Monday, July 31, 2017

Tent Camping in Ireland: A United Nations Experience

Six years ago I was in the kitchen, minding my own business, when a loud persistent knocking came at the front door. Opening it, I found a fellow from County Cork strapped to his trusty bicycle. It was pouring at the time and Mr Corkman looked like a drowned rat. Though it was only late May the wind and rain made it feel like the middle of Winter.

"Would you mind," he said through chattering teeth, "if I camped in your back garden?"

Though we had a large backyard I had never considered such a use for it. But on that occasion his request seemed perfectly reasonable. For you see, at the time in Eyeries the only alternative was to camp along the windswept seaside. Gusts would have instantly blown any normal tent to smithereens.

I agreed instantly. Eventually it stopped raining and I watched with admiration as he set up his simple tent, helped him to push the bicycle into our wooden shed, and invited him to use the shower for a required wash. It was only later as we sat at the outdoor table in the early evening sun that his eyes roved out to the view beyond.

"By God but it is stunning here," he said as he sipped his lager. "Really, you should consider letting other travelers camp here."

My face must have registered surprise because his smile widened. "Why not?" he asked. "I've cycled all over the world. Many families turn their back gardens into campgrounds during the summer months."

Suddenly intrigued I fixed him dinner over the grill. In exchange he offered his advice on this simple idea. One I embraced immediately.

After his departure I had a small sign erected in front of the house which has hung there ever since: Solas Mor Tent Camping. 

Since my evening meal with a Cork stranger, we've been welcoming tent campers from all over the world.

By Land and By Sea

Campers are a different sort of breed, particularly those who come to this remote part of Ireland. It takes a bit of effort to get here, you see, which seems to separate the strong and brave from the other sorts.

Many are hikers. Men, women, boys and girls of all ages troupe along the Beara Way, a long loop of hundreds of kilometers. They end up at our front door sometimes covered with dust and sweat, or soaking wet due to the endless showers. 

Others make it here as did our Corkman: by bicycle. They travel from God knows where across the country, venturing along narrow roads and across high mountain passes to gain access to Beara. Invariably they are exhausted.

Others come by motorcycle or car. Or on a couple of occasions by boat either from across the Bay in County Kerry or from Castletownbere via Dursey Island. These seafarers tie up at the pier close by and hike up the hill to our home.

Whichever way they come, they arrive looking for a rest and some peace and a bit of tender loving care. We're always glad to have them.

An International Melting Pot

We've had campers from all over the world: England, Wales, Scotland; Denmark, Holland, Norway. France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Hikers and bikers have come from New Zealand, Australia, Israel and Japan. And of course we've had our fair share of visitors from the Americas: the United States, Canada and Mexico.

When the arrive they speak to us sometimes in broken English or with no English at all. We'll point out where to go in the village: where to buy a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine; the two pubs down the street; Mass times on a Sunday. We'll open up our house to them - and often our hearts - and we'll listen to their stories for everyone has a story.

This last weekend we had campers from Holland, France, Denmark, Norway and England. At night they sat out on the back deck and discussed the differences of their countries. They laughed in the darkness as they sought a common ground. We listened to them, did my She and Me, and heard them talk of the growing wariness in Central Europe and their horror of bloodshed and the concerns they have for their futures. Their laughter and sometimes sad chattering blended with the sounds of the surf on distant rocks, and they went to their sleeping bags at peace.

At night we keep the window open in our bedroom, and could hear the soft whispering from their tents as they settled, and were somehow comforted knowing we were not alone.

Stories of the Soul

As I say everyone has a story and at times I marvel at the gifts these visitors - who often leave as friends - give us. Perhaps it is because we are strangers. Or maybe it is simply the peace to be found here. For whatever reasons many choose to share with us. And when they do, they often share deeply.

Two stories come to mind.

