With each step, you move further away from civilization and deeper into the unspoiled nature of the rugged Irish coast. Your gaze fixed on the Atlantic, you feel the salty sea air filling your lungs and the familiar tingle of adventure spreading to the smallest cells of your body. It’s a feeling that is so familiar, yet surprises you every time – pure freedom!
A hike in Ireland is always a good idea, especially along the west coast where some of the most amazing hiking trails in Europe await you on the edge of the Wild Atlantic Way!
The hike to the lighthouse at the lonely Sheep’s Head in the southwest of Ireland should not be missing on your list! Find out how to get there, what the trail is like, and what makes the lighthouse so special!
Sheep’s Head Ireland: A hike to the loneliest lighthouse on the Emerald Isle!
Hiking to Sheep’s Head Ireland: Location & Arrival
The Sheep’s Head peninsula is located about 100 kilometers from the town of Kinsale at the southern end of the Wild Atlantic Way. Here you will not only find the smallest peninsula of the Emerald Isle, but also one of the loneliest and wildest! Although the landscape on the headland in the southwest is considered particularly spectacular, not many travelers stray onto the narrow roads at Sheep’s Head. This means that you can really get off the beaten path!
If you’re traveling the Wild Atlantic Way, Sheep’s Head Peninsula is automatically part of your route. If you are exploring the island on your own, follow the N71 from the south towards Bantry. Just before you reach the small town, turn left onto the R591 towards Crookhaven.
From here Sheep’s Head is signposted on brown signs along the coast. The narrow road ends at a small parking lot where you can park your car for free. There is also a small café where you can get a bite to eat before or after your hike – and you get a great view over the cliffs and the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean for free!
For the easy hike from the parking lot to the small white lighthouse at the very end of the headland and back you need about 1.5 hours. Even though the trail is easy to walk, you should wear good walking shoes and also include a filled water bottle and rain jacket* in your backpack*.
On the way you should not leave the signposted paths out of respect for nature alone, but also because the slippery rocks and muddy ground at the edge of the cliffs can quickly become your undoing, especially when wet.
Hike to Sheep’s Head Ireland: your route
The 4.2-kilometer loop trail takes you from the parking lot to the end of the Sheep’s Head peninsula, where the small white lighthouse seems to be stuck right on the edge of a cliff. For about half an hour, you follow the small yellow hiking signs that first lead you along a wide path and through green meadows – to your left, you always have the coast and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean in view.
After just a few meters, you’ll realize where the peninsula got its name: You’ll be sharing your path with lots of sheep, which is especially great in the spring.r when the many sweet lambs climb over the rocks! Here applies: Please do not touch and in no case feed!
A few hundred meters after the starting point of the hike, the path becomes narrower and it goes a little steeper uphill until you reach the first viewpoint: From here you have a great view over the Mizen Head Peninsula in the east and the Bantry Bay in the west!
About halfway you will pass the black lake Lough Akeen. It’s worth taking a short break here, because the view over the smooth dark surface of the lake in contrast to the waves of the Atlantic in the background is fascinating!
With the help of a wooden bridge you cross a small moor field and as soon as you have climbed the following rocks, your eyes fall for the first time on the lighthouse, which marks the end of the peninsula in the distance! From here you follow the path across the headland until a long staircase along the cliff wall takes you directly to the small white tower. If the weather is good, you will not only have a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, but you can even see as far as the Ardnakinna lighthouse on neighboring Bere Island – so beautiful!
After a leisurely picnic high above the waves of the Atlantic, you make your way back to the parking lot. This time your way leads you along the north coast of the peninsula. Here the path becomes super narrow again and lies at the edge of unpaved cliffs and offers wonderful views again and again! As soon as you leave the cliff edge and take course inland, it goes over moor fields and at an ancient abandoned cottage in the middle of nowhere back to your car. The great thing is that most people don’t walk the entire loop, but return the same way they came, so you’ll most likely be hiking alone here.
If you are in Ireland for a longer time and want to hike for several days, you can extend your tour over the Sheep’s Head Peninsula up to 8 days: The Sheep’s Head Way is a 93 kilometer long signposted hiking trail, which leads you from Bantry completely around the headland! You spend your nights in one of the cozy B&B’s along the route or you camp. In Ireland wild camping is not officially allowed, but not forbidden either, and as long as you leave your campsite exactly as you found it, no one usually minds a small tent!
Atlantic Shore B&B* | terrace with garden | shared kitchen
Ahakista Lodge* | big terrace | very good breakfast | nice modern rooms
Hiking to Sheep’s Head Ireland: Facts about the lighthouse
The small white lighthouse at Sheep’s Head marks the end of the peninsula of the same name since its construction in 1968. Because of the lonely location, all materials and machinery had to be transported to the construction site by helicopter – this required more than 250 flights! The small helicopter landing site is a green area surrounded by white stones, which you can’t miss on your hike to the lighthouse.
The seven-meter high tower was built as part of the Whiddy oil terminal in neighboring Bantry Bay and was intended to be the s
icher navigation of the huge oil tankers
. After a French oil tanker exploded while unloading its cargo in January 1979, killing 50 people and severely damaging the environment, the terminal was closed and is now used only for the custody of Ireland’s oil reserves.
However, the small white lighthouse is still in operation. Originally, the lighthouse keepers of the Mizen Head Lighthouse on the neighboring Mizen Peninsula in the far southwest of Ireland took care of the maintenance and proper functioning of the signal tower by radio communication
. Since 1993, however, both lighthouses have operated completely automatically and are regularly maintained by hand.
Alone among sheep at Sheep’s Head Ireland!
A trip to Ireland is always a good idea – especially to the west coast! Here you will not only find the most beautiful landscapes, the most ingenious coastlines and the most unforgettable adventures of the island, but also the longest designated coastal road in the world: the Wild Atlantic Way! On your route, you’ll pass numerous beautiful hiking areas that are perfect for stretching your legs between your stages on the road.
The hike to the lonely lighthouse on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula is high on your list: As soon as you park your car here and step onto the narrow path, you’ll leave your everyday life far behind. All that matters here is you, the fascinating Irish coastal landscape and, of course, the sheep, of which you will encounter more than people – simply wonderful!
Have you ever been on foot in Ireland? Which hike can you recommend?
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland for sponsoring this trip! Our opinion and way of reporting remains unaffected.
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