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What Are The Best Places to Visit on a West Cork Road Trip?

Discover things to do in West Cork Ireland. Take a road trip to West Cork and explore all the best places to see. Get destination ideas in West Cork.

For those of us living in Dublin, 2020 is the year of the Ireland staycation. 

We got a taste of West Cork a few years ago and have always wanted to go back and further explore the far reaches of Ireland's south west coast, so we embarked on a summer West Cork Ireland road trip. 

It's hard to believe, but after 10 years in Ireland, at 8 days, this trip to County Cork is the longest we've ever embarked on in Ireland. 

Let's hop in the car and explore West Cork along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

West Cork Ireland - Baltimore Beacon

West Cork Ireland Road Trip Map

Click on the map below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to learn more about the route we took and places we visited on our West Cork Ireland staycation road trip.

Deciding Where to Stay in West Cork

This trip to West Cork was our first overnight trip in nearly 5 months. Where to stay and accommodation safety in light of the pandemic were top of mind. 

Let's discuss the conditions we encountered and how seriously hotels are taking guest safety during the coronavirus pandemic. We stayed in 2 different hotels: one in Clonakilty and one in Bantry. 

We also considered breaking up the drive with a third overnight stop on the drive home from West Cork to Dublin but in the end, we decided that the risk of staying in a third place outweighed the benefits of breaking up the long drive. 

Note: the Dublin to West Cork drive is long by Ireland standards (4-5 hours) but would be considered quite short in other countries like the U.S.

We weren't sure what we would encounter on our trip so we brought sanitizing wipes with us and made sure to wipe down all hard surfaces in the room. We generally put the Do Not Disturb on the door to forego daily room cleaning.

Emmet Hotel

Our first stop was the Emmet Hotel in Clonakilty. We had originally planned this trip for March but the pandemic and lockdown spoiled those plans. 

Instead of completely replanning the trip, we opted to just move our reservation. The Emmet Hotel is nice, it's comfortable, but (and this is a big but), I think they could have done more to reassure guests that they were taking their safety and security seriously. 

In fact, if we had been planning this trip from scratch, we likely would have chosen somewhere else to stay. What were the issues? 

No COVID-19 policy was posted on the website. The pandemic, in fact, was not acknowledged at all. My husband wrote to the Emmet Hotel to ask what they would be doing to ensure guest safety. "Of course, we are following all the guidelines", they said. 

In response to our inquiry, they added the certification that they had gone through the Irish government's safety and hygiene program to their website which is fine and somewhat reassuring but still leaves guests wondering about what they are doing specifically to ensure safety. They were basically asking for us to trust them and during these challenging times, that's hard to do. 

Given that the incidence of the virus was low in this part of Ireland, we went through with our reservation. There was indeed hand sanitizer at all the entrances to the building and to the corridor with the hotel rooms. 

Socially distant seating had been implemented in the breakfast room with outdoor seating available under a canopy which we made use of. On the downside, there was no plexiglas partition at reception and none of the staff (reception, cleaning, nor food service) were wearing masks at the time of our visit. 

The person at reception showed us to our room and proceeded to point out how the room and even the key had been sanitized as they walked into our room

The Maritime Hotel Bantry

In contrast to our experience in Clonakilty, it was clear to us from the start that the Maritime Hotel Bantry was taking COVID-19 safety and hygiene very seriously. Their website featured a comprehensive COVID-19 policy which detailed the exact policies and practices that guests and hotel staff would follow. This included:

  • scheduled times for breakfast with socially-distanced seating
  • all food service staff were wearing masks
  • a one way system to enter and exit the premises with hand sanitizer prominently situated at the entrance
  • touchless check-in / check-out
  • detailed sanitization procedures posted in the rooms
  • a sticker that would break when the door was opened to ensure new arrivals that no one had been in there after the room was sanitized. 

West Cork Ireland - COVID-19 Sanitization Seal at the Maritime Hotel in Bantry

The only additional thing that I would have liked to see would be cleaning staff wearing masks and gloves (more in concern for staff rather than ourselves). The Maritime Hotel in Bantry was not doing daily cleanings anyway due to the pandemic and we opted to just leave the Do Not Disturb sign on the door for our entire stay.

