Beara – the Lie of the Land

On the north side of the Beara, looking across to the Kerry Mountains.

On the north side of the Beara, looking across to the Kerry Mountains

The Beara Peninsula is the largest and perhaps the wildest of the three West Cork Peninsulas. (See last week’s post for the map.) Two mountain chains, the Caha Mountains and the Slieve Miskish Mountains make up the spine of the Peninsula. You can traverse it via the spectacular Healy Pass, which runs from Adrigole north to Lauragh. On this occasion, because we had limited time, we confined ourselves to driving the main coastal route and to getting the general lie of the land. This meant we missed out on several landmarks – Bere Island, for example, and Dursey Island, besides the Healy Pass – so of course we must go back soon!

Near Cod's Head

Near Cod’s Head

After the inspiring piano recital by David Syme, described last week, we stayed overnight in Allihies and enjoyed an excellent dinner in O’Neill’s pub. The local Gaelic Football team had won a championship match that afternoon and the town was celebrating well into the night. Our first stop the next day was the Allihies Mining Museum. Housed in an impressively converted old Methodist Chapel, it tells the story of copper mining on the Beara, evidence of which can still be seen in the vicinity.

Note the green copper veins on the cliff face

Note the green copper veins on the cliff face

From there we carried on to the Cod’s Head, through a small pass which brought us out to a jaw-dropping vista across Coulagh Bay to Kilcatherine Point, and beyond to the Mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry. We took the time here to hike up a waymarked trail that brought us up to breathtaking views high into the mountain slopes, home of purple heather, enormous boulders and curious sheep.

The sentinel

The sentinel

Eyries village is a pure delight: a riot of colourful houses and sleepy streets. We stopped at Ms Murphy’s traditional shop for tea and delicious sandwiches, strolled along the main street taking pictures and chatting to friendly residents, and finally by chance dropping into the startlingly beautiful St Kentigern’s church.

The north side of the Peninsula offers glorious vistas across the Kenmare River (an enormous sea inlet but called, oddly, a river). We took the coastal route from Kilcatherine to Dog’s Point and back to Ardgroom and on to Lauragh – lovely villages with seaside settings.

Mountain and sea

Mountain and sea

We stopped to visit the Cailleach Beara, the Hag of Beara. A powerfully symbolic site from Irish mythology, this rock is associated with many legends. People leave votive offerings – coins, rosary beads, a set of old glasses, shells and ribbons in honour of the spirit of the ancient goddess. Our next stop was the Ballycrovane Ogham Stone – the tallest in the world, and still in the wild, as Robert was glad to note.

Alright – so we have our bearings now and we’ve scratched the surface of this fascinating part of West Cork. Look out for future posts on the Beara – we can’t wait to return!

Beara mussel beds

Mussel beds, looking out to the Kenmare River

9 thoughts

  1. I saw your most recent blogpost on facebook today and since I will be running a tour which will be taking a day to explore Beara I wanted to read your other articles. My family is from Collorus, the last townland in Beara, right before you cross into Cork. The last photo on this post (with the mussel beds) actually shows Collorus as the piece of land on the left side. My grandmother’s house is way up over the hill behind the white house in the photo, which belongs to my cousin, Kitty. I return every year for my own vacation and stay in the Tuosist/Lauragh area to visit friends and family.

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    • Hello Marianne
      So glad this post resonated with you. What a wonderful heritage you have! We just went through Lauragh the other day. Hope to get back there soon.

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  2. What a delight! I found you after searching for Monica Sheridan’s Christmas cake recipe. I have I hope temporarily mislaid the original newspaper cutting which also has recipe for mincemeat and plum pud I seem to remember.
    I come from Castletownbere but have lived in the UK for the past 40 years. Great to see the pictures and we all know the sky is always blue and the sun always shining over there!
    Looking forward to reading more fully when I’ve made the cake.
    Many,many thanks. Slan agus beannacht

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