The Beara Way
The Beara Peninsula is a 48km long mountainous finger, shared by counties Kerry and Cork, stretching into the Atlantic Ocean. Quite remote, it has remained perhaps the most unspoilt part of the south west region, and like the peninsulas to the north, is a magical world of mountains and lakes surrounded by a picturesque seacoast. The main industries are farming and fishing, with the latter being based in the port of Castletownbere. The Beara Way was established by a local voluntary group in the early 1990s as a co-operative involving upwards of four hundred landowners to augment the revenues coming from a declining fishing industry through tourism. It is a 196km circular route through magnificently rugged mountain and seacoast scenery which frequently passes by rich evidence of a heavily populated prehistoric past in the form of standing stones and burial monuments. There are also many fine villages, such as Allihies and Eyries, along the route. Terrain consists of mainly quiet tarmac roads, bog roads, cliff and woodland paths and open moorland, some sections of which can be quite rough and remote. The total aggregate ascent is nearly 5300m over the whole route and includes some short but steep climbs. Availability of overnight accommodation is generally good along the route although some of the longer stretches between villages may require careful planning. A loop of the route circumnavigates Bere Island with its great forts, and a spur takes you out (by an exciting trip on Ireland’s only cable-car) to sparsely inhabited Dursey Island.
The Blackwater Way
The Blackwater Way (the combined Duhallow and Avondhu Ways) is a 168 kilometre linear long distance walking route that stretches from the borders of west County Waterford across north County Cork and into the County of Kerry, following the valley of the River Blackwater. It is part of the European E8 route. The Way is a richly varied one in terms of topography and features, and includes contouring sections along mountain flanks with great views, passing by ancient monuments such as standing stones, stone circles and cairns, and more modern monuments such as cillins (infant burial grounds) and holy wells. Along the way the towns of Fermoy and Millstreet and the villages of Kilworth, Ballynamona and Bweeng are encountered. Although the off-road sections are never far from a public road, on higher ground the route frequently passes through quite isolated mountain areas of forestry. Although about 28% of the route is on roads that carry fast traffic, the balance consists mainly of quiet tarmac roads, forestry tracks, bog roads and moorland and field paths. Some sections can be wet and muddy in wet weather. Until the last 15 kilometres during which there is a climb of 560m under Caherbarnagh and the Paps, there are no significant ascents, although over the whole route there is an aggregate ascent of 3,700 metres.
Clonakilty Historic Town Walk
Crowning the twisty Clonakilty Bay, Clonakilty is one of Ireland’s best-known tourist destinations. This gateway to West Cork was the country’s first European Destination of Excellence, and it boasts some excellent historic and heritage attractions too.
Laid out by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, in 1614, Clon – as the locals know it – is perfectly matched to a heritage trail. Beginning at Asna Square (named for Tadhg O’Donovan Asna, who undertook an ill-fated rising against British forces in 1798), the route winds its way past the quays and the site of Deasy’s brewery – run by a family as famous for their smuggling exploits as their beers and ales.
The trail also takes in the Fishmarket and an extension known as the Shambles, which was erected in 1833 to accommodate local butchers. From there, it ventures onto Emmet Square, with its Georgian doorways and garden dedicated to JFK. Dating from 1785, the Square was originally built for wealthy merchants, and has amassed a history of its own over the years. It’s here that you’ll find the distinctive statue of Clonakilty’s most famous export – Michael Collins.
Collins, one of the great Irish revolutionary heroes, attended a local school, spoke several times in front of O’Donovan’s Hotel, and was killed at nearby Beal na mBláth. His name still evokes huge passion in Clon – you’ll get an idea why, at the Michael Collins Centre in Timoleague.
Clonakilty looks like a living postcard. But its heritage is more varied than the image suggests. The town is a melting pot of music and musicians, and it’s possible to find live music most nights at a multitude of pubs (Clonakilty was home to the late Noel Redding, one-time bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience). And that’s not even getting started on the local black pudding!
