The Ring of Beara Is Ireland's Best Kept Secret
Related: The Best Times to Visit Ireland
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
Active travelers will be stunned by the sights they’ll encounter while biking or walking along Beara Way, a 134 mile-long route around the peninsula which hugs the Atlantic Ocean. As we traversed the road this past summer, our eyes competed for attention between the coastline, historical sites like the 11th century Dunboy Castle, which became the seat of the O’Sullivan Beara clan, and the fauna, most notably the wildflowers, such as purple brambles, yellow iris, and red clovers. Options for walks and rides range from less than an hour to full-day adventures.
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.
Beara has more than a dozen villages full of lively restaurants and pubs, but each has its own charm—the fishing town of Adrigole, for example, is home to Ireland’s highest waterfall, the Mare’s Tail, while Glengarriff, with a population of just 800, has an eponymous forest with magnificent birch and oak trees. Castletownbeare is Ireland’s premier whitefish port, and then there’s Eyeries, often referred to as one of the most colorful villages worldwide because of its storybook clapboard houses in an array of pinks, reds, and oranges.
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.
Ireland’s lighthouses have inspired authors for centuries, and two of these navigational towers, Bull Rock and Roancarrig, are in County Cork. They’re also a complete contrast from one another: Bull Rock, completed in the late 19th century, has stone walls and stairs and cast iron railings and lanterns. Roancarrig, on the other hand, represents the new generation of Irish lighthouses. The modern structure, officially lighted in 2012, is constructed of stainless steel and has LED lights and solar panels.
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.