June 20, 2024


sights and trips

Caha Mountains, Beara Peninsula, Kerry

“As I was going about, the Cork and Kerry mountains…” goes the track Whiskey in the Jar. Even in the absence of a dollars-counting Captain Farrell and a lovelorn highwayman, a journey around the Caha Mountains of the Beara Peninsula tends to make for unforgettable recollections.

Taken from the July / August 2019 challenge of Ireland of the Welcomes journal. Subscribe to this bi-regular print journal below.

The Beara peninsula, which straddles the counties of Cork and Kerry, suffers to some degree from center youngster syndrome. The third of the 5 wonderful peninsulas of Ireland’s southwest, it is generally overshadowed by the celebrated Dingle Peninsula and, household to the famed Ring of Kerry, the Iveragh Peninsula. The two junior peninsulas to the south, Sheep’s Head and Mizen Head, rock a remote West Cork bohemian vibe. Beara is the shy, marginally awkward a person, neither Cork nor Kerry, neither touristy nor artsy and all the far more worthwhile for it.

Element of the issue for Beara is that finding there is a obstacle. The journey both consists of a prolonged drive from Cork Metropolis, bypassing plenty of spectacular scenery along the way or a hair-elevating travel from Kerry, alongside serpentine roadways climbing by means of either one particular of two lonely passes above the Caha Mountains. Beara demands readers make an effort, and for people brave enough to tackle the route from the Kerry aspect and cross all those storied mountains, the reward is a amazing see of the two counties that make up Beara and the Atlantic Ocean that lashes its coastline.

The Caha Pass

The Caha Pass.

The Caha Go.

The Caha go is in all probability the easier of the two routes from the Kerry aspect. It links the towns of Kenmare in Kerry to Glengarriff in Cork and it was very a feat of road producing in its day. It functions two tunnels each of which had been blasted out of the rock in the middle of the 19th century and then hand-hewn. The mountain observe was turned into a paved road in the early 1900s by a Galway motor-fanatic referred to as Richard Mecredy. But even now the tunnels are way too very low for most tour buses to go by means of which minimizes site visitors alongside the route substantially in peak year. About 70 meters into the extended tunnel is the border between Kerry and Cork, no passport is necessary. 

Even in summer time, this is a lonely road with just a few locals and the odd employ motor vehicle about. It’s all lush green slopes and mushy bathroom-land on the Kerry side changing to the rougher and rockier floor at the peak and on into County Cork. On a cloudy working day, the feeling of isolation nearing the summit lends the spot a spooky air. It is not difficult to picture why, in historic instances, Druids utilized this put for ‘cursing’ uses, even putting in a ‘cursing stone’ to would like unwell on their enemies. It is also the most possible placing for the music Whiskey in the Jar, about a highwayman who himself was robbed by Jenny, his wayward woman enjoy. Absent a paved street and the spot turns into even much more inhospitable, an great place for skulduggery. 

Sailing down from the summit into County Cork, the pale blue waters of Bantry Bay distribute as considerably as the horizon and, nestled in a thick wooded glen lies the village of Glengarriff. Once residence to Hollywood legend Maureen O’Hara, Glengarriff is a relaxed unpretentious place, which has extensive been a popular holiday break city. The poet William Butler Yeats was a typical customer again. Comprising not substantially extra than a single street and a population of just 800 people out of period, it is perfectly-stocked with resorts, hostels, places to eat, cafés and, of course, pubs, most of which have tunes in the evenings. As a base for exploring Beara, it’s excellent.

Garinish Island

Just a stone’s toss from Glengarriff’s primary road, and surrounded by lush woodland, is the Blue Pool, a little all-natural harbor fashioned where river satisfies the sea of Bantry Bay. The Blue Pool is a verdant oasis, sheltered by the Caha Mountain selection and bathed in the heat waters of the Gulf Stream, which originates in the Gulf of Mexico, developing a sub-tropical model local climate. More out on Bantry Bay lies Garinish Island, an remarkable backyard garden island that usually takes whole benefit of the balmy conditions.

View of Bantry Bay.

View of Bantry Bay.

The ferry to Garinish leaves from Blue Pool and should really take less than 20 minutes. But there’s Seal Island to admire 1st, or fairly there’s a cluster of basking rocks peeping over the h2o and usually topped by some extremely chilled Harbour seals who aren’t just used to passing boats but relish any interest coming their way. There is a colony of about 250 seals on the way to Garinish so it’s impossible not to capture a number of flapping in and out of the water and normally preening for the digicam. 

