Beara Peninsula

  • Beara Way approaching Knocknagorraveela ridge, east-central Beara - © William Mackesy
  • North to Iveragh from central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • Uragh Stone Circle - © William Mackesy
  • Central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • Dursey island from the mainland - © William Mackesy
  • Central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • Central Beara pass, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • Valley above Dromoghty lake, central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • Valley above Dromoghty lake, central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Knocknagorraveela, east-central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Waterfall, Gelninchaquinn, Beara - © William Mackesy

Key information: Beara Peninsula

  • The less-visited Beara Peninsula consists of a chain of fine, largely treeless, empty mountains which is a magnificent backdrop to a complicated and beautiful coastline.
  • The peninsula boasts some superb walking routes in magically pretty landscape. The Beara Way is the one of Ireland’s finest long-distance trails.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating85
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest14
  • Human interest10
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating85
  • Note: Negs: Likely bad weather

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice
  • Maximum Altitude: 660m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The less-visited Beara Peninsula is the third-down of south-western Ireland’s great seaward protrusions.

Much of Beara is extraordinarily beautiful on a good day. The chain of fine, largely treeless, empty mountains that forms its spine is a magnificent backdrop to a complicated and beautiful coastline, all luminous in soft watery light… until the next shower comes through. While some of the hills are rough in the extreme, there is a melting prettiness about the valleys, with their gurgling steams and so-green pastures. 

The peninsula’s northern flanks are arguably even more beautiful than the south and boast several stone circles/standing stones. They feel very remote indeed.

The area has plenty of historical interest, particularly its prehistoric hill forts and stone circles; its castles and its examples of early Christian architecture. 

Beara boasts colonies of seabirds, common species to rare ones, choughs, corncrakes and hen harriers on land. It is no slouch on the mammalian marine life either. 

The peninsula boasts some superb walking routes although, as we lament elsewhere, there is no general right of access to the countryside in Ireland, and no traditional footpaths/rights of way, so walking options are not as extensive as they might be and there is reduced ability to improvise, or to create your own circuits. That said, you could easily spend a week here without feeling sated.

Beara Way

The magnificent 206km Beara Way is the one of the country’s finest long-distance trails. It contours along the middle slopes, taking in some lesser hilltops, seldom on the sea and seldom above 300m. It has stunning views across Bantry Bay to the south and (even better) over the Kenmare River northward to the Iveragh Peninsula and the MacGillycuddy’sReeks , Ireland’s highest mountains.

Follow old lanes and tracks through varied scenery: beaches to clifftops to sheep-studded fields to mountains and moorland. Stay in traditional villages, enjoy the local ways and friendliness. 

The Way is not excessively demanding walking in itself, although you can be in for some long days depending on how you plan. It takes around 9 days if walking in full, reduced to 7 if you omit Bere and Dursey Islands. There is a section of the Beara Way near you wherever you are on the Beara Peninsula, so you always have a fine day walking option at hand. The whole Way is excellent walking, so you can simply head for your nearest stretch.

Other special Beara walking  includes:

Around Glenbeg Loughin its great bowl, under the sweep of cliffs of the central ridge. 

Around gorgeous Glanmore Lakes and the wild beautiful upper Glanmore Valley, which penetrates deep into the central mountain spine.

The Rugged Caha Mountains north-west of Glengarriff make for magnificent walking with their long, high ridge sporting views to (not literally) die for. But they are relatively trackless, so would make demanding walking.

Circle the hills north-west of Ardgroom, on paths and old lanes. Amazing sea views. Walkopedia covets this walk.

Dursey Island: the Beara Way circuits this little island at the tip of the peninsula in 14km/ around 4 hours. Stunning land-and-seascapes, and the whole island is a wildlife reserve, to boot. Access is by Ireland’s only and slightly alarming-looking cable car.

The hill at the far west of the peninsula, immediately along the Dursey Island cablecar, has wonderful all-round views. 

Allihies area: this town has some great walking on its doorstep. Try walking the ridge to its south, or up the beach and onto the hills to the north, or simply around the nearby lanes and along the lovely beaches. 

Cashelkeelity Stone Circle: a lovely stretch of the Beara Way leads to this fine stone circle.

Bere Island: the Beara Way follows a fine network of paths on this fortified island off the south coast. 

Gleninchaquin Park, nestling in a great bowl to the north of the Cahamassif. (community thoughts requested on the walking quality here!)

