Beara Peninsula, Kerry, Self Guided Walking Holidays
This Self Guided Walking Holiday of the Beara Peninsula is essentially based on the ‘Beara Way’, a waymarked walking route which circles the coast, with some incursions into the heart of the peninsula.
The Beara Peninsula in the South-West of Ireland
The Beara Peninsula is one of the four long fingers of land projecting out into the Atlantic Ocean from the South-West of Ireland.
Beara is a haven of tranquillity, far away from ‘coach-tour’ country and therefore has long been popular with the more discerning rambler.
The breathtaking panoramas on Beara are dominated by mountains and sea. The Caha Mountains and Slieve Miskish Mountains form the spine of the peninsula, which is adjoined 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 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 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 their enchantment. Beara is an ancient, magical region where the power of the past is ever-present.
Walking Holiday Day by Day:
This self guided walking holiday starts 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 Bear 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
Glengarriff is 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 – From Glengarriff along the Beara Way
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: 18kms. Duration: 5 hours. Max. Height: 300m. Some road walking, muddy and rocky grass tracks, can be wet underfoot. Boots essential.
Day 3 – Adrigole to Castletownbere
You will be driven back 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 Bear Island – where you walk tomorrow. Overnight in Castletownbere.
Walk Details: Distance: 25kms. Duration: 6 hours. Max. Height: 400m. Rocky walking with no clear path a lot of the way. Can be very wet underfoot. Some road walking. Boots essential.
Day 4 – Bear Island
Take the ferry from Castletownbere over to Bear 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: 23kms. Duration: 6 hours. Max. Height: 300m. Grass and muddy tracks, rocky in places. Some road walking – boots essential.
Day 5 – Castletownbere to Eyeries
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: 16kms. Duration: 4.5 hours. Max. Height: 250m. Muddy and grassy tracks, some road walking, can be wet underfoot – boots essential.
Day 6 – Ardgroom to Lauragh
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: 22kms. Duration: 5.5 hours. Max. Height: 200m. Grass tracks – rocky in places. Can be wet underfoot – boots essential. Some road walking at start and finish.
Day 7 – Drombohilly to Kenmare
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 2kms 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 – Departure
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.
Day 1: Stay an extra day in Glengarriff to enjoy some of the local walks in the area – or to take a boat trip over to the famous Italian Gardens on Garinish Island.
Day 5: Walk from Castletownbere in a westerly direction, under Knockgour Mountain to finish in the little village of Allihies.
Day 6: Walk from Allihies to the tip of the peninsula and take a trip out to the wild and unspoilt Dursey Island. Return to Allihies for overnight.
Day 7: From Allihies, continue your walk eastwards through the area of the old Copper Mines and continue along the northern side of Knockgour Mountain to finish your day in Eyeries. Your holiday programme continues as above on Day 6 from here. Please be aware that there is no public transport in this area, so transport will be private or by taxi.
Make enquiries when booking and we can organise the extra reservations and transport necessary to do these options.
Everything was very well organised on our walking holiday and we loved our experience!
We’ll be back for sure!
I was there with my eldest son. We loved the beautiful hills and coast, the Irish people (very kind and helpful) en de B&B’s we visited were nice and clean. Our hostesses prepared us a delicious breakfast every morning: that gave us the energy for our daily hikes.
After our first night in Dundalk and a full Irish Breakfast, we did a lovely hike from Ravensdale forest to the Lumpers. After the 2nd night and another filling breakfast, we walked across the beautiful Cooley peninsula to the picturesque village of Carlingford on the coast where our bags were waiting in another superb B&B.
And a perfect place for a hike around. Also for fun and good food is taken care of. So we’ve taken one more day. In summary, a beautiful country, incredibly friendly and polite people and an excellent organisation.
As a couple we enjoyed a beautiful walking holiday this summer organised by Cliff Wayenberg of Walking Holiday Ireland. The six days of walking in Dundalk area, Carlingford and the Mourne Mountains were a good combination of different types of scenery, from easy walking to steep climbings. Walking distances each day a bit longer and a bit more difficult, giving it a nice challenge every day. B&B’s located in towns with lots to see and to do in the evening, and all with very enthousiastic hosts, willing to fulfill all wishes. We stayed two nights in each B&B, which gives good opportunity to learn more about a city and the B&B
In summary: Very well organized, well balanced and beautiful holiday!
For our walking holiday in Beara and the south-west of Ireland we advise the following airport(s):
Alternatives: Dublin Airport