• Hiking and Biking on the Beara Peninsula

    The Beara Peninsula is a magical part of Ireland and it is one of Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours favourite sections of the Wild Atlantic Way. The Peninsula is located on the southwest coast of Ireland. It lies between the Sheep’s Head Peninsula to the south and the Iveragh Peninsula to the North. Here is a little information about Peninsula and a couple of hiking and biking recommendations.

    The name Beara:
    The name ‘Beara’ originates from a time when Kings and Chieftains ruled Ireland. According to legend the king of Ireland Owen Mór lost and got badly injured in a battle against his great rival Conn Céad Cathach (Con of the hundred battles). Owen was nursed back to health on the western tip of Beara. When he had recovered, he readied his ship and crew to set sail on the Atlantic Ocean. He sailed south to the kingdom of Castile in Spain. Here he requested the assistance from the King of Castile to help him win back his lands from Conn Céad Cathach. While in Castile, Owen fell in love with the King’s daughter, Princess Beara. He returned to Ireland, bringing the princess with him. When he won back his lands, he named this region in her honour.

    Cycling in West Cork.
    Cycling in West Cork.

    Hiking on the Beara Peninsula:
    The land here is rugged. There is a line of mountains and hills stretching the length of the Peninsula. It is threaded by trails and quiet country roads and has mile after mile of Atlantic coast line. All of this combined makes it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
    The Glengarriff Nature Reserve lies to the north of the town of Glengarriff (Rough Glen). In the reserve there are a range of looped scenic and accessible walks. On these walking trails you will be trekking through native Irish woodlands of Oak, Ash and Holly. Lichens coat the trees and ferns line the streams and rivers. There are rewarding views over the majestic landscape.
    Dursey island is on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula. It the only Island in Ireland that is connected to the mainland by Cable Car. There is an excellent looped walk that runs all around the Island. The trail is signposted and it takes 4 hours to complete the hike. There are no shops or accommodation on the Island. So, bring food and take note of the times of the last Cable Car off the island.
    If you are more adventurous and prefer a challenging hike there are a number of harder hikes. One of the best of these is on the fantastically named Hungry Hill. Hungry Hill is near the village of Adrigole and it is 682 meters high. It can be seen from much of the peninsula and beyond. There are a number of approaches you can take to climb the mountain but care is required as there are some cliff faces that pose a danger. Be prepared for changeable weather. Navigation and compass skills are essential.

    Biking on the Beara Peninsula:
    Castletownbere is the main town on the Peninsula. It is a great location for lunch, dinner and refreshments! West of the town the landscape is rugged and dramatic. The roads are narrower and therefore much quieter and ideal for biking. On leaving Castletownbere turn right on a minor road on the western end of the town. From here the road rises steadily and views of the ocean unfold. After 10 minutes cycling you will arrive at the Derreenataggart Stone Circle. The entrance is marked by a small sign post that can often be obscured by the hedge overgrowth. If you are not looking out for it you could easily pass it by. Irish stone circles date from the bronze age and this one is definitely worth visiting. From the Stone Circle there is a section of beautiful cycling with sweeping bends and adrenaline inducing quick descents. The route re-joins the R572 and continues west. Soon you will reach the Buddhist retreat centre of Dzogchen Beara. The entrance is marked by a number of prayer flags. Visitors are welcome and it is worth calling in to see the amazing setting and have a bite to eat in their café.

    Views from Dzogchen Beara
    Views from Dzogchen Beara

    From here there are two options. You can return the same route to Castletownbere, enjoying the treat of it being almost entirely downhill. For a longer cycle, continue west on the R575 to the village of Allihies, followed by Eyries. The colourful villages of Allihies and Eyries are pretty places to stop along the route. From Eyries return to Castletownbere via the R571. This is a testing but very rewarding cycle.

    Allihies Village, West Cork.
    Allihies Village, West Cork.