The Irish title for Garinish is Oileán na Chulinn this means island of holly so it’s very likely it has prolonged been revered. To the historical Druids, the Holly was 2nd only to the oak in phrases of magical powers. 

The story of modern day-day Garinish begins in 1910 when a Belfast businessman Annan Bryce acquired the island from the British War workplace. Bryce and his wife Violet, both equally eager horticulturists, needed their new island property to turn out to be a botanical paradise. They commissioned Harold Peto, at the time a leading architect and yard designer, to attract up programs for a mansion and trend all around it a new Eden. The mansion was never ever designed but the island backyard garden, which Peto and the Bryces designed, is really heavenly. 

Surrounded by lapping sea, with the stony barren slopes of the Caha mountains in the length, the exquisite manicured natural beauty and wealthy inexperienced hues of Garinish are preternatural. Plants, shrubs, and trees that must never ever survive in the Irish local climate surround delicate grassy paths that wind throughout the island via the ornately decorated terraced pond, a collection of viewing platforms above the ocean, a walled garden, a very carefully preserved Martello Tower. All around each and every twist or turn of the route is a new delight, regardless of whether it is an intricately carved statue or a collection of massive blossoms from an unfamiliar tree. Garinish has been very carefully crafted to seduce the senses no matter of the period with rhododendrons and azaleas dominating in spring and ceding to climbers and perennials as summer time sets in.

Today Garinish is managed by the Irish Workplace of General public Operates and functions a coffee shop and restrooms.

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The Healy Move

The Healy Pass.

The Healy Move.

It is been explained as a single of Ireland’s biggest drives, and is surely as dramatic as it is unsafe. The Healy Move operates from Adrigole Bridge in County Cork and winds its way in excess of two of the best peaks of the Caha array prior to descending to Lauragh Bridge in County Kerry. On a distinct working day the surroundings is impressive. But fog and mist descend promptly in these pieces and, with a seemingly in no way-ending sequence of hairpin bends climbing via desolate boggy marshland, warning is advised.

The Healy Pass owes its existence to a single of the most heartbreaking periods of Irish historical past. In 1847, it was just one of the famine tasks on which the British govt insisted hungry men and women must labor ahead of remaining offered with foodstuff. Back then it was a bridleway or horse using path regarded as Bealach Scairt, or Way of the Sheltered Caves, which implies that laborers at the very least observed areas to choose protect when temperature conditions deteriorated all through the performs.

It was upgraded in the early 1930s and renamed the Healy Pass soon after a Bantry-born politician who grew to become the very first Governor-Basic of the ‘free state’ of Eire, as the region was regarded following the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921. Tim Michael Healy experienced at first been a member of the British parliament and a fierce supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party. But he famously led the heave in opposition to Parnell when the social gathering leader’s lengthy-expression partnership with Catherine O’Shea came to mild. Catherine O’Shea was married if estranged from her spouse and Parnell’s affiliation with her caused outrage each in Victorian Britain and pious Ireland. The tale goes that Parnell battling for his political lifestyle questioned his parliamentary bash colleagues: “Who is the grasp of the party?”. Healy retorted. “Aye, but who is the mistress of the celebration?” 

Healy stepped down as an MP in the course of the common election in December 1918, making way for Sinn Féin to take his seat. He disappeared from political life, only to be questioned back by the recently minted Irish governing administration in 1922 to get up the submit of Governor-Basic, effectively the British King’s representative to the Irish condition, which even now pledged allegiance to the British monarchy. 

From the Cork facet, the climb to the peak begins slowly but surely more than enough across open up lavatory, just before an at any time additional dizzying sequence of twists and turns mark the ascent to a lot more than 1,000 ft higher than sea level. Together the street and dotted throughout the in any other case empty marsh floor are community sheep. At the quite leading is a statue of Jesus on the cross, gazing down at the huge and empty valley under. 

Cresting the summit marks the passage from Cork into Kerry and a surprisingly extraordinary transform of landscape. Instead of endless miles of barren bathroom, this facet of the mountain is forested with a collection of lakes in the valleys and the sea in the length. Descending additional and the hedgerow, meadows, and very stone bridges full the perception of arriving not just in yet another county but an totally diverse country. 




If the Beara Peninsula has a cash it is Castletownbere, or the Castle Town of Beara as it’s identified in Irish. This is a bustling minor city and a busy fishing port. Apart from a plethora of fish dining places it also offers some superb bars such as McCarthy’s Bar created well-known by the English writer Pete McCarthy who wrote about it in the finest-providing e-book McCarthy’s Bar. 

Taken from the July / August 2019 concern of Ireland of the Welcomes journal. Subscribe to this bi-regular monthly print journal here.

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