Co Cork: one walk, one run, one hike, one swim, one cycle, one park and one outdoor gym

Your essential, outdoor, family-friendly guide to Co Cork

When the weather is good, there is so much to do outdoors in Ireland – solo, or with family or friends. Here are seven activities - with locations, descriptions, tips and some maps for a general guide.

Below you can read John O'Dwyer's pick for a great walking path, Conor O'Keeffe on a running route, Rozanna Purcell recommends a hiking trail, Mary McCarthy on an outdoor swimming location, Ian O'Riordan picks a cycle trip, Sylvia Thompson on a family-friendly park and Fiona Alston selects a popular outdoor gym.

And remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, please be safe. And enjoy.

Name Lighthouse Loop
Distance 5km
Approximate duration 2 hours for the full loop
Difficulty Easy to moderate
Starting point Google Maps Tooreen car park (grid reference V 733 341)
Amenities Parking and cafe
There-and-back walk from Bernie's Cafe to the Sheep's Head lighthouse that can be done in trainers. If completing the full loop wear boots, as the terrain is more challenging. Follow the red arrows to enjoy a magnificent vista over Bantry Bay.
Read: Sheep's Head Peninsula


Name: Warrenscourt – Kilmurry
Length: 6.3 km
Elevation gain: 191 m
Route type: Loop
Background: Warrenscourt comprises some 110 hectares of gently sloping woodland overlooking the Buingea river and the rich farmland that surrounds it. The main feature is the trail that runs beside the river and the green area that is popular with young families. It is linked with another parking area and picnic site on the outskirts of Kilmurry village. Interesting to note that a section of the old Butter Road that was used by farmers to bring their butter to the Cork market, used to run through the forest and is still in use today. Views open and close in this forest depending on the forest cycle. At times, the Derrynasaggart and Boggeragh mountains are visible with clear views of the Paps, Mullaghanish, Mushera More and Mushera Beg.

Route Information: Starting from the Warrenscourt First Car Park you have many run options. From the car park and picnic area you can run along the Wood Link (Blue Trail), which turns around at the Kilmurry Forest Car Park. Along the Wood Link however, you will pass the O'Suilliobháin Monument on your right. Directly after the monument you will have a turn on your right for the Kilmurry Wood Loop (Red Trail). You will take your next left and head back towards the the Kilmurry car park. That will add 2.3km to you run before you head back on yourself on the Blue Wood Link Trail to make it back to the Warrenscourt Forest Car Park to make it a 6.3km route in total. (Aided by: Discover Ireland, Coillte and Sport Ireland)

Hike name Gougane Barra Horseshoe Loop
Distance 11.9km
Elevation gain 541m
Approximate duration 3.5-4 hours
Difficulty Advanced
Starting point Google Map "Gougane Barra National Forest Park"
Amenities Parking (fee)
Dog-friendly? Yes
Tips Make sure to have some extra time post-hike to soak up the scenes of St Finbarr's island. There are also plenty of shorter and easier hikes marked in Gougane Barra if you're looking for something less taxing

Name: Garretstown
Location: Google Map: Garretstown beach
Brief description:
Long, gentle sloping beach with shelter against the wind
Amenities: Car park and toilets
Lifeguard: Summer
Water quality: Excellent – Cork County Council January 2020
Tips: Check local conditions as it is quite open to rough weather and rough seas. Great waves if wind is right. Excellent food trucks in summer.

Name: Sheep's Head Circuit
Start location: Bantry
Like Kerry there are numerous scenic routes around the Cork coast, this quiet little gem starting from Bantry and turning off towards Durrus, down by Ahakista, with views of Mizen Head to the South, and the Beara Peninsula on the way back.
Distance: 70km
Time: 3-4 hours
Highlights: The near-constant view of the water between Dunmanus Bay and Bantry Bay
Look out for: The last dead-end road at Sheep's Head, which feels like the end of the world.
Tips: Things certainly get hilly in parts, the road surface sketchy in parts, only this is a cycle not be rushed.

Park name: Fota Wildlife Park, Fota Island near Carrigtwohill
Amenities: A 40 hectare wildlife park with monkeys, giraffes, bisons, lemurs, pandas freely roaming in recreated spaces similar to their natural habitats.
Special features: Through its breeding programme, Fota Wildlife Park cares for several animal species in danger of extinction (including Cheetahs), helping to restore populations in the wild.
Access: €3 car parking fee gives entry to grounds of Fota House. Adults €16.50, children 3-16 €11.50, families from €49.50, see  Trains from Cork city stop at Fota Wildlife Park. Google Map "Fota Wildlife Park".
Dogs: No dogs allowed. Seek advice on assistance dogs.
Tip: You can book a behind-the-scenes tour to interact with wardens and animal feeding staff.

Name: Schull Harbour, west Cork
Equipment: Walker, cross trainer, fitness rider, shoulder flexor, leg press, waist extension, standing rotator.
Location: Google Maps
Information: Workout with sea views. Have it on good authority there is a great tennis court facility nearby.

Get Active Series
- 32 great walking routes in Ireland - one in each county
- 32 great hikes in Ireland
- 32 great running routes
- 32 great outdoor swim locations
- 32 great cycling routes
- 32 great parks
- 32 great outdoor gyms