It was nice to feel this sense that we'd entered a haven of safety and security after a day out and about exploring West Cork. The Maritime Hotel even had a residents' bar where guests would order freshly pulled pints of Guinness to drink in their rooms (pubs not serving food were still closed across Ireland at the time we took our West Cork road trip).

Other Practical Considerations For a Road Trip During The COVID-19 Pandemic

We've found that you need to put more thought and planning into a trip during the pandemic than you may have in the Before Times. Think about controlling your intake of liquid (pack some chocolate-covered espresso beans for a caffeine hit without filling your bladder. 

Speaking of bladders, research where you might stop for a toilet break en route. We were ideally looking for somewhere off the beaten path (less crowds) and clean facilities. 

We stopped for a stretch break in Johnstown near Kilkenny. Johnstown seemed like it may have been a thriving town before the motorways came through. Now it's a quiet village. 

We discovered picnic tables on the main square and stopped here to eat the picnic we'd brought from home. We stopped at the Inver petrol station to use the loo. 

That one mid-point pitstop served us well and we were able to complete the drive from Dublin to West Cork without additional comfort stops.

You'll also need to consider what to pack. Road trips are nice because in general you'll be less constrained on luggage space than you would be on a holiday involving a flight. 

Pack a selection of washable cotton or disposable masks and individual plastic zipper bags to carry them in. Ideally you'll want to change you mask once a day if you go with a reusable cotton mask. 

If you don't have enough, bring some detergent to wash the masks out in the sink at your hotel. Make sure to pack plenty of hand sanitizer and anti-microbial wipes. Bring multiple varieties that you can use on your hands and on surfaces.

Of course, research the COVID protocols for hotels, restaurants, and attractions you are planning to visit. You'll want to make sure things are open during the pandemic to avoid disappointment. 

If you aren't satisfied with the information on the website, give the place a call to find out more about the precautions they are taking to keep you safe. If you don't feel they are taking things seriously or doing enough, vote with your feet and don't go there. Don't let your guard down simply because you are on holiday.

Now that we've talked about the all-important pandemic safety information, let's talk about all the cool things to do in West Cork!

Clonakilty and Around

We started our trip in Clonakilty, a town of less than 5000 people. Despite its small population, Clonakilty is one of the largest towns in West Cork. 

Clonakilty is closer to Cork City than Skibbereen or Bantry and thus a good starting point for a West Cork road trip for those traveling from Dublin. We found that Clonakilty is a great home base for exploring the West Cork region.


On our way to Clon, we stopped in Courtmacsherry, just down the coast from Timoleague, and took a quiet seaside walk. 

We sat by the sea and had a little picnic near a memorial to the Lusitania which was torpedoed and sank just off the coast of West Cork during World War I. Courtmacsherry also featured quaint and colorful shopfronts, and stunning views to photograph.

West Cork Ireland - Model of the Lusitania in Courtmacsherry

Clonakilty Town

After we arrived in Clonakilty, we set out for a walk. It takes less than 30 minutes to walk all the central streets of Clon. We joined West Cork shoppers to browse stores featuring local crafts (only entering after donning a mask, of course!) 

Other highlights of our visit to Clonakilty include trying an oatmilk cappuccino made with beans roasted on the premises at Stone Valley Roasters. Don't be surprised if you see a tractor or two driving through the heart of Clonakilty. This is all part of the charm of the West of Ireland.

West Cork Ireland - tractor in Clonakilty Town

We absolutely loved the colorful shopfronts. Of course, it was a bit of a sad sight to see Mick Finn's, a local pub, with kegs out front but the doors closed. 

I suspect that they had gotten a delivery in the hopes of opening on August 10th. Sadly, pub re-openings have been delayed until at least Sept 1 due to the ongoing pandemic.West Cork Ireland - Mick Finn's Pub In Clonakilty

Clonakilty Doors

Those who follow me on Instagram know that I absolutely love the doors of Dublin. It turns out that Dublin doesn't have a monopoly on beautiful doors. I found an amazing trio of yellow doors in Clonakilty that simply made me smile.

