Bantry, Ireland

Bantry is located at the head of Bantry Bay, a picturesque gut cutting from the coast into West County Cork for some 19 miles. The town is centered on Wolfe Tone Square, named for the republican hero Theobald Wolfe Tone who endeavored to foment an Irish revolution in 1796 by inviting veteran French revolutionaries to sail into the bay. Perverse winds foiled the plot, but his statue stands as testament to the effort. The Protestant St. Brendan’s Church, also on the square, is well worth a visit for its picturesque rough stone exterior and stained glass windows. Nearby is the tiny Bantry Museum, with a small, motley collection manned by friendly and helpful staff. The Bantry House is a stately home and formal gardens built by the first Earl of Bantry, Richard White. Bantry even has its own megalithic Stone Circle and Standing Stones. People come from all over to walk in the spectacular countryside around Bantry. There are loops and trails from the gentle, short Beicin Loop beside the Bay or a flat riverside course from Castle Donovan to more extensive hikes over the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to its lighthouse. For something delightfully different, you might want to try seeing the countryside from the saddle on a pony trek.