Skibbereen to Bantry, West Cork
Partner at Philip Lee
Why this trip?
Back in 2015, I signed up for the Rugby Legends Cycle in aid of cancer research at Cross Charity. It was a bit of a gamble as I didn’t know anyone else taking part and had never cycled in West Cork. Most of my cycling until then had been in the usual suspects of Majorca, France and Spain – Ireland hadn’t really featured on my radar.
Our 5-day tour started in Skibbereen and this stage was my absolute favourite – I’ve been back a few times and it never gets old.
Need to Know More?
Skibbereen to Bantry, West Cork
Route Rating ➤ Moderate
Distance ➤ 128 km
Climbing ➤ 1,459 meters
We set off from the O’Donovan Rossa GAA grounds heading towards Ballydehob where the roads were so quiet that even a group of over 100 cyclists could move along at a nice pace. Starting out from Skibbereen brings you along Roaringwater Bay and the views are magical from the very start.
The village of Ballydehob is a treasure trove of nice pubs, cafes and some excellent restaurants – though there’s also a pretty stiff hill out of the village which is a decent challenge.
Next up are the beautiful villages of Schull and Goleen. It’s worth stopping in the Along the Way cafe in Goleen, their cakes are a cyclist’s dream.
The stretch between Goleen and Mizen is one of my favourite stretches in Ireland, taking in Rock Island with its old Coast Guard cottages and the view across to Crookhaven. You can see why artists and poets hightail it down to West Cork, the sense of peace and calm is out of this world. I’ve also recently discovered O’Sullivan’s which is a great spot for a seafood lunch if you have the time.
Naturally enough, we Rugby Legends crew were all looking forward to Mizen Head and it didn’t disappoint. The loop around the coast road passing Barleycove was just stunning, though the headwind as you climb out on Mizen Head is to be expected – and it can be stiff!
At Mizen we stopped for a water break and the general consensus was that life couldn’t get any better. How wrong we were! We followed the lead car up a tiny back road, half-convinced we’d taken a wrong turn which turned out to take us over the crest of the headland and towards what I now know is Dunmanus Bay and Sheep’s Head. I’d never have found this road on my own – it’s simply stunning.
After a quick (and much needed!) lunch in Durrus, rumour spread that we were going off piste again along something called Goats Path which, according to those in the know, had a bit of a hill. This turned out to be quite an understatement.
The coast road out along Sheep’s Head gives you the return views across Dunmanus Bay to the north flank of Mizen Head and is definitely one of the highlights of the stage. But silence fell as we took the quick right turn at Kilcrohane and saw the climb rising up ahead of us – all you could hear were the derailers working overtime.
Standing at 193m, Goats Path maxes out at 13% and is a great way of concentrating the mind. Luckily, it’s only 2km long and the views at the top across Bantry Bay and the Ring of Beara are more than rewarding. The descent is fast and tight in places so we took it easy and soaked in the views – there’s nothing better.
It’s a quick spin on to Bantry where there’s a tiny beach near the Supervalue for those who fancy a dip and plenty of nice restaurants to choose from. Otherwise, Ma Murphy’s is a good spot for a nightcap!
Hope you enjoy this stage as much as I do.