33 reasons to fall in love with West Cork (in Images)

by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth on September 17, 2014 · 21 comments

Glengariff, County Cork, Ireland  I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

It’s been just over a week I finished bicycling along the Wild Atlantic Way, and getting into a routine of doing work indoors has been surprisingly difficult, when compared to how easy it was to slip into the habit of getting up, fuelling with cooked breakfast and sitting on the bike saddle, day after day.

But I need to take you back to West Cork as promised. If Kerry is called the Kingdom, Cork with its Rebel County label couldn’t have a better name to itself.

Rebel County. I’m still unsure of where that name comes from, but from the moment we entered West Cork with its graffiti stained “Cork” sign (the graffiti said “rebels”, not surprisingly…) we were taken over by these rebels with their lyrical accent and sort of good-natured cheekiness, keen to show what was best in their county. I’m kind of surprised they let us cross the border out of Cork in the end.

“So what do you think of West Cork? Isn’t it the best yet, along the Wild Atlantic Way? You’ll write that down, won’t you?”

Well. There has been so many good memories packed into our five weeks in Ireland that I won’t go as far as to say it was the best. But I have to admit, we couldn’t have had a better finish to our trip!

I’ve been trying to make sense of what went down in West Cork for days now but mostly failing miserably, so for now I thought I’d let the images do the talking and you can decide for yourself. All of these places deserve more than a mention and an image or two, but I got to start somewhere. And if these West Cork filled images don’t rock your boat, there’s more to come once I get to the Island Life and food in West Cork…

Pedals & Boots Café I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

If you’ve seen this bike, you know it’s quite not in Cork yet, but along the Ring of Beara in Lauragh, not too far from Kenmare. There’s whole lot of biking and hiking to do in this area and from the Pedals and Boots Café website you can get ideas and information for the area. 

Ring of Beara, Wild Atlantic Way I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Ring of Beara, Wild Atlantic Way I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

IMG_6411

Ring of Beara, Wild Atlantic Way I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

IMG_6418

Ring of Beara, Wild Atlantic Way I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Ring of Beara, Wild Atlantic Way I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

I know the Kerry people might come after me now but I have to say it. Ring of Beara is more interesting than the Ring of Kerry. They are both stunning scenic routes for sure, but the Ring of Beara has a kind of superior untouched feeling, there are more surprising “wow” moments and you don’t need to battle with the tour buses to get to cafés or scenic photo stops. Yet, anyway. Biking along this route has its ups and downs as it is hilly in places, but what slowed us down the most were the frequent photo stops, not surprisingly!

IMG_6515

IMG_6477

IMG_6482

Allihies, located in the very western tip of the Beara Peninsula is the last “service stop” if you are heading to the Dursey Island like we were. But to our surprise, the seemingly quiet and colourful little village had quite a lot happening on that Monday afternoon we rolled in from Kenmare. The local (gaelic) football team, Garnish GAA had just won the regional title and the celebrations were ongoing for the 2nd day in a row. If you ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, this was the moment as everyone entering O’Neills Bar & Restaurant got quite the cheerful welcome.

There’s one person I couldn’t thank you enough to make it all happen for us in West Cork and that’s Finbarr Harrington (you can find him in Twitter here), also in that picture above next to Kate. He made sure we hit all the right spots and didn’t miss out in some of the major attractions when our (read mine) route planning failed us…

IMG_6491

The thing about West Cork, and the whole Wild Atlantic Way is that it can be beautifully calm and serene one moment.

IMG_6509

IMG_6506

And slightly wilder and fantastic the next. I think I need to come back and see what’s happening here in the winter time…

IMG_4323

IMG_4320

IMG_4304

IMG_6679

There were couple of places we were told we could not leave with out seeing and the first one of them was Sheep’s Head Peninsula. Did we see it? Yes, in a “it’s ticked of the list” kind of way, but we did not have time to experience it in any meaningful way. All I can say is that the tip of the peninsula was an amazingly peaceful place on a sunny non-windy day like we saw it, and I just wish we had more time to go and explore. There are whole lot of hiking routes and a cycling route too along the peninsula, for more information see the The Sheep’s Head Way website.

