West Cork is known for its rugged beauty and natural landscapes every time of year. As we have the Atlantic crashing into the coastline, it leaves many beautiful backdrops to enjoy on a summers day.
Having grown up in the area, I always heard tales of how stunning certain features of West Cork were. Mizen Head being one of them. As the most southwesterly point in Ireland, it boasts interesting facts and fantastic views from the cliff edge and attracts thousands of people each year. Somehow I missed the boat and never ended up visiting Mizen throughout my childhood or teenage years in West Cork. It wasn’t until I came home from South Korea that I decided it was time to finally explore my home surroundings, and so I headed off with my Dad on our bikes and cycled out to the iconic Mizen Head.
It’s a great cycle to partake in, with the fresh sea air and finely cut grass as well as silent scenes catching your gaze and captivating your focus as you peddle on. Starting from Bantry Bay, it’s about 47km to Mizen Head through back roads, picturesque villages and beaches. The route itself is just as beautiful as the view from Mizen Head. All the way there, you’re constantly in awe with your Irish surroundings. Strong winds, and whindy roads to manoeuvre through to Mizen.
You go from Bantry, through Durrus onto Toormore before reaching Goleen and the popular beach Barleycove. When you see the seaside town and the stunning beach itself you’ll see why people travel from all over Cork for a day at Barleycove. From there, the next stop is Mizen Head which is just beyond the beach. Easy!
The route isn’t the most strenuous although you have quite a few hills to climb from Barleycove onto Mizen. The roads are narrow at times, so watch out for farmers and on going traffic if you’re not used to Irish roads.
More importantly watch out for cattle that like to make an appearance on the roads – careful turning those corners you never know what you’d find!
After taking the obligatory photos at Mizen, you can turn back the way you came or take the scenic route through Dunmanus Bay back to Bantry. I recommend going along the Bay on your way back. This way, you have a quiet back road to take with the peninsula ahead of you and the water beside you. There are derelict houses, cattle dotted throughout the fields, and an old castle perched on a hillside as you cycle through. It’s a picturesque cycle that gives you a glimpse of Irelands charm.
This is the most scenic, serene and captivating leg of the journey, with the road pretty flat all the way. Come out onto the road for Durrus and 10km later you’re back in Bantry town.
The cycle should take a couple of hours, but add some extra time on for photo opportunities that are plentiful, as well as the all important snack time at Mizen. You may also opt for doing the “Mizen Experience” which allows you to cross the bridge between cliff edges and visit the lighthouse. A cycling tourist for the day!
The roads are smooth, but between Bantry and Durrus you’ll be avoiding a lot of potholes – welcome to Ireland! The wind can be strong on any given day, but that’s an expected challenging aspect to cycling in Ireland.
I had a blast on this cycle that took me through luscious green farms, charming cottages, beautiful blue coastline and peninsulas around west cork. A concoction of aromas from the fresh air, the sea salt and summer scents from the countryside all added Irish charm to the already enchanting cycle. Although these were all striking aspects of Ireland, it was the copious amount of animals that I met along the way that put that Irish stamp on the cycle. That and the obligatory cup of tea at the point of Mizen.