The Beara Peninsula is a beautiful stretch of the west coast of Ireland. Just to the south of the more famous (and overrun) Ring of Kerry, it offers a less crowded, but no less scenic adventure. We spent a week exploring Beara with our boys. All of us fell for its charms, and we wanted to share some of our favorite parts.
Drive the Ring of Beara
To start your adventure on the Beara Peninsula, begin with a drive around the Ring of Beara and take in the beauty of cliffs meetings the sea. Give the kids disposable cameras and roll down the windows. Our boys loved the steep cliffs covered with sheep, calmly eating grass and watching us. The full ring is about 195 km long, but we just drove from Kenmare to Castletownbere, and that alone was a great day. Stop at the Copper Mine Museum and Garnish Beach. Castletownbere has several restaurants and places for ice cream.
Take the Dursey Cable Car
To get to Dursey Island from the Beara Peninsula, you have to park your car and take a cable car high above the narrow straits. It’s about a 10 minute ride over the ocean. Locals and livestock have priority, and the car can take 6 people or 1 cow. It runs 9am to 8pm continuously.
Dursey Island has many hiking trails, castle and ruins, but no restaurants or shops. Bring a picnic lunch with you and be sure to get back in plenty of time to catch the last cable car of the night!
Star Outdoors of Kenmore
We took the 1 hour eco-nature cruise on Kenmare Bay, on the north side of Beara Peninsula. We enjoyed the scenery, the castles and seal watching. The cruise operator said that they often see dolphins playing in the bay. They play Irish music and a recording that points out interesting sites along the way. There is an outdoor viewing platform on the upper deck and a bar with interior seating on the main deck. They serve tea, coffee, soda, beer, wine and a couple of snacks.
After the cruise we rented wet suits and took a paddle boat out to the water trampoline & slide. It was great fun, even in the cold weather. When it started to rain they came out to us on a speed boat and sped us back to shore, which was much appreciated!
More info at http://www.staroutdoors.ie/
After getting dried out and dressed, we had dinner at the on-site restaurant: Con’s Restaurant. Even though it was quiet there and they were expecting a large tour bus party soon, we had excellent food and attentive service, including a post-dinner trip to the ice cream freezer, which is stocked with locally made ice cream that was delicious.
Our day at Star Outdoors was fantastic. Every single staff member from the lovely woman in the office to the boat crew, to the guy who fitted our wetsuits and drove the speedboat were warm, friendly and helpful. Our kids are begging to go back next summer.
They have a long list of fun things to do (many are seasonal, so call first)
- Water skiing, wake boarding and donut rides
- Archery, paint ball and mini golf
- Water trampoline & slide
- Toddler playground
- Con’s Marina Bar & Restaurant
1 Hour boat ride: €45 for a family of 5
We paid about €45.00 to rent wetsuits and a paddle boat and play on the water slide and sea trampoline.
We paid €9.50 for 2 glasses of wine and 3 sodas
Dinner at Con’s was €52 for the 5 of us, including ice cream for the kids
Road to Allihies, Drum, Castletownbere, Co. Cork
Dunboy Castle was the site of a battle in 1602, when Elizabeth I sent troops to seize the harbor of Berehaven. The British defeated the Irish soldiers, and the castle has laid in ruins since. It’s fascinating and a little creepy. After passing the unmarked guard gate you drive down a dirt road past Puxley Manor, which was built by an English copper baron in the early 19th century and burned by the IRA in 1921.
In 1999, a company purchased the manor and began to make it into the only 5 star hotel on the Beara Peninsula, only to run bankrupt in 2008. Now it’s abandoned and slightly creepy! You can read more about the history of Puxley Manor here: The O’Sullivan Curse and Puxley Manor.
Directly across the road from the mansion is a shipwrecked vessel in the bay. The street dead ends at a sign about the castle and then you hike up the hill to the site. We were the only ones there and the hill has reclaimed the castle covering it with grass and wild flowers. It looks like something out of a fairytale. The boys loved climbing over the walls and to the tip of one of the gates.
This is one of the many sites in Ireland where you just drive up and park on the road. There is a small plaque with some information at the base of the hill. There are no facilities or lights here, so go before sunset.
Ride the Car Ferry to Bere Island
Sails 4 times per day each way. Car + 4 adult passengers €35 return
Catch the ferry in Castletownbere to Bere Island. Ferries run several times per day but you need to get there early. It’s very confusing for a tourist and the ferry operator is not helpful. Back into a spot in front of the ferry dock. Be prepared, locals ride first, and only 5 or 6 cars can ride at a time.
More beaches than we could hit:
Rossbeigh Beach, Derrynane Beach, Ballybunion Beach, Kells Beach, Banna Beach and Garnish beach.
And a few more ideas that we didn’t get to:
- Staigue Fort
- Torc Waterfall
- Aqua Dome water park