The picturesque yachting harbour of Kinsale (Cionn tSáile) is one of many colourful gems strung along the coastline of County Cork. Narrow, winding streets lined with galleries and gift shops, lively bars and superb restaurants, and a handsome natural harbour filled with yachts and guarded by a huge 17th-century fortress make it an engrossing place to spend a day or two.
Mizen Head Peninsula
From Skibbereen the N71 rolls west through Ballydehob, the gateway to the Mizen (rhymes with prison). From here, the R592 leads southwest to the pretty village of Schull and onward through ever-smaller settlements to the hamlet of Goleen. Even here the Mizen isn't done.
After Kerry and Dingle, the Beara Peninsula is the third major 'ring' (circular driving route) in Ireland's southwest. Its intricate coast and sharp-featured mountains are a geologist's paradise of exposed and contorted rock strata, making for dramatic scenery at almost every turn of the road.
Cheerful, brightly painted Clonakilty is a bustling market town which serves as a hub for the scores of beguiling little coastal villages that surround it. You'll find smart B&Bs, good restaurants and cosy pubs alive with music. Little waterways coursing through town add to the charm.
Framed by the Sheep's Head hills and the craggy Caha Mountains, magnificent, sprawling Bantry Bay is one of the country's most attractive seascapes. Sheltered by islands at the head of the bay, Bantry town is neat and respectable, with narrow streets of old-fashioned, one-off shops and a picturesque harbourfront.
Cobh (pronounced 'cove') is a charming waterfront town on a glittering estuary, dotted with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral. It's popular with Corkonians looking for a spot of R&R, and with cruise liners – each year around 60 visit the port, the second-largest natural harbour in the world (after Sydney Harbour in Australia).
Castletownbere & Around
Busy Castletownbere (Baile Chais Bhéara) is a fishing port first and a tourist town second. And that gives it great appeal for those looking for the 'real' Ireland, although that's not to say it doesn't have its popular sights, notably the world-famous pub McCarthy's Bar. On Main St and the Square, you'll find ATMs as well as cafes, pubs and grocery stores.
Today, Skibbereen (Sciobairín) is a pleasant, workaday market town, with an attractive, upmarket town centre on the banks of the River Ilen. During the Famine, however, Skib was hit perhaps harder than any other town in Ireland, with huge numbers of the local population emigrating or dying of starvation or disease.