Cork's best five walks and trails

Now Corkonians are free to travel across their county, John Healy, MD of www.simplymountains.com suggests some great hillwalking destinations and has tips on planning your trip
Cork's best five walks and trails

BREATH OF FRESH AIR:There are lots of great places to walk around Cork now lockdown has been eased.

WE’VE put in the hard work, and now have just entered phase two-plus.

There was a wonderful sense of achievement last Friday when it was decided that the original 20km Covid-19 travel restriction was to be lifted to allow people to travel countywide.

We had been dutifully bound to our homes since March, so now we look forward to re-sampling our great outdoors and exploring the many corners of this beautiful region.

And of course, geographically we are ideally located next to all the beauty nature has to offer. Idyllic coastal towns, rugged cliff walks, and green, luscious landscapes make Cork the perfect spot to stretch your legs and reap the physical and mental benefits.

Treat your mind, body and soul and go bathe in all the beauty our county has to offer.

Hiking outdoors offers a wealth of health benefits that are not just physical. It improves your self-esteem, mental agility and self-awareness. It’s a great stress-buster and a full-body workout, so it’s good for your general wellbeing.’

Here, I share my list of Cork’s best five walks and trails.

Sheep's Head Way in West Cork.
Sheep's Head Way in West Cork.

The Sheep’s Head Way

This spectacular peninsula juts out into the Atlantic, with incredible views of the ocean and the mountains of West Cork.

The network of local walks has a great variety of length and difficulty and will surely have something for everybody.

For more information, see http://thesheepsheadway.ie/.

Fionnbarra O'Duinnín, caretaker at St Finbarr's Oratory in Gougane Barra with Aine Ni Dhuinnín and Bánie.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Fionnbarra O'Duinnín, caretaker at St Finbarr's Oratory in Gougane Barra with Aine Ni Dhuinnín and Bánie.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Gougane Barra

Nestled in the cradle of the River Lee, Gougane has a welcome treat for all visitors. A haven of family-friendly trails, a local cycle-route, more challenging mountain walks, and the pure tranquillity of the lakeshore and pilgrimage sites.

For more information, see https://www.coillte.ie/site/gougane-barra-forest-park/.

Sunrise at Blackrock Castle in Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan 
Sunrise at Blackrock Castle in Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan 

Blackrock Castle Loop

If it’s challenging to get away from the city, this loop walk offers a little escape.

Following the edge of Cork Harbour and the old railway line through the eastern city, the trek is great for escaping the traffic and enjoying the open air along Lough Mahon’s shore.

For more information, see https://www.corkcity.ie/en/things-to-do/parks-outdoors/cork-city-walks/.

The Ballycotton Cliff Walk

On the Cork coast, this little gem offers views of the shoreline and islands, nature in abundance, and plenty of exercise as the trails rise and fall along the coastline.

Combined with a visit to some of the other local sites from Midleton to Youghal, it means a great day out visiting East Cork

For more information, see https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/ireland/county-cork--2/ballycotton-cliff-walk.

The Boggeragh Mountains.
The Boggeragh Mountains.

Claragh Loop

This more challenging mountain trail offers a hardy day out in the foothills of the Boggeragh mountains of Cork’s north-west.

Starting in the town of Millstreet, it takes you on a journey around Claragh hill. The diversion to the summit is well worth taking in to look out on the beautiful countryside and mountains of counties Cork and Kerry.

For more information see https://www.sportireland.ie/outdoors/walking/trails/claragh-loop-millstreet.

There are a few essential things you should consider before going off-road:

  • Most public amenities, parks and trails have now reopened. However, it is worth checking in advance to avoid disappointment
  • Make sure to get a weather forecast and bring appropriate clothing and footwear for the conditions. Be prepared to turn around in bad weather and be particularly aware of the risks of wind and rain on a mountain and coastal trails
  • Park responsibly in designated areas — do not block roads or gates that may be needed by farmers or emergency services.
  • Do not light fires or place portable barbecues on the ground — or better still, don’t use barbecues at all!
  • If bins are full or not available, take ALL your rubbish away with you — including biodegradable waste.
  • Be considerate of other trail users. Follow social distance and other public health guidelines. Keep dogs under control, ideally on a leash, and collect and

dispose of dog litter properly.

Paul Sherlock, Caoimhe Suipéil and Milly Farrell from the Cope Foundation launching the Cope Foundation's 5 Peaks 1 Week fundraising challenge.  Find out more at cope-foundation.iePicture: Darragh Kane
Paul Sherlock, Caoimhe Suipéil and Milly Farrell from the Cope Foundation launching the Cope Foundation's 5 Peaks 1 Week fundraising challenge. Find out more at cope-foundation.iePicture: Darragh Kane

UPCOMING CHALLENGE

John Healy has been working with Cork’s Cope Foundation, developing their latest fund-raising campaign, 5 Peaks 1 Week.

The 5 Peaks 1 Week challenge will see teams of people scaling some of the country’s tallest mountains by simply walking close to their home, and making good use of their stairs.

The five mountains targeted are the highest in Munster — Carrauntoohil in Co. Kerry, Galtymore in Co. Limerick and Co. Tipperary, Knockmealdown in Co. Waterford, Moylussa in Co. Clare, and Knockboy in Co. Cork.

John said: “I’m delighted to be able to support the 5 Peaks 1 Week challenge for Cope Foundation. Munster is a paradise for hill walking, and this is a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on some of the mountains that surround us.”

For more information or to get involved, see www.cope-foundation.ie/Cope5Peaks1Week

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