West Cork Ireland - Yellow Doors in Clonakilty

I do love doors, but have to say that taxidermy in the fanlight might be a bit much. That was exactly what I spotted though in a door on Emmet Square.West Cork Ireland Door

Dinner at Indulge

The pandemic has made things that were previously mundane, extraordinary. Prior to this trip, we had only eaten indoors at a restaurant one time in Dublin (and we were the only ones there). 

For our vacation in West Cork, we decided that it was clear that Indulge Restaurant was taking things very seriously and their food was highly rated so we decided to vote with our feet and have dinner there. 

We really appreciated the attention to detail during these challenging times. Our temperature was checked on the way in. There were Plexiglas partitions between tables and the staff were wearing face masks. Oh, and the food was yummy including plenty of Clonakilty black pudding.West Cork Ireland - Pork belly with Clonakilty black pudding at Indulge

West Cork Model Railway Village

West Cork Model Railway Village is within walking distance of the centre of Clonakilty. Experience the trains that connected the towns of West Cork in the mid- to late-19th century in miniature. 

You'll need to make a reservation in advance and West Cork Model Railway Village operates a one-way system to keep guests safe and at an appropriate social distance. 

The majority of exhibits are outdoors so dress for the weather. The Model Railway Museum in Clonakilty sits on an inlet that at low tide hosts a variety of birds. Bonus! West Cork Model Railway Village

A West Cork Beach Drive

Clonakilty is a 30 minute drive on narrow country roads to the South Coast of Ireland and features some stunning beaches. Spend the day taking a relaxing drive. 

Red Strand Beach in particular offers great views. Sit on the rocks and listen to the wind and waves lapping the shore.West Cork Ireland - Red Strand Beach

Walk along the beach and about the dunes at Long Strand Beach in West Cork. West Cork Ireland - Long Strand Beach

Time your visit to Long Strand Beach to coincide with lunch. Here you'll find The Fish Basket, a delicious chipper great for supplying a scenic outdoor meal. 

We really appreciated the seriousness of their COVID precautions and felt very safe. The Fish Basket operated a one-way system, only allowed one member per party to queue (and come prepared to queue; this place is popular), and only let a limited number of people inside. 

You wait in designated areas cordoned off by tape on the floor. The Fish Basket also has a nice, clean toilet which is a plus. There are not many amenities along this stretch of coast on a West Cork road trip.

West Cork Ireland - Fish and Chips from the Fish Basket in Long Strand

Drombeg Stone Circle

On the return from the beaches, take a detour at Rosscarbery to visit Drombeg Stone Circle. Getting to Drombeg Stone Circle in West Cork is an adventure in itself. 

Proceed for 600 m on a very narrow local road and pray that you don't encounter a car coming the other way. The white-knuckled ride is worth it though to see this ancient burial ground. Drombeg Stone Circle is like Stonehenge without the crowds. West Cork Ireland - Drombeg Stone Circle

Taste West Cork Whiskey at Clonakilty Distillery

Return to Clonakilty after a day exploring the beaches and take a very educational tour of Clonakilty Distillery. We learned about pot still whiskey making, gin distillation, and even saw a tiny gin distillation apparatus that before the pandemic was used for gin-making parties.

Who says there is no craic in Ireland due to COVID? We enjoyed a lovely exclusive whiskey tasting at Clonakilty Distillery, met some lovely people (masked and at a distance, of course), and picked out bottles of whiskey and gin to take back to Dublin. 

Tours are limited to 8 people, masks are encouraged, and the tasting is held at tables placed at least 2 meters apart. For the tasting and the video exhibition introducing the distillery, you take a laminated card on the seat and put it on the floor to indicate that the chair needs to be cleaned and sanitized before the next use.

West Cork Ireland - Clonakilty Distillery

Michael Collins House Museum

We made a date with Irish History with a 10 am appointment to tour Michael Collins House in Clonakilty. Collins is known for the role he played in Irish independence from England and in the civil war that followed in the early 1920s. 

