The overwhelming majority of holiday makers to south-west Eire head out to trendy foodie West Cork, loop around the well-known Ring of Kerry, or strike out for Dingle and its resident dolphin. They bypass, nonetheless, one of the best bit in between: the staggeringly lovely Beara peninsula, Eire’s foremost hidden journey gem.
“The peninsula’s remoteness has been extra a blessing than a curse,” says Marc O’Sullivan Vallig, creative director of the summer season Beara arts pageant. “Not solely has Beara been lucky sufficient to overlook out on the type of coachload tourism that has grow to be synonymous with the Ring of Kerry, however there’s additionally nowhere else fairly prefer it on the whole Wild Atlantic Manner.”
Beara is past; it’s completely different. A tapering 30 mile-long forefinger of land that pokes powerfully out into the ocean, it feels much more rugged, historic and untamed than its next-door neighbours. The formidable Caha and Slieve Miskish mountain ranges run alongside Beara’s humpy spine, the sweeping shoreline is endlessly sculpted and indented, and the abandoned seashores are largely shingle and stone. There’s typically an everlasting sense of isolation and vacancy out right here; you’re feeling on the sting of one thing on Beara – a county (the peninsula is break up between Cork and Kerry), a rustic, a continent, even a tradition.
Due to this, Beara has all the time drawn folks drawn to the fringes – hippies, artists, poets and eco-pioneers – and a sure type of adventurous customer, desirous about strolling, biking, historical past, and the humanities.
My most up-to-date go to began in Glengarriff, a village warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, self-proclaimed as one of many sunniest and most sheltered spots in Eire, and unofficial gateway to the Beara peninsula. Situated on the head of Bantry Bay, and surrounded by wooded hillsides and glacial valleys, Glengarriff presents riverside walks and panoramic lookouts among the many mosses, ferns and oak forests in its close by nature reserve.
Ireland-brushed … Eyeries, one of many peninsula’s vibrant villages, on the highway between Ardgroom and Castletownbere. : Alamy
We stayed at Casey’s Lodge (doubles from €78 B&B), a cushty, family-run, three-star form of place, and ate plates of nice native cured meats and farmhouse cheeses (together with Milleens, a gentle full-flavoured cheese produced on Beara) at Manning’s Emporium, an informal cafe-deli a number of miles down the highway in Ballylickey.
From Glengarriff, walkers head out on the scenic, round and clearly waymarked 137-mile Beara Manner, a route that hugs hillsides and coastlines and greater than rivals the extra well-trodden trails such because the Wicklow Manner. Cyclists can get pleasure from an 85-mile model that’s no much less difficult or rewarding.
However for this journey we had been driving, following an elongated determine of eight that has the most important good thing about taking you over one among Eire’s most spectacular mountain roads – twice. The Healy Move is greatest approached from Adrigole on Beara’s southern coast, close to craggy-faced Hungry Hill, and climbs, loops and switches again, previous barren hills streaked with rivers and streams, to a 330-metre summit. From there, wanting north, you’ve got one among Eire’s nice vistas: a view down previous romantic Glanmore Lake, throughout uneven Kenmare Bay to the peaks and stacks of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, the nation’s highest mountain vary.
Low mountains of the Slieve Miskish vary run by way of Beara’s far west, right here overlooking Allihies village. Notice the deserted copper mine on the hillside. : John W Banagan/Getty Photos/Lonely Planet Photos
The go swoops right down to the tiny hamlet of Lauragh – we lunched at Pedals & Boots, a nice native cafe that provides home made treats, cycle rent, showers and a put up workplace – and we got here to a junction that completely illustrated the recurring Beara dilemma: whichever approach we turned, we’d come to one thing shocking and extraordinary.
We took the coast highway to Derreen, an off-the-cuff but skilfully maintained woodland property (with an aesthetic new cafe) that hosts one of the enchanting gardens in Eire. Wealthy in azaleas, rhododendrons and avenues of large New Zealand tree ferns, it was like strolling right into a scene from The Hobbit. Additional on, in a shocking location proper by a small working pier at Kilmackillogue, was Teddy O’Sullivan’s, a proudly unpretentious native pub (and B&B, €30pp, +353 64 66 83104) with a timeless entrance bar serving excellent pints of Guinness and bowls of mussels from the close by bay.
McCarthy’s pub in Castletownbere. : Alamy
A mile or so earlier than we arrived at Ardgroom, additional west alongside Beara’s northern edge, we discovered one other spot with an impressive view: the Ardgroom stone circle. Beara is dotted with an distinctive focus of greater than 600 archaeological websites – from standing stones to megalithic tombs and ring forts – and Ardgroom’s three,000-year-old ceremonial stone circle is likely one of the nation’s best, its 9 surviving pillars, plus one exterior of the circle, nonetheless standing tall.
