Around the Beara Peninsula

Calling all walkers, cyclists, sightseers, hippies and artists….

Here at Exquisite Coasts the glass is not half-empty… it’s half-full. And when travelling in Kerry and Cork, it is half-full of stout.

Not Guinness, mind you.

We prefer the unlikely-named and less mainstream Mi Daza: a local craft stout you must try WHEN you come this way. I say ‘when’ and not ‘if’ because the location we’re about to whizz you through is a must-see. 

The Beara Peninsula

Being glass-half-full types, we assume the best: that when you visit Killarney and the Ring of Kerry, for instance, you won’t be swamped by crowds or stuck behind a tour bus. But that CAN happen… which is why you might want to hop one over, to this peninsular.

Not as mainstream. Just as pretty.

If coming from the Kerry side, your access point is Kenmare, named for the gorgeous bay that separates Beara peninsula from Iveragh peninsula. 

The Sunny gate

Coming in from the Cork side, the generally accepted “gateway” to Beara is Glengarriff, at the head of Bantry Bay: claimed by its residents to be the sunniest town in Ireland. 

If that takes your fancy, and makes you want to stay, the Eccles Hotel will accommodate you in fully appointed rooms, a fine restaurant, and 250-year old bar; where is had a panoramic view of the shimmering Bantry Bay. 

We stayed at Casey’s Hotel. Family-owned. Homey. Comfy. And fully Irish – both the hospitality and the breakfast.

Getting Underway

From Glengarriff, walkers and cyclists begin the trail of The Beara Way (follow the red fish signposts), while motorists – that’s us – zoom westward along the Bantry Bay coast to Adrigole, nestled at the foot of the wonderfully-named Hungry Hill - a peak of the Caha mountain range that bisects the Beara peninsula. On one side of the Cahas is Kerry, on the other side, Cork. 

Finding reason to stay in Adrigole, maybe to climb Hungry Hill, I suggest staying at The Hungry Hill Lodge. Their kitchen is inspired by their name. 

Turning North - The Healy Pass (R574)

The road over the Cahas takes one across the peninsular, roughly at its midpoint. The Healy Pass is a winding climb to a panoramic summit vista: hills and valleys, the winding road, a lovely lake, Kenmare Bay, and the distant peaks of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks on the neighboring Iveragh peninsula (Ring of Kerry).

Once seen, not forgotten. 

The road then descends, past the lake, taking you to the town of Lauragh, and to Kenmare Bay.

Travelling West  

Or you can save Healy’s Pass for later – as we did – and go west, down the Bantry Bay coast, to Castletownbere, with its picture perfect harbor, its Dunboy Castle ruin, and its Beara Coast Hotel. (Smarter than it appears from the outside).

My pick for the peckish is: the battered whitefish and tartar at the Fuchsia Café.

The Western Edge

At the very very westernmost tip of the Beara Peninsula… just off the coast… lies Dursey Island … accessible from the mainland via Ireland’s only cable car – possibly the only cable car in the world that traverses open sea, it’s a swinging 250m-high thrill-ride, often in the company of the local livestock, also ferried in this manner for want of an alternative.

On Dursey itself there is a breezy, salty, sea-splashed walk, after which you can say you’ve explored the farthest reaches of Cork. But do bring your own food and water. No shops here.

The Road Back

Back on the mainland, the road to Allihies is a storybook affair, through the classic Irish patchwork of grey stone walls, black-faced sheep, green valleys, barren ridges and rocky outcrops.

Here the Beara Peninsula serves up its special beach: Ballydonegan (see our best beaches feature) and it’s here that I start to think, the Ring of Kerry has nothing on this. 

The cliffs are too beautiful for words.


Characteristic of these southwestern towns, Allihies is painted in strong bright colors, that are perhaps a shade less bright than her neighbors. Allihies is remote, and exposed. On the southwestern tip of Ireland, it has the distinction of being the farthest town from Dublin.

The mountain road toward Eyeries serves up the stone remains of a 19-century copper mine that echoes Allihies hard history.

In Eyeries, stop at Rhonwen’s Eyeries Bistro, which may just be the best place to eat on the peninsula.

Next stop: Kilcatherine Point, a lookout spot at the mouth of Kenmare Bay: rocky, exposed, wild, wet, dramatic, panoramic. Again, words fail.

Ardgroom Village

From Kilcatherine we turn east to Ardgroom Village, a tiny scattering of colored cottages.

