8 Things to Do While Visiting Bantry, Ireland

by Janis on April 20, 2017

In early June we plan to visit the coastal town of Bantry, Ireland via a 14-day Celtic Explorer cruise. Since it is a new destination for us, we investigated this part of West County Cork.

Preparing to visit, Bantry, IrelandThe town of Bantry – with a population of less than 3,500 — is located at the head of Bantry Bay, a deep water, wind-sheltered harbor on the Atlantic Ocean. This bay has attracted fishermen, merchant ships and warriors for centuries.

A view overlooking part of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Pam Brophy.

A view overlooking part of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Pam Brophy.

Bantry is a tender port for cruise ships. While researching this port, I learned that our cruise ship — Holland America’s ms Prinsendam —  will anchor off Glengarriff Harbor, and the ship’s tender boats will deliver us into the town on Glengarriff rather than into the town of Bantry. While this is a common situation, normally the port call would be marketed as Glengarriff (Bantry), Ireland, rather than simply as Bantry, Ireland.

Google map of Glengarriff HarborAccording to Google Maps, it is a 10-mile, 16-minute drive from Glengarriff Harbor to the town of Bantry. We will have to figure out how to get to Bantry from where our ship’s tenders drop us off. We downloaded the Journey Planner travel app for Ireland to check public transportation between Glengarriff Harbor and Bantry. (The TFI Journey Planner is free, and available from the Apple App store, Google Play or the Windows store. The public bus service between the towns appears to be infrequent on the day of our visit, and it doesn’t appear that Uber has made it to Glengarriff or Bantry.

Once we arrive in Bantry, we will most likely stop by the Bantry Tourist Office for maps, directions and a few questions best asked from a local. It’s located in the Old Courthouse by the Wolf Tone Square (the main square in central Bantry.)

Based on our pre-trip research, these are the things around the town of Bantry and Bantry Bay that we’d like to explore.

8 Things to Do While Visiting Bantry, Ireland

A statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone also stands in the main square of Bantry, Ireland.

A statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone also stands in the main square of Bantry, Ireland.

1.  Stop by the Theobald Wolfe Tone statute in Bantry’s main square. The square commemorates Dublin-born Theobald Wolfe Tone. Tone led the United Irishmen in an uprising against British rule in Ireland. The United Irishmen, a republican revolutionary group influenced by the ideas of the American and French revolutions, were the main organization behind the Irish Rebellion May to September 1798.

2. Get a latte and a scone or a sausage roll at the Box of Frogs Coffeehouse & Bakery. This highly-rated cafe is located at Bridewell Lane in Bantry. Who can resist a latte dusted with chocolate in the outline of a frog?

map of the Heritage Loop Walks in Bantry, Ireland. Map from Explore West Cork /West Cork People.

map of the Heritage Loop Walks in Bantry, Ireland. Map from Explore West Cork /West Cork People.

3. Take one or all of Bantry’s Heritage Loop Walks – perhaps starting with the Béicín Loop – described as “a short walk on a concrete pathway by the sea, easily accessible from the town center. Wonderful views of Bantry Bay, mountains, and islands in the bay.”  Trail descriptions and map can be accessed at Explore West Cork.

The Bantry House is located on the south side of Bantry Bay near the town of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna.

The Bantry House is located on the south side of Bantry Bay near the town of Bantry, Ireland. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna.

4. Visit the Bantry House and Gardens – the ancestral home of the White family who became the Earls of Bantry. While still owned by  descendants of the White family who still live on the property, tourists can visit the estate.  The house has a collection of artworks gathered by the second Earl of Bantry and his wife Mary as they traveled across Europe. Their travels also inspired the Bantry House gardens.

The house has been open to tourism since 1946, and offers tours of the house and gardens, a tea shop and bed and breakfast accommodations.

5. Check out the 1796 Bantry French Armada Center  – next to the Bantry House. This center recounts the story of Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen’s attempt to land a 50-ship French Armada in Bantry Bay in order to expel the British and establish an Irish Republic. Due to bad weather and other factors, the attack failed. The Armada Center recounts the attempted French landing and contains items excavated from the wreck in Bantry Bay as well as a 1-to-6 scale model of ‘The Surveillante‘.

Sheep's Head near Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Petra15.

Sheep’s Head near Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Petra15.

6. Explore Sheep’s Head Peninsula – via a hike or renting a car to drive on the narrow 1-way road. This is a guide to the Sheep’s Head Looped Walks. The 4 kilometer or about 2.5 mile long Lighthouse Loop is rated moderate and might be interesting on a nice day. Other trails offer stunning scenery, but may be too adventurous for a day in port unless we hire a knowledgeable local guide and pack hiking boots.

7. Enjoy some local seafood. While the vast shoals of Pilchards found in the bay drew the English to Bantry in the 1600’s, today the area in known for mussel farming. We’d like a chance to sample the seafood at either The Fish Kitchen (above a fish shop, features locally sourced seafood, known for its daily specials) or O’Connor’s Seafood Restaurant where we’d have to try the Mussels in a Thai coconut curry sauce.

8. Drink a pint in a local pub. The more unique the name, the better. These pubs are on our list to check out while in Bantry: The Snug, The Quay’s Bar and Ma Murphy’s.

During our planning, we are using these two guidebooks:

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Ireland

Rick Steves Best of Ireland

Have you visited Bantry, Ireland? What activities do you recommend?

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