Mount Hillary is a hill with twin summits which is located about 12km west of Mallow, Co. Cork. It has a commanding views of central Munster, especially the Blackwater valley to the east, and of the Boggeragh Mountains to the south. From certain viewing points the villages and towns of Banteer, Kanturk Meelin and Taur can be seen – as can the mountain ranges of Mullaghareirk, Ballyhoura, and the Galtees. The loop travels mostly through Scots Pine plantation with Giant Monterey Pine cropping up here and there. Some trees were introduced to Mount Hillary include the Tsuja, Thuja Plicata, and the Sequoia Tree (Coast Redwood) and the Australian Eucalyptus tree. Broadleaf varieties include Beech, Larch, Rowan, Holly, and Silver Birch. Four legged inhabitants include the Red Fox, Badger, Hare, Rabbit, Stoat, and the native Red Squirrel. Birdlife includes the Golden Eagle, the Jack Snipe, the Skylark, the Cuckoo, the Song Thrush and the Short-eared Owl.
Island Wood Looped Walk
This walk is through the beautiful Island Wood. An interesting feature in the woods is the Twelve Apostles – a tree with twelve trunks – while the River Dallow flows through the Woods.
Doctor’s Hill Loop
The Blackwater is Ireland’s second largest river next to the mighty Shannon. It rises in the Mullaghareirk mountains of East Kerry, and flows eastwards for 120 km through Counties Cork and Waterford until it enters the sea at Youghal in East Cork. The landscape along the Blackwater Valley is as varied as the industries and people who live there – with strong traditions for theatre, music, dance, and sport. This loop is the shorter of two which start and finish near the source of the river in the north Duhallow region. Largely rural, the area has suffered from serious depopulation and economic deprivation in recent times and IRD Duhallow was established to promote rural development in the area – supporting initiatives directed towards the generation of enterprise, community empowerment and reawakening the mighty spirit of the Duhallow people.
Robert’s Cove Head Looped Walk
A cliff and road walk which takes in beautiful views.
Creha Quay Loop
Eyeries is a pleasant coastal village on the rugged but very scenic Beara Peninsula in County Cork on the south-west coast of Ireland. The picturesque village boasts numerous medals in the National Tidy Town competitions down through the years. It nestles at the base of Maulin, which, at 623m, is the highest peak in the Slieve Miskish mountain range that forms part of the backbone of the peninsula. The village overlooks Coulagh Bay and the mouth of the Kenmare River and was the location for the shooting of the film The Purple Taxi (1977) starring Fred Astaire, Peter Ustinov, and Charlotte Rampling. More recently, it was also the setting for the 1998 TV series Falling for a Dancer, a dramatisation of life and love in 1930s Ireland based on the novel by Deirdre Purcell. Castletownbere, Ireland’s largest whitefishing port is just 8km away and you can watch the trawlers unload their catch, before sampling the delights in one of the many fine restaurants throughout the peninsula. There are many historical and archaeological sites to visit in the area including a number of standing stones.
The Blackwater Way
The Blackwater Way comprises two sections, Avondhu and Duhallow. This varied trail includes the lower slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains and it drops through the green lanes and boreens of sparsely populated hill farms to the historic settlements and rich farms and woodlands of the Blackwater Valley. It rises again on to the slopes of the Nagle Hills, where there are superb views over the Munster plains, then to Shrone, just north of the Paps Mountains, which offers a contrast of wild bog, mountain, forest roadways, glens, lakes, rivers and stretches of beautiful isolation. The area abounds in wildlife and wild flowers when in their season.
Bandon Railway Walk
This walk is along the Old West Cork Railway through the wooded area between Innishannon and Bandon. The walk is located beside the main Cork to Bandon Road and offers the walker some spectacular views of the Bandon Valley.
The Blackwater is Ireland’s second largest river next to the mighty Shannon. It rises in the Mullaghareirk mountains of East Kerry, and flows eastwards for 120 km through Counties Cork and Waterford until it enters the sea at Youghal in East Cork. The landscape along the Blackwater Valley is as varied as the industries and people who live there – with strong traditions for theatre, music, dance and sport. This loop is the longer of two which start and finish near the source of the river in the north Duhallow region – this loop actually passes the source. Largely rural, the area has suffered from serious depopulation and economic deprivation in recent times and IRD Duhallow was established to promote rural development in the area – supporting initiatives directed towards the generation of enterprise, community empowerment and reawakening the mighty spirit of the Duhallow people.
