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.

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.

Glengarriff Woods – Esknamucky Trail

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.

Esknamucky Trail, Glengarriff Woods

The Esknamucky Trail, which is a loop walk of just under 3km, is the most rugged of the trails as it winds its way up steeply through the woods.

Starting off on the trail.

Also known as the High Walk, there are many steps along the trail as the path threads up towards the top of the climb.

Esknamucky gives a great cardio workout with plenty of ups and downs.

There are several scenic viewing points along the way which give panoramic views over the forest and to the mountains beyond. 

The Esknamucky Trail is often combined with the shorter, but gorgeous, Waterfall Walk.