Michael Collins negotiated the controversial treaty that gave us the political landscape of Ireland that we know today with the island split between the Republic of Ireland (independent) and Northern Ireland (still part of the UK). 

Michael Collins was assassinated during the Irish Civil War at just 30 years of age in an ambush laid out on the roads of West Cork. 

To learn more about the history beyond the museum, watch Michael Collins featuring Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts.

West Cork Ireland - Michael Collins House Museum


We made a short visit to Rosscarbery on our West Cork road trip. I simply loved the colors of the main square in Rosscarbery. 

Note that Rosscarbery sits atop a hill so beware if you are driving a car with a manual transmission and if you don't have a lot of experience with a clutch.Blue and Pink Facade in Rosscarbery West Cork Ireland

Drive Clonakilty to Mizen Head

Mizen Head has the distinction of being the southerwesternmost point in Ireland. It takes approximately an hour and a half to drive to Mizen Head Signal Station from Clonakilty; a great day out.

Altar Wedge Tomb on the Wild Atlantic Way

We stopped to stretch our legs and admire the Altar Wedge Tomb and sea views en route to Mizen Head along the Wild Atlantic Way. 

Looking for West Cork hidden gems? This is one of them! Where else but Ireland can you find a burial site thousands of years old at the side of the road.West Cork Ireland - Altar Wedge Tomb

Given how old the Altar Wedge Tomb is, I was flabbergasted when I saw someone cycle up  and park their bike against it. I asked them to move it on the pretense that I wanted to take this photo, but I really just wanted to protect the site from clueless people. 

In addition to the historic site, you'll also find stunning sea views.

West Cork Ireland - sea views at Altar Wedge Tomb on the Wild Atlantic Way

Mizen Head Signal Station

We couldn't have asked for better weather during our visit to Mizen Head. Pro-tip: time your trip to arrive when Mizen Head opens at 10 am to avoid the crowds.West Cork Ireland - Mizen Head Cliffs

Cross the Mizen Bridge and take the stairs up to a vantage point where you can admire the craggy cliffs and catch a glimpse of the Ring of Beara and Sheep's Head Peninsula.West Cork Ireland - Mizen Head Bridge

I definitely recommend going to the popular places at Mizen Head first to beat the crowds. You'll need to wear a mask to visit the Mizen Head Signal Station. 

We really appreciated the COVID precautions which included mask wearing and a one-way system for the indoor attractions. 

We were surprised by how. much wildlife we saw at Mizen Head! Keep your eyes peeled! We spotted a pod of playful dolphins, seals, jellyfish, and even a curious rabbit. Unfortunately, we didn't see any whales.

West Cork Ireland - Wildlife at Mizen Head

It's steep but worth climbing down to see the sea arch at Mizen Head. There are also some nice views of the Mizen Head Signal Station on the way.West Cork Ireland - Mizen Head Signal Station

You need nerves of steel to drive to and from Mizen Head. The road is so narrow. On our way out, there was so much traffic coming in that we had to play a sort of Tetris to leave. 

It was genuinely nerve-wracking! If I leave you with one piece of advice, GO EARLY to avoid the stress.


On the return drive from Mizen Head to Clonakilty, we stopped on a whim for a short and sweet nature hike in Ballydehob. In addition to being a great spot to stretch your legs, you'll also find great photo ops of the old stone railway bridge that now forms part of the trail.West Cork Ireland - Old Railway Bridge in Ballydehob


We made a final pitstop in Skibbereen on the way back to Clonakilty. Keep an eye out for some lovely West Cork crafts and plenty of colorful storefronts that are particularly vibrant in the sun. 

Supposedly there are two kinds of weather in West Cork: raining or about to rain. We most definitely got lucky on our West Cork road trip!West Cork Ireland - Shopfront in Skibbereen

We tried to minimize our risk by not eating out too much on our trip to West Cork. Skibbereen is home to Field's of Skibbereen (now SuperValu). Pick up supplies for cheese sandwich on dense Fields of Skibbereen white sliced pan served up with bottles of Clonakilty craft beer.

