more information on adventurous hiking in and around Bantry
Bantry is located in one of the most beautiful parts of West Cork and is the perfect place for a hiking holiday. We are lucky enough to be close to so many wonderful hiking routes which are already well-established and renowned for spectacular views. Whether you are looking for trails that are off the beaten track, or trails that just simply take your breath away for their scenic outlook, Bantry has it all. Look no futher than Bantry for your West Cork hiking holiday and come explore beautiful Ireland with us. You will find details below of some nearby hiking routes, part of which are also suitable for less strenuous walks.
The Sheep’s Head Way
The Sheep’s Head Way is an 93km way-marked route that circles the whole of the Sheep’s Head from Bantry to Sheep’s Head at the end of the peninsula and back through Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus.
The narrowness of the peninsula means that you are never far from the glorious Atlantic Ocean, even on the outward stretch when you climb to the route’s highest point, 300 metres above sea level, on the heathery Seefin ridge. The terrain is very varied and includes old boreens, open grassy and heathery hill, rock, field paths, quiet roads and some short stretches of woodland path. The aggregate ascent over the whole route is 2,460m, which includes a few long ascents. In good weather those who like the uplands can extend the ridge section of the route, or use a number of alternative loops.
The remains of an old copper mine, a blow hole, stone circles, standing stones, high cliffs, a Napoleonic signal tower and old churches are some of the varied attractions to be discovered along the way. Patience may be rewarded by the sightings of dolphins and whales off the westernmost tip of the headland. Here too is the Sheep’s Head lighthouse.
The colourful villages of Kilcrohane, Ahakista and Durrus en route provide refreshments along the way. The route also extends eastwards from Bantry to Drimoleague (Drimoleague Walkways) and Gougane Barra offering further walking opportunities in the region.
The Beara Way
The Beara Way is about 220 km in length and completes a circuit of the Peninsula stretching from Kenmare to Glengarriff, west of Dursey and back to Kenmare on the north side of Beara.
There are numerous loops for those who just want a short circular walking in scenic surroundings. The Beara Peninsula is a 48km long mountainous finger, shared by counties Kerry and Cork, stretching into the Atlantic Ocean. Quite remote, it has remained perhaps the most unspoilt part of the south west region, and like the peninsulas to the north, is a magical world of mountains and lakes surrounded by a picturesque seacoast. The main industries are farming and fishing, with the latter being based in the port of Castletownbere. The Beara Way was established by a local voluntary group in the early 1990s as a co-operative involving upwards of four hundred landowners to augment the revenues coming from a declining fishing industry through tourism. The circular route travels through magnificently rugged mountain and seacoast scenery which frequently passes by rich evidence of a heavily populated prehistoric past in the form of standing stones and burial monuments.
There are also many fine villages, such as Allihies and Eyries, along the route. Terrain consists of mainly quiet tarmac roads, bog roads, cliff and woodland paths and open moorland, some sections of which can be quite rough and remote. The total aggregate ascent is nearly 5300m over the whole route and includes some short but steep climbs. Availability of overnight accommodation is generally good along the route although some of the longer stretches between villages may require careful planning. A loop of the route circumnavigates Bere Island with its great forts, and a spur takes you out (by an exciting trip on Ireland’s only cable-car) to sparsely inhabited Dursey Island.
Much of the Beara Way traverses private lands. Access has been arranged by local community groups and is entirely dependent on the goodwill of local landowners. Dogs are not permitted on the Beara Way as a condition of this access. Please be aware that the route is closed to the public on 31 January each year.
The Beara-Breifne Way
The Beara-Breifne Way is a walking and cycling route which runs 400 km north from Beara in County Cork to Breifne in County Leitrim, following generally the line of the 17th century march of O’Sullivan Beare, the last great chieftain of Wwest Cork.
In 1602 Munster was ravaged by war. The forces of Elizabeth I had defeated the Irish and Spanish at the Battle of Kinsale and advanced to capture the territory of Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, Chieftain of Beara. Following a series of battles and the loss of his stronghold, Dunboy Castle, O’Sullivan and his troops withdrew to Coomerkane Valley near Glengarriff. On New Year’s Eve 1602, faced with almost certain starvation, they were finally forced to flee. A thousand men and women, including four hundred soldiers, embarked on an epic mid-winter march, hoping to join forces with rebel leaders in Ulster.
Travelling through Ireland at a time of war and severe food shortages they were seen by local chiefs as a threat and were attacked. Women carried infants and many of the camp followers could not keep up. By the time they reached the River Shannon their numbers were severely reduced. Hemmed in by enemies, they crossed the river at night in a boat made of the hides of slaughtered horses, the meat eaten by the starving in the camp. Two days later, at Aughrim, their path was blocked by cavalry and infantry. O’Sullivan Beare’s camp had no choice but to fight. Against all odds, his exhausted band defeated greatly superior forces, then continued to march without a rest.
As the mercenaries among O’Sullivan’s followers began to drain away, returning to their Connaught homes, the remaining refugees were continuously threatened. On the fourteenth day, O’Sullivan Beare reached Leitrim castle, stronghold of the rebel O’Rourke of Breifne. Of the original one thousand followers only thirty five remained. The dramatic history contrasts with the beauty and diversity of the landscapes along the Beara-Breifne Way. The walk begins with a rugged coastline, then threads a barrier of hills. There are bogs and woodlands, riverbanks, rolling farmland and wayside villages. The route links counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Offaly, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim, and it also connects a series of rural communities along the entire way.
The finer detail of the route is supported by strong folk memory and there are unbroken clan connections with the story. The 400th anniversary re-enactment of the march galvanised the route’s communities to develop the walk. The venture could only have come from the ground up; almost all the land used is in private hands and access has been granted, neighbour to neighbour, for the greater good of the wider community. The route may be nationwide but the sense of ownership and heritage is emphatically local. For the seasoned walker it is this local interaction which sets the Beara-Breifne Way apart.
You will find Heritage Loop Walk Maps and other local walking maps from the Bantry Tourist Office, located on Wolfe Tone Square.
Alternatively you can download a Heritage Loop Walk PDF map here.
For safe enjoyable walking in Bantry, plan your walk in advance and consider the weather forecast, daylight hours and your food/water. For longer walks especially hillwalking on higher ground, let someone know your route, have the right gear and know your limits. We also advise seeking local knowledge. The weather and visibility change quickly at higher ground and walkers can easily become disorientated.
Do no harm. Be considerate of wildlife, local landowners and their livestock. Follow marked way routes. Wherever possible use gates and stiles not walls. Leave open gates open, keep closed gates closed.
Take all litter with you and leave only footprints. This is a beautiful part of West Cork, let’s all help to keep it this way.
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