Kenmare to Glengarriff driving route
This route from Kenmare to Glengarriff starts in Kenmare, in County Kerry and takes you into the beautiful County Cork.
The route follows the Wild Atlantic Way around the Beara Peninsula, passing the WAW Signature Point of Dursey Island on the way.
Take a cable car journey out to Dursey Island on the only cable car crossing the sea in Europe. Stay on Bere Island or visit Garinish Island and explore the gardens.
Or take a ferry out from the Blue Pool or Glengarriff harbour and see the seals.
This is one of the most spectacular roads to drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, especially on a motorbike. There are some spots I have marked on the route where I had to stop to take photographs, like this one:
You can also take some wonderful detours on the way, such as a trip over the gorgeous Healy Pass, the Priest’s Leap summit or a visit to Gougane Barra.
Approx. 137 kms distance, 2 hrs 51 minutes driving time
Download the route map to your phone with ALL the points of interest included here: Kenmare to Glengarriff.
Situated between the Iveragh and Beara peninsulas, Kenmare is a good spot to start an adventure on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Accessed via a narrow road, this spot has a fishing pier and great views over the Kenmare River.
The Discovery point itself is hidden away further up from the Pier at the location marked on the map.
You can stop for a bite to eat at Helen’s Bar on the way there, and if the weather is good enjoy your meal on the picnic tables outside.
Stunning views across the water of the mountains.
This pass is a wonderful drive, especially on a bike. It was so good I rode it twice. It is not on the WAW, but is a good way to cut across the Peninsula, if you are heading to Castletown-Bearhaven, which I was in the evening.
The detour is worth it if you have time.
I travelled it going South which takes you from county Kerry into Cork.
There are wonderful views and in the evening I found the road virtually empty. Be warned that the track is quite narrow in places and there are limited passing places.
Kenmare River View
When you approach this Discovery point from the South you pass through a cut-out in the rock to a wonderful Panoramic view over the River/Estuary.
The approach road is narrow and single-tracked. There is no Discovery Point sign at this location, but it is worth visiting for the fantastic panoramic view of the Iveragh Peninsula.
There is a place to park the car.
Dooneen Scenic viewpoint
This Discovery point has a small spot to stop. In some of my photos, there were plenty of cyclists from the Beara Way cycle stopping here for a break when I passed here.
I drove this part of the road going clockwise against the flow of the cyclists from the Beara Way Cycle, which unfortunately happened to be that day, 27th May 2023. Apparently, 4,500 cyclists did the ride this year (110km or 140km), and had perfect weather for it. I managed to miss all of them!
Garnish Point (sometimes spelled Garinish, from the Irish ‘Garinis’) is where you can ride the only cable car in Ireland, and the only cable car crossing the sea, out to Dursey Island.
Garnish Point is the most westerly part of West Cork Mainland. The cable car travels about 250m above the sea and carries six people.
The crossing normally takes about ten minutes. Unfortunately, probably due to the rough operating conditions over Dursey Sound, the iconic cable car was in urgent need of maintenance and was closed since the Spring of 2022 until I visited in May 2023.
However a week after my visit it has reopened and is back in operation.
You can reach the Signature Point of Dursey Island via the cable car from Garnish Point. The island is now semi-inhabited and is a tourist attraction for walks and bird watching.
There used to be three villages on the island. Now, however, there are no shops or pubs on the island so you need to bring your own food and drink if you wish to visit.
The cable car is an iconic tourist attraction when it is open and worth visiting just for the ride. For the bird watcher, there are all sorts of rare birds to be spotted here. Some come from as far away as North America and Siberia.
If you wish to have a peaceful retreat for a few days, you can rent some accommodation on the island.
On the furthest western hill you can find the original Watch/Signal Tower which has great views to the Skelligs in the North and Mizen Head in the South.
The British built the watch tower during the Napoleonic Wars as part of a line of defence against the French all along this coastline. It is also possible to take boat trips around the island.
The ancient church of Kilmichael, now a ruin, was founded by Monks from Skellig. The island was the location of the Dursey massacre in 1602.
Gour Scenic Spot
This Discovery Point has a layby and a Discovery Point sign. It has spectacular views over the outer part of Bantry Bay.
Castletownbere or Castletown Berehaven is a nice little fishing town with seafood restaurants and pubs.
This is one of the places to catch a ferry to Bere Island. Berehaven Harbour is a well-protected deep-water harbour. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries this harbour was an important Naval port for the British navy as protection against French Invasion and as a service base during WWI.
The British were allowed to stay under the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 but left in 1938.