The center is a main street, lined with the same variously colored facades… and about a mile-and-a-half away, right on the sea, the comfy, cozy, Sea Villa, run by the delightful John and Mary O’ Sullivan, which, simply put, is the best left for last. 

See our Best Hotels story.

The Full Circle

Continuing east, back toward Kenmare, visit the Stonehenge-like Uragh Stone Circle, the lakes of Inchequin and Cloonee, and head back to Kenmare or Glengarriff… and you’ll have explored the Beara peninsula.

Here again I’m reminded of WB Yeats:

“Come away, human child, to the waters and the wild.”

For details on how to get here, see our Killarney, Ring of Kerry story. 

Road Trips and Car Rental Advice

You might like these

  • 4 Bucket List Islands

    Scattered across the oceans and seas are 4 bucket list islands. All of them are missing only one thing... you!

  • The 8 Best Beaches in the World

    The 8 best beaches in the world. Why is our list different to all others? Simple, we actually travel the world visiting hundred and hundreds of beaches. These are the results...

  • Along the Cook Highway and Beyond

    It is said that this 75km Captain Cook Highway is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. One side is the rugged coast, and the other side the tropical, lush rainforest. (Tip: you definitely want to...

  • Sampling the South: a 3-stop Tour of County Cork

    First stop is Cobh: Ireland's famous port from where so many (America-bound) Irish fled the potato famine in the mid 19-century. After that we head for...

  • Achill Island: Paradise at the Edge

    When you picture paradise, what do you see? It’s fair to say that pristine blue water skirted by a golden crescent beach, beneath a towering cliff of verdant green… makes for a decent description of paradise. So it is on Achill Island in county Mayo.

  • Sligo Ireland - The Land of Heart’s Desire.

    Sligo is a festival city, a party city, a music city, a drinking city, and very much a coastal city. One walks in sea air along narrow streets, over bridges, past colorful Georgian facades.

  • Discover the Real Ireland. Come to Cork

    Discover Cork and you discover Ireland. So many Irish left from Cork and those with Irish ancestry tell me that it is here they cried. It was here that they felt the connection to the old country.

  • Connemara, Ireland : soft beds, hard country

    When we came to the Connemara, Ireland decided we'd done something right and, finally, bathed us in warm sunshine. Cruising into the harbor I turned to one of the locals on the boat with us that day, and I said to him… you live in a paradise.

  • The 5 Most Spectacular Coastal Drives in the World

    Each one of these 5 spectacular coastal drives should be on your bucket list. Add at least one to your plans for the next year... you'll be so glad you did.

  • The 4 Most Beautiful Coastal Cities in the World

    Phew, this was a hard list to create. We started with 15 cities. With much heated debate we got that down to six... then to 4.

  • Before The Quest 4 The Perfect Beach Begins

    There is nothing like a little beach therapy and perfect beach therapy needs peace of mind. Lock that in well before you step out upon the beach of your dreams with travel insurance tailored towards beach holidays

  • Killarney: the jewel in the Ring of Kerry

    We tend to steer you a little differently. Often, that just means giving some common-sense advice about possibly THE hotspot on Ireland’s tourist itinerary…

  • Dingle, Ireland: it's not the wind that will blow you away

    Years back, I struck up a chat with an Irish chap, and asked where might I go. He thought for a second and said, Dingle, Ireland's best kept secret . A woman at the table over perked up, said, Dingle? What about Dingle?

  • 5 Top Quality Hotels in Ireland

    5 Quality Hotels in Ireland - here's what awaits at the first on on our list: your balcony doors open onto impeccable grounds. You are surrounded by old, other-worldly opulence, yet are next to one of Ireland’s most modern, quirky and cosmopolitan cities

  • Ireland West Coast Essentials & Secrets - From Cork to Donegal

    Starting in Donegal County and finishing down south in County Cork - the real heart and soul of Ireland's west coast awaits - click to discover it.

  • Galway City - The Warm Heart & Soul of the Wild Atlantic Way

    Galway City sits in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, and is itself a balancing act. It manages to combine cosmopolitan chic, traditional Gaelic culture, and college life… which all mix rather well.

  • The 5 Best Beaches in Ireland

    The criteria for these 5 best beaches in Ireland is based on scenery, surroundings and the beaches themselves. One or two are adventure hotspots… so pack your boards, kayaks and wetsuits, and prepare to revel in the best waves Europe has to offer.

  • Westport: Ireland's Little Secret

    In Westport Ireland they say that when God made time He made plenty of it. My advice:spend as much of it as you can in Westport.