IMG_6683

IMG_6696

IMG_6701

IMG_6695

IMG_6710

The other one of the peninsula’s that was an absolute must on our adventure was the Mizen Head, which is also one of the Signature Discovery Points along the Wild Atlantic Way. And as far as the “big attractions” on this route go, one of my personal favourites (along few others…). What you can find there is a must-see signal station, spectacular cliffs, well thought-out visitor centre and good café. And apparently if you spend bit of time gazing at the sea, there is a good chance you could spot whales, dolphins or a plethora of maritime birds.

IMG_1771

IMG_4443

IMG_4477

We met some lovely people along the way who joined us for a bike ride including Ciara from the Cork Airport (in the picture above), but maybe the best “only in Ireland” moment was when we accidentally came across the Clonakilty Charity Cycle crew in Clonakilty. “Are you the lady we heard in the radio, biking the Wild Atlantic Way?” might stay as my claim to fame for the rest of my life, and so we got approached by these gentlemen when looking for the perfect spot for lunch in this West Cork town. Instead of lunch, we ended up cramming in a huge selection of cakes and scones at their charity event, and then even convinced few of the ladies and gents to join us on our last day of cycle! Plus we got an airport police escort to Kinsale organised by Cork Airport, another first for sure!

IMG_6681

There were the beaches, looking straight like a postcard from Mediterranean if I only cropped the sand and the sea in view. This one was close to the Mizen Head in Barley Cove.

IMG_7208

IMG_7187

IMG_7124

IMG_7204

IMG_7116

And finally there was the perfect finish for our tour. Kinsale.

When planning the trip the question besides which way to go, from north to south or the opposite, was whether we’d stay in Kinsale, or head to Cork. I am so happy we stayed put in Kinsale, as this small fishing town was just the perfect size for a weekend of relaxation, good food, long massage and plenty of sleep.

Can I go back now!? This time the family could come too…

Images: Kate Cornfield & Satu Vänskä-Westgarth

Highlights and Information

Start here for general information:

To get a good night’s sleep:

For Interesting Activities:

Ride Wild 2014 is supported by Ireland Tourism, North West Adventure Tours, Skimbaco Lifestyle and Birk Sport, see all the partners here

Related posts:

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Sanket D. September 17, 2014 at 8:58 AM

I don’t know what to say to you! I’m really jealous AND glad that you had the time and inclination to cycle your way through Ireland. I more or less took the same entire route that you have throughout your journey with the slight difference that I was driving instead of cycling – and trust me, I kept realizing with each passing day how the cyclists and walkers are more fortunate because it gives them that much more time to stop and just watch the Creator play his magic!
West Cork by far was probably my favorite place in all of Ireland – the serenity, the comparatively virgin hamlets, the landscapes, the lighthouses, every inch as pretty as Kerry/Dingle but so much more quieter and local! I’m glad you managed a pitstop at O’Neill’s – always some friendly folk to run int there! :)
Have a look! Sanket D. recently posted..Nomad’s Guide to South Island, New ZealandMy Profile

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 18, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Ha ha, thanks Sanket! That coastal route for sure is amazing no matter how it is traveled, I wouldn’t mind going back with a car either to get to my favourite spots easily and then renting bikes or going for small hikes. And O’Neill’s is definitely a great spot!
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..33 reasons to fall in love with West Cork (in Images)My Profile

Reply

Hilda September 18, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Ah Satu,
Never mind going back to Cork. When you come back in the car, you gotta come back to Mayo – you didn’t get to try out half the amazing activities we have here, nor had you time to come out to Clare Island. I promise you won’t regret that!

And Sanket – did you also miss out on Mayo? If so, you gotta come back too!!

Hilda.

