Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ireland Revisited: The Beara Peninsula

Day 21 of 35: Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Uragh stone circle, Beara Peninsula.

As we had long planned, today we visited the Beara Peninsula, the lesser-known peninsula to the South of the famous “Ring of Kerry” around the Iveragh. Possibly because its land is divided between two Counties, tourist-conscious Kerry and less-so Cork, it has never been developed for tourism much at all, and certainly not to the degree that its famous neighbor to the north has been for almost two centuries now.

Driving on the Beara can be a bit of a challenge, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Two sides of Kenmare. The town of Kenmare sits at the junction of the Iveragh and Beara Peninsulas. At left is a view off the N21 on our approach to Kenmare; at right is a view back toward the Iveragh and the Ring of Kerry at the beginning of our exploration of the Beara.

Ring-to-Ring panorama: view north from the relatively undeveloped “Ring of Beara” toward the famous “Ring of Kerry” in the distance.


A jaw-dropping realization for us was the absolutely stunning beauty of Gleninchaquin, a glacially-carved valley that echoes that of the Lakes of Killarney in all ways except for population. At its upper end is a privately-run park which comprises dramatic waterfalls, working farm areas, lakes, gardens, and miles and miles of hiking trails. The proprietor, Donal Corkery, noting Diane’s hobbled condition, offered us a ride in his vehicle…

… to what he called “the finest view in Ireland”:

If you spend some time with the high resolution version of this panorama linked in this day's slideshow over on, you might be hard-pressed to disagree with him. (That’s Mr. Corkery at right, inspecting his domain with binoculars.)

Also in Gleninchaquin, outside of the private park between a couple of lakes in the chain, is the most strikingly-placed Neolithic stone circle I have ever seen, one brought to my attention by Irish photographer Tony Mulraney on Flickr. Called the Uragh Stone Circle, it is on the crest of a small hill in the middle of the valley with a beautiful backdrop no matter what direction one views it from.

The Uragh stone circle is relatively small, at least physically: Diane, leaning against the tallest stone, gives you a sense of scale.

Views along the main – and only – road into Gleninchaquin. This one-lane track extends southward for about ten kilometers from its modestly-signed intersection with R571 on the north side of the Beara Peninsula.

The most dramatic episode we had on the road up Gleninchaquin we don’t have any pictures of: a heart-stopping encounter with a double-trailer truck hauling a load of pine logs out of the valley. That took a bit of squeezing, backing, and praying to resolve. (A large patch of mature pine re-forestation – which Lord Rosse, a UN expert on reforestation in third-world countries, called a “horrible mistake” all over Ireland because of the nature of the wood and the way it was being planted – is being removed from Gleninchaquin, to be replaced with plantings of native species such as oak.)

The south side of the Beara Peninsula provides spectacular views and picturesque towns along the north side of Bantry Bay:

We drove back to Kenmare via Glengariff and the road over the Caha Pass (with three tunnels along the rugged mountain road), and stopped there to do some gift-shopping before heading back to our hotel in Killarney.

Left: Glengariff. “Harrington” is a name we saw in several places on the Beara Peninsula. "Murphy" was my mother's maiden name, so the white pub sign (which you can read if you click on the image to see it larger) in Glengariff tickled me. Right: Kenmare shops.

Left: “The White Room” lace shop in Kenmare. Right: inside “Soundz of Music,” a great little music shop with a wide variety of high-quality musical instruments (seriously). Yes, those are flying-V and solid-body electric ukuleles hanging among the more traditional ones.

More images from this day, including a links to very large-scale, detailed panoramas, are available here.

Next: August 25, 2010 -- Killarney
Previous: August 23, 2010 -- To Kerry
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2

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