The Ring of Beara Is Ireland's Best Kept Secret
The tourist-heavy Ring of Kerry in southwest Ireland may be considered to be one of the world’s most scenic areas, but the cognoscenti know that the less-famous Ring of Beara, also in the country’s southwest, is the just as gorgeous, and with far less tourists. Hugging the Ring of Kerry, the 92-mile-long Beara Peninsula — named after the Spanish Princess Beara — is, according to insiders, more picturesque than Kerry and far less commercial. There are no mega-buses with hordes of camera-toting sightseers clogging up the curvy roads.
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The ring starts in the town of Kenmare, crosses the Healy Pass and goes through historic and colorful villages including Adrigole, Castletownbeare, and Ahihies. And, it happens to be the only peninsula in Ireland situated in two counties, Cork and Kerry.
Yes, the rugged coastline, cliffs, wild sea, woodland paths, and open pastures are captivating and bound to cause envy among your Instagram followers, but Beara has plenty of attractions beyond its good looks. Here are six compelling reasons to visit Ireland’s other ring.
The Walking and Biking
Ireland is building a reputation as a serious culinary destination and the Beara Peninsula is the epicenter of the movement. Thanks to mild year-round temperatures, organic fruits and vegetables grow abundantly in the countryside here every season, and lamb and cattle graze on the green grass, making for incredibly tender meat. Then there’s the local cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses, creamy butter, chocolates, and cured meats. And the fresh-off-the-boat seafood is world class. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better mussels, prawns, hake and crab elsewhere. There are no shortage of restaurants or specialty food stores to visit, but destinationbeara.ie has a list of spots to start your epicurean journey.
The Historical Sites
Even the most hardcore history buffs will be overwhelmed by the Beara Peninsula’s more than 500 historical sites, many of which date as back as far as 2000 B.C. The Bonane Valley is home to the Stone Circle, a large boulder encircled by multiple small stones from the Bronze Age and was once used as a ceremonial site. Bonane Heritage Park has many pre-historic archaeological ruins including an ancient cooking pit.
The town of Kenmare is the social heart of Beara. Founded in 1670, Kenmare has views of the dense green mountains and a downtown filled with high quality restaurants where reservations aren’t always easy to score. The Lime Tree Restaurant, which serves international dishes with an Irish influence and uses only local ingredients, is one example. Other epicurean highlights in Kenmare include Skelligs, one of Ireland’s best chocolatiers, and Kenmare Ice Cream, handmade daily using milk from a nearby dairy.
Kenmare is also where luxury seekers can hang their hats in Beara’s most high-end hotels. We’re fans of Sheen Falls Lodge, a Relais & Chateaux property that overlooks a waterfall and is located just outside of town. The property has a fantastic spa and a restaurant with an extensive wine and whisky list; guests can also partake in a myriad of activities, from falconry and clay pigeon shooting to horseback riding and golf.