The Youghal Bucket (& Spade) List: Top 10 things to do in the coastal East Cork town

As the hugely anticipated Ironman event takes its starting blocks in Youghal, Tom Breathnach discovers 10 wonderful things to do in the East Cork town.
The Youghal Bucket (& Spade) List: Top 10 things to do in the coastal East Cork town

Lighthouse at Youghal. 

As the hugely anticipated Ironman event takes its starting blocks in Youghal, I discover 10 wonderful things to do in this East Cork town.

1. Be a lighthouse keeper

It’s one of the best accommodations you could anchor down in across the county, if not the country. 

Saoirse Fitzgerald’s renovated lighthouse keeper’s cottage, adjacent to the town’s landmark light, is the ultimate base for a stay in Youghal. 

The RTÉ Home of the Year finalist and now much-sought-after Airbnb pad offers guests a soul-soothing maritime haven with Pinterest-perfect interiors throughout. 

It’s a treat at about €400 per night but the property sleeps four making it a perfect spot for a special gathering — plus, with views like these, you’ll probably want to share them. 

  • Follow @thelighthousekeepsher on Instagram for property updates and last-minute cancellations.

2. Yoga with Vashti

Youghal features some of the most stunning swathes of coastline along the Celtic Sea and there’s no better way to connect with the spectacular backdrop than with a spot of seaside yoga. 

Vashti Brosnan is a local yogi offering zen-guaranteed outdoor yoga and pilates sessions in scenic spots across the bay. 

Classes are aimed at all levels and visitors can book either group events or private bespoke sessions. 

“Youghal has the most beautiful sunrises and beach yoga is the perfect setting to gather together, stretch and let go — usually followed by tea, chats and a dip after!”, says Vashti. 

3. Seafood in Ahernes

For a coastal town, I don’t reckon Youghal showboats its rich maritime treasures as much as the likes of Cobh or Kinsale, but the town’s great food offerings are a good place to start. 

For a taste of Youghal on a plate, I love the culinary institution that is Ahernes, particularly for lunch where the ambience is casual and the chalkboard specials are always keenly priced. Seafood lunches are a time-honoured tradition so expect oysters, mussels, scallops, and fresh catches of the day. They have a lovely wine selection too. 

For other options, the Red Store is one of my favourites for a casual lunch meet up while The Priory is a friendly haunt for freshly brewed coffee and tasty sandwiches.

The My Hot Spot sauna in Youghal.
The My Hot Spot sauna in Youghal.

4. Sauna by the sea

Any beachfront worth its salt nowadays seems to feature either a hot tub, sauna, or seaweed bath! 

And at Redbarn Strand, you’ll find Youghal’s unique offering, My Hot Spot. 

The pop-up sauna outfit allows visitors to enjoy either shared or private wellness sessions overlooking the sea, which makes the perfect chaser to a bracing sea swim. 

For the ultimate post-Ironman treatment, they also have whiskey ice barrels available! 

  • Shared/private sauna sessions from €10/€50.

5. Tread the boardwalk

Youghal’s new boardwalk is quickly becoming a destination amenity for the town… and that’s even before the new greenway, expected to open next year, takes off. 

The accessibility-friendly walkway offers a wonderful coastal wander as it sweeps across the coast for a 7km round-trip, from Claycastle to Redbarn beaches. 

To fuel your outing, pick up a brew from Boardwalk Cafe or Le Gourmet’s red coffee truck. 

For something more substantial, pancake stacks and toasties from The Brunch Box will set you up nicely. Check out their Instagram pages for updated hours.

 Claycastle: part of Youghal's town-centre beachfront
Claycastle: part of Youghal's town-centre beachfront

6. Tour the Clock Gate Tower

Everyone who drives through Youghal will be familiar with the iconic Clock Gate but did you know you can visit the iconic heritage site too? 

Built in 1777, the landmark building has been open to the public since 2017 where guided tours will take you through the fascinating history of both the landmark and Youghal itself. 

Think Pirates of the Caribbean with an East Cork twist. Tickets for adults/kids; €9.50/€5.

7. Dip into the Divings

Said to be the oldest lane in Youghal where pirates and merchants made their way to land in days of yore, this small lane just alongside Youghal Lighthouse is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it treasure. 

The lane leads down to a historic swimming spot known locally as ‘the Divings’ and features a natural pool flanked by rocks. 

Diving is not recommended these days but this secluded point makes a gorgeous spot to dip your toes. 

It offers a great perspective of some of Youghal’s rather romantic Victorian seafront.

8. Wander the Raleigh Quarter

Though rarely ventured through, Youghal’s medieval backstreets are loaded with history and off-the-beaten track charm. 

From North Main Street, wander up Church Street to Emmet Place where you can pass the former home of Walter Raleigh, stumble upon local galleries from artists like Andrea Cashel before visiting the beautiful St Mary’s Collegiate Church. 

The town walls trail makes for an impressive stroll while afterwards, pull up a pew at the historic Nook pub. It’s a bold statement, but it is said to have the best pint in town!

9. Picnic like a local

If you’d like lunch on the fly, you’re in a picture-perfect spot for an artisan DIY picnic. 

Dave Browne and his family have been smoking salmon locally for almost 40 years and his delicious Blackwater Smokehouse salmon makes the perfect picnic staple. 

You can pick it up from SuperValu, right in the centre of town, while some freshly baked sourdough bread from Collins Bakery, just next door, makes the perfect foundation!

Sweet tooth? Harrington’s, just down the street, is another local favourite for cream cakes. As for your picnic spot…join the locals at Green Park in the town or Front Strand.

10. Cruise the Blackwater

Youghal isn’t all about that stunning coastline, you know! 

The town also lies at the mouth of one of Ireland’s most unspoiled waterways: The mighty Blackwater. 

A boat trip along the river is a beautiful way to while away a few hours and Tony Gallagher’s Blackwater Cruises are a great bet. 

From the Youghal pontoon, the Ardmore native offers guided cruises under Youghal Bridge up the spectacular river where you’ll lap up everything from glorious riverside habitats to wow-factor stately demesnes like Ballinatray House. 

Keep an eye out for dolphins on the bay!

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