If you’re planning a trip to West Cork, I recommend a stopover in the picturesque coastal village of Baltimore. I spent two nights in Baltimore, though I arrived late on the first evening, so only had one full day to explore unfortunately. It’s a really beautiful spot and I could have happily spent a few days there. It also makes a great base for exploring more of West Cork and the Wild Atlantic Way.

Baltimore’s coastal location, sheltered harbour and clean waters make it a great place to visit if you’re a lover of water-based sports and activities. If not, or if the weather is not in your favour, you’ll still find plenty of things to do in Baltimore. Typical of springtime in Ireland, I had all seasons in the one day but I managed to find things to do to work around the weather!

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Where to Stay

Casey’s of Baltimore

Waking up to the worst of the weather, plans for an early start were scrapped. I wisely decided that the best thing to do was to stay inside my warm cozy hotel and wait it out a while! I was staying at Casey’s of Baltimore and let’s just say it wasn’t a hardship to linger there for the morning.

An external shot of Casey's of Baltimore hotel from the parking area. The building is painted in very colourful green and red.

My large and spacious room at Casey's of Baltimore. There's a large double bed along with a single and dressing table.

My very spacious and comfy room at Casey’s of Baltimore

I’m not usually a big breakfast person. Just a quick bite and I’m on the go. With time on my hands and all that yummy food on offer though, I couldn’t resist. A three course breakfast? Sure why not! I had cereal and yoghurt, followed by a hot brekkie and then I even managed to fit in a scone. I know, I know, but seriously their scones are so good. Particularly the apple ones. If you tried them, you’d totally understand!!

Yummy food aside, I’d highly rate this hotel. The staff were really friendly and down to earth and my room was so comfy and spacious it made it hard to leave. Just to be clear, this is not an ad and I paid for my stay! 

Check rates and availability for Casey’s of Baltimore.

Things to do in Baltimore

Dún na Séad Castle

When the weather settled down a little, I managed to shake off the food coma and drag myself from my room. I drove the short distance into town and parked up by the waterfront. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty bleak! We’re talking grey, miserable and very windy. Reluctantly leaving the refuge of the car, I took a little walk up the main street and quickly decided that inside Dún na Séad castle was the perfect place to be!

Meaning ‘fort of the jewels’, Dún na Séad Castle or Baltimore Castle overlooks the village and harbour from its vantage point upon a sandstone ridge in the centre of the village. There has been a castle on the site since as far back as 1215 but the current building dates from around the 1620s. It was left in ruin for a long time but was renovated between 1997 and 2005 by the current owners and is open to the public.

Colourful buildings along the main street in Baltimore village. Dun na Sead Castle is at the top of the road.

The castle has been beautifully restored and is full of gorgeous pieces of period furniture, tapestries, artefacts, photographs and more. There are also information panels about the fascinating history of the castle and area. They include details of the Sack of Baltimore in 1631 when the village was attacked by Algerian pirates and 107 villagers were taken as slaves to North Africa.

You’ll also find lots more juicy information about piracy, raids and feuding clans. So if you’re interested in the history of the area, Dún na Séad should definitely be top of your list of things to do in Baltimore. You can also walk out onto the battlements and take in the usually stunning views of the harbour and village. They weren’t at their best for me and I nearly blew away out there but hopefully you’ll have better luck! Dún na Séad Castle is open from March to October each year.

Looking up at Dun na Sead Castle from below.

Wide angle view of the Great Hall in Dun na Sead Castle from the gallery.

The Great Hall at Dún na Séad Castle

Boat trips to the islands, Fastnet Rock and wildlife tours

As I mentioned earlier, one of the best things to do in Baltimore is to get out on the water and Baltimore pier is the departure point for ferry trips to the nearby islands. There are around fifty islands in the archipelago here, though they are collectively referred to as Carbery’s Hundred Isles. Just a little poetic licence!

Two of the largest island are Sherkin Island and Cape Clear or Clear island. The ferry to Sherkin island takes just 10-15 minutes from Baltimore and it takes about 40-45 minutes to get to neighbouring Cape Clear. There are also trips out to Fastnet Rock and wildlife tours which offer the chance to see seals, sharks, whales and dolphins found in the waters.

While I would have loved to check out the islands, I decided against. It was still grey and dull, I’m not good on boats in general and I just wasn’t feeling it! So I decided I would stick to land for the day and save the boat trip for another visit. Instead, I headed for the cliffs to take in the view to Sherkin Island and Cape Clear from there. That would have to do for now! 

Looking across to Sherkin Island from Baltimore. The weather is bleak and grey.

Looking across to Sherkin Island

If you plan on taking to the water, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from in Baltimore. Check out the following tour and ferry companies:

Lough Hyne

A little later in the afternoon the weather was picking up as I set off for Lough Hyne, just a 10 minute drive away. Nestled in a stunning location, protected by the rolling green hills around it, Lough Hyne is no ordinary lake! It’s a sea water lake and in 1981 was designated Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve. Its unique ecosystem supports a huge number of marine plants and animals. As a result Lough Hyne is an important marine research location.

Naturally, Lough Hyne is popular for swimming, kayaking and other water sports. The next best way to enjoy the lake is from the top of nearby Knockomagh Hill. Off course I headed straight there, needing to work off some of that mammoth breakfast I had! A nature trail brings you zig-zagging to the summit of the hill.  You’ll find the panoramic views are more than enough to compensate for the climb. It’s not actually too tough and only takes about an hour return.  Do add extra time to sit and admire the views though!

Wild Atlantic Way signpost on the edge of Lough Hyne. The sun is shining and the sky and lake are vivid blue.

Panoramic shot of Lough Hyne from the summit of Knockomagh Hill

The stunning views from Knockomagh Hill

Baltimore Beacon

As you’ll have noticed from my photos, the day had taken a definite turn for the better at this stage. I eventually dragged myself away from Lough Hyne and headed back towards Baltimore, keen to photograph the iconic Baltimore Beacon at sunset.

This white painted stone beacon at the entrance of Baltimore Harbour, is a famous landmark and probably the image that most people associate with the village of Baltimore.  It’s one of a series of lighthouses and beacons which provided a warning system along the Irish coast. Not only that, the beacon may also have the power to may your wildest dreams come true! I discovered this after watching two girls walk around the base of the beacon. When I asked why they were doing it, they replied that if you walk around the base three times and then make a wish, it will come true. So what are you waiting for?!

Two girls walking around the base of the Baltimore Beacon

Making wishes at the beacon!

The beacon is perched up on the cliffs at the same place I visited earlier to gaze across to the islands. It’s just a 5 minute drive from the village.  A small carpark at the base provides enough space for about five or six cars. From there it’s a short climb to the beacon and the spectacular surrounding views. Alternatively it’s a pleasant 25 minute walk from the village.  You’ll pass the picturesque cove and then go uphill on Beacon Road until your can’t go any further! However you get there, it’s a wonderful place to stop a while and watch the sun slipping down behind the islands. 

Till next time Baltimore…

Two runners silhouetted by the sun near the Baltimore Beacon

Last light at the Baltimore Beacon.

Not a bad way to end the day!