BY JACKIE KEOGH
GURUS of all that is good, Sally and John McKenna have named the Sheep’s Head Peninsula as their ‘Destination of the Year’ and the acclaimed journalist and travel writer, Manchán Magan, has listed it as one of his top ten walking destinations.
The McKennas – authors of the hugely successful Where to Eat and Stay On the Wild Atlantic Way Guide – have established themselves as experts on the good food and the good experiences to be enjoyed along the Wild Atlantic Way.
But, for 2015, John and Sally have singled out the Sheep’s Head Peninsula as a must-see destination, and praised it for the great food and tourism activities it offers along the route.
‘With a clutch of excellent places to stay and eat, the Sheep’s Head is recognised as a great destination that offers unparalleled walking experiences,’ the McKennas state in their latest publication.
The Sheep’s Head was designated as a European Destination of Excellence for Sustainable Tourism in 2009 and is home to a world-renowned 88km coastal walking route.
Hikers, cyclists and sailors from across the world are drawn to this genuinely unspoilt and peaceful peninsula, which sits between its better-known neighbours the Mizen and Beara Peninsulas.
The stunning vistas along the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, particularly the fantastic views of Dunmanus and Bantry Bay, go some of the way towards explaining the popularity of the Sheep’s Head Way walking route.
Foodies are also drawn to the area by local delicacies like Durrus Cheese, Bantry Bay Mussels, and the range of Glenilen yoghurts and butters, all of which are produced in a region that reaches from the tip of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to Gougane Barra.
Standout restaurants like Good Things Café and Blairscove House are also attracting visitors to the area, with Blairscove securing Georgina Campbell’s award for Outstanding Visitor Experience for 2015.
Growth in tourism along the Sheep’s Head Way, fuelled by the success of the Wild Atlantic Way, is also helping new businesses to flourish, and 2014 saw the rebirth of Kilcrohane Creamery as a home to both a restaurant focused on local food, and the Sheep’s Head Producers’ market and shop.
‘The McKennas’ selection of the Sheep’s Head as their destination of the year is a great tribute to the community here, and to the thoughtful way tourism has been developed in our area,’ said Siobhán Burke, the marketing co-ordinator of Sheep’s Head and Bantry Tourism Co-operative, an initiative that is supported by Cork County Council and by the West Cork Development Partnership under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.
Meanwhile, Manchán Magan has this to say about the Sheep’s Head in the Irish Times: ‘Beginning in Bantry, this 88km trail takes you down the most underrated and under-populated of the five peninsulas of Munster. Sheep’s Head is a wild, rough, undulating ridge jutting out into the Atlantic, with sweeping seascapes and glorious views across to the more renowned Beara and Mizen Peninsulas.’
Put it on your to-do list!