The Southern Peninsulas take the already breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way and amp things up a notch with peninsulas that stretch far out into the Atlantic Ocean – this is Ireland unplugged.
Link with Icon
Link with Icon
The Southern Peninsulas take the already breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way and amp things up a notch with peninsulas that stretch far out into the Atlantic Ocean. From vast sandy beaches to jagged cliffs, and from moody valleys to lively towns and villages – this is Ireland unplugged. After the natural beauty of Mizen Head, the coastline softens into sheltered harbours and scenic bays as it snakes around County Cork. From Ballydehob to Kinsale, the rewards are plenty with scenic wonders, friendly people and incredible food.
Please Note: This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips, you can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative for further information. Any mention of specific product on this site is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.
Nearest airports: Knock Ireland West Airport; Shannon Airport; Cork Airport
Days: 7 (tour can be customised to 3, 4, 5 or 6 days, as required)
Dingle Bay, Co. Kerry
Little Skelligs from Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry (@storytravelers)
Distance: Approximately 127km
Along the coastline of County Kerry, Tralee is known internationally because of its Rose of Tralee festival. When not in festival time, this is a busy market town with good pubs and restaurants, and the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Siamse Tíre, which stages Irish music and dance performances. A little known treasure is the traditional Blennerville Windmill in Tralee Bay. It’s the tallest of its kind in Europe, and is open to visit from April to October. Group rates are available and the tour is insightful and interesting; the windmill has been described as “an absolute must-stop” on TripAdvisor.
As the road skirts around the Dingle Peninsula, the scenery piles on the drama with Mount Bandon providing an impressive backdrop to a coastline of crags, crashing waves and cottages. Here, the Slea Head Drive brings you to the tip of the peninsula, passing the stunning Coumeenoole Beach (option to stop at The Stonehouse Restaurant in Ventry for mid-morning refreshments), and onto Dunquin Harbour with its much-photographed switchback road.
Dunquin is both a viewing point and a departure point for a trip to the Blasket Islands (optional), which have been deserted since 1953. In the Blasket Centre in Dunquin, the islands’ story is told in detail. Guided tours are available for groups, with a maximum of 40 per group.
Stop at the Louis Mulcahy Café, Ballyferriter, for a lunch of local favourites, and a browse around the pottery shop.
On the road to Dingle, in a jaw-dropping spot overlooking the water, sits Gallarus Oratory. Built between the 7th and 8th century, it’s the best preserved church of its era in Ireland and is made entirely of stone. Coach and car parking is available, and the oratory is open all year (note, the visitor centre is only open in the summer months).
Dingle is a town of immense charm with traditional grocery-pubs, colourful shop fronts, an arty atmosphere and a very famous resident, Fungie the dolphin. There are countless boat trips available to see Fungie who has lived in the seas off Dingle for years.
Back in town, Dingle thrums with great pubs such as Foxy John’s and Dick Mack’s, excellent restaurants such as The Chart House and live Irish music sessions for visitors to enjoy at their leisure.
Overnight at the Dingle Bay Hotel in town.
Distance: Approximately 150km
One of the finest beaches in the southwest, Inch stretches out with seemingly endless sands backed by undulating dunes. A walk here definitely blows away the cobwebs before hitting the next peninsula, Iveragh – famous for its driving route, the Ring of Kerry. Passing through the towns of Killorglin, Glenbeigh and Cahirciveen, the route detours off the main Ring of Kerry to the Skellig Ring, and on to Valentia Island – linked to the mainland by bridge. Stop at the main town of the island, Knightstown, to enjoy the ambiance before heading to Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs with astonishing 360o views. The Skellig Experience Visitor Centre near the bridge to Portmagee is a great way of getting the experience of the 6th century monastic village on Skellig Michael while remaining on land. It’s a must for Star Wars fans who were wowed by the sight of the island in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and are hoping to discover more about this extraordinary place.
Stop for lunch at Mannings in Portmagee.
Optional Boat trip to Skelligs: Boats to the 6th century monastic site of the Skellig Michael leave at 9:30am in the morning and return around 2pm. Check local operators for details. For those wishing to avail of the trip, advance booking is essential and an overnight stay in Portmagee is advised. All trips are weather dependent.
Less well known than the Cliffs of Moher, the Kerry Cliffs have a similarly wild feel and are the nearest viewing point to the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island. It’s a ten-minute walk from the car park to the viewing point and there is a coffee shop on site. A small charge applies.
The small, family-run Skelligs Chocolate in Ballinskelligs doesn’t have a specific tour but visitors are allowed to watch the chocolates being made, ask questions and have a taste. The Puffin Café on site is a “treats-only” café serving hot chocolate, cakes and desserts; there is also a gift shop.
Stop overnight in the Butler Arms Hotel Waterville. The village is famous for being Charlie Chaplin’s favourite retreat.
Kenmare Landscape, Co. Kerry
Italian Garden, Garnish Island, Co. Cork
Distance: Approximately 203km
Surrounded by ancient forest and adjacent to a beach boasting turquoise waters and fine white sand, Derrynane House is the ancestral home of one of Ireland’s most important 19th century politicians, Daniel O’Connell. The gardens are open all year round, but the house is only open mid-March to early November. Guided tours are available, with a maximum of 25 people per tour.
