Cork Whale Watch, Union Hall

Must see · Dolphin / Whale Watching · Nature / Wildlife Tour
Cork Whale Watch offers wonderful opportunities to observe whales and dolphins and a host of other marine wildlife in West Cork. These productive coastal waters provide critical feeding habitat for a diversity of species including cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), basking sharks, seals and sea birds, along with prolific fish life.

If you've seen film footage or natural history documentaries on whales from anywhere in Co. Cork or Waterford, the chances are it was filmed with Colin Barnes from the MV Holly Jo. Among these contributions are RTE's "Wild trials" series over several years since 2002, "Wild Journeys", "Living the Wildlife" and in recent years Colin has worked with both BBC Autumnwatch (2011) and Winterwatch (2012) and most recently BBC's "Great British Year" (2013) to film large whales along the Irish South coast.

As a former fisherman of 40 years experience observing whales in West Cork, Colin is Ireland's longest established and most experienced whale watch operator and has been enthralling whale watchers and wildlife enthusiasts in West Cork since 2001. Colin has contributed to and co-authored scientific publications on fin whale photo-identification and humpback whale distribution (2014) with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, and contributes to the All-Ireland Cetacean Sighting Scheme, by reporting sightings directly to IWDG. Colin is a rare breed of conservationist, who has evolved from the fishing industry, his passion and understanding of local marine ecosystems is second to none.

We operate out of Reen Pier, just 5 minutes outside of Union Hall. So, if you are staying in Skibereen, Leap, Rosscarbery, Clonakilty, Bandon, Kinsale or Cork City, then Cork Whale Watch are your nearest whale watch operator, offering plenty of free car parking space within easy walking distance of the pier, ensuring you start your whale watch trip fresh and "stress free".

Colin is available for longer filming and research charters during summer and winter.

Summer Timetable (Trips are a minimum 4 hour duration)

Our rates are as follows:

• Adults €50

• 3rd level students €40 (valid student card),

• Children (under 18 yrs): €40 (1st child), €30 (2nd and others)

Trip times: April - September (4-5 hours duration, subject to weather & demand)

10.30am to 2.30 pm

3.00pm to 7.00 pm

Winter Timetable October - March (Trips generally 4 hrs+ duration)

10.30am to 3.30 pm

How to get to Reen Pier?

Go into Union Hall and drive through the main street until you reach the church (St. Brigid's) on your left (heading away from village). Take left at the church, where Reen Pier is signed. Take 1st right after 200 mts (again signed for Reen Pier) and stay on this road, keeping the lake on your left, and you can't miss Reen Pier. It's a 5 minute drive from Union Hall to the car parking area. A local map showing Reen Pier is available on our website in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section. We have additional street signage from Leap and Union Hall.

You can book your place by:

1. Phone: +353 (0)86 3850568 or 353 (0) 86 3273226

2. email:

3. On Facebook
Plan your visit to Cork Whale Watch and a wealth of other attractions, well-known and undiscovered, using our Union Hall trip itinerary planner.
Improve this listing »
Create an itinerary including Cork Whale Watch
© OpenMapTiles © OpenStreetMap contributors

Cork Whale Watch reviews

Rate this attraction
TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
606 reviews
  • My family (Mom, Dad, 12 yr old girl, 14 yr old girl) went on 30th August. The weather was excellent and the sea not rough at all. The view of the coastline and of Castletownshend from Reen pier is.....  more »
  • Great day out enjoying the fantastic scenery and wildlife off the Coastline of County Cork. Shortly after leaving Reen Pier our Skipper noticed some action straight away and we were off in search of....  more »
  • Absolutely loved it ! We were blessed with the clear blue skies and saw humpback whales and dolphins! Highly recommend it to everyone ! Family friendly  more »
  • So great! Knowledge crew that make the trip that much better. We were lucky to have Christopher to point out all there was to see.
  • Fantastic day out. The captain really loves his job and that makes you enjoy it all the more. One suggestion though. Use the bathroom before you board. The head on board is very small and if there's choppy seas very difficult to use. Especially if your a little larger, like myself.
  • I went on the Holly Jo yesterday whale watching. Oh My God.... it nearly put me off whale watching for life. With rolling seas myself and the guy beside me were sick. The boat had the most primitive toilet with no toilet paper and only a hand pump toilet. Not even a drink of water offered if you got sick. We were four and a half hours out looking for whales and came across one baby minke whale. While it was very interesting to see that at 50 euro the trip was overpriced. There was a wooden bench in the middle of the boat which didn’t provide enough room for everyone to sit. There was not even a handrail on the bench. I also didn’t think it was legal to be out in a boat like that with no life jackets and the quality of the life jackets was so poor they must have come from some salvage shop somewhere. When we came back the skipper said “sorry about that the weather has been bad for the last few days, when the weather is good we are able to track their whereabouts”. But we had to pay up anyway. This guy is making 1200 a day and the “only cash” bit makes me wonder..... as a tax payer myself. Inside the boat there was a steel barrel and some crates which he nearly fell over at one stage. A waste bin in the corner, a steel pole of sorts (for fishing) and stuff you could generally trip over. I didn’t feel safe and have been on hundreds of whale trips.
  • Wonderful trip Colin did his very best to find us a humpback, conditions were unfavourable but he prevailed. We saw seals, dolphins & humpback a great trip!
  • Thoroughly enjoyable our trip on Wed 4th July. Colin is very committed to giving his passangers value for money. We saw Seals, Dolphins and Minke whales. The dolphin display was spectacular. Well worth the trip to see the Seals and Dolphins. The Whales if and when they appear are a bonus.

Plan your trip to Union Hall

  • Get a personalized trip
    A complete day by day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it
    Refine your trip. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Book it
    Choose from the best hotels
    and activities. Up to 50% off
  • Manage it
    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.