Beara’s breathtaking panoramas are dominated by mountains and sea. The Caha Mountains and Slieve Miskish Mountains form the spine of the peninsula, which is washed by Kenmare Bay to the north and Bantry Bay to the south. The folding of the rock strata throughout millennia has left the swirling wave-like patterns across the mountains, which are so characteristic of the Beara landscape. Few roads cross this massive natural barrier, and those which do are spectacular feats of engineering: the ‘Tunnels Road’ via Turner’s Rock and the Healy Pass road with its series of hairpin bends, as dramatic as any alpine pass.
All of Beara’s towns and villages are dotted along the coastal road which loops around the peninsula. The largest is Castletownbere (or Castletown Berehaven), a major fishing port located on one of the deepest natural harbours in Ireland. Picturesque villages such as Eyeries and Allihies are renowned for their rows of brightly contrasting houses featuring every shade of the rainbow, where every house competes with its neighbours to be the most colourful.
At the head of Bantry Bay is the village of Glengarriff, from where you can take a short boat trip to Garinish Island, famous for its Italian Gardens with their sub-tropical flora. At the tip of the peninsula is Dursey Island, connected to the mainland by Ireland’s only cable car – capacity: 6 people or 1 cow. Beara is rich in history, pre-history, folklore and archaeology. Copper and other metals have been mined around Allihies since the Bronze Age. The earliest inhabitants made their mark, leaving numerous tombs, standing stones and stone circles dotted across the landscape. The region is rich in mythology: it was the home of the Hag of Beara, a powerful sovereignty goddess whose reputation extends across the whole country. The Bull Rock, lying off Dursey Island, is reputed to be the site of Teach Doinn (‘the house of Donn’, Irish god of the underworld) and it is here that souls wait to enter his domain. Near Allihies is the spot where the Children of Lír (who had been turned into swans and banished by their evil stepmother) came ashore after spending 300 years adrift on the Atlantic. Stepping onto terra firma, they became human once again, but aged immediately. They died soon after, but not before being converted to the new religion of Christianity, which had arrived in Ireland since the time of their enchantment. Beara is an ancient, magical region where the power of the past is ever-present.
This independent walking tour of the Beara Peninsula is largely based on the Beara Way, a waymarked trail which loops around the coast, with occasional forays into the mountainous interior of the peninsula. Starting on the south coast of Beara, the village of Glengarriff at the head of Bantry Bay is your base for the first two nights.
For the next two nights your accommodation is in the fishing port of Castletownbere, from where you can also explore Bere Island. You then cross over to the north coast of the peninsula, spending one night each in the secluded villages of Eyeries and Lauragh. Your final night’s accommodation is in the heritage town of Kenmare.
Day 1: Arrive in Glengarriff – a delightful little town, well known for Garinish Island with its sub-tropical Italian gardens. The influence of the warm Gulf Stream makes it a great place to visit all year round. Proceed to your first accommodation just outside Glengarriff town, where your hostess will give you your full detailed information pack. She will also be able to recommend some of the excellent local restaurants.
Access for this holiday is by bus connection from Cork to Glengarriff which runs all year round.
Day 2: Start walking from Glengarriff along the Beara Way, under the Sugarloaf and Glenlough Mountains to finish in the village of Adrigole. This walk gives glorious views over Bantry Bay and across to Sheeps Head and your route joins some tiny old roads as you near Adrigole. Here you have the opportunity to detour a little to see excellent examples of standing stones and megalithic tombs. Telephone from Adrigole and return to Glengarriff for second night.
Walk Details: Distance: 18 km. Duration: 5 hours. Max. Height: 300 m. Some road walking, muddy and rocky grass tracks, can be wet underfoot. Boots essential.
Day 3: You will be driven to Adrigole to start your walk, continuing under the dominating mass of Hungry Hill and Maulin Mountain, before reaching the fishing port of Castletownbere. This is a long and very varied walk giving beautiful views over to Bere Island – where you walk tomorrow. Overnight in Castletownbere.
Walk Details: Distance: 25 km. Duration: 6 hours. Max. Height: 400 m. Rocky walking with no clear path a lot of the way. Can be very wet underfoot. Some road walking. Boots essential.
Day 4: Take the ferry from Castletownbere over to Bere Island – this fascinating place, steeped in history. Loop around the west end of the island, and on to the little village of Rerrin. From here you can continue to the eastern tip of the island, exploring the old army fortifications, before returning by road to the harbour for the return ferry. (As this piece of water is naturally sheltered by the island – the ferry service runs every day). Overnight in Castletownbere.
Walk Details: Distance: 23 km. Duration: 6 hours. Max. Height: 300 m. Grass and muddy tracks, rocky in places. Some road walking – boots essential.
Day 5: Walk from Castletownbere into the Slieve Miskish Mountains, crossing from the south coast of the peninsula to the north. Continuing up to Teernahillane you leave the Beara Way for a short distance as you cut across the centre of the peninsula, re-joining the route, and continuing around the coast to finish in the picturesque village of Eyeries. Overnight in Eyeries.
Walk Details: Distance: 16 km. Duration: 4.5 hours. Max. Height: 250 m. Muddy and grassy tracks, some road walking, can be wet underfoot – boots essential.
Day 6: From Eyeries you will be driven to the village of Ardgroom, to start your walk from here. You will have the opportunity to visit some of the famous stone circles in this area along today’s route. Leaving Ardgroom, you follow a wonderful old mountain path which leads to the little village of Lauragh at the base of the famous Healy Pass. Overnight near Lauragh.
Walk Details: Distance: 22 km. Duration: 5.5 hours. Max. Height: 200 m. Grass tracks – rocky in places. Can be wet underfoot – boots essential. Some road walking at start and finish.
Day 7: From Lauragh you will be dropped at Drombohilly to start you final day’s walking. From Drombohilly you start walking over the first of two mountain saddles you will be crossing today, with views behind to the Caha Mountains and north towards the Ring of Kerry. Descending to the Cloonee Lakes, you continue along the shores of Lough Inchiquin before ascending again over the second saddle. Descending into the lovely Dromoghty valley, you walk along narrow little back roads, finally joining the main road for the last about 2 km to walk into the heritage town of Kenmare. Overnight in Kenmare.
Walk Details: Distance: 26kms. Duration: 6 hours. Max. Height: 400m. Open mountain and moorland, grass and mud tracks – boots essential. Some road walking at end of day – please take care.
Day 8: From Kenmare, you can make your way back to Glengarriff by taxi. (There is a summer service offered by the local bus to Glengarriff – but this is very irregular so ask locally for details). From Glengarriff you can return by bus to Cork city and by bus from there to the airport. Alternatively, you can make your way from Kenmare to Killarney by bus, and from Killarney a bus or train to Cork, Limerick, Shannon or Dublin.
Single Room Supplement: 8-day €250.
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Europe Ireland Outdoor: Land Rambler Walking Tours