|Via:||Skibbereen, Bantry, Kenmare|
|Length:||186.2 km (115.7 miles)|
|Meets:||N40, R849, R613, R589, R607, R605, R586, R603, R602, R600, R880, R599, R597, R637, R595, R593, R931, R592, R591, R584, R572, R571, R569, N70, R568, R876, R877, N72|
|Route outline (key)|
The N71 is a serious "long way round" route from Cork to Killarney. A quick look at the map easily reveals that the N22 is a direct route, but even then, it's still a "long way round" route for other traffic that would go this way. You really have to try hard to ignore the signs which tell you it's not the quickest route in many places.
The road, however, for those determined to drive it end to end, can take in some wonderful scenery, ranging from a gentle meander along the Cork southern coast, to the picturesque bays at Bantry and Glengarriff, and finally to the rugged mountain drives from Cork into Kerry, and again along Ladies View and Killarney National Park.
Cork - Bantry
The N71 today starts on the N40 Cork South Ring Road. From there, it heads out from the suburbs of Cork due south towards Ballinhassig. There's some mild country scenery here, and the road has been realigned to bypass Halfway, where it gets back to the original alignment after it. The road now heads southwest towards Inishannon, where it runs along the valley of the River Bandon towards Bandon town itself. There's a single carriageway relief road around the town, while the R586 leaves west to provider a faster route to Bantry; one of many of the "short way round" routes on the N71's course.
Beyond Bandon, the road gradually winds down to the southern coast of County Cork into Clonakilty, just touching the waterside as it bypasses the town. The N71 touches the coast again though Roscarbery and Leap up to Skibbereen, the main town that's been signposted all the way from Cork. What happens after this is slightly confusing, as all map coverage claims the N71 carries onto Ballydehob, but contemporary signage diverts the N71 up to Drimoleague along the former R593 just on the outskirts of Skibbereen. As might be expected from a recently (if at all) regional road upgrade, the quality of the road drops dramatically and suddenly changes from a reasonably wide an accessible road to a narrow route just wide enough for two cars, with plenty of twists and turns over the hills. Whatever the case, the N71 TOTSOs with the R586 to touch the west coast at Bantry.
Bantry - Kenmare
Bantry itself has a large market square with lots of parking, with views out towards the bay and the Atlantic. Beyond the market square, the N71 squeezes through streets to make it through the town. The character of the road changes again, this time to wind along the coastline, with further views of the bay as the road travels around the coastline. The R584 comes in from its own intrepid journey through the interior of County Cork, while we run up Glengarriff Harbour, our last really good view of the coast out to the Atlantic, and then into the village itself. The R572 turns off left to head out along the Bere Peninsula.
At this point, the character changes again from coastal to mountainous, as the N71 crosses the Cork and Kerry mountains. There's a steady climb out of Glengarriff, with several double backs allowing some spectacular views of Bantry Bay out to the ocean. There's a tunnel carved out of the rock at the summit, and we finally leave County Cork and cross into County Kerry to head back down the other side, with more tunnels. At the bottom, the road widens again to lead up to the R571, coming along the other side of the Bere Peninsula, and crosses into Kenmare. Through traffic is signposted up the R569, which via the N22 gives a much faster route to Killarney, but for the adventurous and interested sabristi, the town is also signposted straight ahead along the Ring of Kerry.
Kenmare - Killarney
The third and final part of the N71 runs along the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park, and consequently can be infested with coaches during the summer months as hundreds of tourists nip out to look at the natural beauty of Ireland's scenery.
This section starts by running through the high street in town, which is lined with shops and bars on all sides, and consequently only northbound traffic uses this route. After this, there's a junction with the N70 making its own scenic route to west Kerry. The N71, meanwhile, leaves the urban area and winds up into the mountains again. It reaches the summit at Moll's Gap, a particularly popular spot for bikers and tourists, where the R568 arrives from its own mountain route coming up Sneem. Coming back down, the Lakes of Killarney come into view, and the N71 runs past Ladies View, a popular place for people to get out and take a few hundred photographs.
Back down from the mountains, the N71 runs past the main entrance to the national park, before heading into the outskirts of Killarney, heading along numerous hotels and posh resorts. There's a bridge of the River Flesk, before meeting the R876, which allows access to the N22 back to Cork or the town centre. The N71, meanwhile, heads around the west of town, meeting the N72 which goes back out to the coast. The N22 up to Tralee is just around the corner, but for us, that's all for the N71.