The first from an American. A man perhaps my age who, upon arrival, behaved abominably. He was angry and sad and complained bitterly about the rain and Ireland and as far as I could tell about almost anything he set his mind to. He complained so often that She was ready to throw him out.

"If he says one more rotten thing about Ireland," She said, "he can sleep in a hedgerow for all I care. Would you please talk to him?"

And so I did. I pointed out he had become rather a bully and as he took in my words I saw his face crumble and this Man of My Age was almost crying.

"It's my brother," he admitted gravely and I saw his upset and knew there was more. So I got him a bottle of beer and we pulled up a couple of chairs and in the afternoon sun he quietly told me his brother had recently passed away, and I listened to his bitter, grave, grieving reminiscence and how much he loved his brother, and he didn't know any other way to handle his grief except with anger, which he knew was inexcusable.

He apologized. He promised to do better, and I gently reminded him that Eyeries is a place of tranquility and healing, and that peace comes in on the wind and if you let it, it can cleanse your soul. When he left two days later he shook my hand and I saw the beginnings of acceptance in his eyes.

"Thank you," he said and gave me an unexpected hug and I watched him walk away toward a future that I hope held even a bit of joy.

Or another time, and this one a German lad of only eighteen. He was with a crowd of friends, all from the Fatherland, and his shock of blond hair and his interest in history got me asking questions. "Do you mind if I ask," and I paused for a moment, wondering if I was being inappropriate, "but did any of you have ancestors who fought in World War Two?"

Most did, but it was the eighteen-year-old who at first went so very quiet. When I asked him why he told me.

His grandfather had joined the Hitler Youth in the early days of the war, and had been inducted into the German Navy. He served aboard a U-Boat and had been responsible for hundreds if not thousands of Allied deaths, his grandson guessed. 

"Did he survive?" I asked.

"Yes," the young lad said. "And I am so very ashamed of him because he was a warrior for Hitler."

I was astonished at the lad's feelings. We talked more as the sky turned to twilight and I learned  he rarely discussed the war or his grandfather and would never forgive his participation.

"But why?" I countered and reminded him that many Germans fought for their country and therefore for Hitler. I did my best to point out that his grandfather fought in one of the most dangerous branches of the military. Over 70 percent of all German U-Boat crews died during the war. His grandfather survived. 

"I am older than you," I remember saying. "Forgive your grandfather. He was doing what he thought was his duty. He survived unlike so many others. Do not dismiss his memory. Rather, be proud. Remember, his survival meant he was there to raise children. And because of that I can share a beer with you in my back garden on a stunning summer's evening."

The lad looked out at the sinking sun and his eyes were puzzled. "Promise me," I asked. "You no longer need to be ashamed of your Grandfather or what happened to Germany and its people in World War Two. Time has moved on. The world has forgiven. So must you."

I saw him later in the pub. He became very drunk that night. But when he left the next day he solemnly shook my hand.

"I will think of what you said," the young lad said. "Thank you so much for your hospitality - and your kindness for letting me talk."

He did not realise: it was not I who was kind. It was him who had shared a story, a story he long held as a secret, that was the kindness.

The Gifts of Strangers

We have learned so many things, She and Me, from the people who come here to stay with us. We have learned the obvious, of course: people, no matter where they are from, are basically the same. We all experience the same emotions of love and laughter, shame and grief, that gives us a common bond and connection.

We have also learned that everyone holds a story within them, often a narrative that could never be guessed at until they choose to share it with us. And when they do it is a great gift because they also give us their hearts.

Finally, we have learned that Beara, and Eyeries in particular, provides the greatest gift of all. We watch as visitors come to us tired and often spiritually exhausted. We wonder as they leave, often fully refreshed. Often there are tears when they do.

Yesterday, two French women left for home. One, the older of the two, was crying openly as she hugged my She and kissed her on the cheek three times as is her custom. "Merci," the French woman said. "If I could do it we would stay forever."

Often, we wish our visitors could stay forever, too.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Attention Travel Bloggers! You're All Invited to be a Guest on Seth Freedman's Travel Podcast Series!

