ByRoute 1.3 Co. Cork (S/W) & Co. Kerry (S)

Glengarriff Harbour & Garinish Island / Ilnacullin


Glengarriff Harbour is an austerely lovely wooded inlet off Bantry Bay, on the southeastern part of the Beara Peninsula, with several pretty islands.


Garinish Island / Ilnacullin (“Holly Island”) is a veritable jewel, featuring beautiful gardens planted in the early 1920s under the supervision of the great landscaper Harold Peto by Belfast-born Scottish MP John Annan Bryce and his wife Violet.


Violet was born in Mauritius, the daughter of Capt. Champagne l’Estrange. A cousin of the Gore Booths, she was an early champion of the women’s movement, and was arrested in Wales in 1920 for sedition when shetried to deliver a speech about British anti-Republican reprisals in Ireland.


Their daughter Margaret was a leading suffragette; their son Roland (who shared reponsibility for drawing the borders of Jugoslavia) continued to develop the gardens with the assistance of Murdo MacKenzie, and ingeniously bequeathed the island to the Irish Free State (reluctant to accept expensive bequests) via the Taoiseach in 1955.


The centrepiece of the estate is an Italian Garden with formal colonnaded terraces and pools.


The island is noted for rare rhododendrons, tree ferns, magnolias, camelias, azaleas, exotic cultivars, climbing shrubs, herbaceous perennials and uncommon conifers. Paths and steps wind through beatiful woodland, linking lawns to scenic follies and a spectacular walled garden


The island’s unusual vertical sided Martello Tower (1805) claims to be the first anti-Napoleonic fortification on the Irish coast; if so, it could only have been by a whisker.


Small and medium sized boats compete to ferry visitors (expensively) between Garinish and various points on the nearby mainland. The island can get very crowded during the high tourist season.


Garvillaun is a prominent little fern and pine covered island near Garinish. It and its sister rock, Ship Island, are heavily populated by seals, and should not be disturbed.


Bark Island, a rhododendron and fern saturated hump, is a significant navigational marker for visiting yachts.


Murphy’s / Garranboy Island is a conifer covered rocky lump, of little interest except that it belongs to Maureen O’Hara, who recently celebrated her 91st birthday in her summer mansion  on the shore of the bay.

Glengarriff (Co. Cork / Southwest)

Glengarriff (Gleann Garbh – “Rough glen”) (pop. 600) on Glengarriff Harbour has been a tourist resort for a long time, and has a distinctly old-worlde feel.

Glengarriff village has charming streetscapes. (Photo – Lisa Codianne Fowler)

There are some great restaurants and pubs, notably The Wooden ShoeJohnny Barry’sBernard Harrington’s and the Blue Loo bar.

A number of independent galleries sell a wide range of art, sculpture, photography and handcrafts.

Glengarriff Castle


Glengarriff Castle was erected c.1790 by Col. Simon White, brother of the Ist Earl of Bantry, and over the years extended hospitality to Royalty, artists and writers such as WM Thackery, JM Synge and WB Yeats.


Built in the Gothic style and commanding a panoramic view of Glengarriff Harbour, the castle was run as a resort until the late 1970s.


In 2007 the 86-acre estate was advertised for sale as The Glengarriff Castle and Apartments development, incorporating Glengarriff Castle “to be restored and refurbished to a high standard [with] 94 superior designed four star spacious en-suite bedrooms, restaurant, bar, café, meeting rooms, conference centre/function room, leisure centre to include a luxury spa, pool & treatment facilities“.

The Eccles Hotel, founded as the Glengarriff Inn in 1745 and remodelled in 1890, is one of several good places to stay.

Casey’s Hotel is very highly recommended.

The Sacred Heart church (RC) was built in 1902 to replace the “Old Chapel” at the Cappyaughna burial ground, now a Parochial Hall.

The former Methodist church, a pretty Victorian Gothic edifice overlooking the harbour, is now a private residence.

The former Holy Trinity church (CoI), erected c.1863, has been demolished.

Glengarriff National State Forest


Glengarriff National State Forest is unique. Once part of the Bantry Demesne, but mostly owned by the State since 1955, declared a Nature Reserve in 1991, and now forming part of the much larger Glengarriff Harbour & Woodlands Special Area of Conservation, this deep, secluded valley contains some of the last remaining vestiges of primeval native Irish oceanic sessile oak forest.


A scenic cascade on one of the three rivers (the Glengarriff River and its tributaries, the Coomarkane and Canrooska) that wind through the park; together with two small lakes, these provide excellent (chilly!) bathing pools and angling opportunites (licences available for purchase in villlage). (Photo –


On every side there are elms, pines, arbutus, yew and holly trees against a backdrop of majestic and irregular mountaintops. The mild climate and sheltered location encourage luxuriant foliage, tropical shrubs and exotic flowering plants that seem native to the place, together with rare varieties of orchids, ferns, fungi, lichens and mosses.


The park’s remarkable list of fauna boasts the rare Kerry slug, giant grasshoppers, myriad butterflies, dragonflies (including the Downy Emerald) and demoiselles, frogs, wood mice, pine martens, otters, mink,s hedgehog,s bank voles, hare,s Irish stoats, foxes, badgers, red squirrel,s Sika deer, feral goats, seven species of bat (notably the lesser horseshoe bat), songbirds, owls and jays.


The NPWS-run park is full of natural walks and retreats, craggy wooded glens, tangled pathways and secret beauty spots. Perhaps the best known of these is Lady Bantry’s Lookout, which gives a panoramic view across Bantry Bay and up to the bulwarks of the Caha Mountains.

The Ewe Sculpture Garden claims to be Ireland’s only interractive sculpture space.

The Blue Pool Amenity Area has pleasant woodland walks.

Seal Point is a popular place to swim.

Cashelane Gardens & Photo Gallery in Reenmeen East have spectacular views of Bantry Bay and the Caha Mountains, and sell interesting Natural Bog Oak wood carvings.

Glengarriff Bamboo Park, Lady Ardilaun’s old garden in Reenmeen, has been run since 1999 by Serge de Thibault and his wife Claudine. Inspired by the Bambouseraie in Anduze, near Alès in southern France, it has 30 different species of bamboo, 12 different species of palm, huge tree ferns, eucalyptus, etc., and enjoys lovely sea views.

Glengarriff, not far from the western terminal of ByRoute 4, is within easy reach of Zetland Pier on the road to Adrigole, “the Gateway to the Beara Peninsula; a tour of the region is extremely highly recommended.

Barley Lake, a scenically volcanic-looking glacial corrie lake, is about a mile up the Kenmare road from Glengarriff.

Turner’s Rock Tunnel (Photo by alitza)

The Caha Pass is a scenic but very exposed route through the mountains north of Glengarriff – a video can be seen here. The route features several archways as the road reaches an accommodation with the landscape. The highlight is Turner’s Rock Tunnel; it is just barely wide enough for two cars, but as the rock walls are very unforgiving, it’s wise to yield to oncoming traffic.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ireland and it's history, culture, travel, tourism and more!