Accommodation on Beara is generally plentiful and good.​

Please visit our friends Hillwalk Tours’ website – see ‘links’ at end for more information on walking here.

The South-west gets a lot of rain, plus cloud/fog and occasional winter snow on high ground. Take great care with wayfinding in foggy/mist/cloudy conditions, indeed the mountains aren’t much fun if you won’t be able to see! There is little shelter on the mountains, either from sun or rain. Be prepared, both mentally and with the right kit.

Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk (support us: find books using our Amazon search box) 

The Dingle, Iveragh and Beara Peninsulas: A Walking Guide – Adrian Hendorff. Collins Press walking guides.

The Beara & Sheep  Head’s Peninsulas – Adrian Hendroff

The Mountains of Ireland  – Paddy Dillon/ Cicerone: enthusiastic and exhaustive exploration of every one of the country’s 2,000ft summits.

Hiking in Ireland – Lonely Planet

Find relevant books on Amazon.

Other books (support us: find books using our Amazon search box)

Ireland – Lonely Planet

Find relevant books on Amazon.

Maps

There are good 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps.

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk.  The best (and the most user-friendly) online source of maps (and is also good for guidebooks).

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Ireland’s climate is generally pretty temperate, though April-September is generally pleasantest. The best months are May, June and September, as there is the best chance then of good weather, and the midges aren’t in full swing.

Weather

The South-west gets a lot of rain, plus cloud/fog and occasional winter snow on high ground. Take great care with wayfinding in foggy/mist/cloudy conditions, indeed the mountains aren’t much fun if you won’t be able to see! There is little shelter on the mountains, either from sun or rain. Be prepared, both mentally and with the right kit.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Check the current visa position for people from your country.

Most people fly in to Cork or other international airports.  Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding the flights you need.

Car hire is reasonably easy. Roads are generally good and empty.

Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.

Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Adverse weather: the South-west gets a lot of rain, cold and wind, plus cloud/fog and winter snow on high ground. There is little shelter on the mountains. Be prepared, both mentally and with the right kit.
  • Heat: though temperatures are never extreme, there is no shelter from the sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself on hot days.
  • Limited access/ walking options: there is no general right of access to the countryside in Ireland, and no traditional footpaths/rights of way. As a result, walking options are limited to paths/trails whose routes have been negotiated with landowners, which explains why you find yourself on (admittedly delightful and very empty) minor roads quite a bit of the time on the long-distance paths, even on the famous ones, and walking options are not as extensive as they might be. That said, we understand that, for practical purposes, if access isn’t expressly forbidden, walking on tracks and on paths on higher ground is acceptable. But if anyone objects, remove yourself from the relevant property. There is thus reduced ability to improvise, or to create your own circuits, compared to some other countries.
  • Midges: midges are a potential horror in late May to mid-September, with high Summer (mid-June to Mid-August) to worst, especially in the evening. (That said, Walkopedia was in west Kerry in early August and was untroubled.) Cover up, wear light clothes and use lots of a good repellant.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do these walks independently.

Guided/supported:

Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions, particularly when doing multi-day walks. Travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Further, the firm will have chosen the best routes and can arrange “slackpacking” – ie, having your bags carried from one night stop to the next, and walking with a day pack only.

Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital. If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed.

Expedition organisers include:

Our friends and partners Responsible Travel have a selection of walking and other holidays here. https://www.responsibletravel.com/holiday/8745/kerry-way-walking-holiday-ireland

Hillwalk Tours’ website

https://www.hiddenirelandtours.com/day-excursions/day-walks-and-hikes/iveragh-peninsula-uibh-rathach/

http://www.breakaway-adventures.com/walking/ireland/kerry-way.html

PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.

Accommodation

Accommodation on Beara is generally plentiful and good.

There are various relevant accommodation websites. See Useful Websites below.

A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively named but effective Hotels.com. Last but not least, http://www.thehotelguru.com has a growing selection of interesting, non-standard, carefully-chosen places to stay.

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Other information and tips; responsible tourism and charities

Walkopedia encourages responsible tourism! Have a look at www.stuffyourrucksack.com for projects you can take things for.

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the Beara area

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Other walks in Ireland

Other activities in Ireland

Riding: trekking and beach riding

Fishing:

Golf:

Swimming: Some magnificent blue flag beaches in the area.

Ireland’s National Pastime: There are plenty of good hostelries to choose from.

Uragh Stone Circle - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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North to Iveragh from central Beara, Beara Way - © William Mackesy...
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