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.
Hundreds of inlets, tiny coves, safe harbours and 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 montbretia, 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 Oilean Chleire (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 brought up. He died at Beal na mBlath. 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 clod down ….it’s a place apart.
Places of Interest around Bantry
Bantry House & Gardens
Bantry House was the first Irish stately home to open its doors to the public in 1945. This Georgian house is still occupied by the descendants of Richard White who purchased it in 1739. The first Earl of Bantry, Richard White (1797 – 1851) received his title for the part he played in defending against the attempted invasion of the French Armada in 1796. The 2nd Earl of Bantry accumulated a large collection of furniture, tapestries and other works of art which are now on display to the public. Bantry House is the venue for the annual West Cork Chamber Music Festival. (Open March to October). DK Guide listed among the best buildings in Britain and Ireland in 2019.
Situated just off the mainland Whiddy Island has many interesting historcial remains including the ancient church and graveyard of Kilmore, Reenavanig Castle the first residence of the White family, locations of ‘Fish Palaces’ when the fishing industry was booming during 18th century and three gun batteries which were some of O’Sullivan Beres fortifications. The site of the First World War American Sea Plan base is still visible. Whiddy Island is the location of a crude oil storage terminal. From May to September a regular ferry operates from Bantry Pier to the island.
This small museum, run by the Bantry Historical Society, contains many artifacts of life in Bantry in the past. Open times: Tue-Fri 10.30am-4.30pm, closed for lunch: 1-2pm. Exhibits include many local artefacts
phone: 027 55564
Mizen Head & Mizen Head Visitor Centre
Mizen Head with its almost vertical cliffs and a lighthouse station, is the extreme south westerly point of Ireland. On the head, which is linked to the mainland by a suspension bridge, is the Mizen Head Visitor Centre. Here can be seen on display the fascinating story of the building of the Fastnet lighthouse plus the Keepers’ kitchen and a bedroom that have been retained to recall the lifestyles of the men of the Irish Lights. The rest of the lightkeepers’ rooms have been converted to include an audiovisual room, a map and archive
room, an underwater room, a bird and sea watch room and a storm room.
Kilnaruane Pillar Stone
Megalithic monuments and ancient standing stones are in abundance in the area. The Kilnaruane Carved Pillar Stone is located on a drumlin, a mile outside the town, close to the Westlodge Hotel on N71 route. It is a monument of early Christian times that may have formed the shaft of a High Cross. One of the panels depicts a boat with four oarsmen.
Activities To Enjoy
Lough Bofinne is three miles east of Bantry in County Cork and is regularly stocked with adult rainbow trout. It is an attractive 25 acre, clear water lake where anglers can also find the occasional pike, perch, eels and rudd.
Location: Bantry, Co. Cork. T: +353(0)26 41222
Coomhola River – The Coomhola River drains into the top of Bantry Bay in County Cork. It gets a good run of grilse every season; it also gets a small run of sea trout in July and August. Bantry, Co. Cork. T: +353(0)26 41222
HORSERIDING & TREKKING
For those who would like to view the countryside from horseback horses are available locally for trekking.
There are two walks recognised by the National Waymarked Ways Committee in the Bantry area, namely Sheep’s Head Way and Beara Way. Contact the Tourist Office.
CINEMAX. See all the latest films in 2D and 3D. (Check out our advertising panels)
Food Markets – Bantry hosts a vibrant market every Friday. Choose from local cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and meat or simply browse the stalls, keeping an eye out for precious antiques amongst the bric a brac.
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. 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.
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. Old Courthouse, Bantry. T: +353 (0)27 50229
Bantry Bay Golf Club, 2km from Bantry is a demanding 18 hole course, designed by Christy O’Connor, Jnr. 9 hole courses at Glengarriff & Castletownbere.
For those interested in watersports there is enough to wet the appetite in Bantry. Check locally with the tourist office for further information.
CYCLING – Both the Sheep’s Head Way and the Beara Way have designed cycle routes that link up with a cycle route form Cork City. Bicycles can be hired locally. Contact the Tourist Office.