Must See Places in Ireland: Bantry Bay

We reinvented life over five years ago now when we moved to Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland. We have always enjoyed day trips out of Kinsale, to see the historic views of Ireland. Among our favorite places to go in Ireland is Bantry. Becoming one of the must see places in Ireland which offers a lovely day out while traveling in Ireland.

The Route

We like to recommend a circular route on our day trips out of Kinsale – allowing the traveler to see two different parts of the country as you travel.

Taking about an hour and a half either way, you can travel northeast out of Kinsale on the Glen road to the New Road (probably 15 or more years old now) which may also be sign posted R605. You turn right by the County Council Hall (there will be signposts pointing that way and the road is slightly larger, and then follow the turns left and then right again until you reach N71. Total distance has been 15km.

Stay on N 71 to Bandon where you will turn right at the T junction and follow the signposts to Dunmanway. The road is scenic, well traveled and offers great views as well as lovely forested areas. You will pass close to Ballinacurra Tower House where the Sheela na gig is that was featured in another of these articles.

At Dunmanway the R# becomes 586 and you stay on that road a total of 51km until you turn to the right and join N71, a much bigger roadway. This will bring you into Bantry in a short distance. Please note that you can follow N71 in reverse all the way to where it intersects again with your earlier route, allowing a different and equally scenic route back to Kinsale, one that, while less direct, takes the same time and is easier to drive because the road is larger.

The Sights

Bantry is the city that overlooks a major Bay on the Southwest corner of Ireland. Because of its size and the relative safety of its waters it has seen much navel action over the centuries. Immigrants arrived here from 4000BC onward. An abundance of copper allowed the early people to make weapons and the name of the town (Beanntraige in Irish) was in honor of the son of the Irish king of the area, ruling at the time of Christ.

During the travesty of the Battle of the Boyne in 1689, the English King James landed troops here to battle the troops of William of Orange -who escaped by ship out of the Bay and back home to France. A major battle, although in fairness the Irish lost the most during that war, fought by them on their soil in support of two foreign Kings. Again in 1796 the French would sail into the Bay, this time in support of the Irish wanting to rebel against England (a constant theme of their 600+ year occupancy).

We recommend that you pay the admission to the local family who have lived in the Bantry House and maintained their inheritance from the times when their family were the landed family on who the poorest Irish families depended. Reduced in status now they do a magnificent job of making ends meet through a federal grant which allowed them to establish a historical diorama on the raising of a French Ship from the bay, the house itself and the many relics of their family, including papers signed by Lord Nelson, and opening a few rooms for an expensive bed and breakfast. You can hear Egerton Shelswell-White, the owner of the house practicing his trumpet while you eat a lovely lunch or pastries and enjoy one of the nicest restored gardens in the area overlooking the Bay.

If plants are of interest to you and you have a little more time then continue on N71 to Glengariff and spend a few hours wondering the extensive and varied gardens at Garnish Island. It is open to visitors from March to the end of October and reached by a series of privately run ferries from a site well marked from the road. Enjoy the seals basking on the rocks on the ferry ride and then walk the gardens, taking an hour or more to see them all.

Traveling back to Kinsale on N71 you will pass Rosscarberry, which is the turn off for Drombeg circle, Clonakilty, and the Sheel na Gig at Ballynacarriga Tower House the topic of another one of our day trips out of Kinsale. Slainte'