The Copper Coast Geopark is an area of tiny villages, sandy coves, and fields punctured by long-abandoned mine shafts. The geopark, which is in Co.Waterford, doesn’t get as many visitors as other regions of Ireland. But the resulting solitude and wildness just add to the experience. It’s the perfect place to go for an adventure or two.
The Copper Coast Geopark
At just 90 km², Ireland’s Copper Coast is one of the smallest geoparks in Europe. But this compact area includes walking trails, forests, and eight beaches. Base yourself in either the seaside town of Dungarven or Tramore, and explore the highlights of the area:
Stradbally is all tree-lined roads and white, thatched cottages. The neatness of the town, so neat that it’s won awards, is a lovely contrast to the rugged headlands nearby. Hidden at the end of a muddy track, Stradbally Cove is so secluded that it seems private. But it is open to the public and it’s usually a little haven of quiet. When the tide is out, the rippled sand stretches out to the sea and you can wander to the base of the cliffs.
On the road between Stradbally and Bunmahon, Ballyvooney Cove is another worthwhile stop. Just don’t expect sand, because this cove is a stretch of shingle and rocks, surrounded by grass-topped cliffs.
On approach, Bunmahon Beach doesn’t look like much. The adjacent holiday park is deserted during the winter, and grass-topped sand dunes hide the beach from view. You have to climb the dunes to see it in all of its sandy glory. Five kilometres of beach curve out to the sea, protected on either side by dark cliffs. Bunmahon Beach looks particularly dreamy at sunset when the sky transforms into a patchwork of colour. It’s one of the loveliest Copper Coast beaches and an unmissable stop.
The Coastal Mining Trail
It would be madness not to explore the Copper Coast’s old mining trail, as mining played a huge part in the development of the area. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the cliffs surrounding Bunmahon were mined for lead, copper and silver. The Coastal Mining Trail will take you to the abandoned mine shafts of Knockmahon and the ruins of the Tankardstown Engine Houses. You can follow the trail on foot, which takes about 1.5 hours. You can find detailed walking guides here.
Tramping through an Irish bog might not seem incredibly appealing. But 10,000-year-old Fenor Bog was County Waterford’s first National Nature Reserve, and there’s nothing else quite like it in the area. The walk is short and easy. A wooden boardwalk takes you safely over the squelchy ground that lurks beneath, before looping back to the car park.
It’s a wild place, surrounded by fields and craggy hills, and home to over 200 species of birds and animals. I was on the lookout for glittery wings during my walk, as Fenor Bog has been described as the best dragonfly site in Waterford.
Close to Fenor, Ballyscanlon Lake and Forest Park shows off the varied landscape that makes the Copper Coast so special. The Comeragh Mountains tower in the background and walking trails wind around the lake. During the spring and summer months, the area is lush with wildflowers. If you somehow get tired of staring at the sea, it’s a good place to head for to recharge.
Although it’s not technically within the boundaries of the geopark, Clonlea Strand is a beauty. It’s great on a summer day, but even more refreshing on a cold, bright morning, when the sunlight bounces off the wet sand and the rock pools sparkle. It’s also a beach that’s ideal for running when the tide’s out. Clonlea Strand is 5km outside Dungarven and is very close to the geopark.
Planning a trip to the Copper Coast, Ireland?
- The Copper Coast Geopark is a 3-hour drive from Dublin, and about a 2-hour drive from Cork City.
- For more information on the park and walking trails, visit the Geopark Visitors’ Centre. The centre is closed for the winter but will reopen for weekends in the spring.
- The Ardmore Cliff Walk is another beautiful walking trail in County Waterford.
Walks in Cork