The coastline of the South West is a meandering mix of inlets, coves and peninsulas, so there is plenty of opportunity for cliff-top walks and rambles. Inland, the landscape is scarcely less rugged: throughout the region, farmland is interspersed with rocky outcrops and bogs which break up the luscious green vistas.
If you know what you're looking for, you can use these quick links to find your ideal South West attractions.
Starting with Cork, the Rebel City, we take a close look at the experience of starting a course of study in Ireland. Everything from how to get funding to where to get your laptop fixed.See Student Guide
Discover the world famous attractions of Ireland's South West
It's the second largest city in the Republic but the locals call Cork "the real capital of Ireland". They might not be the most impartial judges, but many visitors are inclined to agree, leaving this compact and alluring destination with an enduring fondness and a full belly: Cork is known throughout Ireland for its exceptional food.
Situated five miles north-west of Cork city, Blarney Castle is a solid fixture on almost any tour itinerary. It is best known for the famous "Blarney Stone" which visitors are encouraged to kiss, in accordance with a tradition which spans the centuries.
Built 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland's greatest chieftains, Blarney Castle has attracted millions of visitors who continue to flock here in the hope that they will be gifted with the power of persuasive and elegant speech - or, as we call it in Ireland ... Blarney.
If you look up the word 'quaint' in a dictionary, don't be surprised to find a little picture of Dingle, a fishing port full of charm and allure. Expect its narrow streets to be bustling with visitors during high season. When you're ready to take time out, stop off at one of the many small Irish pubs and enjoy a pint of Guinness with the locals.
Even since production moved to a modern facility nearby, the world-famous Old Midleton Distillery continues to draw huge numbers of visitors who are as curious about The Jameson Experience as ever before. Over 130,000 tourists visit Midleton ever year to learn more about the home of Irish whiskey.
The charm and elegance of the original distillery buildings reflect the pride in the product that was made here. Expect an engaging insight into the culture and history of Ireland, told through one of the nation's most famous exports.
Jameson Irish Whiskey was founded by John Jameson in 1780. The company was originally set up in the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin City. The operation remained in Dublin until 1975 when it relocated to Midleton, County Cork.
At the beginning of the tour there is a very informative audio-visual presentation detailing the whiskey making process used by Jameson throughout the ages. You are then taken to the old distillery dotted along the trail there are antique vehicles, water mills, barrels and casks which really add to the sense of heritage.
The final leg of the tour is the pay-off... a glass of Jameson! There is the option to have this straight up or with Ginger & Lime. If you are quick enough to volunteer there is a comparative tasting of an Irish whiskey, a Scottish whiskey and an American bourbon with an explanation on the differences and making of each.
The Beara Peninsula straddles the border of Cork and Kerry in South-West Ireland. It is the next peninsula south of the famous Ring of Kerry. Quieter and more relaxed than its sibling to the north, Beara offers the perfect getaway for anyone seeking total calm and relaxation. It also offers plenty of photo opportunities. If you fancy a few days in the middle of nowhere, then this is the perfect place.
Read about our own travel experiences in Cork
Ireland's longest circular route covers some staggeringly beautiful scenery, including lakes, beaches, glens, castle ruins, off-shore islands, mountains and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean to the west. A journey around the Ring of Kerry is a must for any first-time visitor to Ireland.
In a car or bus, the Ring of Kerry's 180 km can provide distractions enough to fill a day, but there is no shortage of places to stay overnight and, depending on your interests, you can certainly find plenty of interesting diversions to make it a trip of two or more days.
The route can also be cycled or even walked. Look out for the 230km "Kerry Way", Ireland's longest way-marked trail, which passes through towns such as Glenbeigh, Caherciveen, Waterville, Sneem and Kenmare. During the peak season the Ring of Kerry (or Iveragh Peninsula) can be quite slow moving, especially heading in the anti-clockwise direction favoured by tour buses. So sit back, relax and enjoy the mesmerising views.
The definitive Irish tourist town, Killarney has something for everyone and, after Dublin, is generally the first place name to be added to the itinerary of any Ireland tour.
