West Cork is a beautiful and wild place. It has dramatic sea views, rolling green hills dotted with sheep, and incredible food. Though much of it is on the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s still pretty off the beaten track as far as tourist crowds go. So if you find yourself in this neck of the woods, what should you do? This is not an exhaustive list by any means as I tend to spend a large part of my visits on the Union Hall playground with my nephew, but it encompasses my favorite spots all over!
- Start in Kinsale, a beautiful seaside town with loads of Irish charm and lots to see. There’s a charming park for kids too! Head to the Lemon Leaf Cafe and sit in their back garden with some tea and local, healthy dishes.
- Don’t miss Clonakilty, one of my favorite Irish towns. It’s not just me, it was recognized as the “Best Town in Europe” in 2017! Grab some fish & chips at the Chubby Chipper, then head to de barra’s pub. Take in the cozy and quintessentially Irish setting, order a Guinness, and then scan the photos on the wall to see all the wildly famous people who have played here: Bowie! Springsteen! McCartney! Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar player owned a house nearby and brought all his friends here.
- Next stop: Rosscarbery for some beauty and quiet. Set on an estuary that opens onto a beautiful bay, it’s a quiet but lovely town. For a look at the wild Atlantic (you’re on the WAW, after all!) head to Warren Beach and take in its raw splendor.
- Head over to Skibbereen for some more food (yes I am always eating!) and Irish history. Skibb was one of the towns in Ireland hit hardest by the potato famines, and you can visit the Skibbereen Heritage Centre to learn more. Jeremy Irons lives in the area, and narrates many of the audio tours at the Centre. Stop at Kalbo’s Cafe for tea and lunch.
- Finally, if you’re still with me, head to the tiny town of Union Hall! Take in the fishing pier and small, lovely beach and then hit the coffee shop for some good Irish grub. If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of the Union Hall Walks (you’ll see maps all over town) and be rewarded with some incredible views of the countryside. Once you’re back, reward yourself with a few pints at the Boatman’s Pub in town. For a more upscale dinner and some stunning views, head over the bridge to the upscale town of Glandore and order some seafood at the Glandore Inn.