In this part of the West Cork Guide we have outlined some of the main attractions of this beautiful part of the world.
There is, of course, so much more to explore once you are actually here - the Irish landscape never reveals all its secrets at once, that is why it is so fascinating, that is why there is always more to discover.
The West Cork Story:
It’s no wonder they call West Cork “A Place Apart.” Nature sets the pace in this beautiful south west corner of Ireland – stretching from smart south-coast Kinsale to three rugged westerly peninsulas reaching into the wild Atlantic: Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head and Beara.
West Cork is the place many Dubliners head for – leaving hurried city lives behind to play along the long zigzagging coastline, and walk or ride through peaceful inland woods and valleys.
Hundreds of inlets, tiny coves, safe harbours and blue-flag beaches are just right for long active days in the salty air – learning to sail, surfing, diving, whale watching, island-hopping, bird spotting, kayaking on a salt-water lake in the moonlight, messing about in boats. Or simply eating a fresh crab sandwich on a quayside.
Thanks to its gentle and generous Nature, this corner has a wonderful food culture. West Cork’s farmers, award-winning artisan producers and chefs are leading Ireland’s culinary revolution. From traditional pubs to world-class restaurants, at local farmers’ markets, and long-established food festivals, you can enjoy great food right across West Cork.
There’s something restorative about the temperate climate and sub-tropical gardens, the tranquil lanes thick with fuchsia and monbretia, the sudden glimpses of water through the trees, the shifting light, and the soft greens, greys and violets of bays and distant mountains.
There’s edge-of-the-world drama too: climbing up to a mountain pass through ever-changing weather, crossing the bridge to the end of Mizen Head with the Atlantic crashing below, or taking the cable car to Dursey Island - one of over a hundred West Cork islands. Seven of these are inhabited, including Ireland’s most southerly community on Oiléan Chléire (Cape Clear) “the storytellers’ island”, where Irish is spoken as a first language, and there’s an independent way of life.
Beyond Cape Clear, the imposing Fastnet Lighthouse stands on a rock known as Ireland’s tear drop – for emigrants to the new world, this was their last sight of their native land. The whole coast echoes with history – ancient sites, ruined castles, coastal forts, copper mines. Cork is proudly ‘the rebel county’ and it was here, at Clonakilty, that Michael Collins – ‘the Big Fella’ – was born.
West Cork is both very Irish and quite cosmopolitan – for many have ‘blown-in’ on the winds and stayed to make this beautiful place their home. There’s a strong creative community here. Arts and crafts, storytelling and traditional music thrive – as do scores of cultural festivals.
People here value the good things in life. It feels warm-hearted and kind. It’s a place that takes its time and helps us to slow down … It’s A Place Apart.
So, the three sections listed here show just some of the highlights you'll find in visiting us. Allow plenty of time, there's no rush, and this is a place of pleasant, accidental discoveries, a place where you never know what's waiting round the bend or down the street. And be prepared to get sidetracked, that's another of the delights of being in West Cork...