Beara Peninsula and Garinish Island

Total serenity at Kenmare Bay
Total serenity at Kenmare Bay

The Ring of Beara on the Beara Peninsula is a route less travelled, which means all the more time and space for you

So you’ve heard of the Ring of Kerry. But what about the Ring of Beara – one peninsula to the south?

In a nutshell, the Ring of Beara is the scenic route from Kenmare to Glengariff (or vice versa), an 85 mile loop taking in some of the wildest nooks and crannies in the southwest.

You can circuit the Caha Mountains entirely, or take corkscrew roads through the breathtaking Healy Pass. Time-permitting, you could even divert to Bere Island (by boat) or Dursey Island (by Ireland’s only cable car).

In other words, it can be as long or short as you make it.

Highlights? No shortage here. They include seaside towns such as Castletownbere and Allihies, where a Copper Mine Museum tells the unlikely story of an industry that once dominated the area. Artifacts such as old drills, boots and the remains of abandoned towers and engine houses lie in stark contrast to the surrounding fields, beaches and fuchsia-strewn country roads.

A tale of two towns

Kenmare is more of an understated proposition than nearby Killarney, but this classy town has a knack for winning visitors’ hearts. Nestled at the mouth of Kenmare Bay, its collection of colorful shopfronts, sizzling seafood restaurants and luxury hotels is remarkable for a town of its size.

Our tip? Stay over. Kenmare is the kind of place where you can kayak on the estuary, sup afternoon tea, lose track of time in a gallery and crack open a lobster – all in the same day.

Glengarriff is the Beara Peninsula’s other gateway town. Translated from the Irish for “rugged glen”, it’s ensconced in ancient woodlands, and has been a tourist stop since Victorian times.

The summertime buzz is infectious, there’s a tempting clutch of pubs, and Glengariff also makes a great base for hiking in the Caha Mountains.

If hiking isn’t your thing, try a gentler stroll like the ascent to Lady Bantry’s Lookout – leading to a mouth-watering panorama of West Cork.

Treasure island

Garinish Island (also known as Garnish and Ilnacullin island) is Ireland’s Garden of Eden. Squirreled away in Glengariff Harbor, the island is home to a series of ornamental gardens first planted by former-owner John Annan Bryce and the Edwardian garden designer Howard Peto.

Thanks to its sheltered position and almost subtropical climate, a rich variety of plants can still be seen today – along with a colony of basking seals on its southern rocks.

Oh, and plenty of quiet solitude. Just like the rest of the Beara.