If you’re living in Cork and looking to hit an open trail this Bank Holiday Weekend, then grab those hiking boots, pack snacks, and enjoy the great outdoors.
The drive to Gougane Barra is picturesque and when you arrive, the scenery is beautifully wild, like something from a movie. Situated deep in the mountains of West Cork, this is one of Cork's finest gems. Not only does it offer six walking trails, but it also provides incredible views of Gougane Barra Lake that instil nothing but peace and tranquillity as you take in the surroundings.
Of the six trails on offer, Slí Sléibhe is the one that offers a good challenge - it’s often described as the strenuous trail of the lot. A little less than 2.5km, it’s not that long but is known to be the best trail that leads you through the forest and out on to the open mountain with incredible views.
The Sheep’s Head Lighthouse Loop
If you’re looking for a hike that’s both exhilarating and offers breath-taking views, then look no further than the Sheep’s Head lighthouse Loop walk. Located in beautiful West Cork and part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the trail takes you out to the very tip of the Sheep’s Head peninsula, where you’ll get to feast your eyes on the stunning coastal views of West Cork’s bays, and the Mizen and Beara peninsulas.
You’ll have to drive before you walk so begin by driving to the Cupán Tae tea shop. The road will then end at the Tooreen trailhead and this is where you hit the trail until you get to the lighthouse. One thing to note about this walk is the terrain is rocky and the cliffs are steep, so make sure you’re well-equipped with the correct footwear and gear.
Ardgroom - Pulleen Loop
The village of Ardgroom on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork is charming for the simple reason that it consists of just a local shop, post office, petrol station and a pub. Sure what more could you possibly want? The walking trails in Ardgroom are pretty spectacular and one in particular is the Puleen Loop.
This is a peaceful gracious walk and perfect if you’re not looking for something too strenuous but more leisurely. Full of adventure with plenty to see, the 5km loop provides stunning views of the Kerry coastline as well as historical and archaeological sites to take in on the route.
As the trail progresses the walker will reach Dog’s Point, which has a small beach, perfect for a (chilly) dip in the water before making the return journey that presents stunning coastal views. Towards the end of the loop there’s also a close-up view of the breath-taking Coosmore sea caves to explore.
The Old Head Kinsale
Kinsale is a state of mind. Its scenery is beautiful and is a place that you will visit time and time again. It never gets old, and to prove it, the Old Head Kinsale is the perfect trail to take in the spectacular landscape of Kinsale. A 6km walk, the Old Head is a stunning coastal headland that protrudes out into the Atlantic Ocean, presenting magnificent panoramic views of the cliffs and ocean throughout.
Ballycotton Cliff Walk
Head to East Cork and blow the cobwebs of lockdown away whilst breathing in the fresh sea air of the Ballycotton Cliff Walk. A beautiful 8km trail with plenty of scenic views overlooking the ocean on one side and pretty meadows on the other side, the Cliff Walk begins from Ballycotton village and ends at Ballyandreen beach.
One thing to note about this trail is it’s not a loop, instead you’ll have to venture back along the same cliff trail until you arrive once again at the lovely fishing village of Ballycotton. The route can be a bit slippy and uneven so it’s best to wear good walking shoes and avoid bringing a buggy - it’s not practical and you’ll probably have to turn back.