Though perhaps offering fewer historical and cultural attractions than its east-coast counterparts, Killarney more than makes up for this with the welcoming bustle of the town itself and the staggering natural beauty of its neighbouring namesake, the national park just five minutes' drive away.
The town of Killarney will provide ample diversion for those looking to go shopping and those looking for a Guinness and some traditional music. For the many who choose to do both, there is no shortage of good restaurants to segue your daytime and nighttime activities in the town.
Those who are seeking a little culture during their time in the South West should head to the heart of the Killarney National Park, where they will find the region's most impressive stately home, Muckross House. Just one mile away, you will also find Muckross Abbey, a beautiful construction which - after two hundred years of service - was burned to ruins by Cromwell's troops in 1652.
Look past the top attractions of the South West of Ireland to find it's lesser known destinations.
As a city, Cork retains a great deal of its historical and archaeological heritage, and there is no finer example of this than Cork City Gaol, a towering edifice situated just 2km north-west of Patrick's Street. Opened in 1824, the gaol was heralded as "the finest in three kingdoms", though inmates at the time might not have agreed.
Located in the Sunday's Well area of Cork, Cork City Gaol is currently a museum and visitor attraction. Visitors can step back in time and witness what life would have been like for both prisoners and guards of Ireland's most famous gaol. Open 1824 to replace the old Gaol of Northgate Bridge it soon became seen as marvel of architecture and a feat in logistics for its time.
In its hay day of the 19th and early 20th Centauries Cork City Gaol was home to some of Ireland's most notorious prisoners. During the early 1800's the gaol's walls housed many temporary prisoners before they were taken to convict ships bound for Australia. Later in the same century the gaol's guests included Young Irelanders Derry Lane, Terence Bellew McManus and Ralph and Isaac Varian. In the 20th century its most famous prisoners included Fenians James Mountaine and Brian Dillion and revolutionary nationalist Countess Markievicz.
Today the gaol has been redesigned as a visitor centre, refurbishing the cells as they would have been hundreds of years ago. Original scrawlings on the walls of the cells added with eerily realistic wax figures of both guards and prisoners give the whole experience a very voyeuristic feel.
Unlike their predecessors, visitors today have the freedom to roam the gaol's catacombs for the price of €8 (concessions available). The tour takes visitors back in time, recreating the harsh realities of nineteenth-century incarceration, while exploring some of the underlying causes of contemporaneous crime.
The self-guided tour of the gaol is available in 13 different languages. Cork City Gaol has a souvenir shop, tourist information, picnic area and a cafe.
Built in 1845 the Cork Public Museum known then as The Shrubberies is located on the grounds of Fitzgerald Park. It was originally built by Beamish family and was for years their family home. Cork Corporation eventually purchased the house and its surrounding land and used it as a showcase for the Cork International Exhibition of 1902 and 1903.
The museum officially opened in 1910 but after the burning of Cork City in 1920 it was used as the city's Municipal Offices. After being used as an Air Raid Protection office during World War II the museum finally opened in 1945.
Today, the Museum gives an expansive history of Cork and covers a wide selection of topics. Everything from barrel-top caravans to costumes of the 18th century, from Ireland's oldest shovel to a selection of Cork Silver can be found within the museum exhibitions.
The Riverside Café has recently opened within the Museum and gives visitors the perfect opportunity to enjoy the marvellous views. Cork Public Museum really has something for all ages and, if the weather holds up, a walk around the magnificent Fitzgerald Park is a must.
Opened to the public in 1906 and has since become a bustling attraction for both visitors to Cork City and locals alike. The magnificent gardens of the houses of Sunday's Well can be seen from one side of the Museum while the roadside view is flanked by buildings owned by University College Cork.
Bring your Euro and a sense of curiosity as you explore the small, Bohemian shops which line the narrow streets. A favourite destination for international and Irish visitors, Kinsale is hugely popular on our own Ireland tours.
The Franciscan Well Brewery was founded in 1998 by Shane Long. It was built on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery. It is said that the well within this monastery had was given to curing the aliments of those who drank from it. People would come from across Ireland to make use of its miraculous powers.
