Glengarriff (Gleann Garbh, "rough glen") is a village at the base of the Beara Peninsula of County Cork in southwest Ireland. It's in an inlet of Bantry Bay, and became a tourist resort in the late 19th century. In those days tourists arrived by paddle steamer, and there was no road across the hills to Kerry until a tunnel was hand-hewn through. The resident population in 2016 was 138.
Bus Éireann 236 runs from Cork bus station via Bandon, Enniskeane, Dunmanway, Drimoleague and Bantry, taking 2 hr 20 min to Glengarriff. There are four M-F, three Sa and two on Sunday; two buses per day continue to Castletownbere. The service as far as Bantry is every 90 min or so, so at a pinch you could take the bus there then a taxi for the last 17 km.
By road follow N71, which runs from Bantry to Glengarriff then to Kenmare in County Kerry. R572 winds along the coast to Castletownbere.
With your own boat, Glengarriff harbour has safe anchorage.
The gardens and forest reserve can be reached on foot. It would be a very long hike to Barley Lake, but a firm trail for a mountain bike.
Harbour Queen Ferries sail from Glengarriff Harbour to Garinish Island gardens. They sail Apr-Oct daily, every 30 min from 09:45 to 15:45, with the last return from the island at 17:30. The crossing takes 10-15 min, the boats sometimes meander round islets where seals are hauled out. No booking; the fare, adult return €10, does not include admission to the gardens. Dogs and wheelchairs can be carried.
Blue Pool Ferry and Lady Ellen Ferry have similar schedules and fares.
You need a car to explore the Beara peninsula on both the Cork and Kerry sides. Local taxi firms are Billy Downey +353 87 297 1837 and Donal Harrington +353 27 63 564 / 86 105 0828.
- 1 Blue Pool is the inlet where the Glengarriff River flows into the bay, and the adjacent wooded parkland south side of the village. Like the Danube, it's only blue by reflected light, and the water is usually dark brown from moorland run-off into the river if it's been raining, which is often. Some boats to Garinish Island sail from here, others from the harbour.
- Church of the Sacred Heart (RC) is at the west end of the village.
- 2 Ilnacullin Gardens, Garinish Island, ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:30. Reached by a short ferry ride, the island was originally a military outpost, with a barracks and Martello Tower built against Napoleonic invasion. In 1910 it was sold to Annan Bryce, who commissioned English architect Harold Peto to design a house and garden. Thousands of tons of topsoil were imported to this bare, rocky island and shelter belts were planted, creating a micro-climate in which a number of tender plants thrive. The house was never built, and the Casita and Italian garden remain the centrepiece. There are also fine herbaceous borders. The ferry fare doesn't include admission fee. Adult €5, conc €4, child €3, cash only.
- 3 Bamboo Park has semi-tropical plants similar to Ilnacullin. It's open daily all year 09:15-19:00, adult / child €5, dogs permitted.
- 4 Glengarriff Nature Reserve is 1000 acres of sessile oak and birch forest. The glen was first systematically planted in the 18th century; in the 20th it was planted with conifers for logging, but since the 1970s was restored with oak. The main entrance is 2 km from the village on N71 towards Kenmare, but there are multiple access points. There are way-marked trails but no vending or toilets, and barbecues are not permitted. The forest is free to access 24 hours.
- 5 The Ewe Experience is a sculpture garden on N71 higher up the valley. It's open June-Aug daily 10:00-18:00, adult €7.50, child €6. Assistance dogs only. The trails are steep and unsuitable for wheelchairs or strollers.
- 6 Barley Lake is a corrie lake west of the forest. A steep winding lane leads to the corrie rim: you don't need 4WD in dry conditions, but don't bring a bulky vehicle. Otherwise hike.
- 7 Turner's Rock Tunnel, 180 m long, takes N71 under the crest of the hills into County Kerry, framing the view as you emerge. It's only 3.65 m high so large vehicles can't pass through. See Kenmare for sights on the Kerry side.
- Beara Peninsula: see Castletownbere for sights further west all the way to Dursey Island.
