Beara Peninsula: County Kerry's Undiscovered Gem

Andrea SzyperSubmitted by
We are continuing our tour of Ireland’s most beautiful peninsulas with a visit to the Beara, an easy drive from Kenmare, homebase to the Ireland Untour.
 
Less traveled than the other two peninsulas, the Beara Peninsula is a hidden paradise of quiet, winding roads through beautiful country dotted with small colorful villages and beaches. Half of the peninsula is in Cork, the other half in Kerry. Watch out for sharp turns and sheep! 
 
As it is not visited by tour buses and is less popular and touristed than the Ring of Kerry, we recommend this as a first outing to help you orient yourself to the challenges of rural ring driving on narrow coastal roads. Here are some highlights.
 
Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve
Glengarriff takes its name from the Irish Gleann Gairbh, or rugged glen. Visit this lovely protected wildlife and nature area, its woodland in the shadow of the Caha Mountains, tucked into a glen overlooking beautiful Glengarriff Harbour. 
 
The woods were once part of Lord Bantry’s estate. Today they shelter a large bird population. Well marked trails cover the park, offering easy, scenic walks. Picnic areas offer the perfect shady spot to rest and replenish.
 
The Healy Pass
Follow this spectacular isolated road with sweeping views. It gently winds through barren rocky mountains dotted with sheep, crossing the peninsula at its peak. Stop at the top to hear the silence. Please drive this with caution and beware of oncoming cars!

Derreen Gardens 
An unexpected treasure, the Derreen Gardens offer shady walking paths through a wild garden of dense  rhododendrons, tree ferns, and moss. Covering 60 acres, the park was established in the 19th century and is populated with exotic plants brought back from the Himalayas and elsewhere. Its trails run down to the Kilmakilloge Harbor and offer gorgeous views of Mount Knockatee, the Caha Mountains, and Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. 
 
Allihies and Eyeries
Visit these pretty, colorful, quiet villages on the northern shore. Ballydonegan Beach is nearby too, a nice little beach for a picnic or shell-hunting expedition. Or just perch yourself on a rock and watch the waves crash against the rocks and fill the tide pools.
 
Ardgroom Stone Circle
This is one of the best stone circles in Ireland. Find it one mile east of Ardgroom, off the old Kenmare road, following signs. Once parked, it takes 5-10 minutes to get there on foot, down a side road, into a field, up and over a fence (there’s a ladder on both sides) and a trek across a usually very muddy field. If you are fit, it is worth the expedition.
 
Adrigole and Castletownbere
In the shadow of Hungry Hill, Adrigole is a village with access to Bantry Bay. Stop in town here to rent a kayak. You can row out from here and see the seals in bay, a memorable experience! All equipment available for rental. Nearby, Castletownbere is a cute fishing village with good pubs. McCarthy’s Bar is a must.
 
Dzogchen Beara 
This Tibetan Buddhist Center offers a beautiful place to relax and wander on the edge of Ireland. There’s a gift shop and café, a meditation garden, and lovely walks among the gardens and forests with sweeping views out across the Atlantic.
 
Dursey Island Cable Car 
Just when you think we’ve taken in all the majestic views you can handle, here’s a new angle! Take the elevated trip in 6-person cable cars from Ballaghboy to the Dursey Island, crossing high above the Dursey Sound. Cable cars run regularly and the view is worth the trip. Dursey Island’s main draw is birding. Its amenities are very limited, so bring a picnic and water if you plan to spend time walking here.
 
Read about the Iveragh Peninsula (AKA the Ring of Kerry) in the previous two blog posts I wrote about Killarney National Park and the Skellig Ring. And subscribe to our blog so you won’t miss my last installment, about Dingle! All these beautiful places are within easy striking distance on Kenmare, home of the Ireland Untour.

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