Whatever the weather may be at other points in West Cork , it is magnified at Mizen Head. If it is raining in the Beara, it is pouring here. If it is windy there, the winds are raging here. Because this peninsula is more skinny and exposed than the other peninsulas, it gets more extreme versions of the weather. So when the sun's out, head for Mizen head, where it will be blazing.
The Mizen Head peninsula drive is 64 miles (103km). Overall, the north side is more green and less rugged and raw than Sheep's Head peninsula. The road goes right up alongside the water. We noticed a lot of land for sale here. The drive takes you to the most southwesterly tip of Ireland - Mizen Head Signal Station. Tour the Signal Station. The gorgeous beaches of Barley Cove are waiting for you afterwards.
When the sun is out in Ireland, and you see a sandy beach, stop whatever you're doing and enjoy it. We learned this the hard way and missed out on many nice beaches. The fact is, the rains come so fast and are so hard to predict, it is a rare thing to enjoy a sunny beach.
On the south side of the peninsula, are the sea-faring towns of Crookhaven, Schull, and Ballydehob.
Crookhaven is at the tail of a dead end road that goes up along a cliff above Barely Cove. The village was full of kids learning how to sail. You can catch a ferry here to Clear Island. This summer, in the aptly named village, a boat laden with tons of kilos of cocaine spilled in the water. It caused a huge media stir, provoking search brigades to track down the stray satchels. It was the big joke on our travels, from Bantry to Cork.
Schull is a lovely sailing town where the two coke runaways were found. Lots of good food and shopping here - it is a nice, resort vibe. There is also a sailing school.
Ballydehob is the more touristy of the towns. It has a lot of cool, old shop fronts. Take a scenic walk on 12 Arch Bridge by the water.
Driving around the southwest, the secret is to stay ahead of the tractors. If you must stop to take a photo, don't let them pass you. Then you have to pass them again, which is no small feat on the narrow roads.
What to See and Do
Visit the Mizen Head Signal Station. Shop for beautiful linen, hemp, and wool creations at Pebbles in Schull. Robert Lee Ceramics Gallery and Studio is located in Ballydehob, just a few miles from Schull. He specializes in contemporary porcelain. Visit Keltic Knot, a craft shop and gallery in Ballydehob. Hobbits in an antique store in Ballydehob, with lots of wonders. Browse A Nice Old Bookshop in Ballydehob.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Crookhaven Inn and The Welcome Inn are two pubs in Crookhaven. O'Sullivan's Bar serves tea, scones, and open-faced sandwiches for lunch in Crookhaven. The Harbour is a sit-down restaurant in Crookhaven.
In Schull, the West Cork Gourmet Store is an ideal place to sit and have a coffee - it feels like the West Village of New York City. Also in Schull is Gwen's Chocolates, run by Gwen himself, a French chocolatier. Taste mouth-watering bonbons in subtle flavors. Summersalt is a café and culinary emporium in Ballydehob. They make homemade breads, scones, cakes, and pies, all using spelt flour and no dairy. Hudon's Wholefoods is the organic grocer in Ballydehob.
Where to Sleep
Nearby Barley Cove has a hotel on the beach, or rent a cottage for your family. In Schull, The Bunratty Inn is right along the waterfront. There are also many B&Bs on the hillside with sea views.
How to get there
From Durrus, take R591 Mizen Head drive out to Mizen Head point. Return on R591, drive to Crookhaven on a dead end street. Turn around and drive the R591 through Goleen and Toormore. Transfer to R592 and drive through Schull and Ballydehob.
From Skibbereen, take N71 to Ballydehob, transfer to R592 and drive through Schull and Toormore, take R591 to Goleen and out to Crookhaven. Follow signs to Mizen Head point and then head northwest to Dunmanus and back onto the R591 to Durrus.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
April to October, when the days are longer and the sun comes out. Crookhaven Regatta in mid-August. Ballydehob Summer Festival in mid-August. Goleen Festival in mid-August.