Sheep’s Head Way
Sheep’s Head is the narrowest of the fingers of land that extend from the south west mainland of Ireland out into the Atlantic, between Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay. The Sheep’s Head Way is an 88km circular walking route beginning in the town of Bantry in County Cork and running out along the north coast of the peninsula to the scenic lighthouse at the very tip before returning along the south side, passing through the pretty villages of Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus. The narrowness of the peninsula means that you are never far from the glorious Atlantic Ocean when you walk, even when on the outward stretch when you climb to the route’s highest point, 300 metres above sea level, on the heathery Seefin ridge. The terrain is very varied, and includes old boreens, open grassy and heathery moorland, field paths, quiet country roads and some short stretches of woodland paths. The aggregate ascent over the whole route is 2460m, which includes a few long ascents. In good weather those who like the uplands can extend the ridge section of the route, or use a number of alternative loops. The remains of an old copper mine, a blow hole, stone circles, standing stones, high cliffs, a Napoleonic signal tower and old churches are some of the varied attractions to be discovered along the way, while careful observance and a lot of patience may be rewarded by the sighting of dolphins and whales off the westernmost tip of the headland. There are also some shorter loo walks connected to the Sheep’s Head Way.
Cobh Historic Town Walk
Cork’s fine natural harbour is the second largest in the world after Sydney and it has provided the maritime town of Cobh, with a splendid history. From the millions of emigrants who left here on foot of the famine to the Titanic’s visit in 1912, its heritage runs deep.
Cobh has three heritage trails, laid out along blue (Quayside), green (Cathedral) and pink (Holy Ground) routes. Taking the visitor along seafront walks and some wonderfully steep and colourful streets, they work together to tell the fascinating story of this maritime jewel.
Cobh was named Queenstown for a time – after Queen Victoria, who took her first steps on Irish soil here in 1849. It ceased to be a British naval base in 1937, although its hilly streets are still dominated by the stately St. Colman’s Cathedral. The Gothic Revival building dates from 1868 and its granite and limestone architecture, is crowned by a carillon of over 40 bells.
Cobh’s role in the story of Irish emigration is evoked in the waterfront statue of Annie Moore. She left here in 1892, becoming the first person to set foot on Ellis Island in New York.
Sometime later, in 1912, Cobh was the last port of call on Titanic’s maiden voyage and the ill-fated liner is recalled by Cobh’s Titanic Memorial and former White Star Line offices. So intact is the fabric of the town, it’s not hard to imagine the luxury liner at the quays today.
Elsewhere, The Queenstown Story traces Cobh’s heritage at the old railway station and the heritage trails take in John F Kennedy Park, a former residence of Fr Matthew and West View, a dizzyingly steep street known as the Deck of Cards, for its colourful terraced houses.
Cobh is a living history and Cork Harbour welcomes cruise passengers, tourists and day-trippers of all varieties. It serves as a gateway to the riches of the Rebel County.
The Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork is rich in sites of historical and archaeological interest, from wedge tombs to ogham stones (one of which is the largest in the world). Ardgroom is a beautiful, brightly painted and well maintained village overlooking the Kenmare River estuary. A large number of megalithic monuments are to be found in the vicinity the most spectacular of which is possibly the Canfie stone circle (dating from 1000BC) in which the stones taper toward points. These stone alignments are believed to be ancient calendars. This loop starts at the pier at Cuas Quay near Bird Point and treats the walker to a range of sites of interest (ruins of farmhouses, sheepfolds and walled holdings) en-route to Dogs Point. At Dogs Point, a small beach and sea cave provides the ideal location for a short break before making the return journey along the coastal section which offer spectacular views of the coastline. Towards the end of the loop the walker is treated to a close-up view of the renowned Coosmore sea cave system – only 250m from the trailhead.