Baltimore and Around

Another popular West Cork destination is Baltimore, a tiny seaside village and port for ferries serving nearby islands like Sherkin Island. Baltimore is about a 45 minute drive on regional roads from Clonakilty.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Are you interested in exploring more of County Cork? Why not consider a Dublin to Kinsale road trip, a weekend full of things to do in Cork City (one of the top cities in Ireland), Cork City photowalks, or a visit from Cork to Cobh with all its Titanic history?

Baltimore Village

We spent the day in Baltimore as an essential stop on our West Cork road trip. Too bad the castle was closed due to the pandemic. 

We had been looking forward to learning more about the pirates who sacked the area in the 17th century. However, we did find and buy a book about the sacking of Baltimore at a local craft shop so that's some consolation. We also found some lovely crafts and beautiful flowers lining the footpaths leading to the sea.

Baltimore Beacon

It takes about 30 minutes to hike to Baltimore Beacon from Baltimore Village. When you get to the end of the road, the trail isn't well marked. Be prepared to scramble up the rocks. Hiking boots are advised. 

We absolutely loved the windswept views! Baltimore Beacon was originally built by the British government in the 17th century as part of a series of lighthouses and beacons meant to serve as a warning system in the wake of the 1798 Rebellion.West Cork Ireland - Baltimore Beacon

If you visit Baltimore Beacon in the summer like we did, the wildflowers growing nearby really make it pop on a foggy summer morning. We found so many amazing photography spots in West Cork and Baltimore Beacon was definitely one of our favorites.

A Michelin-star-worthy Lunch at Dede

After our invigorating walk to Baltimore Beacon, we returned to the village and had a scrumptious lunch at Dede at the Customs House. 

Renowned Chef Ahmet Dede brings Michelin-star skill and Turkish influence to fresh West Cork ingredients. Sit in the courtyard and devour delicious rotisserie chicken, succulent ribs, and fresh salads in the outdoor garden.

Lough Hyne

While Baltimore was the main attraction of the day, we decided to take a short detour on the return to Clonakilty to see Lough Hyne. The narrow road around Lough Hyne was lined with families and other visitors soaking in the sun and taking a swim. 

We had a nice socially distant chat with a fellow from Liverpool who has been living in the area for 30 years. His opener: have you taken a dip yet? Us: Nope! Didn't bring our togs.


We took another short detour on the return to Clonakilty: Castletownshend. Beware that the town is hilly if you are not experienced driving a manual transmission. The drive can be unnerving. 

The castle grounds were closed due to the pandemic but climb the hill above it and wander the grounds of St. Barrahane's Church and cemetery. We took the opportunity to peer into the church windows to see the stained glass illuminated by the sun for a brief moment.West Cork Ireland - Castletownshend

Bantry and Around

We spent the second half of our West Cork Ireland road trip in Bantry, another town of less than 5000 people. Bantry is a colorful and historic town in the far reaches of West Cork. 

It was here that Wolfe Tone attempted to land French sourced arms and troops in 1796 to support an Irish uprising against centuries of British rule.West Cork Ireland - Wolfe Tone Square in Bantry

Bantry House and Gardens

The main attraction in Bantry is definitely Bantry House and Gardens. Our West Cork road trip coincided with my birthday so we booked in for a picnic. 

Call ahead to arrange for a picnic basket (27 EUR and worth every penny). Our picnic basket included fresh sandwiches, crisps, and a fresh-baked brownie and lemon square plus two juices or cloudy lemonade. We couldn't have asked for better weather for our picnic.West Cork Ireland - Picnic at Bantry House and Gardens

Work off that rich and decadent lunch by taking a walk through the garden. Ascend steep and uneven staircases through the garden to reach terraces offering spectacular views of the gardens and sea beyond.

Bantry House is currently closed for tours due to the pandemic but the gardens are open. There is a 6 EUR entry fee paid into an honesty box near the carpark.West Cork Ireland - Bantry House and Gardens

Wharton's Fish and Chips 

That evening, we braved the queue at Wharton's Fish and Chips in Bantry. It was clear that this was the place to be. 

