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The Sheep's Head/St Finbarr's Pilgrim Way Walking Tour

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Sunday 18th September- Friday 23rd September 2016

From the SHEEPS HEAD lighthouse  to St Finbarr’s hermitage at GOUGANE BARRA, via Kilcrohane, Durrus, BANTRY, Drimoleague, Mealagh valley and Kealkil :  Four days walking and five nights accommodation at the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc and Walking Centre. [Map] See details on each day's walk below.

We have designed this walking holiday to give you a taste for Irish life and landscape. Our walk is what you make it…if you want to make this a personal thoughtful journey, you will find space to do so. If you need to fill your lungs with fresh air and your eyes with stunning scenery, you will not be lacking in either.  If you need a reflective spiritual journey, taking the path of St Finbarr to Gougane Barra you will find Christian direction and solace. If you like Irish music and folklore you will discover it along the way.  You will spend time relaxing in Bantry which  is a Heritage town with two excellent heritage trails.  Bantry House  is a beautifully restored stately mansion, and home to the West Cork Chamber Music Festival. You will savour the best of wholesome food in farmhouses and restaurants along the way, and you will have an opportunity to view the artistic endeavors of West Cork in craft shops, particularly in Bantry.  In short this is a microcosm of the best of Ireland: past and present. We will do our best to make it special for you.

The cost of our 2016 walking week is €515 per person sharing

This price includes:

  • Five nights Bed and Breakfast at Top of the Rock in a standard or family sized pod. We also have two luxury pods (extra supplement €55 pps)
  • Light Supper on arrival at 8pm on Sunday evening.
  • Four evening meals (Mon-Thurs) in our preferred top local restaurants in Kilcrohane,  Bantry,Ballylickey and Gougane Barra (Hotel).
  • Transport to and  from all walks.
  • Elizabeth, David or another guide will accompany you on all walks.
  • Two Guidebooks and our specially crafted St Finbarr's Walking staff are yours to keep.
  • Packed lunches are included  each day.


A DEPOSIT of €100 per person is payable to Top of the Rock at the time of booking.

THE TOUR:   Arrival: Sunday evening.

Having had your main meal of the day you arrive in the evening, to our Top of the Rock Pod Páirc and Walking Centre in Drimoleague . (GPS Co-ordinates N51.66872 W926073) You will have time to settle in to your pod and familiarise yourself with the walk around our farm. Then after a light a supper we will get together for some orientation and preparation for the days ahead.

Day One : Monday. [Map]

After a good local breakfast with Glenilen yogurt and Elizabeth's freshly baked scones, we will take a mini-bus to the very end of the Sheep's Head for the start of your walk.  This is a spectacular walk stretching for about 14km back to Kilcrohane. You begin by walking west to the lighthouse where your four-day walk will officially begin. When you arrive back to the cafe in the car park, you will have worked up an appetite for some of Bernie’s famous apple cake (included in the price), before setting out for the  Black Gate.  A lovely path via Tra Ruaim to Dooneen Pier eventually brings you to Kilcrohane and there we will eat in the bright new restaurant known as ''The Old Creamery''. There may be an opportunity for further socialising in Kilcrohane before a minibus will convey us back to the Top of the Rock.


Day Two: Tuesday [Map]

After breakfast we will again set out for The Sheep's Head peninsula to walk the 12km stretch from Glenlough to Bantry. The views from this 223m ridge were described by poet Seamus Heaney ..."land, sea and water in extremity" and the views in all directions are magnificent, particularly towards Whiddy Island. After our picnic lunch on the summit, we will pass by Lady's Well and  the Kilnaruane Stone, and then walk by the grounds of stately Bantry House and Gardens. There will be time to explore historic Bantry before we sit down to a three course meal at one of the top seafood restaurants in the town. An opportunity may arise for some musical entertainment before our return to the Top of the Rock.


Day Three: Wednesday [Map]

Today we will begin the “pilgrim walk” proper. David will lead this walk from our home at “The Top of the Rock” to Kealkil.   This is a pilgrim walk and the commentary will be both historical and spiritual in nature. You will walk through some beautiful inland scenery, with Castledonovan to your right and lovely views of the West Cork coastline to your left. A picnic lunch will be provided. This walk is officially 19km in length, but we will have a car running alongside to help you on if need be! After a visit to the Kealkil Stone Circle we will arrive in the lovely village of Kealkil. From here we will make our way to a local Ouvane Falls restaurant in Ballylickey where dinner will be served, followed by our return to the Pod Páirc. Read about it here...

Pgm 1 Drimoleague Heritage Loop
Contributors: Jim Collins, Barry Deane, Mary Goggin, David Ross, Elizabeth Ross
Download Name Play Size
download Drimoleague Heritage Loop

13.7 MB
Pgm 9 Mealagh Valley Walk
Contributors: Quentin Gargan, Claire Heardman, Sean O'Brien, David Ross, Owen & Teresa O'Sullivan

Download Name Play Size
download Mealagh Valley Walk

13.7 MB

Day Four: Thursday [Map]

On Thursday morning our bus will take you to Carriganass Castle in Kealkil where we will rejoin the St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way. Your guide will once again give a commentary on the  historical and contemplative  aspects of this walk: the flight of the O Sullivan Bere clan, the history of the castle and the folklore of the surrounding areas. After lunch on the wayside we will face the high ascent over Conigar followed by the spectacular descent into Gougane Barra is particularly described by Carl O Brien of The Irish Times as follows: “There is mountain on all sides rising hundreds of feet above a lake, forming a vast amphitheatre. Around the valley rim are gigantic boulders and purple rock. There is a magical, mystical beauty to it all. On the valley floor below, the chapel and cloister are evidence that this has been a special, peaceful place for hundreds of years. It’s a stunning vista.”   On reaching your destination there will be time for silence and reflection, followed by a warm welcome and our final evening meal in the lovely Gougane Barra Hotel. See Doug Bardwell's notes about this hotel under ''news'' page articles. We will then return to the Top of the Rock by minibus.

Pgm 10 Pilgrim Route: Top of the Rock to Gougane Barra
Contributors: Niall Lucey, John McCarthy, David Ross, Dan O'Sullivan
Download Name Play Size
download Pilgrim Route_ Top of the Rock to Gougane Barra

13.7 MB

After our last breakfast together on Friday Morning we will say our ''goodbyes'' . You will certainly be tired but hopefully well refreshed in heart and mind, following your four day adventure on the Sheep's Head and St Finbarr's Pilgrim Way.

NOTES: • Groups of 10-16 people will be accommodated.  If bookings are less than eight persons, the week will be cancelled at least 6 weeks before departure. 
• The level of fitness among a group can vary.  The distance to walk each day varies from 11 to 19 kms. We do not imply that the ENTIRE route needs to be walked. Each day we will aim to walk at least two thirds of the prescribed route. We will have a car available each day to convey you to the end of the walk if it becomes too strenuous.

Single pods are available  and incur a total extra supplement of €70 for the week.

Please read our terms and conditions below.


Click here to prebook your tour!

LISTEN to Manchán Magan on a Newstalk programme where he is just back from walking the Sheep's Head way...

Top of the Rock

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This project is supported by the West Cork Development Partnership Ltd. Under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013