We were based in Ardgroom, a little village not too far from Kenmare. It was honestly one of the prettiest little places I've ever seen in Ireland - all the houses were painted in bright cheery colours (which seems to be a very common thing in Cork) and every corner had flowers and little touches that made the place feel so welcoming and lovely.
Harrington's, which was the post office, shop and café, was the base for us for shopping, getting coffee, picking up wifi, etc. Everyone was super friendly and chatty and I guess because it's West Cork, there were lots of tourists from all over Europe. I got chatting to a man from Devon who had met a french man and they decided to travel a bit together - I got to practice my french a bit which was nice although it made me realise how rusty I've gotten!
Out the road from the village is Glenbeg lake, about a 4k walk from the main street. It's a glacial fjord formed during the ice age. It's possible to drive right up to it but we opted to walk as it was a sunny day and it was much nicer, the views were incredible as we walked along. The mountains loomed ahead in tones of mossy green and you could see the land stretching out for miles and the sea.
It's too long a walk for small kids but our 15 year old was well able, if slightly less than enthusiastic :)
And some sheep we passed en route :)
Later on the first day we also paid a quick visit to Derreen Gardens, very close to us in County Kerry. It has a woodland walk, featuring lush tree ferns and rhododendrons (not in flower when we were there) and you can wander down to the bay or have coffee in the little café.
The Bay was my favourite part and I loved the little ladies' bathing shelter by shore.
The next day we drove the glorious coastal route from Ardgroom to Eyeries, to Kilcatherine Point.
We stopped at the pier outside Ardgroom and Mark got chatting to a fisherman who worked on the mussel farm. The mussels are attached to ropes and suspended from buoys in the water. They take roughly two years to grow to full size and then the vast majority are exported to France apparently!
We went on to visit the Hag of Beara, a weathered rock which is supposed to be the embodiment of the 'Hag' who lived 3 lifetimes of youth and was then turned to stone by a saint after stealing his prayer book. It's a fascinating story, further explained here and although to the eye, it's just a rock, there was an undeniable sense of magic, helped by all the little offerings placed on the stone.
We spent another day heading to Dursey Island - unfortunately it was lashing rain so not great for taking photos but the cable car was pretty cool!
The rain cleared and we got the sun back for our visit to Allihies and the Copper Mine Museum. We were meeting Mark's cousin for coffee and the Copper Café was the perfect spot for some good food and relaxed company. There's a fabulous selection of lunch food and yummy cakes and you can sit outside in the little courtyard and enjoy the view.
We also popped in to the Museum which tells the history of mining in the area. What struck me the most was a list of deaths - life in the mines was incredibly hard and children worked as well as adults. It was hard to imagine how difficult it must have been to work in these conditions where dying on the job seemed to be a regular occurrence.
Our final big trip was to Garnish Island, crossing the Healy Pass. The Healy Pass is a stunning drive although you'd want to be a fairly confident driver as the roads are narrow - this applies to most of the coastal routes actually - be prepared to stop frequently for oncoming traffic!
Garnish or Ilnacullin is reached by ferry from Glangarriff Pier - it is an island garden based on an Italian model and like many of the gardens in the region, the warm climate means that exotic species can flourish. The first stage was the boat trip and I love being on a boat of any size so this was a treat - the ferry isn't a long crossing but you head out into the bay and pass colonies of seals and we even got a glimpse of some dolphins! This was pretty amazing I have to say :)
You pay for the ferry and then for entry to the gardens on arrival. It's not too expensive though and well worth it. It's a beautiful place and maybe because the sun was shining again, it felt like being somewhere on the Mediterranean. There are elegant structures such as the Italian Temple and Tea House and the Grecian Temple.
The view from the Grecian temple -
There's also a Martello Tower on the Island which we climbed to take in the sea views -
We strolled around the walled garden which honestly felt tropical in the sun and was blossoming with incredible colour and scents - in fact the whole island garden was dotted with bright flowers and foliage.
There is a coffee shop there so you can sit down and relax after your walk and it would also be a fabulous place for a picnic.
We headed back across the bay, spotting another boat passing by and looking out for the seals again.
That almost brought our trip to an end - we packed a lot into a week and we were very lucky with the weather. Other places worth visiting are the Buddhist centre outside Allihies which is in an incredible location and they do meditations in the morning that are open to everyone. Eyeries is an award winning village not too far from Ardgroom and Ballydonegan beach outside Allihies is good for swimming. It would be too hard to mention everything but you will find plenty to do!
Hopefully you have enjoyed my little tour of West Cork - some other posts you might like are:
Trip on a Barge
Burtown House and the Green Barn
Donegal Trip and Ahoy Café