Seth Freedman, a Los-Angeles based friend of mine, recently started a travel-sharing social media company, Driftr. Seth is actively seeking Travel Bloggers to participate in his series of Podcasts.  If you've a funny story regarding your travel adventures or an in-depth review of places you've visited, people you've met, and cultural connections you've made, I hope you'll contact Seth:

Below, Seth sets out a more detailed description and invitation to all Travel Bloggers to take part in his Podcast series.

Seth's Invitation

My name is Seth Freedman, the founder of Driftr. I’d like to invite you to be a guest on our new Driftr Podcast series. This is a new project aimed at featuring travel stories from Travel Bloggers like you. The podcast will be short form (approx.. 20-30 min) to keep the audience's attention and I will be leading the interviews myself.  

The goal is to not just talk about the best places for travel, or what to do if travelers are in a certain city. Rather, we’d like to get more in depth with the Travel Blogger / Influencer, learn about them, how things got started, hear exciting travel stories, nightmare stories, romance stories etc -  all the things that our audience wants to hear. 

About Driftr

Driftr is a social media travel sharing company dedicated to connecting travelers and giving them a platform to communicate and share information about their vacations, trips, and travels. Driftr members are able to post photos, videos, reviews, travel tips, and advice from their personal experiences and adventures around the world. Members can also recommend their vacations to other members using the application as well as travel groups for group vacations. In addition, members are able to connect with Travel Bloggers / Influencers for travel articles and tips that will help them with their future trips. Driftr will empower Travel Bloggers / Influencers to have further reach and influence within the travel community and beyond.

The purpose of our podcasts is to feature the blogger who are wonderful story tellers. The series will be fun, easy going and entertaining. I would be honored if you would join me. This is a new outlet for us, and we’re excited to provide our audience with unique stories while providing a new platform for bloggers to be heard. 

We are also striving to raise awareness of Driftr as a company and its mission to support and promote the Travel Blogging industry. We are a company for the traveler, by the traveler. I have created a unique profit sharing plan that will allow the blogger community to profit from solely building a following - there is no need for product placement anymore.  It is purely about the journey. Please visit us:

Are you Interested?
If you are interested in being a Guest on our Podcast I’d like to send you the details of the interview. We can either speak over Skype or,  if you happen to be in LA, we can do it here at The Expert Dojo. As a member, we have access to a recording facility.

Please contact me: 

(Please check out our first episode where I interview Tosin Idowu. You can see we had a lot of fun.

Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to your reply. 

With my very best to all Travel Bloggers - Seth

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Part II: "What Do I Do When I Travel to the Beara Peninsula, Tom?"

Sunset in Eyeries overlooking
Coulagh Bay and the Kerry Mountains
In this second installment of What To Do When Traveling the Beara Peninsula, we leave Allihies for points east and north. Click here if you missed Part I, and travels from Bantry through Castletownbere, and to one of Ireland's most westerly locations.

Having avoided over-imbibing with more than a few pints in Allihies I now recommend you pile yourself and the family back in your rental car and head out. Work your way along the stunning coastal road (being careful of the many hairpin turns on the narrow tarmacadam), and climb the hill leading over the Caha Mountains.

Do take time to stop in the many lay-by's, climb out, and take a long look back. You'll look straight west and with luck and good weather can get another astounding view of the Skellig Islands. Then back in the car you go, take off making sure you avoid the many sheep grazing along the verge of the road, and continue your voyage.

Next stop: the wee little village of Urhan. If you're not the designated driver why not have a sandwich and pint or a cuppa at the Urhan Inn? And while you're at it, just up the road take a right and point the car toward Travara (it's signed). You'll find a great pier there, and if you bring along a rod or even a bit of twine, the kids can spend an hour or so fishing for crabs in Coulaugh Bay. 

