The south west of Ireland and especially west Cork has some amazing places to visit. I could probably write an entire book (hmmm new career maybe? ) on beaches to walk, cliffs to visit, towns to stop in and countless photo opportunities along the way. This time around we will take a wee trip down to Mizen head and the lovely little coastal town of Schull.
We left Cork city early on a Sunday morning and headed down the N71 through Bandon, Dunmanway (if you get a chance stop off at Sam Maguires grave in the middle of the town), and Drimoleague. It was a 2 hour drive down to Mizen head and the last half an hour of the journey was breathtaking along the road through Goleen and Barleycove. We got a beautiful day for the trip but definitely bring a hat with you as it was sooooo windy!
The road out to Mizen head signal station is well signposted from Goleen and past Barleycove. Theres free parking right outside the visitor centre but make sure your handbrake is pulled up! The Signal station and visitor centre is open every weekend from November to March and then every day from March to October. Entry is only €6 per adult and they have student/ senior and family rates also.
After you pay your entrance fee they have a really fantastic exhibition on the geology of mizen head, Fastnet lighthouse and loads of history of the area. We were eager to get out onto the cliffs though and take the short ten minute walk down to the arched bridge. There is some stunning scenery on the walk down and a photographer’s dream!
There is a sloped walk down to the bridge or you can take the 99 steps down to the start of the bridge. We decided to leave the excitement of the steps for the way back up! Ali of course high tailed it across the bridge but I took my time noticing a lot of random hair ties attached to the railings? Maybe people wanted to leave a bit of themselves on the most southerly point of the Irish mainland! It was a small climb uphill then to the signal station and they have it really well decked out. Most of the rooms are set up as to how it would have been when the station was fully operational complete with pretty frightening looking mannequins in beds and having tea in the kitchen! There’s also lots of information on the local birdlife and a CIL boats display.
Walk past the signal station and you reach the end- the end of Ireland that is! With the wild Atlantic wind in your hair you can’t get any further south on the Irish mainland. This is a fabulous photo opportunity and compulsory selfie occasion! We headed back up the cliffs across the bridge and there was lots of little trails to follow to get other views of the surrounding cliffs. Apparently on a good day you can spot Fastnet rock from here but alas it was too misty on this particular occasion to catch a glimpse of it.
Back in the visitor center there was a lovely little gift shop with pretty souvenirs of Mizen head and Fastnet rock. We bought our compulsory magnets and prints and headed over to the Mizen cafe for a slice of cake and a cup of tea. Sitting in the cafe there are pictures of light houses all over the walls and we had great fun trying to guess where each one was- I won obviously!
We stopped at Barley cove beach on the way back from Mizen head to check out the chalets there and decided that if we won the lotto we would definitely have a summer home here. There’s plenty of accommodation around here and Barley cove holiday park (Mobile homes, caravans and tents!) is literally a two minute walk to the beach- a perfect holiday for a group of friends.
On the way back the road along the coast there is a little pull in for Altar wedge tomb. Blink and you will miss it but the scenery here is also spectacular and the tomb is pretty impressive also. We took a walk along the rocks here before we decided we were in need of refreshments (aka a large glass of wine or two). We headed off for our digs for the night- Schull Harbour hotel in the pretty little coastal town of Schull.
Schull is only 7km’s from Altar and there is a carpark right opposite the Hotel. There’s a great vibe about this town and I knew we were going to enjoy our stay here. We checked into our lovely hotel room (I think the hotel has recently refurbished- either that or they keep it in really good nick) and we headed straight down to the bar for a drink before dinner. The bar was hopping with every table taken but we were well looked after and given a table in the ballroom for dinner. Three of our friends joined us for a lovely meal before we headed up the street to the Bunratty Inn.
Now I’m not sure if we were just incredibly lucky on this particular night bit the craic was ninety in this pub. There was live music in the form of a great singer with his guitar and he was getting everyone and their mother up to sing with him. As far as I know it was a day after party of a wedding but we met a lovely couple in there who were also on their holidays and they said that it was always a lively spot. We even got bowls of goujons and chips that went down a treat- even if we were just after a big dinner in the Hotel.
For some reason it took us a bit longer to walk back down the street that night to the hotel but we got a very comfy nights sleep none the less!
The next morning we had a lovely brunch in the hotel (we slept in for breakfast as you do :)) and we headed off up the town for a look around the shops. This town is bursting with beautiful little shops and gallery’s. I really have to commend them on their local art and crafts. The Heron gallery and the blue house gallery are lovely places to have a wander around. There are plenty of cafe’s and restaurants on the main street also but my favourite spot was Courtyard crafts. This little jewel was full of quirky crafts, stunning prints, pottery, candles and so much more. And everything was Irish. Definitely a shop that I will return to in the future and definitely a stop for you if you are ever driving through Schull.
We took a stroll then down by the harbour and the boats and we reluctantly took our leave of beautiful Schull. We drove back up the road through Skibbereen, Leap and Clonakilty and as this was one of my first trips down to west Cork I realised that we had so much more galavanting to do down this end of the country!
I have attached all the links that I think might be helpful to you if you wanted to take this trip! Let me know if I missed any must see places in Mizen or Schull and as always- Happy Galavanting!