Kinsale Historic Town Walk
Kinsale has always been a bustling port. It was a base for Ireland’s earliest settlers, for Vikings, Anglo Normans and later served for some 300 years as an important English naval base.
It was from here that James II escaped to France after his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne. Kinsale was also a port of call, in 1703, for the Cinque Ports, which carried Alexander Selkirk on board. Selkirk went on to be marooned on a Pacific island, giving Daniel Defoe the idea for Robinson Crusoe.
In 1601, Kinsale was the site of a battle in which English troops defeated Irish and Spanish opposition, resulting in the legendary ‘Flight of the Earls’, a mass exodus of Irish aristocrats to Europe.
Little wonder then, that the town has six heritage trails! Amongst the highlights is the 16th-century Desmond Castle, a three-storey tower house built originally as a Custom House and used in Napoleonic times to house French prisoners of war. Today, the building houses Kinsale’s Museum of Wine.
Outside the town, the trails fan out towards two dramatic forts flanking the harbour mouth. Charles Fort at Summercove is one of the finest examples of a 17th-century star-shaped fort in Europe, with 40-foot walls and several bastions cutting a dramatic dash in aerial photographs. James Fort, dating from 1602, holds the equivalent position across the harbour mouth.
Another notable building in Kinsale is the courthouse, now housing the regional museum. After the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915, an inquest was held in this building, with Captain Turner giving evidence before a jury of shopkeepers and fishermen.
Today, of course, Kinsale is one of Ireland’s top tourist hubs. Visitors come from all over to enjoy its yacht-speckled harbour, Georgian and Victorian architecture and some of the best seafood restaurants in the south. Kinsale is as much a place, they say, as a state of mind.
Millstreet Country Park
The Park is large with many miles of trails. Some are short and can be covered quickly by even the most reluctant rambler! Others are more extensive and can involve a climb up the Park so you may choose to ride them in part on the Park transport vehicles. These comfortable open sided vehicles driven by friendly local guides make frequent trips along preplanned trails and visitors may alight or embark from various points in the Park. By this process it is possible to explore the entire Park on wheels.
Ballycotton Head Looped Walk
A cliff and road walk which takes in beautiful views.
Glengarriff Wood looped Walk
This walk follows the nature trails and green-roads of the woods. Some of it is on the quiet by-roads bisecting the woods. This walk is accessible to all users.
Barane Looped Walk
Follow the river Blackwater for approx. 1.5km, after which the river meanders away towards Castlehyde. From here follow the yellow way-markers up the little Glenabo Glen back to where the path meets the road at Glenabo bridge. You can walk back along the river or by the Duntaheen road into town.
Skibbereen Walking Trail
The Skibbereen trail is a tour in which the walker visits sites which have direct links with the Great Irish Famine. Each site is unique. Some commemorate great works of philanthropy, others of emigration, more of Relief Schemes, while others tell of famine, fever and death. The Trail offers an overview of conditions in the area during the period 1840-50.
One immediate consequence of the Great Famine was the death of a whole generation. In the town, whole lanes, like Coppinger’s, Table and Clerke’s lay deserted, while there were numerous unoccupied houses in Bridgetown, High Street and Chapel Lane.
Emigration was now common. Workhouses were more feared than ever. There was hatred. Many farm holdings had disappeared. The potato began to lose its dominant role in the Irish diet, while cattle and dairying began to increase.
The spirit of Republicanism which had been kindled in 1798 might have flickered in the 1830’s and 40’s, but it sprang to life again in the late 1850’s, when Phoenix Society began to make preparations for a revolution. The flames were no longer confined to Ireland, but were now fuelled by the Famine emigrants who had settled in the U.S., Canada and England. The line … “”And loud and high we’ll raise the cry, Revenge for Skibbereen.”” was eventually to become a reality.
Bantry Historic Town Walk
Bantry is the gateway to Ireland’s mountain-strewn southwest, at once an old fishing port, thriving market town, and heritage gem. Sitting pretty amidst wooded hills at the head of Bantry Bay, its history showcases Wolfe Tone, the War of Independence and much more besides.