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 18, 2014 at 10:23 PM

Hilde, love the rivalry… :) I know, we only got a snapshot of Mayo too, so many places to return to!! Claire Island is on the list!
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..33 reasons to fall in love with West Cork (in Images)My Profile

Reply

Sanket D. September 25, 2014 at 8:05 AM

Hilda,
I managed to see Mayo, albeit very briefly…more or less breezed past! The fag end of my stay was just unbelievably hurried…we spent far too much time from in Cork, Kerry & Galway…I hope to come back some day, especially for the islands!
Have a look! Sanket D. recently posted..Nomad’s Guide to South Island, New ZealandMy Profile

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 25, 2014 at 10:37 AM

“far too much time” – I wish I’d had that problem!! :)
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..Ireland One More Time – Mysterious Atlantic ArchipelagoMy Profile

Angus O Connor September 17, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Great images. Great adventure.Well done to all.

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 18, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Thanks Angus, and thanks for joining us for the grand finale!!
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..33 reasons to fall in love with West Cork (in Images)My Profile

Reply

patricia messom September 17, 2014 at 9:18 PM

I’m from West Cork and I love what you’ve written…

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 18, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Thank you Patricia, really appreciate it! Loved the area and hope to be back soon….
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..33 reasons to fall in love with West Cork (in Images)My Profile

Reply

Ali Davies September 19, 2014 at 6:09 AM

I lived in West Cork for 7 years before moving to Vancouver Canada last year. We lived in Kinsale for the first year and Clonakilty for the remianing six. There is so much I still miss about living in West Cork and your photos juty reminded me how special a place it is. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
Have a look! Ali Davies recently posted..An effective alternative to the conventional goal setting and planning cycleMy Profile

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 19, 2014 at 9:18 AM

Hi Ali, thanks for stopping by! This whole cycle along the Wild Atlantic Way made me miss Ireland, I lived there 10+ years ago and still long back at times. Although that said, I’m very happily settled in Norway these days! Vancouver is quite a great place to live anyway, isn’t it?
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..33 reasons to fall in love with West Cork (in Images)My Profile

Reply

Ali Davies September 19, 2014 at 8:51 PM

Yes, Vancouver is a great place to live – surrounded by the most breathtaking scenery and natural beauty. We have been here 18 months now and all love it.
Have a look! Ali Davies recently posted..An effective alternative to the conventional goal setting and planning cycleMy Profile

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 20, 2014 at 9:13 PM

Great, I have few friends living there and we visited them couple of years back, if it wasn’t so far away I could see myself living there too…
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..VIDEO: And so it Began, Family Adventure in the Kingdom of KerryMy Profile

Reply

Emma @ Life. By Emma September 19, 2014 at 10:31 PM

Wow. Your pictures are fabulous, my husband (a Corkman) was immensely proud looking at them. Can’t wait to read more about the ride.
Have a look! Emma @ Life. By Emma recently posted..Is London The Most Kid-Friendly Destination On Earth?My Profile

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 20, 2014 at 9:12 PM

Thanks Emma!! Happy to hear your husband approved :) It’s always interesting to get the reactions from locals!
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..VIDEO: And so it Began, Family Adventure in the Kingdom of KerryMy Profile

Reply

Maria from Nerd Nomads October 1, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Wow, this looks like the ultimate bike ride!! Love your photos, they look absolutely stunning!! Did you spend five weeks on this trip? Did you cycle every day or did you have some days off? Would love to do this trip some day!
Have a look! Maria from Nerd Nomads recently posted..How Expensive Is Japan And How To Travel Japan CheapMy Profile

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth October 1, 2014 at 9:33 PM

It was!!! And thank you so much. We did spend five weeks on this trip and we cycled Monday to Friday every week, and took the weekends off to do other stuff. And to rest. Just like in any normal office job 😉 I highly recommend it although next I’d love to go back and spend couple of weeks in each area. There is so much to see and do in all those sections that five weeks is really not enough…
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..What to Do When Adventure Is Over – My Formula to Stay SaneMy Profile

Reply

Sanjana @ Green Global Travel May 5, 2015 at 2:14 PM

I love your pictures! The town looks so nice! Thanks for sharing your experience!

Reply

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth May 10, 2015 at 9:06 PM

Thank you so much Sanjana!
Have a look! Satu Vänskä-Westgarth recently posted..When Adventure Comes to You: Warm Showers and Bike Trip Almost Around the WorldMy Profile

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 1 trackback }