Next, continue heading east along the northern coast of Beara. If you're an artist or writer, perhaps you'd like to spend a day - or week - with Sue at Anam Cara Writer's And Artist's Retreat. Sue, another transplant from the States, is a marvel. She refurbished a stunning bungalow into a haven for the creative sort who come from all over the world to work on a variety of projects. While at Sue's place, walk down to the Cascades, an impressive waterfall and rock scramble that's a joy to behold. If you're in luck you can join local kids diving from the top of the rocky keep into the lagoon nestled at its base, but I'm chicken so will just watch, if that's all right with you.

Keep driving and when you finally run out of runway turn left onto the main Kenmare / Castletownbere Road, and look for a large bright sign pointing to:

Eyeries. My home village, I hope you'll understand if I'm rather opinioinated. This small village is picture-postcard-perfect. So much so that its colourful Main Street features in many marketing communications created by Ireland's Tourist Board, Bord Failte.  

With only 60 or so souls living within its confines, Eyeries is built on a bluff overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Wild Atlantic Ocean beyond. If you're very fortunate, you'll visit in the 3rd week of July. That's when we hold our annual Eyeries Family Summer Festival, a time of general merrymaking a mayhem. Over 3,000 people visit the village and the Festival Committee has organised events for all ages - everything from fishing along the shore to dog grooming contests. On Sunday the place goes crazy as stalls filled with fine crafts and fine food line the street, and live music blares from our two public houses.

Want a pint? Take a stroll into Causkey's Bar or nearby Mary O'Shea's. If you want something more I can only recommend The Bistro. She and me have enjoyed any number of fine meals there. Try the Fish and Chips - it's a specialty. I don't know what they do, but the golden brown batter always crackles wonderfully to expose the soft white haddock or cod lying like a fishy secret within. And their Fish Chowder is absolutely to die for. 

Tuckered from your stroll in Eyeries, you have some choices to make. 

A. Take a Walk Along the Beara Way: the Beara Way is an extensive loop trail running 206km through county's Cork and Kerry. In this case, I'm only talking about a 45 minute stroll. You start on the Village Main Street and head toward the sea. The well-marked trail takes you along the rocky shore where you might be lucky to see seals or dolphins. It's an easy stroll and the kids will enjoy it too. Perhaps bring a packed lunch and make an hour or two of it. The walk loops back to the Village and your waiting car. Oh - and while you're at it, spend a bit of time in the Eyeries Sensory Garden. Nestled deep beside a surging stream, this is just the location for a light snack and some peace and quiet 'midst stunning vegetation. 

B. Journey Along the Coast to Ardgroom: or rather than a walk climb in the car and continue west along the Main Street. This leads you to the small harbour of Ballycrovane and past the tallest Ogham stone in Western Europe. Take in the Hag of Beara, the legendary fossilised remains of an ancient saint, and continue on to Kilcatherine Church and Cemetery, ancient monastic ruins dating back to the 7th Century. Next, drive all the way out to Kilcatherine Point and perhaps fish for mackerel and pollack off the rocks.

Continue your drive around the point, and finish in Ardgroom.

C. Journey Directly to Ardgroom: or if you'd rather the more direct route, leave Eyeries and venture on the High Road directly to the small village of Ardgroom. Perhaps visit the nearby megalithic monuments or drive up to Glenbeg Lake and try your hand at fly fishing for trout.

The coast along here is ideal for fishing, swimming, and kayaking. If swimming, I strongly recommend a wet suite (my but the water does get cold even in Summer!) though the locals possibly feel I've no backbone to speak of. 

However you get to Ardgroom keep on going to:

Lauragh: you're now in County Kerry, and this wee spot is so small it's not even a village. But in this neck of the woods, the landscape becomes exactly that: dense forests. Keep your eyes open for the colourful display of non-indigenous Rhododendrun bushes. Though many call them a nuisance, in season they fill the forests with colour. Too, watch for deer in the area and slow down accordingly. Getting hit by one of Bambi's relatives is an accident to avoid. Near Lauragh stop in Derreen House and its breathtaking gardens, or travel a bit further on to Tousist and nearby Kilmacillogue Harbour. There, on the pier, have a bite to eat at its guest house Teddy O'Sullivan's Bar. We've eaten there a number of times. The bar is so old-fashioned it takes you back in time, while the welcome is just as old and as genuine.

