Beara & the Healy Pass
You’ve probably heard of the Ring of Kerry, a must see on almost every Irish vacation itinerary. It’s lovely, and you should see it, but far fewer people know of the neighbouring Beara Peninsula, where there are no crowds, no traffic jams, no tour buses and the scenery is arguably even more beautiful and dramatic. Add to that one of the world’s great drives through the Healy Pass and you have a day of adventure that most visitors to Ireland never experience.
The Healy Pass
The 195 km long Ring of Beara takes you on a journey of spectacular coastal and mountain scenery, through an old mining village, fishing villages and, optionally, side trips to islands just off the shore. It starts with the hair-raising drive through the Healy Pass, along a narrow ribbon of road that winds though the mountains. The views are spectacular, the narrowness of the road and sometimes sheer drops at its edge absolutely terrifying, but you’ll be perfectly safe – we have driven these roads many, many times!
Islands & Villages
One of the notable features of the Beara Peninsula are the brightly coloured houses in the small villages dotted along the coastline, particularly Allihies, an old mining village where you can visit the now deserted copper mines, and Eyeries, a beautiful village nestled between the mountains and the wild Atlantic shore.
At the tip of the peninsula Castletownbere is a busy fishing port, where you can watch the fishing boats unload their catch and eat some amazing fresh seafood in one of several excellent restaurants or pubs.
There are two islands that can easily be visited. Dursey Island is a mecca for bird watchers with frequent sightings of rare species. It is accessible only by a 10 minute cable car ride – which you may have to share with sheep or even a cow! At the end of the journey a boat trip to the wonderful Italianate gardens on Ilnaculin is a great finish to the day.
If you only have time for one ‘ring’ there is much to recommend choosing Beara over the Ring of Kerry, especially at high season when the crowds are at their peak.