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Ireland's Sheep's Head Peninsula

A verdant outcropping in Ireland offers hiking and biking trails, charming villages, local pubs, and, of course, plenty of sheep. 

Sheep's head peninsula, Ireland, image
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Photo: Courtesy of Petra15/Wikipedia
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Hiking trails skirt the North Atlantic's edge at Sheep's Head peninsula.

This is how you pictured Ireland before you even arrived: green pastures and windswept hills rolling away to a rocky coast, villages centered around pubs, friendly locals in no particular hurry. Sheep’s Head peninsula fits the bill, stretching about 15 miles from County Cork out into the North Atlantic, creating a pristine space for hikers, cyclists, and sightseers.

The 2.5-mile Lighthouse Loop trail, starting at the parking lot behind the Sheep’s Head Cafe in Tooreen, takes walkers past craggy sea cliffs, the azure waters of Lough Akeen, fields of purple heather, and more than a few curious sheep. Drivers can experience the essence of the peninsula with a short trip through the hamlets of Bantry, Kilcrohane, Ahakista, and, finally, Durrus, home of an award-winning namesake cheese.

Officially recognized in 2009 by the European Commission as a Destination of Excellence, the peninsula makes a pleasant day trip from the southwestern town of Cork.

This article was first published in March 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.