Continue on up, up the steep gradient to the top of the hill. Watch out for the hair pin turn, then descend back toward the water and travel now along Kenmare Bay. If the kids are getting bored tell them an adventure is approaching because I recommend a stop at:

Star Outdoors Kenmare: this is great fun for all the family because they offer everything from cruises in Kenmare Bay to water activities including sailing and kayaking. If you're not up to the water try archery, biking, or crazy golf. And if you're hungry make sure you have a nibble and a drink in the adjoining bar and restaurant. Once again, we've eaten there a number of times. The food is priced right, of great standard, and comes with a smiling staff as a free extra.

Next stop is Kenmare Town itself which means you've finally finished your trip around Beara Peninsula. Honestly, there are so many things to do and see - so many adventures to experience - I've not written the half of it. Beara Peninsula remains in many ways undiscovered. It is a breathtaking gem along Ireland's southwest periphery. It is beautiful, haunting, isolated, sometimes lonely, and always honest. 

I recommend it. Come!

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Monday, July 3, 2017

"What Do I Do When I Travel to the Beara Peninsula, Tom?" Part I

Take the Ferry to Garinish Island for
a moment of sensory tranquility
I hear this question all the time from people who are either planning a trip to this location or who are already here. I'll be having a pint at the local, a great pub by the name of Causkey's Bar just up the road from where I live. A visitor to these regions will hear my rather gravelly Chicago accent, realize I live here, and start up a conversation which invariably goes something like this:

Visitor: "This is such a great place. The views are stunning!"
Me: "How long are you going to be here?"
Visitor: "Three days. Then we're off to Killarney."
Me: "And what do you plan to do while you're visiting Eyeries and the Beara Peninsula?"
Visitor (sheepishly): "Well that's just the thing. We aren't quite sure. In fact I was hoping you might point out a few things. Can you tell us what we should do?"

Now it could be that if you're reading this Post, you might well be planning a trip to Ireland. However, you could be among the vast majority who have never heard of Beara Peninsula. Beara, after all, is truly one of Ireland's hidden gems. Located in the southwest of the country, about a 2 hour drive from Cork City, and one of the most westerly points of Ireland, the region has remained something of a secret. Even Irish friends of mine living in Dublin have never heard of it.

But I'll tell you something: if you're planning a trip to Ireland without Beara as part of your itinerary, you're going to be missing something huge! Yes, you can go to Dingle and the Ring of Kerry and Bunratty Folk Park and all the other 'top-of-mind' places, joining thousands of mad tourists who must also visit these fine locations.

Or you could come to Beara and get a glimpse of magic.

But back to the question: "Tom, where should I go when visiting Beara Peninsula?" the fella may ask. I've repeated my list of favorite destinations over and over again. So in self-defense I thought I'd write down a list. That way if I'm ever asked again I'll just say: "Read the Blog, okay?" And that will be that.

Tom's Favorite Things to Do on Beara Peninsula

To answer the question I'm going to make some assumptions. Let's say you are planning to come to Beara Peninsula. You are part of a family of four: two adults with two children aged 12 and 15. You want to spend some time relaxing, of course, but also exploring and experiencing this out-of-the-way gem of an Irish location. 

I'm also going to make the assumption you've traveled to Ireland from the States and landed in Dublin. You've rented a car - so have your own wheels - and have made your way to the Southwest of Ireland.

Now what? you might ask. And here are the answers.

