View across Dunmanus Bay from Sheeps Head Peninsular

Walks on Sheep’s Head Peninsular, County Cork

We were lucky enough to get the chance to house sit for a friend’s sister on Sheep’s Head Peninsular, Bantry in south-west Ireland for three weeks this May. Although we took laptops with us and kept on our client work, it gave us the perfect opportunity to explore some completely new areas. In this blog I am going to describe two walks on Sheep’s Head Peninsular. Both of them take in the quiet country lanes, which are overflowing with beautiful flowers and abundant greenery, and rugged hilltops, home to some very interesting plants. As such, rather than tell you what to look out for nature-wise on each walk, as the flora and fauna is pretty much the same, I have suggested what to look out for in the two different habitats.

Walks on Sheep’s Head Peninsular

The Sheep’s Head Peninsular is a narrow finger of land stretching into the Atlantic, bordered by Bantry Bay to the north and Dunmanus Bay to the South. Between these two bays the land rises to rugged upland, the highest point being 300m on Seefin. There is a long distance walk from Bantry going around the whole peninsular, but at 175km that can be a bit daunting. Luckily for us more leisurely walkers there are a number of loop walk along Sheep’s Head that provide stunning views and a good dose of nature. To the south is the Baran Loop, described below, but let's start with the Coomkeen Loop.

Coomkeen Loop Walk

I had to start with this one, because it goes right past the house we are staying at, so it is the first one we explored. Obviously we started from the house, but there is a small parking area at Boolteenagh, the top of the ridge, about 4 miles from Bantry. Be careful driving up - it is a steep single track road with hair pin bends, which also double as the best passing places. If you are the passenger enjoy the fuschia hedges and the views! There is a large stone table and benches at the parking area and this is really the only good place for a picnic, so make the most of it. Then set off along the ridge.

The path starts along a stone track, but you soon come to a high stile, which takes you onto the high ridge, a real upland habitat of low growing gorse, bilberry, heather and cotton grass. Look out on the edge of the path for the insectivorous butterwort. In this area it is the large-flowered butterwort, which is a lovely showy flower and practically all the records of it are in West Cork. The other plant to look out for is lousewort, not so scarce, but just as interesting – it is a hemi-parasitic plant feeding on minerals and water from other plants.

The route is very well marked and you eventually have a bit of a clamber down some rocks to a track which turns left taking you downhill. Beware of the gorse – if you are used to grabbing bits of heather to help keep your balance you may well find that you are grabbing hold of something a bit more spiny, the gorse has more of a heath like habit up on this ridge!

Follow the track downhill until eventually you come to the Durras road where you take a left and follow it all the way back to the car park. This is a really picturesque road and very quiet. The verges are full of flowers such as ragged robin, tormentil, yellow pimpernel, pignut, buttercups, violets and sorrel. Part of this lane is bordered by what appear to be banks, but on closer look are dry stone walls covered in foliage, most spectacularly the navelworts, foxgloves, man ferns and harts-tongue ferns. As we are staying on this road we have seen it transform in just two weeks and we have another week to enjoy the fuschia hedges coming into full bloom.

Way markers and a stile on the walks on the sheeps head peninsular
Well kept stiles and good waymarkers are a feature of these walks
Large flowered butterwort
Large flowered butterwort
View Across Bantry Bay from Sheep's Head Peninsular
View across Bantry Bay
Coomkeen Loop Map

Distance: 7 km

Terrain: Roads, some single track

Difficulty: Moderate

Date Walked: 10th May







  • Stonechat
  • Large-flowered Butterwort
  • Lousewort
  • Heath spotted orchid
  • Hooded Crows
  • Small copper butterflies
  • Sundew


Baran Loop

A couple of days later we went down to Durras and followed the road along towards Ahahkista. It was a warm day and we were really looking for somewhere to get down to the sea for a swim. If you are big into sea swimming this might not be the area for you as public access to the sea is very limited. A bit frustrating when you are walking and can see the sea all around you but not get in it.

Anyway, we went to plan B and started walking from Ahakista on the Baran Loop. Another well signposted path taking you up a single track road from the coast into the hills. We initially aimed to do the Seefin Loop and set off with our picnic, which we ate within the first kilometre on a pleasant rocky outcrop close to the route.


We kept on heading uphill up the road which leads to quite a number of new builds – obviously a popular area. The roadside was full of the similar flowers to the that on the Coomkeen Loop and, it being warm and dry the butterflies were out: orange tips, speckled wood, small copper and a glimpse of what was probably a holly blue.

Eventually we reached the end of the road and a track took us through the woods and then up onto a steep hillside, where we crossed upland heath and bog habitat. At last an orchid – my first of the year – a heath spotted – showing well as we climbed higher. Later in the week on the roadside near Coomkeen I saw another species of orchid – I thought I probably a Northern Marsh. There was a profusion of these orchids firstly on Cape Clear Island, then on Mizen Peninsula and also on the Bere Island parkrun route. Turns out they were Irish Marsh Orchids that are only found in south-west Ireland – indeed their Latin name reflects this, Dactylorhiza Kerryensis.

By the time we reached the ridge it was very warm and we really didn’t have sufficient energy or water to do anymore climbing. The Seefin and Baran Loop had been the same up until the ridge, but when the routes diverged with the Baran Loop heading back downhill, we decided to follow that.

It was quite a tricky downhill walk over rough and steep ground – you had to pick your way across the rocks and bogs, but there were plenty of route markers to guide you and very soon you were back by the coast and looping around to the starting point.

Somewhat hot and bothered by the end of the walk we stopped in The Tin Pub which had opened that day for the summer season. This small pub has to have one of the best beer gardens ever and so we couldn’t resist having a Guinness whilst enjoying the view.

View across Dunmanus Bay from Sheeps Head Peninsular
View from Baran Loop Walk
Irish March Orchid
Irish Marsh Orchid
Pint of Guiness in Akahista Tin Pub
When in Ireland.....
Baran Loop Map

Distance: 8 km

Terrain: Roads, some single track

Difficulty: Moderate

Date Walked: 12th May






  • Navelwort
  • Foxgloves
  • Ragged Robin
  • Irish Marsh Orchid
  • Speckled Wood Butterfly
  • Orange Tip Butterfly
  • Male Fern