before checking out the town and heading onto Kayaking.
Bantry House and Gardens
Perfect for us to visit as we were just 2 minutes away in Bantry town. The house itself is beautiful. It has a real untouched look with wild gardens and situated right on the sea front. It’s a nice spot to grab a tea and wander through the gardens. There is a small fee to visit the gardens (€5) to help fund the upkeep of the house and gardens. We got yummy brown bread and soup there and they had a nice selection of homemade tarts. I would advise checking their opening days as they might be closed for functions.
I didn’t get to go to Garnish Island however this was the top recommended place to visit by people on Instagram (I’ll have to go back). I decided to go to Dursey Island instead which wasn’t as spectacular as Garnish Island sounds to be honest. Garnish Island is situated near Glencarrif town/ harbour (definitely plan to have some time in that small town it is so nice) and is host to some seriously amazing gardens with rare plant life and walks. To get to the island there is a regular shuttle service which you should book in advance with garnishisland.com. We did drive all along Bere Peninsuala which was beautiful, and we managed to stop in some gorgeous small towns for a few pints of Murphy’s – so I would recommend doing that when you are up this direction.
We booked an Air B&B at short notice, but we found an apartment in Bantry that would fit a large group, it worked out great because in the evening we could all sit and watch TV together and make snacks.
Recommended Food stops:
Manning’s Emporium: Really recommend this place for dinner or lunch. It’s a pizzeria but they have salads and amazing sharing boards also! Great spot and I would definitely go back there again.
- Wharton’s Fish & Chips: You have to have at least one bag of fish and chips when you’re in West Cork and this was the best I had (and I sampled a lot of places when I was down there).
- Organico: Great spot for a coffee, takeaway veggie lunches or a slice of vegan cake.
- Stuffed Olive: We were recommended this place over and over again for lunch or brunch (in Bantry town).
- Mews: A little fancy but perfect for a celebration meal or fine dining. It’s located in Baltimore.
- La Jolie Brise: This place got about 90% of mentions from people that DM’d me recommendations for pizza or a plate of sea food with a gorgeous view. It’s located in Baltimore.
- Mary Anns: Castletownsend perfect pre-kayak food stop for some of the best pub grub you’ll grab!
Recommended Itinerary for a full two days
- Day 1: Head south of Bantry
- Visit Mizen (optional but nice to see on a clear day) – Three Castle Head- Barley Cover Beach – Beacon Point- Castletownsend (for food) – Night time Kayaking.
- Day 2: Head north of Bantry
- Visit Bantry house for coffee – Head to Bere Peninsula – Glengarriff for Garnish Island and a few pints – drive back over Healy’s Pass – finish with dinner at Manning’s on route home.