South west of Ireland has three major peninsulas – from south those are Beare, Iveragh and Dingle. While last two lays on county Kerry, Beara is split in half between county Cork and Kerry.
After visiting the Dingle twice and briefly Iveragh, I set for the least visited – Beara. As another long weekend in sight, managing extra day off from work amounted to four days holiday. After reaching Cork, it’s another 1.5 hour drive to reach Castletown-Bearehaven. One reason for visiting this part of Ireland was movie Ondine, which was filmed around these places, and featured some stunning shots.
So, after reaching Glengarriff, small village at the end of Bantry bay, I finally purchased long chased Wild Atlantic Way passport. It’s a little book, where one can collect stamps as travelling on Wild Atlantic Way.
Since it’s a bit late for visiting Bantry House, i set to another destination, which I found on map. It’s called shot Head, a small headland on way to Castletown-Bearehaven. At the end of the road I found small place where to set for evening and night. A short walk thru farm, with Shetland ponies led me to cliffs overlooking Bantry Bay , with view toward Beare Island and Sheep’s head peninsula on south.
The sun was setting down behind Hungry Hill, casting wonderful patches of light on hills.
It’s a bit windy at the edge of cliffs, but lovely sunset made it up. Also sea seems to be a bit rough, but that’s only good sign for photography.
As for last spot I choose a place near stone wall – in middle of sheep turds. The sacrifice of landscape photographer. But it was mostly rewarding.
Next morning I drove over to small bay, but as it was low tide the place wasn’t looking the best as it could, but nevertheless I managed some decent photos.
Afterwards I headed back to Glengarriff to visit Garinish Island. It was still early morning, so I had to wait for first ferry to depart. I recommend to anyone who plans to visit this little gem to get there early, as it’s not that big and with lots of tourist you will be robbed of the experience of peace and quiet this place can offer. As the ferry maked it’s way, we slowed down near seal island to get a chance for some photos of animals basking at rocks in sun.
Garinish Island is a small island just 15 minutes by boat away from Glengarriff. Sheltered in Bantry Bay, it was inhabited, it was turned into Italian style garden 100 years ago. Plants were brought, walls erected and house build. Once family home, now a tourist attraction.
Another tourist destination is Bantry House. Majestic house overlooking Bantry Bay, with beautifully decorated interior, collection of antiques all over the world, but mostly East and Asia. The garden’s main features are hundred steps (actually I counted 105), after climb one will be rewarded with great view over the house and bay beyond Garden is currently undergoing some renovation project, as it was neglected for long period and overgrown trees obscured view. The idea is to bring it back to original plans. I’m sure it will look spectacular.
After I’m finally heading back to peninsula, thru Glengarriff, Adrigole and arriving in Castletown-Bearhaven. For me only place of interest is McCarthy’s Bar – it’s a little different as on book cover, nevertheless after reading the book I could not miss to see this place. Pub serves also as a grocery shop, so after walking in you could be surprise to see tins of food and other household items. The actual bar is next room.
Town itself is a busy fishing harbour, with little charm for me, on top of it there is Sea fair going on for whole weekend, which brought lot of attractions – stalls selling fake Hollister clothes, noisy fun fair. It might have charm for locals, not for me so I’m further up the road.
Finding nest destination was a bit challenge, but I long wanted to find it and visit. A beautiful movie Ondine was shot here, put the place bears no traces of any filming activity. Small secluded bay, serves also as a harbour for small fishing boats. I met some local and talked about random stuff for almost an hour. Unfortunately as the sun dropped down so did sea, water receded about 20-30 metres, exposing rocks and lot of seaweed.
Looking for more spectacular settings for sunset to capture I drove over to near Dzogchen Beara Buddhist meditation centre. Place of beauty, peace and serenity, somehow it transferred little of charm from far Tibet to Ireland.
I met only few people, couple of girls on cycling trip around Beara, and a little kitty wandering around.
The next morning I woke up into gloomy, heavy and dark overcast sky – not ideal for any photography outside. So I wandered back into still sleeping town of Castletown-Bearhaven. Continuing back east, I reached Adrigole with sign to Healy Pass. One of the iconic driving roads it cross the mountains just at the borders of counties Cork and Kerry. Having driven over the Connorr Pass in Dingle, I have to say this is better – longer, with sweeping tight bends, climbing up and up and finally reaching small car park with shop. But look down into the valley and the scenery it’s just breathtaking. Tiny spaghetti of road bellow, looking at other drivers making their way.
There is some noise coming from bellow and shortly a parade of vintage cars and tractors passes by. Following bikers from Belgium – five BMW’s GS. Actually I met a lot of bikers, and most of them on BMW’s – they must be that good or cheap.
Coming down to Lauragh I came to junction with a funny sign, which could be found only in Ireland. Those picture speak for themselves.
From there I drove down the valley towards Glanmore Lake. The fellow who I met day before recommended to visit this hidden and not too much known place. I was a rewarding detour – quiet lakeside, at one place fence with mare and colt. Only if the midgets were not savage.
Heading back to main road, I slowly drove west, with Kenmare River on my left, beautiful view across bay at Iveragh peninsula. Towards Allihies the road gets narrower and more bendy – even better than Healy Pass. At one point it seems to cut someone yard – the bikers got a little bit perplexed. From Allihies I turn further west towards Dursey Island. It’s only connection with mainland is a cable cart. But after arriving I’m greeted with smell of cheap fish and chips from van and full car park. Quickly turn around and escape. Back to Allihies, I search for rock formation along the cliffs that looks like a bowl. After a while I found it – but again receding low tide doesn’t do justice. Anyway, spectacular view.
I wandered around a bit, could not decide for final spot for sunset, eventually I settled on small cliffs. Sky was a bit dull, not much drama and light I wanted.
With that, little I knew those were final photos of whole trip. During night I heard rain drops pounding on roof of my car, and morning I woke up into heavy rain. With that, I packed myself, I headed back to civilisation. Driving on narrow roads of Beara in rain is not something I enjoy, so I’m only happy when I reach Cork and from there it’s motorway only. Still raining. Finally home.