The Beara Peninsula

(Photo by GrahamandDairne)

Zetland Pier & Strand is a well-known local beauty spot with safe swimming areas, where excellent rock fishing can also be enjoyed. The area around the pier is suitable for snorkelling while the attraction for divers is Sheelane Island and privately owned Garinish West offshore.

Leahill Bog and the adjacent Trefrask Bog are Natural Heritage Areas of particualr interest to botanists. The curious Kerry Slug has been recorded here, as have otters and numerous frogs.

Trafrask is the location of Ulusker House, currently known as Mossies Guesthouse. Lovingly restored by David and Lorna Ramshaw, this elegant old country house now makes a wonderful place to stay, with lovely gardens, stylish public rooms and  fine dining, using locally sourced ingredients.

Dromagowlane House is a lovely C18th house set in its own grounds of about 20 acres, with an organic garden and orchard. Owners Anne and Paul Harris offer B&B facilities, with other meals by arrangement

Adrigole (Co. Cork / West)

Adrigole (Eádargoil – “between two inlets”) (pop. 450) on Adrigole Harbour is a scenic but scattered village with several friendly pubs.  The small hillside roads in the vicinity make for pleasant walking and cycling.

The Mares Tail claims to be the highest waterfall in the British Isles (quare 800ft?). Though scarcely more than a trickle, water here plunges straight down from a small lake on the shoulder of Hungry Hill into an idyllic valley of immense beauty.

Adrigole is the southern end of the R571 section via the Healy Pass to / from Lauragh (Co. Kerry).

Castletownbere (Co. Cork)

Castletownbere / Castletownberehaven (Baile Chaisleán Bhéara) (pop. 900), named for a long vanished MacCarthy castle, is  the principal town on the Peninsula.

RNLI Lifeboat at anchor in Castletownbere harbour. (Photo by eff_two_for_a_week)

As Ireland’s main Atlantic whitefish port, Castletown has a pleasantly cosmopolitan atmosphere, with a notable Spanish influence and residents from all over Europe. Interestingly, a high proportion of local businesses are run by women.

Local artists, some of international renown, sell their work through galleries and craft outlets.

The town has a range of good places to eat, from up-market fish restaurants, pleasant cafés and delicatessens to the best value take-away fish & chip shop in the world!!

MacCarthy’s Bar & Grocery, immortalised in Pete MacCarthy‘s amusing MacCarthy’s Bar, is one of several excellent pubs in Castletownbere. (Photo by Ounree)

St Peter’s church (CoI), a C19th edifice, was subjected to a vicious arson attack in June 2002.

The church of the Sacred Heart (RC) was designed by Rudolph Maximilian Butler in 1908 and completed in 1911 on the site of an earlier structure. The massive bell tower and spire in the original plan were jetisonned as work progressed.

Bere Island (pop. 200), just across the placid depths of Berehaven, is accessible by ferry.

Berehaven / Bearhaven / Bear Haven was long a major Royal Navy base. After the USA joined WWI in 1917, the US Navy also stationed some vessels in Castletownbere.

(The title Viscount Chetwynd of Bearhaven in the County of Kerry was granted to Walter Chetwynd of Staffordshire in 1717, along with the title Baron Rathdowne in the County of Dublin. This Bearhaven title is still extant; the current holder lives in South Africa. The title Viscount Bearhaven was granted to Richard White, 1st Baron Bantry, in 1816, when he was also made Earl of Bantry. These titles became extinct in 1891).

Furious Pier was where  six British soldiers were shot, four of them fatally, in June 1921, during the War of Independence. The shootings were carried out by IRA men led by Michael Óg O’Sullivan in retaliation for executions by firing squad in Cork City, which did not cease.

Castletownbere was the birthplace of Dr Aiden MacCarthy (1914-1992), celebrated for his great courage, resource and humanity while a prisoner of the Japanese during WWII, described in his book  A Doctor’s War.

The Castletownbere Festival of the Sea takes place during Bank Holiday week in August. The regatta takes place on the Bank Holiday, but there are many other events during the week, including live music in the town square each evening.

Castletownbere is the traditional start of the Beara Way walking / cycling route.

Castletownbere is linked directly to Eyeries via the R571

Dunboy

 

Dunboy Woods is open to the public with picnic areas and walks.

 

Dunboy Castle is the name rather confusingly given to two striking buildings set beside a beautiful lake.

 

The ruin on the small promontory jutting out into the lake was a stronghold of The O’Sullivan Bere, a Gaelic clan leader and Chief of Dunboy, who controlled the sea fisheries off the coast and collected sizeable “taxes” from Irish and Continental fishing vessels sheltering in Berehaven. (Photo by Joachim S Müller)

 

Following the defeat of the rebels at the Battle of Kinsale on 24th December 1601,  Don Juan de Aguila, the commander of Spanish troops sent by Felipe III to help the uprising, finally surrendered to Crown forces on 2nd January 1602, and agreed to hand over castles occupied by his men along the southwestern coast. On hearing this, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Bere decided to take back his stronghold. He marched back to Beare, had a mason knock a hole in the wall and sent his forces in. A short but vicious fight followed, in which three of the Irish were killed and several injured on both sides, before the Spaniards surrendered and were sent to Baltimore to embark for home.

 

O’Sullivan Beare subsequently garrisoned Dunboy with 150 men, while stationing 1,200 others outside the walls as skirmishers. He also decided to make a last stand, if necessary, on Dursey Island, where he placed Conor O’Driscoll with 60 men.

 

Queen Elizabeth I sent a 5000 strong army under the command of Sir George Carew to suppress the remaining insurgents. At the famous Siege of Dunboy on 17th June 1602, the castle was stoutly defended, but a fierce artillery bombardment smashed the walls and after some desperate hand-to-hand fighting amid the rubble the defenders were finally overcome. 58 survivors of the two-week siege were executed in the nearby market square, while the 60 men on Dursey Island were massacred.

 

O’Sullivan Beare refused to surrender, and fought his way north with over 1000 kinsmen, but only 100 made it to safety at O’Rourke’s Castle in Leitrim. O’Sullivan then left for Spain, where he was later murdered.

 

In 1700, the visiting CoI bishop of Cork and Ross noted that The (then) O’Sullivan Beare was living in a cabin at the base of Hungry Hill.

 

The Puxley Mansion, aka Puxley Hall, was also referred to as Dunboy. It was a vast C19th pile built in a mixture of styles by the Puxley family, who made their fortunes from the Copper Mines at Allihies (and perhaps some discreet smuggling). However, Henry Puxley was so devastated by his wife’s death in 1872  that he left Ireland, never to return.

 

Never fully completed or inhabited, it was burnt by Republican arsonists during the War of Independence in reprisal for the destruction by Crown Forces of houses suspected of  harbouring IRA men and weapons.

 

The Puxley mansion has recently undergone one of the biggest renovations in Irish history. (Photo – Cornerstone Construction)

 

The five-star luxury Capella Dunboy Castle Hotel is, after some delay, due to open in Summer 2010. We are assured that resort amenities will include an intimate spa with eight treatment rooms, fine dining, a wine bar and helicopter service to and from Waterville Golf Links and other courses on Ireland’s west coast. What fun.

 

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