The Beara Peninsula, mainly in Co. Cork and partly in Co. Kerry, is the wildest and most romantic of Ireland’s Southwestern Peninsulas, with incredible views over Bantry Bay, Kenmare Bay, Ballydonegan Bay and other coastline features.
Although not nearly as touristy as the Iveragh Peninsula, “the Beara” is well-equipped for every sort of visitor, offering plenty of places to explore (including Bere Island and Dursey Island) and a wide range of activities, accommodation options and amenities.
The Beara Peninsula (Map – Island View House, a pleasant family-run B&B in Castletownbere)
According to mythology, “the Beara” was so named by a C2nd Munster chieftain, either Eoin Mor or Mogh Nuadat, after his bride, Beara, daughter of Heber Mor, King of Castile.
An Caileach Beara – The Old Hag of Beara, petrified in stone near Eyeries, is a mythical figure variously identified with the Great Mother and Corn Goddess, a personification of the forces of wild nature used to conjure up the black arts, fertility, sorcery, and other naughty things, and attracts many visitors to the area.
Hungry Hill (687m / 2253ft), the highest summit in the Caha Mountains, gave its name to Daphne du Maurier‘s famous 1943 novel, inspired by the copper mines in nearby Allihies.
Maulin (623m / 2044ft) is the highest peak in the Slieve Miskish mountain range.
Beara is very rich in antiquities, including ancient Wedge Tombs, Boulder Burials and Stone Circles, the world’s tallest Ogham Stone, old church sites, ruined castles, Martello towers, etc.
The Beara Way, a walking / cycling route without formal beginning or end, is an excellent way to explore the peninsula.
Beara has supported human life for thousands of years, mainly through farming, mining, fishing and smuggling (the peninsula has had links with Spain amnd France since time immemorial). Nowadays, the unique indigenous ambience remains strong, with contributions from a scattered international colony of artists, craftsfolk and spiritual seekers.
The Beara Arts Festival takes place each August with art exhibitions, drawing, writing and music workshops and performances.
The Healy Pass across the Caha Mountains, linking Adrigole (Co. Cork) and Lauragh (Co. Kerry). (Photo by Becky E)
The Healy Pass (334m / 1300ft), named after the first Governor General of the Irish Free State, Tim Healy from Bantry, is arguably the most beautiful mountain pass in Ireland. The landscape is wild and remote but not intimidating, and the book, souvenir & snack shop at the top of the pass is exceptionally friendly. Spectacular vistas on both sides are crowned by the view of Lake Glanmore on the northern descent.