Glengarriff's mild, frost-free climate allows this small 12-hectare park to flourish. It has a variety of exotic plants, including palm trees and tree ferns, as well as coastal woodland walks.
The magical Italianate garden on Garinish Island is the top sight in Glengarriff. Subtropical plants flourish in the rich soil and warm climate. The camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons especially provide a seasonal blaze of colour.
From a little cove near the centre of the village.
The 300-hectare ancient woodland lining Glengarriff's glacial valley was owned by the White family of Bantry House in the 18th century. The thick tree cover maintains humid conditions that allow ferns and mosses to flourish. The woodlands and bogs are also home to Ireland's only arboreal ant and the rare and protected Kerry slug.
From the pier opposite the Eccles Hotel.
The Republic’s only planetarium, the Schull Planetarium, on the grounds of Schull Community College, has an 8m dome and a video and slide show. It was founded by a German visitor who was charmed by the town. A 45-minute star show starts at 4pm or 8pm during the rather complex opening hours; call to confirm times.
You can see photos of Fastnet Lighthouse under oceanic assault at Tom Newman Photography in Schull.
Constructed on the site of the town’s old gasworks, the Skibbereen Heritage Centre houses a haunting exhibition about the Famine, with actors reading heartbreaking contemporary accounts. A visit here puts Irish history into harrowing perspective. There’s also a smaller exhibition about nearby Lough Hyne, the first marine nature reserve in Ireland, and a genealogical centre.
Gougane Barra Forest Park
The pretty harbour is dominated by the remains of the Dun na Sead . Inside are seasonal art displays, but the best way to appreciate this 13th-century survivor is from a distance.
Eyeries to Lauragh
Lauragh is home to the Derreen Gardens , planted by the fifth Lord Lansdowne around the turn of the 20th century. Mossy paths weave through an abundance of interesting plants, including spectacular New Zealand tree ferns and red cedars, and you may see seals on the shore.
The Kenmare Lace and Design Centre has displays including designs for ‘the most important piece of lace ever made in Ireland’ (in a 19th-century critic’s opinion). It’s run by lace-maker Nora Finnegan, who was taught by the Poor Clare nuns. Also interesting is the story of Margaret Anna Cusack (1829–99), the Nun of Kenmare and an early advocate of women’s rights.
Built in 1862, this church has a splendid wooden roof with 14 angel carvings. Intricate mosaics adorn the aisle arches and edges of the stained-glass window over the altar. The architect was Charles Hansom, collaborator and brother-in-law of Augustus Pugin (the architect behind London's Houses of Parliament).
Reached through the tourist office, Kenmare's heritage centre tells the history of the town from its founding as Neidín by the swashbuckling Sir William Petty in 1670. The centre also relates the story of the Poor Clare Convent, founded in 1861, which is still standing behind Holy Cross Church.
Signposted southwest of the Square is an early Bronze Age stone circle, one of the biggest in southwest Ireland. Fifteen stones ring a boulder dolmen, a burial monument rarely found outside this part of the country.
Cape Clear Island
The small heritage centre has exhibits on the island’s history and culture, and fine views north across the water to Mizen Head.
The castle, sitting imposingly on the waterfront, is a rocky fantasy. Huge mullioned windows obviate any authenticity of the decorative defensive touches. The seven guest rooms range from one with an old four-poster, where you can play ‘royal and consort’ games, to small but bright rooms, some with terraces and views.
Eyeries to Lauragh
The town of Eyeries is home to Milleens cheese , from pioneering producer Veronica Steele. She welcomes visitors to her farm; phone ahead.
Clonakilty to Skibbereen
On an exposed hillside, with fields sweeping away towards the coast and bothered cattle braying in the distance, the Drombeg Stone Circle is superbly atmospheric. Its 17 uprights once guarded the cremated bones of an adolescent, discovered during a 1960s excavation.