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


2 comments:

  1. It sounds grand and very tempting. I wish I could go this year but will have to sadly wait. Luckily it seems like Ireland gets better year after year!

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    1. Good hearing from you. Have no fear - Ireland and Beara will be right here when you're ready. :) Tom

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