We waited between 20-30 minutes at 8 pm on a Wednesday but it was very worth it for the hand-cut chips and freshly battered and fried fish. There is limited outdoor seating available but we decided we felt safer eating back in our room. 

West Cork Ireland - Wharton's Fish and Chips in Bantry

While we waited for our food, we followed the sound of rushing water. Bantry features a re-creation of a historic mill located next to the library. The fast-moving water was just so soothing to listen to.West Cork Ireland - Water mill in Bantry

Bantry Bay Sunsets

The great thing about traveling around Ireland in the summer is the long days. We finished our day with lovely sunset views over Bantry Bay. I knew I would sleep well that night after imbibing all that fresh sea air!

West Cork Ireland: Bantry sunset

Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve

We generally got lucky with the weather during our West Cork road trip. The weather was a little iffy on one of our days in Bantry, so we decided to take it easy and just do a hike in Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve. 

Beware that there are no facilities but the trails are lovely even in the rain. We took the River Trail to the Big Meadow Trail in about an hour. 

We were feeling ambitious so we climbed to Lady Bantry's Lookout. We were were surprised and delighted to find a plucky little goat peering back at us at the top. That alone made every step of our hike worth it!West Cork Ireland: Goat on a hill in Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve

Lunch at Manning Emporium

We made a pitstop between Glengarriff and Bantry for lunch. We enjoyed vegan carrot cake, coffee, and artisanal sandwiches (steak, gorgonzola, and onion jam plus the last Chicken Caesar) at Manning Emporium. 

We definitely appreciated their stringent COVID-19 safety precautions which included a one way system through the shop and laminated cards to indicate that the table had been cleaned and sanitized. They also took our name and number for contact tracing should the need arise.Manning Emporium in West Cork Ireland

Room Service Pints

Pubs weren't open during our trip due to the pandemic so a rainy afternoon was the perfect time to relax back at the Maritime Hotel with a pint of Guinness. You can pick up pints at the Residents' Bar to consume in your room. 

That Guinness was even more delicious once I realized they are only charging 4.60 EUR a pint. We were definitely not in Dublin anymore!

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Do you have more time to spend in the West of Ireland and are you looking for other nearby Ireland road trip ideas? You could drive the Ring of Kerry or explore Slea Head drive around the Dingle Peninsula in nearby County Kerry. Waterville Ireland is a great home base for exploring this part of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Bantry Market

Bantry hosts a weekly market on Fridays on Wolfe Tone Square. The first Friday of the month features additional vendors selling bric-a-brac. 

We enjoyed a spelt muffin from a local baker. We also spotted a fun and appropo planter in front of the public toilets. 

West Cork Ireland: Street art and toilet turned into a flower planter

Garinish Island

Garinish Island is another must-see attraction if you're staying in Bantry. Drive to Glengarriff and take a quick but scenic boat ride on Harbour Queen Ferries from Glengarriff to Garinish Island. West Cork Ireland: Seals near Garnish Island

The ferry costs 14 EUR pp and staff were wearing masks plus there was socially distanced seating on the boat. We enjoyed beautiful views and seals basking in the sun on the 15 minute ride.Harbour Queen Ferry going to Garinish Island in West Cork Ireland

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Garinish Island is operating a one way system and a 90 minute limit to ensure social distancing. We found that to be plenty of time to explore the gardens without feeling rushed. 

The walled garden on Garinish Island was an absolute gem. We also got super lucky with the weather as the sun came out as soon as we boarded the ferry after a rainy early morning.Walled Garden on Garinish Island in West Cork

Garinish Island was designed and built in the 19th century so some elements are admittedly over-the-top. We especially enjoyed the views from the marvelous Grecian Temple. The Italian garden is also jawdroppingly beautiful.

Grecian Temple on Garinish Island in West Cork Ireland

Dinner at Ocean

On our final night in Bantry, we treated ourselves to dinner at Ocean at the Maritime Hotel. We enjoyed Irish goat's cheese and poached pear salad plus sea scallops served with a side of ample social distancing. 

For our mains, we delighted in a pork fillet with mushroom sauce and baked cod with Asian-flavored sides. We managed to save room for dessert: creamy mango cake with cherry stew, and lime and lemon cheesecake with orange brandy. 