    Another great biking option is around Bear Island. Bear Island is a ten-minute ferry journey from the mainland. From Castletownbere cycle east on the R572, 4 Km to the small harbour to board Murphy’s ferry to Bear Island. The ferry lands at the village of Rerrin. Here there is a small shop and café. From Rerrin cycle east to explore the abandoned British Military Batteries. From the Military Batteries you can cycle the length of the island to its western tip. Although the island is hilly, most of the cycling is not too strenuous and any steep sections are easily walked. There are fantastic views out to the Atlantic, across to Sheep’s head and back to the mainland. The island roads are quiet, winding and in the spring and summer they are lined with wild flowers. All of this brings a sense of peace and tranquillity. From the western side of the island you can take a ferry with the Bear Island ferry company which returns to the town of Castletownbere.

    Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours favourite way to explore any region along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, including the Beara peninsula, is through one of our hiking and cycling tours. Our tours get under the skin of Irelands wildness and rugged beauty. If you are interested in joining our guided hiking and cycling tours of Ireland we would be delighted to hear from you. But no matter how you explore or what it is that you are searching for, the Beara Peninsula will not leave you disappointed and will have you longing to return long after you leave.

  • Autumn reflections.

    As Summer turns to Autumn the natural world slows and the preparation for Winter begins. Farmers fill their barns with crops, animals gather and store food for the oncoming winter and trees begin to shed their leaves. This year, as summer passes, I too find myself taking stock. When I set-up Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours, I had the ambition to take people into the Irish outdoors to enjoy the wild beauty and natural wonder that Ireland has to offer and to immerse visitors in the history and culture of Ireland.
    Joining a Beyond the Glass Adventure Tour is a journey into the outdoors, where you will go ‘beyond the glass’ to spectacular off the beaten track locations. You will enjoy activities in breathtakingly beautiful locations along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. On our tours most of the time is spent in the outdoors, be it by the ocean, on a mountainside, on a forest trail or in a National park. The activities are pursuits almost everybody can enjoy – hiking, cycling and boat trips.
    When you take part in a Beyond the Glass Adventure Tour you soon get into a nice rhythm. Each morning after enjoying a leisurely breakfast there is the day’s activity, such as a coastal walk, a mountain hike or a cycle through one of Ireland’s National Parks. This is followed by lunch and a visit to one of the Wild Atlantic Ways signature discovery points, which include castles and other historic sites. Each day includes a drive or a boat trip through magnificent scenery. In the evenings there is time to enjoy local food, a Guinness and traditional Irish music, before you retire for the night to rest for the next day’s adventure.
    Our tours can be an antidote to the busyness of today’s world; although they do not completely avoid it, you will come to some busier places where you will encounter tourist vying to take selfies. But the tours are designed to maximise time spent outside, give the richest experience of Ireland and take place in off the beaten track locations.
    Importantly, while participating on our tours there are no penalties for taking your time. If you move slower and end up at the back of the group; this gives you the landscape to yourself and more time to soak up the views. If a person is delayed getting to the tour vehicle or a boat does not leave at exactly the correct time, It’s no problem, it’s Irish time, it’s your vacation time. An example of this occurred during day 7 of a 2019 8 Day adventure tour. The day began with an hour’s drive from Roundstone to Connemara National Park. While on the drive and within a few miles of our destination we came upon a traffic jam (A traffic jam deep in Connemara on a Sunday morning is not a regular occurrence). We soon learned the cause of the traffic jam was a minor car accident. There was no one injured but before we could progress the cars had to be cleared from the road, which we were told would take 15 minutes. Our wait ended up being closer to 2 hours. I wanted this day, like all days of the tour, to run smoothly and the participants not to be inconvenienced. I was a little concerned about the impact of the delay, but I had no need to worry. Yes, there was slight impatience and occasionally I was asked how long more the wait would be, but in the main everyone was relaxed. During the wait some chatted with locals who were also caught up in the traffic jam, some took a nap in the bus and others walked the roads and enjoyed the colourful hedgerows. By now the participants had spent 6 days on vacation in the outdoors and were more in tune with the rhythms of nature rather than man made clocks. They were not put out, It was another experience on their journey through outdoor Ireland. After we got moving the day continued with a slightly altered plan.

