Mizen Head is one of the Signature Discovery Points on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, making it a must-see sight along this spectacular driving route. It is Ireland’s most southwesterly point, so you’ll need to journey along the narrow winding roads of the the Mizen Peninsula to make your way here. Remote, rugged and often wild, the breathtaking scenery along the way makes it a journey well worth taking.
Mizen Head Visitor Centre
At the end of the peninsula, about a fifteen minute drive from the small town of Goleen, you’ll come to the Mizen Head Visitor Centre. The visitor centre has been open since 1994, following the automation of the Mizen Head Light and the withdrawal of the Lightkeepers in 1993.
At first just a temporary portacabin building, the visitor centre now houses a cafe, gift shop and display hall as well as the ticket office. Unfortunately when I visited the display hall was closed for renovations but I’ve heard good things, so do try and allow some time for that when you visit Mizen Head.
There is plenty of parking available at the visitor centre for cars and coaches. As this is a very popular stop on the Wild Atlantic Way, expect lots of tour groups, particularly in the peak season. When I arrived a large group of teens had just entered the visitor centre before me. It was a little chaotic and took quite a while for them to sort out their tickets.
So be prepared for the possibility of a little wait. Of course if you’re not in a rush, you can always relax and enjoy a coffee or bite to eat while waiting for the queue to ease. Otherwise, try and get there nice and early to beat the tour buses!
Check Opening Times Before Visiting
Mizen Head is open all year round. It’s open daily during summer months but is usually only open on the weekends during winter. So check the website before making the journey specifically to explore Mizen Head. The bridge may also be closed in very high winds and stormy weather. Updates are usually posted on the website or Facebook page.
No matter what time of year you are visiting, there’s no telling what kind of weather you’ll get. This is the Wild Atlantic Way after all! Even in the space of a few hours the landscape can vary from dark, misty and mysterious to vibrant and colourful, if the sun decides to pop out. As you’d expect, it can also get very, very windy here so be prepared and hang on to your hats!
Mizen Head Bridge
Once you’ve purchased your tickets, you’re free to head out and explore. Take the 99 steps that lead you down to the iconic arched Mizen Head Bridge, one of the highlights of any visit. The bridge was opened in 2011 and is a replica of the original bridge built in 1909. That one lasted for almost a century until 2005, when it was deemed unsafe and was closed. The extreme weather had taken its toll and in 2009 the bridge was completely demolished.
While the original bridge provided necessary access to the signal station, the current bridge is now a major tourist attraction. In fact it’s over 2ft wider than the original to accommodate the volume of visitors these days. Mizen Head bridge is 45m above the Atlantic and spans 50 metres over a dramatic gorge. Do look down, as apparently one of the best place to spot seals and their pups is under the bridge!
Mizen Head Signal Station
It’s easy to see why a signal station was needed at Mizen Head. The rocks here are treacherous and there have been many ship wrecks. The signal station was built in 1909 and it was originally just a fog station. Now the signal station and nearby buildings have been transformed into a museum. You can visit the engine room and the Station Keeper’s Quarters. There’s also a Marconi Wireless Room as well as an underwater exhibition.
Stunning Views and the chance to spot Wildlife
As long as you’re not visiting on a foggy or misty day you should be able to enjoy spectacular views from both the mainland and the island, including views up the west and south coasts.
Even though it was a pretty miserable day when I visited, the water was still an amazing turquoise colour. I can imagine just how stunning it is when the sun is shining.
On a nice day you might be lucky enough to spot some wildlife too. It’s possible to see whales, dolphins, basking sharks, seals and an abundance of birdlife including Choughs, Kittiwakes and Gannets. Unfortunately I didn’t spot any… as usual! I’m beginning to think that I need to get my eyesight tested. I just can’t be that unlucky, surely?!
How Much Time Do I Need?
Back outside there are several more paths leading to different viewing points, where you can take in the dramatic cliffs and coastal views. Signs indicate how long each pathway takes to walk. I found that they were on the generous side. Perhaps they include the time you’re going to spend gazing out at the scenery though!
You could rush around and see a lot in an hour if you had to. My advice though would be to allow at least two hours here to enjoy Mizen Head to the full, walk all the pathways and explore the Keeper’s Quarter’s and Signal Station. Add more time, if you want to get a bite in the cafe and explore the exhibition hall.
Things to do Nearby
- Exploring Three Castle Head and Dunlough Castle on the Mizen Peninsula
- One day in beautiful Baltimore, West Cork