We all love a secret, a locals insider tip & whilst the Beara Peninsula is not exactly unknown its certainly less well known than its other major “ring” driving routes in Ireland’s Southwest Kerry & Dingle. Its intricate coast and sharp-featured mountains are a geologist’s paradise of exposed and contorted rock strata, making for dramatic scenery at almost every turn of the road.
The Ring of Beara is to the Ring of Kerry what Arthur Avenue is to Manhattans Little Italy, Beara, even in the peak of the season, does not get Tour buses in fact you will struggle to meet even one coach on this 153 Km peninsula. (Kenmare – Glengarriff – Lambs Head – Kenmare) Please don’t take this to mean it’s not as beautiful or drivable because its possibly more beautiful and certainly a shorter day because of the less cluttered roads. I like to drive the “Ring” in a clockwise direction this ensures the passenger remains on the “seaside” for the journey. Setting out from the hotel in the direction of Glengarriff over the Caha Mountains and thought the Caha Pass taking in glorious Bantry Bay as you descend from the hills to Glengarriff. Stop here for a short Tea/Coffee at “Jim’s Café” located about 1 mile outside the village towards Bantry where they have a garden seating area perched high over the harbour overlooking Garnish Island. An option well worth taking in Glengarriff would be a visit to Garnish Island as described in John Brennan’s Itinerary.
Departing the village heading west towards Castletownbere Irelands largest port for landing white fish and the unofficial capital of Beara. Located on the waterfront in an old boathouse is Sarah Walker Gallery owned and run by the renowned Artist. An ideal pub lunch can be had at the famous “McCarthy’s Bar” on Main Street. From Castletownbere continue to travel west on the R572, you may take a more direct route out of Castletownbere which takes you to Eyeries however this cuts out some of the best scenery on the peninsula. I recommend wandering westward towards Lambs Head and the Dursey Cable Car station, one has the option to travel onto Dursey Island and view the remains of the O’Sullivan Beare Castle however I suggest merely taking in the views from the mainland especially on the finer summer days. Passing Killaugh Wedge Grave on your right as you approach the main road again turn left and north as you will now round the top of the peninsula and being your journey eastwards and home.
The best advice I can give for those seeking the best views on this part of the journey is every opportunity you have to turn left – take it! A left turn will draw you nearer to the coastline and these small roads have stunning vistas and access to charming coves and inlets. Pausing for a while in Allihies to visit the Copper Mines Museum where one can follow the footsteps of the Miners at this mine dating back to the beginning of the industrial revolution. Resuming your trip home taking in the magnificent views across Kenmare estuary of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the Iveragh Peninsula to your north as you wind your way over the last few miles at from Lauragh to Tuosist into Kenmare town.