First Stop: 
Bantry, County Cork - Bantry is the gateway to Beara, and  the largest town on the Peninsula. They've a great Market in the Square every Friday offering anything from Veg to bric-a-brac, local artwork, and stalls with fine eating. Pick up a few trinkets for the friends at home. Then take a stroll along the Main street and its many shops, perhaps treat yourself to a fishy feed at the Fish Kitchen (one of my favorites - try their seafood chowder), then take an after-dinner walk along the Harbour. 

Bantry is located at the very eastern end of Bantry Bay (naturally) and all sorts of vessels are tied up including the large blue Tugboat used to push incoming supertankers visiting Whiddy Island with loads of oil and petroleum products. To my knowledge Whiddy is the only such oil terminal in the Republic of Ireland.

But Bantry is only the entry-way to Beara. Now the fun truly begins.

Glengarriff - from Bantry drive west down the coast and get ready for stunning scenery. The Caha and Mishkish Mountains form a spine of craggy rocks all the way down the Peninsula and your roving eyes will be split between their stunning vistas and the view across Bantry Bay. Drive into Glengarriff and be prepared to spend a few hours - or a few days. 

Actress Maureen O'Hara called the village home for many years and it's no wonder. I've spent lovely days walking along its single main street, stopping at local woolen shops to see what's on offer, and idling along the craggy coastline. Your family will all enjoy the Bamboo Park filled with over 30 different species of Bamboo (which, I gather, is why they call it a Bamboo Park), or ramble through nearby Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve and its mature Oaks, streams and rivers.

Make sure you save some time to visit Garinish Island. It costs a couple of quid to take the Blue Pool Ferry across but it's more than worth it. Before arriving keep your eyes open for seals basking on the rocks. Then walk through one of Ireland' unique locations. Garinish is filled with a wide variety of tropical plants, and as their website says, "it is an island of rare beauty known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all over the world." 

The Gulf Stream, located just off Beara's coast, helps to create the micro-climate which makes such stunning vegetation possible.

Castletownbere - or Castletown Berehaven, as it's officially known. But that's too much for the locals who usually call it simply 'Town'.  

Leaving Glengarriff, continue due west along the stunning coast. If you've a mind for a nice meal along the way I heartily recommend the Berehaven Lodge Restaurant, and not because they've paid me for the plug. They haven't. Located 5 km before hitting Town, the She in my life and I have eaten there any number of times. A few weeks ago we treated ourselves to a simply wonderful Sunday dinner. I had a Sirloin Steak with all the Trimmings. She had baked Haddock. We did not have a starter, but She had 2 glasses of wine (as the designated driver I abstained). The bill for all was just over €30 - stupendous value for such good eating. We're told the restaurant offers an outdoor BBQ on Sunday evenings during the Summer. We'll try that next. 

Castletownbere is one of Ireland's most important white-fish fishing ports. It was also of strategic value to the British when they still called Ireland part of the Empire. During WWI, the Brits hid their entire Atlantic Fleet right near Town to keep them safe from prowling German U-boats. In fact I was told a fellow could hop from one ship to another, all the way to the other side of Bantry Bay, such was the crammed nature of the Fleet during those days.

Castletown is very much a working town, so don't expect a 'picturesque' spot of Ireland when visiting. Here, take a walk along the solid main street. Stop for a pint in McCarthy's Pub (made famous by writer Pete McCarthy's written pub-crawl, McCarthy's Bar). Have a word with owner Adrianne McCarthy and she just might tell you the story of her late father, Doctor McCarthy, who survived WWII courtesy of Japanese POW camps and lived to tell the tale. And an amazing tale it is, too, with 2 films already shot about his survival and a feature film now in the works.You can read his adventures for yourself in his memoir, A Doctor's War. 

Don't leave Town without a walk along the Pier. When the fishing fleet is in, the place is a hive of activity as crews off-load tonnes of catch - everything from deep water local Prawns to mackerel, John Dory, Sole, Monk, and many others. And if you're looking for a cup of tea with a meal of Fish n Chips (using afore-mentioned freshly caught fish) I highly recommend Lynch's on the Pier. Tell owner Darren you know Tom and you just might be thrown out for your efforts. 

