Kilbrittain Trails – The Fin Whale and Castle Walk

This post has more photos than usual as it combines a few things we did in one go in the lovely little town of Kilbrittain. Kilbrittain is only about 5 miles out of Bandon and has some beautiful walks and amenities to its credit. There are 4 official walks around Kilbrittain known as the Kilbrittain Trails – the walks range from the Castle Walk (which is 3.7km to the longer Kiln Walk which is 14.5km). At the time, we did not have a brochure, and didn’t want to accidentally start a marathon walk, so we just explored around the amenity area and immediate woodlands.

The Fin Whale at Kibrittain, West Cork

The most unique thing is the entire skeleton of a Fin whale which is on public display near the playground. The whale was beached nearby in 2009 and its jaw alone is 18ft long. The entire whale is over 65 ft long and its a fascinating opportunity to see how large they are close up and personal.

Fin Whale, Kilbrittain

Behind where the whale is on display, is a lovely picnic area and playground. From there we did the Castle Walk which winds along a lovely little wooded path until you come to the gates of Kilbrittain Castle

A woodland path leading to Kilbrittain Castle.
Information board about Kilbrittain Castle

I didn’t get a great photo of the castle (although you have a good view of it from the gate) but instead included the above photo with the interesting History and facts about Kilbrittain Castle. For instance, it is the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland said to date back from 1035.

Kilbrittain Forest Recreation Area

With small kiddies, you could turn at the gates and go back the way you came towards the playground. We decided to cross the road and follow a trail we found in the forest recreation area.

Kilbrittain Forest Recreation Area

We were very aware that we didn’t have a map with us and weren’t prepared to end up on an accidentally longer walk than intended, so we just decided to follow the main path through the woods.

Kilbrittain Forest

Eventually, we seemed to have formed a good loop and came out near the road/main entrance but not before we found a gorgeous little waterfall and paddling area in the woods.

Kilbrittain Forest and waterfall

We re-traced our steps and crossed the road back to the castle and went through the gap in the wall – which led us back along the way we had come through the little woodland and back towards the playground.

Gap in the Wall near Kilbrittain Castle

We played for hours on the zip lines at the playground and when all our energy was completely exhausted, we started to make our way back past the whale and to where we parked our car.

Playground at Kilbrittain amenity Centre

A little shop across the road from the whale sells the most generous ice-creams in summer. Not only the kids loved them – but by the time we got the car, we were competing with sugar crazed wasps as well!

All in all, we feel as if we only sampled a small bit of what the Kilbrittain Trails have to offer and would love to go back and do the rest of the walks. Here is a quick overview of them according to their website http://www.kilbrittaintrails.ie

THE CASTLE WALK -RED 3.7km
This route heads north – around quiet country roads in a loop returning down to the village and through the Village Park to the Castle gate, returning to the village either along the main road or via the Village Park.
THE ESTUARY LOOP- BLUE-7km
Starting at the Village Park walk west through the village, turn left at the church & follow the blue arrows along quiet country roads, past rolling hills and lovely views of Coolmain Bay, returning to the village to the Castle gate via the woodland trail back to the Village Park.
THE RATHCLAREN LOOP -YELLOW -9km
Starting at the Village Park walk west through the village turning left at the church & follow the Yellow arrows along lovely quiet country roads, past the Trinity Well and beautiful Rathclarin Church, this route has stunning views over the estuary, returning to the village to the Castle gate via the woodland trail back to the Amenity Park..
THE KILN WALK- GREEN -14.5 km
Starting at the amenity park walk west through the village turning left at St. Patrick’s church, follow the Green arrows west towards Timoleague, past the ruins of Cloundereen Church After 6 km head south to Courtmacsherry Bay – the return to Kilbrittain along quiet roads with spectacular views over the bays and strands.

Glengarriff Woods – Lady Bantry’s Lookout

The Glengarriff Nature Reserve is home to over 300 hectares of oak woodland and is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.  Each season shows a different aspect of the woods and it is equally as beautiful to visit in the first flush of spring as it is during the colourful palette of autumn.  There are several clearly marked walks in the woods so there is a trail for every age, ability and fitness level.  Depending on how much time you have and what your energy levels are, it is always rewarding to combine a few of the loops into a longer tailor-made walk.

We usually incorporate Lady Bantry’s Lookout walk with the Big Meadow Walk which we like to start from this point and do in a clockwise direction instead of starting from the main carpark and crossing the river there. The start for this trail as seen above, is near the main entrance to the Glengarriff Nature Reserve. You can still park in the main Car park (200m down the road) and just walk up to this starting point.

These little stairs will lead you up to a small public road – be aware of traffic which can sometimes seem so surprising and intrusive in the woods – especially if you have small kiddies who have run ahead.

Stone Staircases lead you steeply up through the woods.

From across the small road the trail begins again and is a steep and steady climb up through the woods. The views from the top are spectacular and it is a great place to catch your breath and enjoy the quiet.

Glengarriff Village from the top of Lady Bantry’s Lookout.

Be aware that coming down, you will use a whole different set of muscles than you did coming up!

Glengarriff Woods – Big Meadow Walk

The Glengarriff Nature Reserve is home to over 300 hectares of oak woodland and is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.  Each season shows a different aspect of the woods and it is equally as beautiful to visit in the first flush of spring as it is during the colourful palette of autumn.  There are several clearly marked walks in the woods so there is a trail for every age, ability and fitness level.  Depending on how much time you have and what your energy levels are, it is always rewarding to combine a few of the loops into a longer tailor-made walk.

The bridge near the main entrance to the Glengarriff Nature Reserve.

Most people like to do the Big Meadow Walk from the main car park. There, you would follow the directions as you would for the River Walk, but would turn left for the Big Meadow as per the signposts. This would mean that you would essentially be doing the Big Meadow walk in an anti-clockwise direction. We always prefer doing it in a clockwise direction and so although we park at the main car park, we walk up to the main entrance, and begin the walk from there.

Part of the trail on the Big Meadow Walk

Along this path, you will see a sign to your left for the walk leading up to Lady Bantry’s Lookout. Depending on your energy levels, you may wish to do that as a steep spur walk in addition to the Big Meadow. The Big Meadow walk itself is about 3km and takes about an hour and a half to complete at a comfortable pace.

A reflective lake on the Big Meadow Walk

According to online sources, the above lake was created for the rare Downy Emerald Dragonfly and judging by how alive it is with insects, frogs and birds, it has been successful.

This stretch of the walk is glorious in autumn

In Autumn, this stretch of the walk is ablaze with colour from the changing leaves and it truly a sight worth seeing. At the bottom of this strip, you turn right and you will have re-joined the river which will now be on your left as you start to make your way back towards the carpark.

Ancient Oak. Glengarriff Nature Reserve.

Key to look out for on this walk is the Big Meadow itself which will now be on your right. It is an area of old grassland that has not been fertilised or ploughed in living memory thereby showcasing a completely unspoilt ecosystem. It supports teems of insect life and wildflowers are abundant in spring and summer.

The above photo shows just one of the stately oaks living in the big meadow. This is a view of the path looking back along the way you have come or is the view that you would see if you were doing the walk in the anti clockwise direction. Either way, it is simply gorgeous!

Once you cross the river, your walk is drawing to and end and at this point, you can choose to incorporate the River Walk as it does it loop back to the car park, or you can turn right at the juncture and keep following the river back to the main carpark

Glengarriff Woods – Waterfall Walk

The Glengarriff Nature Reserve is home to over 300 hectares of oak woodland and is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.  Each season shows a different aspect of the woods and it is equally as beautiful to visit in the first flush of spring as it is during the colourful palette of autumn.  There are several clearly marked walks in the woods so there is a trail for every age, ability and fitness level.  Depending on how much time you have and what your energy levels are, it is always rewarding to combine a few of the loops into a longer tailor-made walk.

Waterfall Walk, Glengarriff Nature Reserve

The Waterfall walk is one of my favourite woodland walks as it is always refreshing. Although its very short at just a half a kilometre in length, it can be done twice or can be used as a starter stroll for the greater Esknamucky Walk.

Exploring the Canrooska River.

The Waterfall at the top of this little walk is especially beautiful after a rainfall and worth visiting then. However, it is lovely to see the river in all its different phases during the year.

The Waterfall at the Waterfall Walk, Glengarriff Nature Reserve.

Once you reach the waterfall, you can either turn and come back the same way or continue following the path where it will turn and come back down to meet the start of the Esknamucky Trail.

Stone Staircase leading back towards the path.

Glengarriff Woods – Riverside Walk

The Glengarriff Nature Reserve is home to over 300 hectares of oak woodland and is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.  Each season shows a different aspect of the woods and it is equally as beautiful to visit in the first flush of spring as it is during the colourful palette of autumn.  There are several clearly marked walks in the woods so there is a trail for every age, ability and fitness level.  Depending on how much time you have and what your energy levels are, it is always rewarding to combine a few of the loops into a longer tailor-made walk.

The picnic area at the main car park, Glengarriff Nature Reserve

The River Walk is an easy loop walk of about 1km. It usually takes about a half an hour to complete and is moderately flat and suitable for smalls. There are some steps towards the end but they are quite manageable. Set off from the main car park (above photo) by crossing the bridge and turning to the left where the path follows the river.

A junction of trails where you can choose to continue on the River Walk or turn left for the Big Meadow Walk.

The Big Meadow Walk is signposted and can be combined with the River Walk if you are feeling more energetic. Continue on the path for the River Walk at this point and the path leaves the river for a while and threads through the forest around the side of a small mountain. There is a giant slate rock which children love to climb and slide down.

View looking back along the path you have just walked on.

Follow the path until it seems to come out at a public road. At this point, there will be a stone staircase to your right and that is the path you need to follow. The trail will soon join the river again and you will have completed the loop and will find the main carpark back on your left hand side.

Spirit of Love, Bantry

This statue has to be my favourite throughout all of West Cork.  It is called ‘Spirit of Love’ and was  installed in 2006.  It is situated at the foot of the graveyard, the Abbey, overlooking the scenic inner harbour, as you come into Bantry town on the N71, Cork side. 

Spirit of Love, Bantry

Spirit of Love depicts two large bronze figures encircling a bronze mast and stands 5m high.  It was  commissioned by the Cork County Council to remember all those who have lost their lives at sea. It signifies both letting go and remembering. It was funded by the Per Cent for Art Scheme (a practical scheme established in 2004 to fund visual arts in Ireland).  

Spirit of Love – signifies both letting go and remembering.

Commissioned artist, Paddy Campbell , was first a successful business man in Ireland, Britain and America where he ran a thriving  catering-to-coffee business.  However, in 1996, he returned to his artistic roots via Florence Academy of Art and took various courses in drawing, painting and sculpture.   

Spirit of Love, Paddy Campbell

In 2005, Paddy Campbell established a studio in Florence and earned recognition as a sculptor of note.  He had many public commissions including the official portrait of the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese in 2007.

Spirit of Love, Bantry

Paddy’s works which aim to capture a moment in contemporary life ‘something you knew, but didn’t know you knew…..’   have been acquired by international collectors in Ireland, Portugal, France, Turkey, UK, USA, Canada and Australia.  A solo exhibition called “Un Altro Mondo” (Another World) at the Palazzo  Comunale in Fiesole, Italy, 2009, attracted over 3500 visitors. 

To admire more of Paddy’s work – visit his website here.

Clifftop Walk from Owenahincha to Warren Strand

Today was such an incredibly beautiful autumn day with clear skies and warm sunshine, that it just begged to be spent outdoors. We thought we were going to do a woodland walk and take in some of the beautiful autumn colours but instead found ourselves on a beach.

The entire clifftop walk is safely fenced off

We parked at Owenahincha and walked over the mountain via the Cliff Top Walk. It is a lovely path, not too steep, but not buggy friendly, giving spectacular views over the Atlantic.

The kids all resting at the crest waiting for the photographer to catch up

Once you pass over top and start descending to Warren Strand, you can see Rosscarbery and the Celtic Ross and lagoon in the distance and the gorgeous blue flag beach spread out below. Such a treat to get a blue sky day like this on a Sunday to recharge everyone for the school week ahead

Beautiful views of Warren Strand from the top.

In Summer, to give an extra dimension to a beach day, we might remember to park in Owenahincha and walk ourselves over to the beach. That might also make parking easier as at the height of summer, competition for parking at Warren Strand can be ferocious.

Dipping toes in the ocean at Warren Strand.

Warren Strand is one of West Cork’s finest blue flag beaches. During peak season the beach always has a lifeguard on duty and also has toilet facilities.

The tidal estuary at Warren Strand

The Pier on the Western side of the beach is a popular angling spot and also famous for its feature appearance in the movie ‘Young Offenders’

Beautiful views across the Atlantic on the walk back to the car

Liss Ard Estate and Gardens, Skibbereen

**UPDATE** This article was written a few years ago when we first discovered Liss Ard. There are now some important guidelines for visiting the gardens and to see which days the gardens are open to non-residents, please visit their facebook page here.

Years ago, the children and I stumbled upon the Liss Ard Gardens, just out of Skibbereen, quite by accident. I had always presumed that the gardens were private and had been delighted to find out that they were in fact open to the public. Now, every so often, we love to re-discover the joys of Liss Ard and each year I am reminded by my 8 year old by how she felt tricked walking all that way as a 3 year old toddler only to discover that the ‘Talking Stones’ don’t actually say anything!  The highlights (for us) are most definitely the bluebells in Spring and the Sky Garden Crater, but with acres of land with so many pathways, there really is something for everyone on a Liss Ard walk.  The gardens are open every day, all year, until 11pm.

