BEARA PENINSULA is
the most westerly part of County Cork, bordered by the waters
of Bantry Bay, Kenmare Bay and the Atlantic
Ocean and is the largest peninsula in County Cork. Beara is
dominated by the Caha Mountains, which run down the middle of
the peninsula from end to end. With its rocky mountains,
glacial lakes and rugged coastline, Beara is an area of great
scenic beauty. The principal villages and towns in Beara are:
Allihies, Ardgroom, Castletownbere, Eyeries and Glengarriff.
The Beara Peninsula has numerous
sites of archaeological interest. In fact Beara probably has
more than any other area of comparable size in Ireland or
Europe. These sites, some of which date from 2500 BC, include
single standing stones, stone circles, cairns, souteraines,
megalithic tombs, burial grounds, forts, castles, signal
towers etc. Consult the Ordnance Survey map of the area
to discover many of them.
During the Bronze Age, Beara was probably
one of the most important copper mining areas in Europe. In
the 19th century copper mining was revived in the area and was
concentrated at the western end of the peninsula near Allihies
village. The earliest recorded mining here was in 1812,
initiated by John Puxley, a landlord, and it finally ceased in
the 1960s. Shafts were dug to 450 metres and up to 1,000
people were employed. Today little evidence of the industrial
complex around Allihies can be seen but some chimneys,
machinery sheds, shaft entrances and spoil heaps are visible.
The beach at Ballydonegan outside Allihies village contains
tons of sand spoil from the mining.
French emigre Jaques Fontaine briefly established a Huguenot
settlement near Castletownbere in the early years of the 18th
century. Nearby Bere Island was a British naval station until
1938 and there are remains of naval fortifications still
Healy Pass is a winding mountain road between Adrigole in Co.
Cork and Lauragh in Co. Kerr. Cutting through the high Caha
Mountains, the Healy Pass rises 334 metres above sea
level and passes between two of the highest peaks of the Caha
range. This is one of the finest mountain roads in Ireland and
is named after Tim Healy, the first Governor-General of the
Irish Free State, who was born in nearby Bantry.
ISLAND ( AND CABLE CAR )
Dursey Island lies off the
western extremity of the Beara peninsula and is connected to
the mainland by a cable car, the only one in Ireland. The
cable car which carries up to six adults, crosses the
treacherous waters of Dursey Sound and operates seven days a
week. Cork County Council inaugurated the service in 1969.
The Beara Way is a long-distance
walking route of 208 km that winds its way through the
peninsula. Using tracks, old roads and mountain paths, it
takes in some of the most breathtaking scenery in Ireland. It
has no official beginning or ending and one can walk sections
by following the easily recognised marking posts or a map. It
provides a delightful and easy way to discover and explore the