You can drive onto Dinish Island and look out to Bere Island, which protects the harbour. There is a memorial on Dinish Island to those that have died at sea, called ‘Twilight Haul’.
This is a lovely challenging 9 hole golf course with 3 holes overlooking the water. Good drainage allows the course to stay open most of the winter.
This is a great place to camp. I spent two nights with a pitch on the water for 15 Euro a night.
They have showering facilities in the clubhouse and of course more importantly a bar on the first floor with super views out to the water. There is a separate facility for cooking and they also accommodate campers.
The golf course was built by the British when they were stationed nearby in Berehaven, making it quite an old golf course. There are still remnants of the British Navy to see on the golf course.
Bere Island is strategically located at the entrance to Bantry Bay and protects the Berehaven deepwater harbour.
The island is promoted to tourists as a great place for cyclists, walkers, fishermen, flora and fauna lovers to explore. There is a 5km Parkrun every Saturday on the Island.
You can glamp on the island and there are other places to stay if you wish to visit. The island has a thriving community, some of whom have grown up there and others that have returned after living away.
There are several archaeological and historic sites on the island which include wedge tombs, ring forts, and standing stones, amongst others.
Berehaven harbour and Lawrence Cove are both well-sheltered harbours and there is a marina for visiting sailors. There are some lovely views of Bantry Bay from the island.
Pontoon Pier is another embarkation point for Bere Island with Murphy’s ferries.
The ferry times are every few hours in the winter months so you need to plan your trip accordingly.
Whiddy Island View
This Discovery Point on the R572 has a layby and sign and gives a great panoramic view over Whiddy Island, its Oil storage tanks and Bantry Bay.
There is a backdrop of rocky headland.
Garinish island (or Garnish island, also known as Ilnacullin, or Illaunacullin) is in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay. The island used to be home to the Bryce family (Scottish MP/ambassador) but was donated to the Irish state in 1953 after the death of Roland Bryce.
The Island is known for Bryce house and its beautiful gardens. The Office of Public Works (OPW) now tends the gardens.
The gardens of Garinish were developed by the partnership of Annan and Violet Bryce and gardeners Harold Peto and later Murdo Mackenzie. The house is in its original state and you can visit in person or online on the website.
The gardens include a Grecian temple, a clock tower, a casita (or Italian summer house), and an original Martello Tower.
There is a small fee to visit when you reach the island.
Blue Pool Pier
You can get the ferry from here to Garnish Island from the picturesque Blue Pool. The Blue Pool is a lovely tidal harbour 2 minutes walk from the lovely village of Glengariff.
There are signposts to the blue pool and the path is next to Quills Woollen Market in the centre of the village.
At Quills in the summer there are food stalls laid out and it is a nice place to stop for lunch or a picnic.
The blue pool is where the river meets the bay and it is a beautiful protected harbour surrounded by trees.
There are some signposted walks through the woods with nice harbour views.
This is another Discovery Point location where you can catch a ferry to Garinish Island. The protected harbour has a large car park and you can catch the ferry from the pier.
Or charter a fishing boat and look for whales and dolphins, or see the seals on Seal Island. Or even organise a customized boat tour.
Whiddy Island is opposite the town of Bantry and has a much-reduced population compared to previous years. There are oil storage facilities on the Island related to the famous Whiddy island disaster in 1979, when an oil tanker, Betelgeuse, exploded at the oil terminal, claiming 50 lives.
You can visit the island during the summer and follow some of the Sheep’s Head Way walking paths.
For the adventurous among you, the Priest’s Leap is another worthwhile detour from the Wild Atlantic Way.
This amazing gravel route takes you to the border of Cork and Kerry at the summit. It is the highest pass in Munster at 463m. There is a narrow track with very few passing places. But it offers spectacular views on the way up and at the top.
The place’s name comes from an old Irish legend.
I rode it going North and encountered a herd of cows roaming loosely on the way up.
If you travelling with a caravan watch this video:
It is not recommended for large vehicles – I was initially behind a German caravan that was persuaded to turn around by a local as you would not be able to manoeuver on this path if you meet oncoming traffic.
Gougane Barra is another short detour from the Wild Atlantic Way but well worth the visit. The valley is very scenic and is a heritage site.
There is an oratory built on a small outcrop in the middle of a lake, overlooked by impressive mountains.
For myself it has memories of my late father who visited here on holiday with my Mum many years ago to fish in the surrounding lake and rivers.
He had many related stories including having a poacher as a Gilly, catching a cow with the fly rod, and partaking of the local poutine with some detrimental consequences involving a toothbrush. But I will not go further into the details here 🤭.
Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Gav