Brewers, operating from the well today, still harness its unique output while adding modern technology and techniques learned from across Europe. It is currently Ireland Number 1 Craft Brewery. The Franciscan Well have collaborated with fellow Cork drink makers Jameson Whiskey to create a truly Corkonian beverage a Jameson-Aged Stout.
The brewery is where new drink ideas are formed and if they pass the brewers standards they are then served up at the Brew Pub in Cork City. If they are successful here then they will be exported further afield.
The Brew Pub, located within the original brewery on Cork City's North Mall, is currently one of the city's hot spots. It's a modern pub with an historical twist. The original brewing vat sits in the middle of the beer garden, alongside a huge pizza oven. The latest creations from the brewery are tested by the clientele and, if the weather holds out, entire evenings can be spent arguing about the best pizza and beer combination.
The inside of the pub, built on the burial ground of the old monastery, is also a fantastic spot to sample some of Cork's finest delights ...as long as you don't mind the occasional ghost.
We couldn't resist visiting this amazing brewery ourselves to sample the legendary beers and pizza. Click here to find out how our visit went.
Ideal for a lunchtime stop more than a full-day excursion, Kenmare and Sneem both give a great insight into the relaxed pace of life which characterises this part of Ireland. Pull up a chair and take your time over a nice coffee ... or maybe a Guinness.
A living-history museum, Kerry Bog Village offers a heritage-award-winning insight into the harsh realities of life for the rural poor in famine-ravaged eighteenth-century Ireland. Thatched cottages within the village are decorated and furnished to represent, with well-researched exactitude, the real-life experiences of those who lived their lives in this part of Ireland during the nation's harshest times. A valuable and rewarding trip if you want to understand this chapter of Ireland's history.
Today, the Skellig Islands themselves are a birdwatcher's paradise. During the boat trip out to the Islands themselves, you can expect to see gannets, kittiwakes and storm petrels. Skellig Michael has also, in recent years, been part of the set of the newly rebooted Star Wars movie franchise. Click here to find other famous on-screen destinations in Ireland.
Elizabeth Fort was built in 1601 by Sir George Carewan and was named after Queen Elizabeth I. It is located outside the medieval walls of Cork City, Originally built on wood, stone and mud it is torn down within two years by the people of Cork after the death of Queen Elizabeth. English reinforcements are brought in and seize control. The people of Cork are forced to pay for the forts reconstruction
In 1626 the fort is rebuilt in stone. The design takes on the present day star shape and the majority of the fort from this rebuild survives today. Oliver Cromwell orders the fort walls the be heightened in 1650.
During the 18th century the fort is used as an army barracks. Including the barracks in the nearby Barrack Street, there are 750 soldiers housed here. In the early 19th century the fort is used as a prison for convicts waiting on transportation to Australia. In 1929 the Fort became a Garda station and was in use as such up until 2013.
Today the Fort is a free visitor attraction and a fascinating step back into history. There are different aspects of each of the stages of the forts history including statues of soldiers, cannons and model radio control rooms. Probably the most spectacular part of the tour today is the view that visitors receive of Cork City and the nearby St.Finbarr's Cathedral.
The English Market is a food market which connects Princes Steet and The Grand Parade in Cork City. It has been in its present location, in one form or another, since 1788.
The name 'The English Market' was thought up in the 19th Century to differentiate it from The Irish Market (currently the Bodega on Cornmarket Street). From 1788 until 1980 the interior of the market changed very little. A fire on 19 June 1980 saw the Cork City Council undertake an extensive refurbishment of the property.
Today the market is a focal point for Cork's shoppers. The diversity of its products, friendliness of its traders and its overall aesthetic beauty ensure both locals and visitors to the Cork City flock to its stall on a daily basis. Queen Elizabeth II, on her 2011 Tour of Ireland, made sure to drop by The English Market to take a look around.
Breaks from the shopping can also be enjoyed in the market's cafes. The ready to eat hot dogs, from one of the many butchers, are also an unmissable treat. So if you are in Cork and are looking for the best quality food, exotics produce or simply going for a stroll, a visit to The English Market is essential.
One amazing treat that we came across was in The English Market was The Chocolate Shop. A delightful one stop shop for the finest chocolates found throughout Europe. They are completely independent and are not tied down to any particular manufacturer. They only stock chocolate that passes their standard... and wow, it's quite a standard. A must for any chocolate lover in Cork City.