Or how about a diversion well off the beaten track? If so, I recommend taking your rental car aboard the ferry and onward to Bere Island. Located only a few kilometers by sea from Town, Bere Island is rich in archaeology. While you're there, climb up to the Martello tower. These signal towers where built by the Brits up and down Ireland's east coast to give warning against various European invaders. Should an enemy ship be spotted, a signal would be lit in one of the Towers. Because they were in line-of-sight of each other, a fire in one tower would set off fires in all the other towers, wending their way all the way to Dublin to warn the authorities there of pending invasion. 

Having finished with Bere Island you'll want to consider where to next. The rest of the Peninsula stretches further west. I'm recommending you take a clock-wise tour of it. So leaving Town, head toward the sinking sun, up forested hills, and through rocky fields until finally you'll see signs for:

Dzogchen Beara - this Buddhist meditation centre welcomes everyone so don't think you have to practice Buddhism to enjoy it. Built atop a sheer cliff overlooking the Atlantic, you're crazy if you don't fall in love with the place. Nestled into its pristine location so near the sea, its peace and tranquility are just the thing if you're looking to re-charge your urban batteries.

Daily meditation is offered twice a day: 9 - 945AM and again from 3 - 4PM. Finished recharging your spirit and soul? Then take a walk within their gardens. Or treat yourself to a tea and cake, or perhaps make a purchase, in their tea shop. What a wonderful, wonderful experience! And if you're lucky, you'll meet people from all over the world who visit to find a bit of peace, just as I have.

Dursey Island - want to take a trip on Ireland's only cable car? Then Dursey Island is just the thing because other than by boat, the cable car is the only way to make it across. A few years ago you could make the trip jammed into the car with a cow or a few sheep for company, but Irish Health & Safety regulations have ended the practice.

Dursey Island is one of Ireland's most westerly, and most remote, bits of land. Folks still live there, fishing and farming to make a living. If you're a bird watcher, Dursey is just the place. Keep your eye out of Gannets, Shearwaters, Puffins, and more avian friends.

Allihies - now you're in for a real treat. Leaving Dursey, head for Allihies, one of Ireland's most westerly villages. But before you get there keep your eyes firmly glued on the Atlantic (not so glued you drive off a cliff, however). In good weather you'll see the Skellig Islands rising from the fierce Atlantic like legendary heroes.

The Skelligs have been made famous most recently by the role they played in the Star Wars films. But these islands have been famous time-out-of-mind. The group's largest island, Skellig Michael, was home to a group of monks. 1400 years ago they decided to make the place a home by building stone beehive huts. Despite the uncomfortable lodgings these holy men (I doubt they were joined by women - females obviously had more common sense) managed to survive for years.  

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skellig can be visited by boat during good weather. A number of operators travel there, so I suggest Googling to learn more details. I will say this: book early. The island's popularity has grown fantastically over recent years.

Having finally arrived in Allihies my advice is to simply take your time and enjoy. The village is home  to a copper mine, long ago worked out. Having lost their jobs, the Irish miners climbed aboard various ships and made their way to America. Most of them ended up in Butte, Montana and there tore enough copper out of the ground to keep the States supplied for many a day. Over the years I've met many Americans who have come to find the homes of their great-grandfathers and honor their hard work and desperate courage. And if you've the ken to, make sure you visit the Allihies Copper Mine Museum. They've a great snack bar, too.

Allihies has only one small main street but its pubs offer great food, drink and hospitality. Before leaving, maybe visit the village beach, one of the finest in the area. Swimming in the Atlantic is exhilarating and safe but it's damned cold even in summer - I always wear a wet suit but the kids will love it. 

So - having made it to Allihies, you've arrived at the western most tip of Beara. Next up: we continue the clockwise journey to Eyeries, Ardgroom, and points north.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom