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The Beara Peninsula: A Guide With Maps And Things To Do

The Beara Peninsula: A Guide With Maps And Things To Do

Straddling the border between counties Cork and Kerry, the Beara Peninsula is a scenic sliver of Ireland that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Beara is finely sandwiched between Kenmare Bay (Kerry) on one side and Bantry Bay (Cork) on the other.

The peninsula is steeped in history, with evidance of human life from 3000 BC, and it boasts scenery that’ll imprint itself upon your mind.

Although far less famous than the nearby Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry, Beara is home to an incomparable kind of magic, as you’ll discover below.


Some quick need-to-knows about the Beara Peninsula

Although a visit to the Beara Peninsula is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find the breath-taking Beara Peninsula on Ireland’s glorious south-west coast. The majority of the peninsula is situated within Cork, but a large section is part of Kerry.

2. Still somewhat of a ‘hidden’ gem

Now, don’t get me wrong – most people living in/planning a trip to Ireland are somewhat aware of Beara. However, many tend to favour the nearby Iveragh Peninsula. The beauty of this is that it’s far less crowded come the busy summer months.


3. The Ring of Beara and Beara Way

Two of the most popular things to do on the Beara Peninsula are the long-distance Beara Way (takes up to 9 days) and the brilliant Ring of Beara drive or cycle (a 148km route that can be done in 1/2 a day. Info on both below.

4. Key attractions

Some of the stand-out attractions on Beara are Healy Pass, Glengarriff Woods, the Allihies Copper Mines, Gleninchaquin Park and the islands, like Dursey, Garnish and Bere.

5. Main towns and villages

The Beara Peninsula is home to some of the most beautiful villages and towns in Cork. From Allihies, Eyeries and Ardgroom to Adrigole, Castletownbere and Glengarriff, there’s plenty of places to explore from.


Things to do on the Beara Peninsula

Below, you’ll find what I think are the best things to do on the Beara Peninsula, based on many visits over the last 35 years.

If you’re looking for a Beara Peninsula map, I’ve embedded a Google Map with the attractions and the driving route at the end of this guide!

1. The Ring of Beara

The best way to explore the peninsula in a logical fashion is to set-off on the Ring of Beara drive – a 148km/92 mile scenic route that can be done in 1/2 a day.

Now, you’ll want at least a couple of days if you want to see the islands and tackle the walks, but a 1/2 day is enough for a fleeting visit.

You can start fro, Kenmare or Glengarriff – just make sure to drive in a clockwise direction, as it’ll afford you the best views.

I’ll take you through the main stops along the way below!


2. The Caha Pass

Caha Pass

Photos via Shutterstock

The Caha Pass is located along the the N71 road between the towns of Kenmare and Glengarriff, and by God it’s something else.

It reaches an elevation of 332m and it treats those that spin along it to sweeping valley views as far as the eye can see.

Views aside, it’s the tunnels that make this a very memorable drive. The first tunnel is 180m long followed by three smaller ones totalling 70 metres.

As you exit the main tunnel, it frames a dramatic view of Barley Lake and Bantry Bay as you descend into the rolling countryside of the Sheen Valley.


3. Garnish Island

Garnish Island

Photos by Chris Hill via Tourism Ireland

Garnish Island is one of the more notable things to do on the Beara Peninsula, and you reach it via a short ferry ride from Glengarriff (the ferry costs €15 and takes 15 minutes).

The island is a horticultural paradise with stunning gardens, pools and shrubs planted 70 years ago by owner Annan Bryce and landscape architect Harold Peto.

It was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953 and now maintained by the Office of Public Works.

The island is easily explored at a leisurely pace on foot and there are several trails that take you around the main areas.


4. Gleninchaquin Park

Gleninchaquin Park

Photos via Shutterstock

Gleninchaquin Park is located within the Kerry section of the peninsula and it’s arguably the one attraction that most tend to miss.

Formed via glaciation around 70,000 years ago, Gleninchaquin is a wild and rugged park that’s home to several trails that vary from handy to hard, so there’s something for all abilities.

The highlight is the 140 metre high multi-cascade waterfall that can be seen from the car park. 

As you stroll through the park, you’ll hear the crash of the waterfall while you admire Killarney’s McGillicuddy Reeks on the horizon.


5. The Glanmire Lake Viewpoint

Glanmore Lake

Photos by the Irish Road Trip

One of my favourite things to do on the Beara Peninsula is to drive along Healy Pass (that’s coming further down below) and stop at the section at the top (here on Maps).

There’s a grassy (and often very boggy!) hill to the left of where you can park. Climb it. You’ll soon be greeted by the view in the photos above.

If you/someone you’re travelling with can’t climb the hill, don’t worry – there’s a pull-in area further on (here on Maps) where you can enjoy the view!


6. Glengariff Woods

Glengarriff Woods

Photos by the Irish Road Trip

The Glengarrif Nature Reserve doesn’t get half the credit that it deserves. Located a 3-minute spin from the town, there are 300 hectares of walking trails on offer here.

Now, if you fancy a challenging walk, give the moderate 2.8km Esknamucky Trail a bash (it’ll take you around 1.5 hours).

If you fancy a short-yet-rewarding stroll, opt for the Waterfall Walk.

This is a leisurely trail through the woods that ends at the little Glengarriff Waterfall (takes 30 minutes total).


7. Bull Rock

Bull Rock

Photos via Shutterstock

Even more remote than Dursey Island is Bull Rock Island, 9km off of the Beara Peninsula.

Book in with the folks at Dursey Boat Trips and you’ll navigate the waves in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) on your way to the craggy rock.

Now, keep in mind that you won’t get onto the island itself – you will, however, sail right beneath it via the tunnel you can see in the photo above.

Keep an eye-out along the way for whales, dolphins and basking sharks competing with foraging seabirds in these rich feeding grounds.


8. The Beara Way

Beara Peninsula

Photos via Shutterstock

If you have 9 days or so to spare, consider hiking the scenic Beara Way on a 206km loop – one of several long-distance treks on the Wild Atlantic Way.

The way-marked hike (here’s a map) is a tough walk that starts and ends in Glengarriff and that ascends 5,245m in total.

Remote, unspoiled and magical, the Beara Way promises ancient standing stones, lakes, mountains, fishing and farming communities interspersed with bog roads and woodland paths.


9. Allihies


There’s a lot to like about the little village of Allihies (and neighbouring Eyeries). One of the highlights of the area is the road that leads down into Allihies.

There’s a tiny bit of space to pull in (here on Maps), but it’s easily missed as it sits a short distance after a blind spot. The view from here, and as you descend, is out of this world.

When you arrive in the village, head for Ballydonegan Beach where you’ll see white sand blending into crystal clear water.

Copper mining started in Allihies way back, in 1812. You can learn all about it in the village’s Copper Mine Museum. You can also walk the copper mine trails.


10. Dursey Island

Dursey Island

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the better-known places to visit in West Cork is the small and scenic Dursey Island – the most westerly inhabited island in Cork.

Located at the tip of the Beara Peninsula, the island is reached by Ireland’s only cable car. The journey takes just 15 minutes.

It carries just 6 passengers (or one cow or a dozen sheep!) and it runs 250m above the choppy sea below.

When you reach Dursey, landmarks include the 200-year-old Signal Tower, the ruined church of St Kilmichael and O’Sullivan Beara’s castle.


11. Visit Bere Island

Bere Island

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the more overlooked things to do on the Beara Peninsula is to take the 15-minute ferry over to Bere Island from Castletownbere.

Guarding the entrance to Bantry Bay, this proud community of just 218 residents is rich in heritage and archaeological sites.

Enjoy walks, bike rides, sailing, fishing and birdwatching or just soak up the hospitality, warm welcome and great food. Some of the most notable sites on the island are:

  • Ardagh and Cloughland martello towers
  • Ardnakinna Lighthouse
  • The Gallán Standing Stone
  • Bardini Reefer Ship Wreck
  • Ardaragh Wedge Tomb

12. Healy Pass

Healy Pass

Photos by the Irish Road Trip

As great drives go, Healy Pass is one of the best in Ireland. Once a bridleway, the road was created in 1847 as a work relief scheme during the Great Famine.

Cutting through the Caha Mountain Range, the road climbs to a lofty elevation of 334m (over 1000 feet).

The road itself gently climbs towards a ‘summit’ before reaching the Glanmire Lake Viewpoint I mentioned earlier.

It’s worth pulling in at this viewpoint on Maps if it’s free, as you’ll get a great view out over the road and the scenery beyond.

If you can’t pull in there, keep driving until you reach this pull-in area (beside the little cabin). It’ll give you a good eyeful of the road from above.


13. Molly Gallivan’s Visitor Centre

Molly Gallivan's Visitor Centre

Photos by Brian Morrison via Ireland’s Content Pool

The last of our things to do on the Beara Peninsula is Molly Gallivan’s – a 200-year-old stone cottage and heritage farm.

Park up and have a nosey at the massive wooden sculpture outside, first, then make your way inside to see what a family dwelling during the time of the Great Famine (1845) was like.

Watch the short film telling how enterprising Molly and her 7 children survived when she opened an Sibheen and sold Poitín.

Walk the Neolithic Stone Row that forms part of a 5,000 year old sun calendar before hitting the road again.


Our Beara Peninsula map with attractions

If you’re looking for things to do on the Beara Peninsula, but you’re not sure where to begin, the Beara Peninsula map should help.

Above, you’ll find the Ring of Beara route plotted out, along with many of the different things to see and do.


Beara Peninsula accommodation

Eyeries accommodation

Photos via Booking

If you’re looking to spend a night or three on the Beara Peninsula in Ireland, you’ve your pick of B&Bs  and hotels.

You just need to decide where to base yourself from. Here are some recommendations:


Note: if you book a stay through one of the links below we may make a commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

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Aidan Finlay

Monday 8th of March 2021

The Beara Peninsula has to be the most beautiful place in Ireland. I was there with my girlfriend last summer. We stayed in Glengarriff for 3 nights Friday to Monday in an airb&b. I have been to many countries across the world and I think this was up there, as one of the best holidays. Not mentioned above are the Ewe Gardens on the kenmare Rd. Amazing sculpture gardens. Also if you are in Glengarriff you have to go on a dolphin tour with Bantry Bay Charters. There was so much to see and we also did some fishing and bought home some Mackerel to cook that evening. The team are great and we had great craic. We drove the ring of Beara and one hidden gem between Glengarriff and Adrigole, is Zetland pier. There is a little beach hidden near the pier that is like a paradise. The buddah centre is another must stop. You can get a nice lunch and look out over the bay. We saw a pod of dolphins passing by while we were there. And finally, I would highly recommend a stop at Garnish Dursey & Allihies. The scenery is just second to none. We didn't have time to go to Bere island but we will be back this summer. Booked a week this time.

Marianne MacDonald

Monday 8th of March 2021

I always have a bone to pick when writers neglect to mention that part of Beara is in Kerry. At the end of the Healy Pass you are in Lauragh, and you can go to Derreen Gardens and then onto Helen's Bar aka Teddy O'Sullivans in Kilmackalogue for the freshest mussels served with a great pint of Murphy's Stout. Gleninchaquin is also located in Kerry.


Sunday 6th of December 2020

This article hasn't included another village in the Peninsula, Ardgroom, which is the first village once you leave Kenmare. It has an amazing Stone Circle and the most breathtaking lake, Glenbeg Lough. There are several Beara way walking routes in and around Ardgroom. It is also a very colourful village, maybe it doesn't scream and compete for attention like Eyeries and Allihies but it is no less beautiful or important to the Peninsula and deserves a mention in articles like this.

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