Built in 1722 and overlooking North Gate Bridge, Shandon Tower is one of the most Famous members of Cork City's skyline. Originally the site housed St. Mary's Church before it relocated to Shandon Street in 1693. At the start of the 18th century the area around Shandon became the hub of the world's butter trade.
The famous Red and White sporting colours of the Cork teams in both Gaelic Football and Hurling are said to have their origins within the walls of Shandon Tower. The North and East walls are made of red sandstone while the South and West walls are made of a white ashlar limestone.
The eight bells of The Shandon Tower are accessible through steep steps which takes you up past the clockwork operating the four sized clockface. These clock faces became known locally as 'the four faced liar' due to the four clocks seemingly never showing the same time. The salmon shaped weather vane known as 'the goldie fish' is four meters long and covered in gold leaf.
Caulfield Orpen designed the The World War one memorial and is said to be one of the finest of its kind. There are five stunning stained glass windows including St. Luke's window by Hubert McGoldrick. After climbing the 132 steps the views on Cork City are nothing short of breathtaking. Ringing the bells that are heard across the city of Cork is a once in a life time experience.
|November to February||11am-3pm (Monday to Saturday), 11.30am-3pm (Sunday)|
|March, April, May, October||10am-4pm (Monday to Saturday), 11.30am-4pm (Sunday)|
|June to September||10am-5pm (Monday to Saturday), 11.30am-4.30pm (Sunday)|
The Beara Peninsula runs along Ireland's south west coast, between Kenmare Bay in County Kerry and Bantry Bay in County Cork. There is evidence of human settlements in the Beara Peninsula dating back to 3,000 B.C. In the 17th century the area was used by the British army against French invasion. There are currently 6,000 people living here, before the Great Famine of the 1840's there was almost 40,000. It is home to two mountain ranges, Slieve Miskish Mountains & Caha Mountains, and is part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Find out more about the Beara Peninsula.
Located 5 miles from the County Kerry town of Killarney, Torc Waterfall is one of the town's more spectacular tourist attractions. The surrounding woodland is heavily populated with red deer. A public hike leads from the waterfall to the top of Torc Mountain. The waterfall is one of the highlights of the 120-mile Kerry Walking tour.
The Black Valley is area of MacGillycuddy's Reeks in western County Kerry. The Black Valley is seen as the remote part of MacGillycuddy's Reeks, MacGillycuddy's Reeks is seen as a remote part of Ireland. The area was the last part of Ireland to be connected with electricity and telephone networks, (1979). The valley is located between the Gap of Dunloe to the north and Moll's Gap to the south.
Inch Beach, contrary to its name, is a 3 mile long blue flag beach. It is not one of the best kept secrets but, due to it remote location, is usually only visited by people in its vicinity. If you are lucky enough to be near by on a good weather day you won't want to be anywhere else on the planet. It is a haven for bathing, angling and water sports. Inch Beach is located 14 miles east of the town of Dingle, County Kerry.
Lively hostel accommodation, a stones throw from Cork City Bus Station. Choose from private rooms to 4 & 6 bed dorms. Friendly staff and live music 7 nights a week.
Hostel accommodation for individuals or groups of 100 guests. Five minutes from the city centre bars, cafés, restaurants, and attractions.
Drimoleague, West Cork, the heart of West Cork's wonderful walkways where every corner is an adventure.
Located at the foot of Mount Brandon on both the Wild Atlantic Way and Dingle Way, Mount Brandon Hostel is the ideal base for hillwalkers, surfers and anglers visiting the region.
Found in the heart of Cork City, Kent Station is a hub for Intercity routes to Dublin and Tralee (County Kerry).
Mallow Station is part of the Cork to Dublin line and services the town of Mallow in North Cork.
Tralee Casement station is a station on the Mallow to Tralee railway line and is located in the centre of Tralee Town, County Kerry.
Part of the Mallow to Tralee railway line. Killarney railway station is located next to the Killarney Outlet Centre and Bus Station.
Find the attractions and destinations of the other regions of Ireland here.