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12 Free Family-Friendly Things To Do in West Cork

Posted by Public Storage on December 12, 2023

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more tranquil setting on the southwestern coast of Ireland than West Cork. Filled with breathtaking landscapes and picturesque towns, it’s no wonder this region has become a beloved holiday destination for families from near and far. From golden sandy beaches and lush woodlands to captivating historical sites, there’s no shortage of free things to do in West Cork.


If you’re striving for the perfect family holiday that combines natural beauty and budget-friendly fun, you’re in for a treat. 


Join us as we explore 12 incredible activities that will make your West Cork adventure a memorable one. Whether you’re looking to dive into history or nurture yourself in nature with the family, West Cork offers it all!


1) Barleycove Beach

Barleyclove Beach

Start your West Cork adventure with a visit to Barleycove Beach. This golden sandy beach is perfect for a day of sun, sea, and sandcastle building. The area around Barleycove Beach is home to various wildlife. Budding birdwatchers can enjoy spotting multiple seabirds, and seals are known to frequent the waters nearby. Barley Cove has both an established dune system, and a tidal wetland just behind it, which has lovely opportunities for your family to go hiking and exploring. 


Interesting fact: This region has many plant and animal species, including rare orchids and butterflies for you and your family to enjoy finding together.


2) Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne

Lough Hyne — Ireland’s only saltwater lake — is a haven for nature enthusiasts. It’s a fantastic spot for hiking, kayaking, and discovering unique marine life during your adventure.


Interesting fact: Lough Hyne is home to a phenomenon known as a “marine lake”. The lake’s water levels rise and fall with the nearby Atlantic Ocean’s tides, creating a diverse range of habitats! It’s known as an incredibly important site for ecological research.

3) Mizen Head Signal Station

A family settling into their new home in Cork

While the visitor centre may have an entrance fee, the coastal walk around Mizen Head is free. Enjoy the breathtaking views and keep an eye out for seals and seabirds. 


The Mizen Head Signal Station was built to save unwary ships from the treacherous rocks at Ireland’s most south-westerly point. Kick your visit off by wandering around the Maritime Museum and Heritage Attraction.


Interesting fact: Mizen Head Signal Station is home to the Mizen Head Footbridge, which was once the world’s first (and is still one of the most famous) suspension footbridges.


4) Bantry House Gardens

Mizen head Signal Station

The gardens of Bantry House are open to the public, offering a chance to explore the lush grounds, take in stunning views, and enjoy a picnic.

Interesting fact: Bantry House Gardens is a sanctuary for many unusual and exotic plant species, making it a horticultural heaven for botanists and garden enthusiasts alike. The garden is particularly famous for its majestic and ancient camellias, which are some of the oldest and tallest in Ireland.

5) The Donkey Sanctuary 

The Donkey Sanctuary

For a heartwarming experience, visit The Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll. It’s an entertaining place for any family with kids to meet these gentle animals.


Interesting fact: While The Donkey Sanctuary in Cork is a prominent and well-known location, it’s part of a much larger international network of sanctuaries and projects. The organisation, founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen in 1969, has various headquarters worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Mexico.


6) Rosscarbery Town

Rosscarbery Town

Rosscarbery is a small coastal town offering plenty of things to do in West Cork, surrounded by beautifully lush landscapes and stunning beaches. Rosscarbery boasts stretches of golden sands that are perfect for little feet to play in. Building sandcastles, collecting seashells, and basking in the sunshine are all adventures waiting to happen. 


The shallow waters on many beaches here make it relatively safe for young swimmers to test out some tentative strokes.


Interesting fact: St. Fachtna, also known as St. Fachanan, is the town’s patron saint and is believed to have established a monastery and cathedral in Rosscarbery during the 6th century. The cathedral is an important pilgrimage site for anyone interested in Irish religious history and heritage.

7) The Warren Beach

Warren Beach 

Just to the east of Rosscarbery is The Warren Beach, a particularly beautiful stretch of sand that stands out among the region. It’s perfect for long, peaceful walks with the family and offers an ideal setting for a family game of beach volleyball or frisbee.

8) Baltimore Beacon

Baltimore Beacon

Take a trip to Baltimore Beacon, also known as Lot’s Wife. The picturesque coastal scenery makes it a perfect spot for family photos.


Interesting fact: Strangely, the “lighthouse” does not light up. Its white paint is supposed to be enough of an alert to any ships coming too close to the ragged coast. The beacon is locally known as “Lot’s Wife”, after the Biblical woman who was transformed into a pillar of salt.


Take a trip to Baltimore Beacon, also known as Lot’s Wife. The picturesque coastal scenery makes it a perfect spot for family photos.


Interesting fact: Strangely, the “lighthouse” does not light up. Its white paint is supposed to be enough of an alert to any ships coming too close to the ragged coast. The beacon is locally known as “Lot’s Wife”, after the Biblical woman who was transformed into a pillar of salt.


9) Sherkin Island

Hop on a ferry and visit Sherkin Island for a day of exploring. The island offers stunning beaches, walking trails, and enchanting landscapes. Take a short ferry ride to Sherkin Island and visit the picturesque St. Mary’s Abbey ruins. The only cost you’ll have to cover is the small ferry fee, which is waived for small children.


Interesting fact: People have said that when the frost blankets the lawns of Baltimore (just across the bay), the grass remains unfrosted on the island. Is it because of freaky ghosts or interesting weather patterns? You and the family can decide.


10) Glengarriff Nature Reserve 

This is the perfect place for a family hike. You can explore the woodlands, have a picnic, and perhaps spot some of the local wildlife.


Interesting fact: Some of the oak trees in the Glengarriff Forest are estimated to be hundreds of years old!


11) Whiddy Island

Whiddy Island

Whiddy Island has some delightful historical sites, including an old Martello tower and a 19th-century signal tower. Exploring these sites can be educational and fun for both children and adults.


12) Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra

A scenic valley in the Shehy Mountains of County Cork, Gougane Barra has a gorgeous lake surrounded by dense woodlands and rolling hills. It’s a place where the natural world takes centre stage, offering breathtaking vistas and a sense of peace that we all desperately need. This means gentle hikes, birdwatching and picnics amidst nature’s finest backdrop.


Interesting fact: This picturesque location is also famous for St. Finbarr’s Oratory, a small chapel on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. The oratory is a piece of West Cork’s rich history and a place to jump right into the region’s cultural heritage. 


Your family holiday in West Cork can be filled with unforgettable moments and cherished memories. As you plan your West Cork adventure, remember to secure a hassle-free journey. 


If you need storage solutions for your belongings or holiday gear, consider self-storage. Wm. O’Brien provides secure, convenient, and affordable storage options.


Get a quote today and make your family holiday in West Cork an experience to remember. With all your needs met, you’re one step closer to making your adventure in West Cork a reality. Happy travels!