One of the many ponds in Liss Ard Estate

The Sky Garden was designed by James Turrell,  the renowned American artist, who is best known for his works on the theme of ‘light’.  It consists of a huge crater with a stone structure (slab) at the bottom of it. The crater was created for Irish skies to be contemplated and appreciated by the spectator lying flat on their back on the stone slab at the bottom of the crater.

Enjoying the view from the slab in the Sky Garden

The dome effect that is created in the elliptical frame is an unforgettable experience and is highly recommended.  ((((((((( )))))))) due to damage to the slopes by climbing??? apointments now made?? The Gardens are free to explore but if you prefer to book a guided tour,especially of the Sky Garden,  there is a cost of €5 per person.   Bookings can be made by ringing 028-40000.

Bluebell lined trails in the Liss Ard woodlands in Spring.

The gardens have been designed by Veith Turske and intend to bring out the unique relationship with nature allowing you to become the centre of perception.  The garden has been created as a place of contemplation and of meditation and as their website states :

‘Liss Ard Gardens have a strong presence. These vast nature retreats are demanding, they want full attention.  Attention to detail and awareness. For they reveal their inner beauty to those who can be present as well. Nature has extremes, it has power: this can only be experienced while opening our senses to everything it has to offer.’

Liss Ard is truly a place to inspire, learn tranquillity, to draw from the past, to fire the imagination and to nourish the senses.  The designed pathways leading past numerous ponds, waterfalls and quiet spots, have been likened to the garden of Eden in some publications. Companies like Laura Ashley, Debenhams and K-Shoes have taken advantage of the beauty at Liss Ard to carry out photo shoots. Equally, the accommodation at Liss Ard has attracted a fair share of celebrities ranging from Van Morrision, Oasis, Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Nick Cave –  all of whom have spent time at Liss Ard.

For more information visit their website here.

Dromillihy Wood, Connagh

The Dromillihy Woods, near Connagh on the N71 are a great walk with small children.  It is a lovely place to toddle – removed from the main road and with just enough uphill and downhill to make it interesting.

Dromillihy Wood – entrance to the trail

Kids love exploring  woodlands and if you are travelling down to West Cork on the N71, it is a great place to stretch your legs and to use the picnic facility.  The Cellmount walk is just over 1.5km and older, more robust children could easily do the walk twice – clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

On the Cellmount Walk

The development of the woodland trail is all down to a dedicated team of people from the local community who got together to make it happen.  Standing together, they fund-raised and planned and have succeeded in creating a lovely and valuable amenity in the community.  The trails were officially opened by Cllr Barbara Murray in April 2013 and have seen many families enjoying (and benefiting) from it.

Cellmount Loop in the Dromillihy Wood

There are interesting boards all along the walk with information on the local flora and fauna.

Information boards along the trail highlight local flora and fauna

The Dromillihy Wood amenity site is a testament to what a community can do if it works together for the greater good.  It is a credit to the community of Connagh.

Coorycommane Walk, Coomhola, Bantry

The Coorycommane Walk is a fabulous asset to Bantry and surrounds.  It is a  credit to the people involved in making it happen and for providing such a wonderful amenity. It is a way marked trail of 4.8km and is part of the Beara Walking Route.  We walked it this Easter with friends and the kids loved it.   It is one of those walks that has a little bit of everything – winding forest trails, steep hills, grasslands, hilltops and boggy, bumpy bits.

Coorycommane Loop, Coomhola

Coorycommane is a NLP (National Loop Walk) and it starts at Coomhola bridge where there is ample parking.   The walk kicks off with quite a steep climb before it winds through a well marked forest.  Kids cant resist running ahead. It has the feel of a real adventure trail.  The climb can then be quite strenuous to the top of Coorycommane Hill which will give you a panoramic view of the beautiful Coomhola and Borlin Valleys as well as a sweeping vista of Bantry Bay.

On the crest of the walk with sweeping views over Bantry Bay

The route is beautifully marked and where there are no signposts, look for clues painted onto the rocks and stones.

Look for clues of paint on the trail to lead the way if ever you are unsure

The walk then winds its way through more forestry before meeting up with the ‘Bog Road’ which will lead you back to the starting point at the Coomhola Bridge.

Walking on the Bog Road back to the starting point.

The Coomhola River is a wonderful place for a picnic and to cool little feet.  The walk took about 2 hours and was enjoyed by all age groups.

Paddling in the Coomhola River afterwards.