The west coast of Ireland is famous for it’s wild and unspoilt beaches. One of the most beautiful of those is Barleycove beach. This West Cork beach, which is about a 2 hour drive west of Cork city, is a must see spot for anyone exploring the Wild Atlantic Way or visiting nearby Mizen Head.
How to get to Barleycove Beach
You’ll find Barleycove near the very end of the Mizen Peninsula (the southern most point of mainland Ireland). This is not a beach you’ll stumble upon by chance!
Skibbereen is the nearest market town to the east. From there the drive will take you about an hour. BUT- here is one of those times it may be worth ignoring the satnav.
We recommend you take the slightly longer but more scenic route… once you’re in Goleen stay on the R591 road. Your satnav will probably try to take you the more direct route, inland. If you stay on this more winding route you’ll be treated to breathtaking coastal views as you drive along the northside of Crook Haven. The scenic route will set you back about 10 minutes. Well worth it.
Barleycove is on the Wild Atlantic Way and is well signposted for in the area.
Parking & Facilities
There is a dedicated free carpark just a moment’s walk away from the beach. Once you’ve parked up you can follow the board walk through the sand dunes and over the floating walkway over the tidal stream to the beach. However, it’s worth checking with locals (or searching online) whether the floating walkway is in use before you visit… it has a tendency to fall apart in wild weather and can be out of action for sometime before being fixed. (Don’t let that put you off though! It’s perfectly safe and a fun addition to a beach visit!)
The car park has a 2.1m height restriction and can get very busy during the summer! There are plans for a new and extended carpark.
In the event of the floating walkway being out of action… there is beach access on the opposite side of the bay where the Barleycove Beach Hotel is.
Portaloo toilets are provided during the summer months.
Swimming & water safety
Barleycove Beach is a sheltered, south facing beach which is popular with swimmers and surfers. Lifeguards are on patrol here during the summer months (dates and times are displayed on the noticeboard on the beach) but swimmers must still take care of dangerous currents and rip tides- especially during the off season.
If you plan on going in the water, for a swim, surf or bathe- make sure you’re either with someone else or someone knows where you are. Click here for more information on staying safe at the beach.
Barleycove is one of 11 beaches in Cork to have received a Blue Flag award in 2022.
4 things to do near Barleycove Beach
The Mizen Peninsula is Ireland’s most southerly point. The area is a must see if you want to experience the wilder side of Ireland- boasting towering coastal cliffs, cosy harbourside pubs and off the beaten track forts and castles.
1. Mizen Head Signal Station
Mizen Head is one of the most spectacular headlands along Ireland’s west coast. You can expect jaw dropping views of the cliffs and Atlantic Ocean as you stand on the viewing platforms and over the famous bridge that connects the historic signal station to the mainland. From here you can look down at giant chasms and the ocean below and across to the cliffs and headlands to the north.
The signal station, visitor centre and café are open daily to the public from April to October and weekends only from November to March. Adult tickets cost €7.50, children tickets (under 14) cost €4.50 and children under 5 can enter for free. There are also group and family tickets available. Mizen Head is dog friendly, but dogs must be kept on leads. Visit the Mizen Head visitor centre website for more info and current opening times.
Just a short drive away from Barleycove beach (or hour long walk along pleasant coastal lanes) is the hidden away gem of Crookhaven. A small village, built around a sheltered harbour. In the summer you can sit outside O’Sullivans Bar with a pint and local seafood sandwich watching the yachts and sailing boats that frequently make the most of the quiet and safe waters here.
A couple of other bars and restaurants make up this traditional Irish village and make it worth a visit whatever the weather or time of year!
3. Three Castle Head (Dunlough Fort)
If you don’t mind a hike, Dunlough Fort (otherwise known as Three Castles) is an unforgettable experience. Located on the north west of Mizen peninsula on top of towering cliffs and next to a striking lake (Dun Lough) is this historic ruin.
The fort is unspoilt by modern conveniences (don’t expect a visitor centre, gift shop or toilets here!). From the car park (which is free and about a 10 minute drive from Barleycove beach) you’ll be faced with a steep and muddy hike along a coastal path to reach the castle ruins.
4. Brow Head
Despite it’s brush with fame when it was used as a location for filming in one of the latest Star Wars films, Brow Head is in a galaxy far, far away when compared to other Irish beauty spots. Well off the beaten track, you won’t be bumping into crowds or queues here.
It is possible to drive up to Brow Head (there are a couple of parking spaces available) but we think the short walk up the hill is well worth it!
You’ll be treated to wild and unspoilt views of the wide and open West Cork landscape. Plus of course views of the Atlantic Ocean.