Bantry is the gateway to Ireland’s mountain-strewn southwest, at once an old fishing port, market town and heritage gem. It’s an all-rounder as suited to a flying cuppa as a longer stay.
Bantry has two heritage trails, marked in blue (1.8km/40 mins) and red (1.3km/30 mins). The routes take in a varied range of stop-offs, ranging from St. Brendan’s Church to Kilkeenagh Burial Ground and Godson’s Folly – site of a former hotel whose owner once blasted a path to his establishment through a huge rock, spending so much money in the process that he put himself out of business.
Bantry, of course, was where an ill-fated French invasion fleet pitched up in 1796, carrying Wolfe Tone in an attempt to bring a French-style revolution to Ireland. The town lies at the mouth of Bantry Bay, one of Europe’s finest deep-water harbours, and must have seemed an auspicious entry point (French vessels had earlier used the route to deliver troops for James II).
“We were close enough to toss a biscuit onshore,” Wolfe Tone later said. But storms and winds conspired to frustrate them, and ‘The Year of the French’ remains one of Irish history’s great near-misses (you can see the French Armada museum at the nearby 18th-century Bantry House).
Elsewhere along Bantry’s heritage trails, you can see the site of the town’s old ‘fish palaces’ near a church devoted to St. Brendan the Navigator, the Mill Wheel (located beside the library, and unusually, still in use), the Presbytery Pillar and Garryvurcha Church & Graveyard, amongst others.
The town itself radiates outwards from the large Wolfe Tone Square, a colourful plaza brushed against by the harbour and hosting a weekly farmers’ market. Golf, sailing, Bantry House and some humming bars and restaurants await the visitor in this southern belle and, when you’re done, the rugged peninsulas of Cork and Kerry await.
Seven Heads Walk
The Seven Heads Walk extends from Timoleague Village through Courtmacsherry, around the rugged cliffs and shore line to Dunworley and on through Barryscove and Ardgehane to Aghafore and Barry’s Hall and then back to Timoleague. The walk embraces a very interesting and varied territory in the course of its entire distance of approx. 42.5km around the peninsula. As there are several routes and circular walks one can choose a route to suit the time and energy available.
As well as the breathtaking and rugged scenery which the route embraces, there are also historical sites and a wide variety of interesting flora and fauna which varies with the time of year.
The walkway leads through a variety of different types of scenery, rocky coastlines with magnificent marine life, sandy beaches, extensive rich farm land, picturesque villages and farm yards, prolific bird life with some rare birds such as the choughs and the little egret, old woodland and hedge rows with fuchsia in abundance.
Dursey Island Loop
Dursey Island is located at the tip of the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork. Access to the island is by the only cablecar in Ireland, which takes six people or one large animal at a time! The island has very few inhabitants and no shops, pubs or restaurants – thus offering a unique experience of undisturbed tranquility. Dursey is famous for its magnificent selection of bird species and is a birdwatchers’ heaven. The island has a stark and appealing beauty, with rugged indented coastline, lofty cliffs, open bog and a patchwork of fields divided by dry stone walls and ditches. The landscape is almost treeless since few parts of the island are not exposed to strong winds and salt spray. The landscape is dotted with antiquities ranging from standing stones and early monastery to an impressive signal station from the Napoleonic era. [The cablecar operates only certain periods of the day – please check timetable and allow at least 5hrs for your trip.]
Killavullen (more correctly pronounced as Killawillin) translates as the church of the mill. The village sits astride the River Blackwater with its high gorges surmounted by castellated houses, some in ruins, some still intact. The locality abounds in amenities and many places of historical and literary interest. The modern Ballymacmoy House, the home of the Hennessy Brandy family is located on the cliff, high above the River Blackwater and Edmund Burke (1729-1797) received some of his early education in the area. This loop incorporates a short section of the Blackwater Way (a long-distance route) before ascending woodland paths and forest roads towards Corran Mountain (the third highest mountain in the Nagles Mountain range). On gaining higher ground, the walker is treated to some excellent views over the Blackwater Valley, Ballyhoura Mountains and Nagle Mountains.
