West Cork’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 and challenging as any alpine pass.
All of West Cork’s peninsula towns and villages are dotted along the coastal road which loops around the peninsula. The largest is Castletownbere (or Castletown Bearhaven), 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 Italianate Gardens with their sub-tropical flora. At the tip of the peninsula is Dursey Island, now home to only five souls, and connected to the mainland by Ireland’s only cable car – capacity: 6 people or 1 cow! Beara Peninsula 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 the tiny village of Allihies is reputed, by folklore, to be the spot where the four Children of Lír came ashore after spending 300 years adrift on the Atlantic. According to legend, they had been turned into swans and banished by their evil stepmother. 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 their enchantment with St. Patrick. Beara is an ancient, magical region where the power of the past is ever-present and the present just blooms with welcome for you the visitor.
This cycle holiday of the Beara Peninsula loops around this rugged coastline, takes in some of the Sheeps Head Peninsula further south and finishes in Glengarriff where you can avail of a bus service back to Cork.
Day 1: Arrive at your first Bed & Breakfast house in Bantry where your Information Pack with Route Suggestions & Maps await your arrival. Collect your cycles & if time allows, take a short cycle around the town to get a “feel” for your surroundings. Overnight in Bantry.
Day 2: Cycling out of Bantry your first cycle takes you onto the Sheeps Head Peninsula following the spectacular “Goat’s Path” on the northern shores of this peninsula to Kilcrohane. From there you return along the southern shores to Durrus & on back to Bantry from there. Return to your accommodation for overnight. Cycle Details – Distance: 52 km. Max. Ascent: 220 m.
Day 3: Leaving Bantry behind you, today’s cycle takes you on a lovely route to the beautiful Gougane Barra before returning to the shores of Bantry Bay & finish in the picturesque village of Glengarriff. Overnight in Glengarriff. Cycle Details – Distance: 56 km. Max. Ascent: 250 m.
Day 4: Cycling north from Glengarriff, you have a beautiful route over the “Caha Pass” a magnificent road through the mountains with wonderful views towards the Ring of Kerry. Descending onto the northern shores of the peninsula you cycle to Lauragh for your overnight. Overnight and dinner in Lauragh. Cycle Details – Distance: 45 km. Max. Ascent: 390 m.
Day 5: Continuing along the northern shores your cycle today takes you through the picturesque village of Eyeries famous for its colourful houses. From there you continue to Allihies – once home to a thriving copper mining industry. Overnight in Allihies. Cycle Details – Distance: 44 km. Max. Ascent: 100 m.
Day 6: Today you are spoilt for choice but our recommendation takes you further west to Dursey Sound. If you wish a trip to the glorious Dursey Island, just at the very tip of the Beara Peninsula is well worthwhile … crossing over on Ireland’s only Cable Car service. This is a step back in time and gives you an opportunity to walk “West” to the end of land!! Back on the mainland – you continue cycling east to finish in the fishing port of Castletownbere. Overnight in Castletownbere. Cycle Details – Distance: 38 km. Max. Ascent: 150 m.
Day 7: Today you have the option to take your bike over to Bere Island for a cycle around this beautiful place adding 14 km onto your day. From Castletownbere you then cycle east through Adrigole – with an option here to go kayaking if you wish. Continuing east – you finish your cycle back in Glengarriff. Overnight in Glengarriff. Cycle Details – Distance: 38 km. Max. Ascent: 220 m.
Day 8: After a final Irish breakfast you are then free to take the bus back to Cork & continue your onward journey from there.
Single Supplement €250.
Also see tour packages in:
Europe Ireland Outdoor: Land Rambler Walking Tours