- Sheep's Head is the peninsula south across the bay. See Bantry for sights there.
- Outdoors Ireland is a centre for land-based activities such as rock-climbing, and sea-kayaking and canoeing. They're next to Eccles Hotel and open daily 06:00-21:00.
- Glengarriff Golf Club is on N71 1.5 km east of the village. It's a nine hole course, two circuits makes 4514 yards, par 66, visitors fee €20. The actress Maureen O'Hara (1920-2015) came to live in this area and promoted the club, establishing an annual tournament.
- Beara Way (Slí Bhéara) is a 206 km walking circuit from Glengarriff to Castletownbere, Dursey Island, Kenmare and back to Glengarriff.
- West Cork Sailing Centre is at Adrigole to the west, see Castletownbere.
- The Wild Atlantic Way is a driving route from Cork to Donegal. The local section is obvious, following the coast road from Bantry to Castletownbere and Dursey Island then north side of the peninsula to Kenmare.
- Don't squish a slug unless you're sure it's not the rare, protected Kerry slug Geomalacus maculosus, found only in this area and around Finisterre in Iberia. No less than the European Court of Justice leaned down from its august height in 2005 to reprimand the Irish government for paying insufficient regard to the survival and slimy happiness of such slugs. The woodland version is brown, those on boggy open hillsides are dark grey, with yellow spots. Habitat loss is their main threat - they don't like rhododendrons - but mind where you tread.
- Jim Dowling Uilleann Pipe and Trad Festival is in June. The 2020 event was cancelled so the next is probably 17-20 June 2021, tbc.
- Quill's Woollen Market in village centre has a wide selection of knitware (eg Aran sweaters) and gifts. Its open M-Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 10:00-19:00.
- Spar (O'Shea's) on Main Street stocks essentials and groceries.
- Lough Avoul Inn (formerly Rainbow Restaurant and Hawthorne Bar), Main Street, ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-23:30, F Sa 12:00-00:30. Cafe bar gets mostly good reviews for food and service, but standards inconsistent.
- Black Cat opposite Casey's on Main St does fish & chips, pizza and so on.
- Lahori Kebab next to Casey's also does pizza and fish & chips as well as kebabs. Cash only, and open M-Th 16:00-23:30, F-Su 15:00-00:00.
- Blue Loo, Main Street, ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-00:00, F Sa 12:00-01:00. Great trad pub with beer garden.
- 1 Glengarriff Caravan & Camping Park, Castletownbeare Rd (R572 one km south of town), ☏ . Well-run, well-equipped site with bar and restaurant.
- O'Shea's is a basic but clean campsite right next to the Glengarriff Park.
- Humming Bird aka Blue Pool Hostel was closed in 2020. Murphy's Hostel has closed permanently.
- 2 Rockwood House B&B, Monteensudder, Glengarriff (on R572), ☏ . Clean, welcoming B&B. Enormous breakfast. Motorcycle-friendly. B&B double €80.
- Perrin Inn, Main Street, ☏ . Good mid-range place in town centre, dog-friendly. B&B double €90.
- Casey's Hotel, Main Street P75 E925, ☏ . Friendly comfy mid-range hotel with good bar and dining. Oct-Mar it's only open Th-Su.
- 3 Eccles Hotel, Harbour, Glengarriff P75 A072, ☏ . Excellent upscale place established in 1745, great reviews for comfort, service and cuisine. B&B double €150.
- 4 Glengarriff Lodge, Esknamucky (2 km northwest of town), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Self-catering villa in a thatched cottage, 4 bedrooms, built as a hunting lodge on a 40 acre woodland estate. Hosts weddings and similar events. €2000 week.
As of Nov 2020, you'll manage a mobile call in Glengarriff with all Irish carriers, but there's no 4G let alone 5G, and most of the countryside has no signal.
- Castletownbere is in the west of the peninsula, an area dotted with prehistoric stones and small islands.
- Bantry to the east is the obvious base for the Beara peninsula south. Come this way also for Gougane Barra monastic site up in the hills.
- Kenmare in County Kerry, north across the ridge, brings you to Killarney and the Ring of Kerry.