    We live in a time when the speed of life seems to have changed, shifted-up through the gears to super quick. It can feel frantic with ever changing work targets, news feeds that change hourly and Instagram changing by the second. Constantly evolving technology can feel unavoidable as its incorporated into our lives. But we can go ‘beyond the glass’ of the office PC, the office window and the screen of our device and step outside to spend time in nature. Time in nature can be a grounding experience and allow us to sync with the rhythm of the natural world, where the earth still takes 24 hours to complete one revolution and ~365 days to circle the Sun, and the lunar cycle continues to cause the ebb and flow of the tides. Perhaps with each venture to the outdoors we may gain a little more awareness and when we return to our busy worlds, we may move a little slower and steadier. Each Beyond the Glass Adventure Tour is a unique venture into the wilds of Ireland. Maybe you will come join me on one of these adventures soon?

  • Roundstone to Westport – Day 7 and Day 8 of our 8 Day Adventure Holiday on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

    Have you ever been away in a beautiful location for a period of time and you begin to take where you are for granted? When I am leading tours and spend extended periods of time in the outdoors there are times when I begin to take where I am for granted. Then I cycle around the next headland or hike over the next horizon and I am greeted by a view which stops me in my tracks and brings me right back to the current moment.

    My world your world

    An 8 Day Adventure Holiday on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, with its spectacular scenery combined with the ever changing light from the ever changing weather, is full of such re-grounding moments. I had one of these moments as I guided the tour group up Errisbeg on Sunday morning.

    Errisbeg Mountain

    Errisbeg is a mountain in miniature, for a 300-meter-high mountain it packs a mighty punch. It is rugged, has steep rock faces, hidden lakes and it even has four summits. From the summits there are panoramic breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean, the fishtail beaches of Gorteen and Dogs bay, the countless lakes and bog lands of Connemara and beyond this are the higher nobler mountain ranges of the Maum Turks and the Twelve Bens. The tour group hiked to the top of the mountain with a small amount of effort. The few passing rain showers that fell did not dampen the groups spirits in anyway. This was a fantastic way to start day 7 of the 8 day Adventure Holiday on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

    Views in all directions on errisbeg mountain

    After the hike we got back on the tour bus and continued west through Ballyconneely and passed the Coral Beach at Mannin Bay. The next stop was at Derrigmlagh Bog which is the site of Marconi’s first permanent transatlantic radio station and the landing site for the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight by Alcock and Brown. Here we enjoyed the gentle 5 Km walk with interpretive points along the way. At one of the interpretive points we learned the calling sounds of some of the birds in the region. This resulted in plenty discussion among the group and we attempted to identify the skylarks and meadow pipets call as we completed the walk.

    We continued our Adventure Holiday on through Clifden and took the N59 northwards on the Connemarra loop. We stopped in the lovely village of Letterfrack for lunch and browsed around the village craft shops. The next stop was at the picturesque village of Leenane, which sits at the head of Ireland’s only true Fjord, Killary Harbour. Leenane has been used for the location of some great films down through the years and when you visit it and see its scenic location you can understand exactly why.

    Aasleagh falls outside Leenane

    Leaving Leenane, the tour settled in for the final leg of the day as we travelled towards Westport. Crossing into county Mayo we visited Aasleagh waterfall and the Doo lough Pass. We took a quiet moment by the shore of Doo lough, and here I recalled the memory of the fallen victims of the Potato famine, particularly the victims who tragically died on the infamous March of 1849 from Louisburgh to Delphi lodge, where they were refused aid from the English landlord.

    National Famine Monument with Croagh Patrick in the background

    We spent the night in the town of Westport. Here there are many good quality restaurants to eat and some great Irish pubs to have a pint, and we did exactly that.

    On the final morning of the 8 Day Adventure Tour we started the day with a hearty breakfast in our Westport bed and breakfast. We then travelled to Newport where we enjoyed a wonderful cycle on the great western greenway to Mulranny. The last stop of the tour was Mulranny beach and salt flats where we had a gentle walk. We were blessed to be the only ones on the beach. There was an air of calm with the mixed song of the ocean, bleating sheep and singing birds. A suitable end to a magnificent 8 Day Adventure Tour on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

    Mulranny Beach

    Peace of the West -Video