Allihies Copper Mine Trail
Allihies Copper Mine Trail is a fascinating marked walking route that takes in the sites of the old copper mines around beautiful Allihies on the wild Beara Peninsula. The trail is freely accessible by the public and is open all year round. The trail takes in the mines, man-made reservoirs and gunpowder magazine, Ballydonegan Beach and there are spectacular mountain and sea views. A detailed map of the trail is available from Allihies Copper Mine Museum in Allihies village.
Allihies Copper Mine Museum (see link) can also be visited, which tells the story of the lives of the miners and the technologies they employed. It offers a retail outlet, café and audio visual presentation.
Knockadoon Head Looped Walk
Cliff, track and road walk. Beware of dangerous cliffs.
Baltimore Heritage Trail
Enjoy a walk through the historic village of Baltimore. Each plaque on the trail lists dates & specific information about buildings or locations.
Baltimore’s sheltered harbour has attracted settlers since Neolithic times (there is a passage grave, ca 3,500 BC on an island near Reengaroga causeway). Some say that the village was a Druidical centre in pre-Christian times. A ring fort (enclosed farmstead) dating from the early Christian era is located SE of the Lifeboat Station (but overgrown and inaccessible).
In the 16th century the village was a significant fishing harbour with links to France and Spain. Pilchard fishing was important in the 17th century, with involvement of fishermen from SW England. Baltimore received a town charter in 1613 when it was part of the Carbery Estate and had two MP’s up to 1800 when the charter was forfeited.
On 20th June 1631 Algerian pirates descended on the village, killed two people and carried 109 others off to slavery in North Africa. They were guided in by a man called Hackett who was later executed in Cork. After this infamous “Sack of Baltimore” some of the locals decided to move upriver to a safer location and founded the town of Skibbereen.
Sailing and yachting became much more popular after the Emergency and tourism started to increase dramatically.
Hungry Hill Looped Walk
This climb up the highest hill in the Beara Penninsula includes a scramble across blocks of sandstone to a pair of hidden mountain loughs and amazing views over Cork and Kerry.
Youghal Historic Town Walk
Though its name derives from ‘Eochaill’, meaning Yew Wood in Irish, Youghal is very much an Anglo -Norman town. Its lands were granted by Henry II to Robert Fitzstephen in 1177 and its wonderful 13th Century walls are amongst the best preserved in Ireland. The walls, most intact on the landward side of town, are the focus of one of Youghal’s heritage trails, the 2 kilometres Town Wall Walk. This trail also covers the walled Base Town, a 15th Century extension tacked onto the Main Town to protect a new harbour. It’s small, but perfectly formed.
Youghal’s best known landmark is also a feature of the old town, its Clock Gate Tower. The tower once separated the Main and Base towns and though the current structure dates from 1777, it was formerly fortified with towers and a portcullis. The Water Gate is a similar highlight.
Other heritage trails in Youghal include a Historic Core Walk (3 kilometres), a Graveyard Trail (1.5 kilometres) and a Medieval Garden Walk (1.5 kilometres). The Historic Core Walk knits itself through 13th and 16th Century buildings including Tynte’s Castle, a tower house named for a former Sheriff of Cork.
The most famous name associated with Youghal is Sir Walter Raleigh. He became mayor of the town after helping to suppress rebellion during the plantation of Munster. Raleigh’s gabled home, Myrtle Grove, remains in great shape as a private residence and legend has it that Ireland’s first potatoes were planted here (Raleigh may have smoked its first tobacco here, too).
Other heritage treats include the Medieval Church of St. Mary (the largest of its kind in Ireland), the walled college gardens and Youghal’s fine Georgian and Victorian streetscape. The town doubled as New Bedford in John Huston’s film version of Moby Dick (1956), starring Gregory Peck.
Today, Youghal wins hearts as both a seaside resort and heritage town, with two Blue Flag beaches and the River Blackwater offering a host of aquatic adventures and seaside treats nearby.