By Jessica Russo
What do you see when you close your eyes and picture Ireland? Do you see colorful streets and small stone cottages? Do you hear live folk music pouring out of local pubs? What about rugged coastlines and green hilly landscapes, spotted with grazing sheep? If this sounds like the Ireland you've always dreamed of, make your dream a reality in West Cork.
West Cork boasts your classic "old Ireland" movie set scenery. From the coasts of Mizen Head and Cape Clear Island, to tiny vibrant villages, this area offers a unique taste of Irish tradition.
1. Adorable towns
While West Cork's rural beauty makes it one of the most raved-about areas in all of Ireland, the vibrant towns of this cultural region are the icing on the cake. No trip to West Cork would be complete without visiting some of these charming coastal gems:
Clonakilty - locally known as "Clon"
Named the "best town in Ireland and the UK" at the 2017 Urbanism Awards, Clonakilty boasts the colorful Irish charm you've seen in the movies. Just outside of town, you'll find Inchydoney, one of the most picture-perfect beaches in the whole country.
Lined with a rainbow of bright buildings, this cute town is perfect for a relaxing Irish retreat. Check out Bantry Food Market, known as one of the most vibrant markets in West Cork!
Besides being the main ferry port to Sherkin Island and Cape Clear, this quaint harborside village boasts country charm and stunning sea views. Wind through small streets of stone cottages and pastel-painted storefronts, then check out the 13th-century castle overlooking the harbor.
Surrounded by natural beauty, Schull is a fan-favorite in West Cork. Lined with sunny storefronts adorned with flowerboxes, the streets of Schull are packed with Irish culture and hospitality. Indulge in some fresh seafood at any of Schull's welcoming restaurants, then gaze out at the harbor that looks out to the Gaeltact (Irish-speaking) region of Cape Claer Island. This darling little town is dominated by Mount Gabriel and is just a quick scenic drive from Mizen Head!
Nestled on the Beara Peninsula, Glengarriff is a postcard-worthy example of West Cork's charm. Enjoy a delightful visit to this gorgeous village, known as "The Natural Meeting Place, then explore the scenery that surrounds it. Check out Garnish Island, Glengarriff Forest, and the sparkling Wild Atlantic Way!
2. The music scene
West Cork is serious about pub culture. Every tiny town bursts to life with spirit and laughter, as local musicians take to pubs with their fiddles and bagpipes. Grab a pint and tap along to the sounds of West Cork! With that being said, folk music isn't the only genre played in West Cork. In the larger towns, you'll find buzzing nightclubs where artistic DJs spin original mixes!
Sail to Cape Clear Island, go dolphin and whale watching, or take a ride to Dursey Island on Ireland's only cable car! Kayak atop crystal clear waters or go horseback riding through hilly greenery. This area of Ireland is begging to be explored. Get your adrenaline pumping and discover the Wild West of Cork.
4. Local food
With West Cork's position near the coast, this county is rich with award-winning food producers, must-try seafood restaurants, and colorful food markets. Whether you're in the mood for classic fish and chips or want to taste local farm produce, West Cork is filled with tasty options.
5. Cultural Pride
If you were to ask a local about Cork, they'd politely correct you - West Cork. West Cork natives are proud of their heritage and keep Irish tradition alive. In some parts of West Cork, you'll hear Gaelic being spoken! Not only is the area is very Irish, it's also quite cosmopolitan and creative. People in West Cork are friendly, warm-hearted, and welcoming - they're eager to show off their beautiful home.
6. Breathtaking landscapes
West Cork is filled with photo-worthy escapes. In fact, Beara and Mizen Head are known to be two of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Ireland. Think: long stretches of sandy beaches, enchanting coastlines, sky-high mountains, green hills, and rugged terrain. West Cork's edge sits on the famous Wild Atlantic Way and boasts some of its most beloved gems.