The cultural region of West Cork is one of the most popular tourist areas in all of Ireland thanks in large part to its rural beauty, but the towns here are beautiful too – particularly those along the coast. Here are some of the most scenic ones, listed from east to west – plus a local Airbnb for each, curated by Culture Trip, if you’re looking for a place to stay.
This coastal apartment sits right on the Kinsale waterfront, overlooking swarms of sailboats, 17th-century forts and rolling countryside. Aptly named the Boathouse, the one-bedroom property draws influence from its nautical surroundings, with a fresh white-and-navy palette and ocean-themed art, while a scattering of fluffy sheepskin throws, pouffes and deep rattan chairs keep things homely. Wake up to the lapping waters and watch the boats drift past over a morning tea (cupboards are stuffed with biscuits if you’re a dipper), and wrap up adventurous days with a glass of wine on the idyllic terrace.
In the heart of Clonakilty, this traditional Irish street house overlooks the town square, where the melodies of harpists frequently fill the air. Inside, you’ll find a monochromatic colour scheme softened by rustic-meets-industrial furnishings and tartan blinds, two bedrooms that can sleep four and a designated reading nook with weathered leather chairs for people-watching. After a day spent perusing boutiques and sipping pints in the town’s characterful pubs, be sure to grab some local produce so that you can cook a meal next to the glow of the kitchen’s old-school wood burner.
This enchanting four-bedroom home, set on the emerald hillside above Glandore village, has breathtaking views of the bay, sprawling gardens and a sun-blessed patio. Behind its stone walls and blue-rimmed windows lies a homely interior, complete with a baby-blue Smeg fridge with plenty of space for food (and wine), shelves stacked with an extensive book collection and a London bus-shaped bunk bed that will delight little ones. The picnic table outside is an open invitation for lunches al fresco and twilight tipples, or you can venture into town to listen to Irish music in one of the cosy pubs.
This ’70s-built bungalow makes a charming first impression, with a peach-coloured facade wrapped in thick ivy and a sheltered deck offering picture-perfect views of Roaringwater Bay. Inside, the living room (fittingly known as the sunroom) is drenched in natural light through giant windows, while a striped corner sofa hugs the wall in the TV room, promising snug movie nights alongside the wood-burning stove. Sleeping up to five people, the three bedrooms come with extra pillows and blankets for chilly nights, and the bathrooms are stocked with towels and soap.
With the sea right on your doorstep, the three-bedroom Harbour View Cottage is infused with a salty air that mingles with floral aromas coming from the garden. When you’re not taking in views of the rock-studded shores and sailboats, you can tuck into dinner under the stars on the patio’s mosaic-tiled table. The open-plan living area with a wood burner is an ideal spot for board games with family and friends on rainy days, while bohemian throws and large, cushy armchairs await you in the rooms (that can sleep up to eight people).
Luxury spills from every corner of this five-bedroom townhouse – from the velvet cushions and glistening chandeliers to the silver vanity tables and marble fireplaces. There’s even an old brass diving helmet doubling as a lampshade – not quite luxurious, but bohemian nevertheless. As it sits a stone’s throw from Bantry Bay, you are a short amble from its many traditional pubs, craft shops and weekly farmer’s market. Once you’ve packed your bags with local treats, head home to relax in the open-plan kitchen and living room before throwing it all together for a memorable evening meal.
Plucked from a fairytale, this former hunting lodge is sequestered away on a private island just a few minutes’ drive from Glengarriff village. The thatched cottage sleeps up to eight people and sits on hectares of manicured gardens, with three timber bridges that lead to ancient oak woodland, bluebell-clad meadows and a natural pool where you can go for a dip (weather permitting) or try a spot of salmon fishing. Wander back past the orchard, dry off using the heated slate floors and cosy flames of the large sandstone fireplace, and retreat to rooms where famous figures such as William Wordsworth once stayed.
Chloe Byrne contributed additional reporting to this article.