In Beara’s “capital”, Castletownbere, we checked into the not too long ago refurbished Beara Coast Lodge (doubles from €100 B&B) – a four-star lodge on a headland throughout the harbour that’s significantly smarter and extra comfy than its utilitarian exterior would possibly counsel.
“What I like about Castletownbere is that it’s a working city – it’s the biggest white fish port in Eire – and never fairly so reliant on tourism,” mentioned Sarah Walker, whose eponymous waterside artwork gallery is housed in an impressively transformed fishing warehouse.
A stop-off on the way in which out to Dursey Island, western Beara. : Alamy
MacCarthy’s Bar is the venue for many of writer Pete McCarthy’s spontaneous “all-night hooley” of drink, speak, track, dance and extra drink, so vividly described in his guide McCarthy’s Bar. It’s just about unchanged since Pete was right here in 1999: half pub, half grocery store, and full centre of social life within the city. It was voted Irish Pub of the Yr 2016. There’s an indication above the door. Not that anyone takes a lot discover.
From Castletownbere, over the subsequent couple of days, we explored Beara’s extra bleak and distant western tip. We took “the one cable automobile that traverses open seawater in all of Europe”, the wholly sudden Dursey Island cable automobile on the far finish of the peninsula, which presents an exhilarating 10-minute experience over an typically turbulent sound of water. The eight-mile loop stroll across the lengthy, slender and largely uninhabited isle is a second nice journey. After which you’ll be able to go no additional.
Dursey island cable automobile. : Alamy
The next night we had been within the good-looking and common vacationer city of Kenmare, with its wonderful (if costly) eating places, plentiful reward retailers and five-star locations to relaxation (we stayed on the trendy and serene Sheen Falls Lodge, doubles from €185 B&B), simply exterior the city.
Kenmare is on the head of the bay, simply throughout from Beara “on the opposite facet” – the Iveragh or Ring of Kerry peninsula. But it felt 1,000,000 miles from locations such because the Healy Move, Kilmackillogue, Ardgroom and Dursey.
ONLY HERE FOR THE BEARA: FIVE MORE THINGS TO SEE
: Getty Photos
From Ardgroom we took the longer, twisting and dipping “Ring of Beara” coast highway to Eyeries, a 14-mile route, no wider than a single observe in locations, that offered placing seascapes and large watery skies. Within the picturesque village of Eyeries, dwelling to rows of brightly painted homes and two nice pubs, we stopped at Rhonwen’s Eyeries Bistro, an off-the-cuff family-run restaurant, with a nice assortment of labor by native artists, that’s about one of the best place to eat proper now on the peninsula.
A 15-minute automobile ferry from Castletownbere slowly transports you to the outstanding take away of Bere Island, a once-strategic outpost on the entrance to Bantry Bay that’s surprisingly wealthy in archaeological and historic websites. There are ring forts, standing stones, burial mounds and remnants of “British imperialism” – Martello towers, barracks and a fortification with two six-inch weapons. Keep over on the easy but welcoming Bere Island Lodge (doubles from €70 B&B).
Two miles alongside the highway west from Castletownbere, we scrambled across the ruins of Dunboy Fortress, 16th-century stronghold of the rebellious O’Sullivan Beara clan, and peered by way of the high-wire fences surrounding the close by 19th-century Puxley Mansion. An abiding image each of the burning of “large homes” by the IRA within the 1920s and the hubris of the Celtic Tiger, the 90% restored however by no means opened manor home was to be Eire’s first six-star lodge.
On Beara’s northern slopes, simply 9 miles or so earlier than you come to Kenmare, lies the lengthy, slender glacial valley of Gleninchaquin. A working sheep farm now additionally run as a personal nature park, the world has marked paths, hill walks and log footbridges that lead you previous streams, cascades, rock swimming pools, lakes and native oak forests to a spectacular 140 metre-high waterfall, which has views throughout the glens and woodlands to Kenmare Bay and the mountains of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. The proper place for a picnic.
Described as probably the most distant village in Eire, in that it’s about so far as you will get from Dublin with out falling off the sting, Allihies is a bleakly lovely form of a spot, dwelling to artists, outcasts and, within the 19th century, a neighborhood of copper miners, a few of whom got here from Cornwall. Their resilient lives and arduous occasions are remembered on the well-run Allihies Copper Mine Museum, housed in a former Methodist church. Close by is Ballydonegan seaside, a few of which is shaped from crushed quartz washed down from the mines. When the numerous shafts had been now not viable, generations of miners migrated from Allihies to Butte, Montana, a state that calls itself “The Final Greatest Place”. It’s a phrase you could possibly simply as simply apply to Beara.
• Lodging was offered by Failte Eire. Additional info at wildatlanticway.com and bearatourism.com