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…
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.
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!
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…
The thing about West Cork, and the whole Wild Atlantic Way is that it can be beautifully calm and serene one moment.
And slightly wilder and fantastic the next. I think I need to come back and see what’s happening here in the winter time…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- Visit Cork County, also on Facebook
- Beara Tourism, alson on Facebook
- Sheep’s Head
- Kinsale Tourism – with the tag line more than just great food – so right! Also on Facebook.
To get a good night’s sleep:
- Windy Point House – well appointed B&B right by the cable car to Dursey Island
- Island View House – friendly B&B in Glengariff
- Cluain Mara B&B – beautiful and cozy B&B on Cape Clear Island
- Seascape B&B – place to escape for a weekend, lovely B&B in Union Hall
- Rocklands House B&B – again, another spot for a weekend escape, fantastic views and friendly hosts in Kinsale
For Interesting Activities:
- Allihies Copper Mine Museum
- Mizen Head visitor Center
- Kinsale Heritage Town Walks with Dermot Ryan (informative AND entertaining!)
- Charles Fort in Kinsale