The town of Kenmare is famed as a foodie destination and is packed with craft shops, cafés and cute cottages. It’s also the point where the Iveragh Peninsula moves into the Beara Peninsula of County Cork. The scenery here is utterly untamed with huge mountains, winding roads, bays, inlets and beaches. The route edges south to Dursey Island, where Ireland’s only cable car brings visitors out to this isolated island. It’s the only cable car in Europe to cross open water and is an unforgettable experience. The cable car has room for six adults at a time and takes eight minutes in each direction.
For those travelling to Dursey Island, a picnic lunch is advised as there are no facilities on the island. Otherwise, continue on to Glengarriff for lunch at Casey’s Hotel.
Sitting in a sheltered natural harbour in Bantry Bay is the very special Garnish Island. Over 70 years ago, a partnership between the island owner and an architect led to the creation of 15 hectares of lush, subtropical woodland gardens, a colonnaded Italian Garden and a Grecian Temple. The boat trip to the island is a short cruise that takes in a seal colony at Seal Island.
Overnight in The Maritime Hotel in Bantry.
Distance: Approximately 115km
Hailed as one of the finest historic houses in Ireland, Bantry House is a jewel that overlooks the swirl of green and blue that is Bantry Bay. Home to the White family since 1739, it boasts exceptional gardens with fountains, parterre, statues and terraces. Group booking with special rates are available for the house and gardens. There is a café for refreshments on site.
The Sheep’s Head beckons next – this narrow sliver of land is sparsely inhabited and it feels like you’re never too far from the Atlantic – here, it’s ALL about the scenery, which unfolds in every direction. The peninsula is at its most untamed at its tip where there is an option of taking a 4.2km walk (moderate) out to the lighthouse. Refreshments are available at the start of the walk at An Cupán Tae, where the apple pie is legendary.
Return to Bantry for lunch at the Westlodge Hotel.
The Mizen Head peninsula is a showcase of weather-beaten landscapes, sea cliffs and crashing waves and is Ireland’s most southwesterly point. As a testament to human endurance and determination, the Mizen Head Signal Station has stood strong against the forces of nature here for over 100 years. The Station was built to warn ships of the treacherous rocks that lie close to the shore, and today crossing the iconic bridge that soars above the gorge is a truly remarkable experience. There is a visitor centre, café, washrooms and gift shop on site. Discounted rates are available for groups of 10 or more.
Overnight at the Schull Harbour Hotel in the vibrant village of Schull.
Bantry House, Co. Cork
Mizen Head, Carbery, Co. Cork
Distance: Approximately 73km
The pretty town of Baltimore has a breezy, laid-back feel that seems more south of France than southern Ireland. Popular with yachters and packed with good bars and restaurants, it is home to Baltimore Castle/Dún na Séad, which dates back to 1215 and tells the story of the Sack of Baltimore in 1631 – a pirate attack in which 107 locals were captured and sold into slavery in north Africa.
Lunch at La Jolie Brise in Baltimore.
From Baltimore, boats leave for a variety of destinations that offer a real West Cork experience. From the harbour, the islands of Cape Clear and Sherkin can be accessed by local ferry (trips takes about 40 minutes to Cape Clear and 10 minutes to Sherkin). West Cork is also one of the best places in Europe to spot fin, humpback and minke whales and Whale Watching West Cork run whale and dolphin watching tours for groups.
For a longer day trip, Fastnet Tours runs tours to Cape Clear and around Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, a remote Atlantic Ocean lighthouse, which was the last part of Ireland to be seen by thousands of emigrants leaving for the New World.
Overnight at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery.
Distance: Approximately 48km
The bustling town of Clonakilty is famous for its love of traditional music and its celebrated Clonakilty Black Pudding. This bright and friendly spot is also the birthplace of the Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins. Just outside town, the Michael Collins Centre presents an exhibition and film about Collins, as well as engaging live talks three times a day. The centre is open all year for groups, by appointment.
Lunch at An Súgan in Clonakilty.
The 13th century Timoleague Abbey has a picturesque location on the edge of a calm sea inlet. Full of quirks, such as mysterious wall passages and tall arches either side of the choir, this Franciscan abbey makes an interesting place to explore. The site is open to the public and car parking is available.
Overnight in Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa.
Baltimore Village, Co. Cork
Cape Clear, Co. Cork
Distance: Approximately 47km
Heading towards the Old Head of Kinsale, the views on the otherwise gentle Haven Coast intensify in drama as the route takes you south. This is the Old Head of Kinsale, one of the most dazzling headlands on the island of Ireland. While Old Head is now a golf course, the walking loop offers wonderful scenery over a 6km trail.
Lunch in the Tea Rooms at Charles Fort.
Perched at the edge of the sea, 17th century Charles Fort is one of the biggest military structures on the island of Ireland, and was built to protect the town of Kinsale. Outside the views are impressive, but good walking shoes are advised as the terrain is uneven. Guided tours are available for up to 40 people.
After visiting Charles Fort, the town of Kinsale saves what might be the best till last. This easy-going, colourful southern jewel is filled with great pubs and a thriving food scene that can be experienced in festivals, top restaurants and excellent little seafood spots. Kinsale Heritage Town Walks takes visitors through the town and reveals its history and secrets.
Overnight at the Blue Haven Hotel in Kinsale.
This is a sample itinerary to offer suggestions and ideas for planning trips. You can contact your local Tourism Ireland representative here for further information. Please note, any mention of specific product on this itinerary is meant to be used only as an example and does not represent an endorsement of that product by Tourism Ireland.