Bantry Bay is the area of West Cork between the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and the Beara Peninsula. Sitting just offshore is Whiddy Island and connecting the two is Tim O’Leary and his Whiddy Ferry. As we sailed out to the island, I couldn’t help but notice the two kegs of beer aboard (one Guinness and one Carlsberg.) I almost hoped we’d break down and have to tap into the kegs for something to drink.
As you debark onto the island, the first thing you see is a pub. Still off to a good start. Stop in the Bank House Bar & Restaurant for food or beverage before you take off for a walk around the island. Look for interesting ruins like the schoolhouse below or some hidden gun batteries.
As you walk the paths or the meadows, be aware of the beautiful flora around you. Watch for oversized rabbits as well. Notice the sign? The Sheep’s Head Way walking route logos point right and left. That’s the beauty of walking a 3-mile long island. Either way you go, you are going to arrive right back where you started from.
On the 10 minute ride back to Bantry, the clouds started to separate and the sun started to illuminate some of the buildings on shore. It was sensational to see the sunlit buildings against some darker clouds. I also got my first glimpse of the famous Bantry House where I’d be spending the night.
Bantry House is a wonderful Georgian mansion built around 1750 and is still managed and lived in by relatives of the original owners. B&B accommodations are available for those who would like to spend the night. Believe me, you’ll like spending the night here – just gorgeous inside and out.
The gardens are the first thing you’ll notice and they are extensive. A formal garden extends up a hillside behind the house and taking the stairway is a perfect place to get a view of the property with the bay behind it. Watch out for the guard chickens who wander at will.
Tours are given by the owners and there’s quite a bit of history to the house including links to Wolfe Tone and the less-than-successful United Irishmen’s rebellion at the end of the 18th century.
Downtown Bantry has dozens of historic sites as well if you have time to explore. A large map in the town square will give you a walking route to see them all. If you want a drink after your walk, I’d suggest The Snug, a little pub looking out on the square. Good food, beer and Wi-Fi. A recipe for success.
If you are driving, and I hope you are, you might prefer to drive out a few kilometers to Manning’s Emporium – a charming gourmet food shop, deli and café right on N71 between Bantry and Ballylickey. I met Siobhan Burke from the Sheep’s Head Way organization here and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and the food. It was a little cool when we arrived, so we ate inside, but they offer both inside and outside seating.
The Emporium was started by Val Manning’s family in the 1930’s and is now run by Andrew and Laura Heath, who are in the process of a number of upgrades to the premises. What remains the same is that Manning’s Emporium is still the quintessential place for homemade bakery and locally sourced produce. We shared a cheese & charcuterie board with antipasti, bread and chutney that was over- the-top delicious. The Durrus Og cheese is a new favorite. Watch their calendar for wine and food tasting events throughout the year.
Next article in the Wild Atlantic Way series: County Donegal
Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about travel destinations, photography and tech topics across the country and around the world at DougBardwell.com. Feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the "Subscribe" button above or follow him on Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. To read Doug’s disclosure notice, click here. For travel ideas in Cleveland and around the world, check his Calendar of Events. To see his travel photo collection, see BardwellPhotography.com.