Your Staycation Guide to West Cork
West Cork has long been famous for its amazing beaches, unforgettable landscapes and dramatic coast lines but the area in and around Clonakilty has recently set a new bar for family staycations. With a number of great visitor attractions and outdoor activities Clonakilty has a lot to offer so once restrictions lifted we headed down for the June Bank Holiday and were blown away.
We pitched our tent at the newly opened Mountain Forge Escape campsite and were stunned at its located. It is approx. a 6 minute drive from Clonakilty ( I can categorically say this is exactly 6 mins as I tested it each time) near the village of Ardfield, one of the most beautiful landscapes of West Cork. It is minutes from a number of gorgeous beaches namely Duneen and Red Strand (3/4 kms).
The site itself is well laid out around the beautifully restored farm buildings which housed the reception and communal facilities such as the campers kitchen, toilets and shower areas. As campers kitchens goes, Mountain Forge Escape have set a high standard with everything one would require to cook a meal and dine a family. Due to the current restrictions only one family can dine at any one time. Not only were all appliances and utensils fresh and modern but the areas was spotless and finished to a high stand with great attention to detail.
Again the washing and toilet areas were well kept with high standard of finish. There is a short private path through the fields which takes you to the local Playground and Ardfield GAA grounds which was perfect when Lonan wanted to go to the playground as the older two could puck a ball around.
I don’t know what it was about Mountain Forge but I never saw such a spatter of little hurling matches breaking out all over the place. What I loved the most about this campsite is that there were no cars moving in and around the designated camping area. Cars were parked in a car park adjacent to the camping area.
This meant that children played very freely and openly together. By the end of each evening, most kids had formed into a large group doing races up and down. Coupled with the fact that we were a situated away from the main road which was really a quite country road made for a safe and relaxed environment. This characteristic really stood out to me as I felt very reassured and relaxed about Lonán’s safety and she had more freedom.
That is the true beauty of camping, the children gain a freedom and independence that they would not command normally and when you discover a campsite that allows this in abundance it is pure heaven.
Finally, I cannot mention Mountain Forge Escape without mentioning the hosts Conor and Bernadette and Nollaig on reception. These three friendly and helpful chaps really set the bar high as hosts creating a warm, social and up beat atmosphere that presides across the campsite.
Conor is most often found chatting amongst his guests and ensuring that everyone was having a good time and happy. He moved around the campsite quietly just after ten to remind everyone subtly about the 11am curfew which was very well respected. Again this is a major plus for family campers.
If you are not a camper or would like to dip your toe in the water, glamping could be a good alternative. The Dome at Mountain Forge escape not only offers luxury but its distinctive design and large transparent window makes for a very unique experience. While I would be delighted to stay here as a couple the Dome sleeps 2 adults and 2 children and has its own bathroom and heating stove. Mountain Forge also offers a glamping pod, again for two adults and two children but there is a two night minimum stay policy with the glamping.
The West Cork Model Village just outside the town is a lovely activity for all ages young and old. As Ireland’s only Model Village it features fully scaled handmade model of the historic West Cork Railway Line with fully working miniature trains and the towns that the railway served during the 1940s. Handcrafted model buildings and figurines tell the story of how people lived and worked in days gone by. With tickets starting at €25 for 2 adults plus 2 children and €29 for three children it is a really affordable family activity.
The pretty village of Rosscarbery is only about 15 minutes from Mountain Forges Escape and is home to some great beaches and walks. The local playground is sits along with the water so it is a great spot to enjoy some coffee in a beautiful setting. Alongside the playground is a tennis court that you can enjoy for free.
As well as that, the Lagoon Activity Centre a few yards away offers loads of water activities for the whole family but is most for famous for its aqua park. We absolutely loved this waterpark and one hour out here is a week’s worth of workouts. The slides were excellent and there was a good variety of obstacles. Each group were ferried by boat making it a lot accessible. The Lagoon also offers pedal boats and kayaks so there is plenty to keep you busy.
Just up the hill from the Lagoon, Smugglers Cove is seeking all the attention with their new tubing park. It is worth making the trip for this alone and there is a reason why it is booking up fast so make sure you book the tubing before you book anything elseThe Tubing Park is like a snow-free ski run where people sit into our bright coloured tubes and enjoy a unique ride downhill overlooking beautiful Rosscarbery in West Cork. Each session is 50 minutes and costs €17.50 per person. The kids were worried they would not have enough time but they were well knackered yet exhilarated after the 50 minutes. To be far they got plenty of goes and were never in a queue for more than a few minutes.
Smugglers Home is also home to a wooden maze which is a great challenge as a race for all the family to get to the top and the crazy golf was a blast. This is the first time I can recommend the crazy gold for all the family but the course was well designed and had a fun element. The Red FM Corn maze is due to open on 18th of July and we can’t wait to check it out!
Finally, you cannot visit this part of the country without trying out some of the most amazing beaches on offer. The Warren Beach is only minutes from Rosscarbery and is manned by lifeguards. It is quite safe beach with a gorgeous cliff walk looking out to Galley Head and taking you to the next village in Oweenahincha in just about 20 minutes. The beach has excellent facilities including toilets, showers, car park, ice cream truck and the all important coffee van.
Closer to Mountain Forge Escape are two gorgeous beaches Red Strand and Duneen Beach. Red strand was my favourite as it had gorgeous views, nice coffee and was quite sandy.
There were no lifeguards on these beaches when we were there so I am not sure if they are every manned by lifeguards. You also have the famous Incydoney beach around the corner but I find this can get crowded at times and parking can be difficult.
The Long Strand is a gorgeous beach to walk and play in the dunes but swimming is prohibited as it is very dangerous. The Fish basket, one of Ireland’s best fish restaurant and takeaway also lies at the edge of Long Strand and has a view that would be hard to beat.
From Long Strand you can hop on the Lord Carbery Cross Walk as it passes close to Long Strand and brings you through Castlefreke Woods. It is a nice flat walk and about an hour long.
Downside – While I always try to include any downsides on this occasion there was none except there are too many activities so you may need a holiday afterwards!!
What the kids said:
“It was the best camping experience so far and we made loads of new friends. All the activities made it so much fun” – Thomas (11)
“The campsite was very calm and relaxed and the tubing was really exciting” Saoirse (13)
Happy Travelling and if you want to check out any of our blog posts on camping or further travels I have included some links below.