Clonakilty – Skibbereen Loop ➤ West Cork
Former Ireland Rugby International
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Why this route?
Over the years, I’ve cycled pretty much all of the Wild Atlantic Way with the Cross Rugby Legends Cycle and this is the section that stands out most to me – and not just because it’s in Munster! The stretch from Glandore and Union Hall to Tragumna is my absolute favourite road to cycle in Ireland, though Kerry and Donegal put up a good fight!
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Clonakilty - Skibbereen Loop ➤ West Cork
Route Rating ➤ Moderate
Distance ➤ 93 km
Climbing ➤ 1,282 meters
Heading out south from Clonakilty, the spin starts with a nice warmup towards Muckruss Head with views across to Inchydoney Beach. Muckruss is the first and toughest climb of the day, it’s a short, sharp climb with a kick at the end – you’ll be glad when it’s over. Once the work is done, the road sweeps around with spectacular views over the ocean before turning back towards a series of small rolling climbs to keep the legs moving.
The next climb is between Rosscarbery and Glandore and it’s another steep one but the rewards are out of this world. Glandore and Union Hall are still mostly undiscovered, the roads are quiet, and the villages look out over the sea – you could be in the south of France. Hayes’ Bar in Glandore is a good spot to stop for great views and good food.
The small, single-lane Poulgorm Bridge links Glandore with Union Hall, after which the route heads inland and rises up again before coming down into Castletownshend where The Castle is an absolute gem of a lunch stop at the halfway point. There’s a steep descent through the village and watch out for the tree in the middle of the road – yes, really. Only in west Cork!
After lunch is when this route really comes into its own. The road surface between Castletownshend and Tragumna can be tricky (there’s some gravel and grass in places) but the scenery is so spectacular that you’ll want to take your time anyway.
After Tragumna the spin heads inland towards Skibbereen, another beaut of a village with plenty of cafes to stop in for coffee and a bun, and onwards over three rolling climbs through Leap and Ballyoughtera back to Rosscarbery.
Dropping back down onto the bridge at Rosscarbery, there’s just enough time to soak up our last view of the sea before heading up the hills again through Lissavaird and home to Clonakility. The final stretches this route are great if you want to put the head down, get the speed up and power through.
For me, this route has it all, great scenery, tough climbs and some of West Cork’s best-kept secrets in Glandore, Castletownshend (and its wayward tree) and the road out to Tragumna. A stellar route.