Our dinner reservation also meant that we could spend one hour before and after the meal at the Residents' Bar. We took the opportunity to drink pre- and post-dinner G and T's made with local gins: Beara (regular and pink) and Garinish Island. The Beara pink gin was surprisingly grassy.Ocean Restaurant in Bantry West Cork Ireland

Walk the Beicin Loop

No trip to Bantry is complete without a walk on the Beicin Loop. We took the opportunity to get our legs pumping with a morning walk. 
Beicin Loop Trail in Bantry West Cork Ireland
We were treated to gorgeous views on a gorgeous day. We even made a few new wooly friends along the way.
West Cork Ireland: Sheep in Bantry

The Ring of Beara

We hadn't planned to drive the Beara Peninsula on this West Cork road trip but the weather was just too good not to so we decided to make the foray. The Ring of Beara sits at the border between County Cork and County Kerry. 

We focused our drive on the Cork side of things to keep the drive manageable in the time we had available.

Aillhies on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork Ireland

We entered the Ring of Beara at Glengarriff and stopped for lunch in Castletownbere, a 30 minute drive on smooth and relatively wide roads (by Ireland standards). We took a walk through the colorful town and found picnic tables set up behind the church near the tourism office and ate a pre-packed picnic there.

Our initial plan was just to drive to Castletownbere and back but since the weather was so nice and the scenery so beautiful, we decided to drive just a little bit further down the Beara Peninsula to Allihies. It takes about 30 minutes to drive from Castletownbere to Allihies and the roads are very narrow in places. 

All I can say is WOW! The approach to Allihies Village is simply spectacular and the buildings in town feature amazing colors. You may even catch a glimpse of Skellig Michael off the coast from here.Ring of Beara Road in West Cork Ireland

Bantry to Macroom

We decided to end our West Cork road trip with a a couple pitstops on the way from Bantry to Dublin. 

Castle Donovan

First stop? Castle Donovan, a 16th century ruin that was heavily damaged by Cromwellian forces in the mid-17th century. Donovan Castle seemed to be built on an uneven slab of rock. 

These Irish castle ruins are located on a small country road and there is no official parking. Just pull over near the fence and take a look around.Castle Donovan in West Cork Ireland

Toons Bridge Dairy

We stopped at Toons Bridge Dairy for an impromptu picnic featuring fresh walnut rye bread, spicy hummus, broad bean salad, and buffalo mozzarella. The dairy is open on weekends and has a beautiful garden with a few tables so guests can sit outside. 

Toons Bridge limits the number of guests in the shop and operates a one way system to keep their guest safe during the pandemic. They also have a nice, clean toilet giving an added incentive to stop here (not that you need one!)Buffalo Mozzarella in Toonsbridge West Cork Ireland

Cheese-Making Buffalo

We drove a little way up a small local road near Toons Bridge to Macroom Buffalo Dairy. We pulled over to let a faster moving car pass us and looked up to see the local cheesemaking herd behind the gate. Just awesome.Buffalo near Macroom in West Cork Ireland


Macroom features the remains of Macroom Castle. Did you know that Macroom Castle was granted to Admiral William Penn (his son went on to found Pennsylvania in America) by Oliver Cromwell. 

The town is bustling but the atmosphere is interrupted by heavy traffic and narrow footpaths. The Macroom Castle Demesne was not what we were expecting. There is a community centre, school, and mechanic behind the walls. 

We didn't find a place to sit and picnic although perhaps if we'd walked further, we could have sat along the River Sullane.Macroom Castle in West Cork Ireland

And with that our road trip to West Cork comes to an end. I hope you've enjoyed our one week West Cork Ireland staycation road trip. We made it safely back to Dublin giving ourselves a day to relax at home before heading back to work on the Monday. Time flies when you are having fun!

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: What Are The Best Places to Visit on a West Cork Road Trip?
What Are The Best Places to Visit on a West Cork Road Trip?
Discover things to do in West Cork Ireland. Take a road trip to West Cork and explore all the best places to see. Get destination ideas in West Cork.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog