COUNTY CORK - BEARA PENNINSULA
Though you will be only a few miles south of the more famous Ring of Kerry (as the crow flies), you are entering a different world on the Beara Peninsula. You are still in Ireland`s Southwest, but away from the main rush of tourists. And trucks carrying fresh fish will more likely be your fellow travelers than busloads of vacationers. The Beara Peninsula has not yet been totally discovered by mainstream tourism and retains its authentic rural charm. After Kerry and Dingle, the Beara Peninsula is the third major `ring` (circular road around a peninsula) in the west. A small part of the peninsula lies in Kerry, but is covered here for convenience.
The south side, along Bantry Bay, is a series of working fishing villages. The north side, in contrast, is a stunner, with craggy roads in and out of the nooks and crannies of the peninsula. Many are off the tourist trail. Other highlights include a thrillingly wobbly cable car at the tip of the peninsula out to tiny Dursey Island, and exhilarating hill walking requiring some skill and commitment, as well as proper clothing and navigational experience.
You can easily drive the 85 miles around the coast in one day, but you would miss the spectacular Healy Pass Road (R574), which cuts across the peninsula from Cork to Kerry. In fact, if pressed for time, skip the rest and do the pass.
Hidden deep in the wooded Bantry Bay area, Glengarriff is an attractive village that snares plenty of passers-by in need of sweaters. In the second half of the 19th century, Glengarriff became a popular retreat for prosperous Victorians, who sailed from England, took the train to Bantry, then chugged over to the village in a paddle steamer. By 1850 the road to Kenmare had been blasted through the mountains and the link with Killarney was established. Today Glengarriff lies on the main Cork to Killarney road (N71). Nearby, the rough, rocky Caha Mountains make for good hill walking (and, if you`re game, an exhilarating drive to Priest`s Leap). There are plenty of gentler strolls in and around town, too, in mature oak woodlands and through the coastal Blue Pool Amenity Area, where seals, perched on submerged rocks, appear to levitate on the water.
Castletownbere (Baile Chais Bhéara) is the site of one of Ireland`s largest deep water fishing ports. In WWI, the British fleet was based here. When in Castletownbere, take s stroll along the Pier to watch the local fishing fleet bring in the fresh catches. Or try local fish for yourself by having dinner or lunch at the Old Bakery Restaurant, or the many other restaurants and cafes available in the town. Or if you prefer a pint, why not enjoy McCarthy`s Pub, made famous by writer Pete McCarthy?
Situated on a headland near Castletownbere, this castle was the site of an epic last stand of Irish against English and a subsequent massacre.
The entire north side is the scenic highlight of the Beara Peninsula. A series of roads, some of them single-lane tracks, snake around the ins and outs of the weathered, rugged coast. Boulder-strewn fields tumble dramatically towards the ocean and it`s blissfully remote – your only company along some stretches are flocks of sheep and the odd sheepdog.
Drive down, walk or bike to one of Ireland`s most westerly villages. Allihies boasts one of the Beara`s best beaches. The pretty village was also the site for a productive copper mine. The Allihies Copper Museum provides a history of the bravery of the miners who worked so hard. Camping, B&Bs, food, drink, and entertainment also available.
Heading north and east from Allihies, the beautiful coastal road (R575), with hedges of fuchsias and rhododendrons, twists and turns for about 8 miles to Eyeries.
Eyeries is remarkable: one of the most south-westerly villages in Ireland, it is situated on a bluff that overlooks Coulagh Bay and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean. Those who live or visit here can spend hours listening to the surf, taking in the gentle smell of the ocean, walking to the sandy and rocky beaches only minutes away, or just simply relaxing in the tranquility and joy that is to be found here. It lies at the base of Maulin which, at 2,044 feet, is the highest peak in the Slieve Miskish mountain range that forms part of the backbone of the peninsula. Due its stunning location, Eyeries has been used as the backdrop for a number of films including The Purple Taxi (1977) starring Fred Astaire, Peter Ustinov, and Charlotte Rampling, and also the 1998 TV series Falling for a Dancer, a dramatization of life and love in 1930s Ireland based on the novel by Deirdre Purcell. Very recently, Irish Director Neil Jordan has been shooting his latest film Byzantium in nearby locations.
From Eyeries, forsake the R571 for the even smaller coast roads (lanes really) to the north and east. This is the Beara at its most spectacular – and intimate. Tiny coves are like pearls in a sea of rocks and the views of the Ring of Kerry to the north are sublime.
Rejoin the R571 at the crossroads of Ardgroom (Ard Dhór). As you head east towards Lauragh, look for signs pointing to the Ardgroom stone circle, an unusual Bronze Age monument with nine tall, thin uprights. There`s muddy parking at the end of a 500m-long narrow approach lane. The circle is visible about 200 yards away and a path leads to it across bogland. A crude sign says simply `money` and a US dollar under a rock gives a hint.
Further along the R571, about half a mile before Lauragh, is a road to Glanmore Lake, with the remains of an old hermitage on a tiny island in the middle. There are walking opportunities in the area, but gaining access can be problematic: ask locally for advice.
Lauragh (Laith Reach), situated northeast of Ardgroom, is in County Kerry. It`s home to the Derreen Gardens, planted by the fifth Lord Lansdowne around the turn of the 20th century. Mossy paths weave through an abundance of interesting plants, including spectacular New Zealand tree ferns and red cedars, and you may see seals on the shore.
Within only a few miles of Eyeries, you have access to some of the most stunning and interesting spots in Ireland. The Beara Peninsula is renowned for its beautiful scenery, quietude, and fun-filled towns and villages. To see the west and south of the Beara Peninsula: Just leave Eyeries, and drive onto the Castletownbere Road toward Castletownbere. About half a mile from Eyeries, take a right at the sign for Allihies. This brings you down the Beara Peninsula Coast Road. And here`s what you`ll see..
Drive from Eyeries, and head west along the Beara Peninsula for one of the most scenic drives in Ireland. Enjoy the stunning scenery of Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Capture the image of the Skellig Islands rising from the sea. It`s a journey that you`ll never forget. Continue the drive into Allihies, then onto Castletownbere
The long island stretching south-westerly can only be reached by boat or .. cable car. A gaudily painted cabin designed for three passengers (plus one cow) swings and sways across a treacherous stretch of water. In splendid isolation, the island is a walker`s paradise.
Leaving Allihies, continue on the drive to this Buddhist retreat. All faiths are welcome! Enjoy the stunning views of the Atlantic from the retreat`s cliff-top location. Have a cup of tea or coffee, and browse through their extensive range of books and gifts at their shop. Or contemplate the spiritual side of life by taking part in their meditations.
Take the ferry from Castletownbere across Bantry Bay to visit this wonderful island. Bere Island has a thriving, vibrant community providing a wide and varied range of events and activities for both islanders and visitors alike. Bere Islanders endeavor to promote everything the island has to offer to individuals and families, walkers, cyclists, yacht and fishing enthusiasts; extending the warm West Cork welcome to all.
Mill Cove Gallery
A few miles from Castletownbere on the Bantry Road, is Mill Cove Gallery. With extensive arts exhibits from local painters, sculptures and ceramics artists, and a wonderful Tea Room, you can capture a few hours of joy here.
At the top of Bantry Bay, you`ll find Bantry. A wonderful town; a place of eateries, hotels, and fishing fleets. And check out their market days! There`s something available for everyone.
Leading through the Caha Mountains and connecting Lauragh with Adrigole via the R574, this pass offers stunning views of the peninsula and Bantry Bay.
The highest mountain on the Beara Peninsula at nearly 2.300 feet, a favorite with energetic hillwalkers.
Located near Dunboy Castle, the stately home of the local Puxley family has be re-built as a luxury hotel.