• 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 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?

  • Hiking and Cycling Tours in the Beara Peninsula

    The Beara Peninsula in west Cork is one of Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours favourite sections of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Each of our multiday hiking and cycling tours travel through a section of the peninsula. Whether you are travelling to Ireland independently or as part of a group holiday the area has much to offer. In this article we outline some tips of things to do, some of our favourite parts and a little history of the area!!!!!
    The section of the N71 that connects Glengarriff to Kenmare is known as the Caha pass, named after the mountains it passes through. It is a ruggedly scenic drive, with views of the mountains, Bantry bay to the south and Kenmare to the North. In sections the road tunnels into the mountain which adds to wildness of the place. The peninsula that stretches out to the west of this road is the Beara peninsula, and it is one of the magical parts of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
    The name ‘Beara’ stretches back to mythical Ireland. Legend has it that the king of Ireland Owen Mór lost and got badly injured in a battle against Conn Céad Cathach. After Owen recovered from his injuries he sailed south towards Spain to seek help from the king of Castile to win back his lands. While in Castile Owen fell in love with the king’s daughter Princess Beara. He brought her with him back to Ireland and when he married her he named the region in her honour.
    The topography of the peninsula makes it a perfect destination for hiking and cycling tours and it has some of the best hikes and cycle routes in Ireland.
    If you are an inexperienced hiker or you are not travelling as part of an organised walking tour to Ireland then do not worry as there are many accessible options in the region.
    There are some easy day hiking tour options in Glengarriff Nature Reserve. Here there are looped walks ranging in length from 0.5Km to 3Km. There is parking and the routes are all marked. On these walking trails you will be trekking through native Irish woodlands of Oak, Ash and Holly, Lichens and Ferns and alongside streams and rivers. Some of the hikes offer rewarding views out over some majestic landscape.
    An option for a hike of medium difficulty and one of Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours favourite walks in Ireland is the excellent looped walk around Dursey Island, Irelands only island connected to the mainland by Cable Car. It is a shorty trip in the cable car trip over the Dursey Sound onto the island. The walk is marked and it takes approximately 4 hours to complete the hike. It is important to note that there are no shops or accommodation on the island. So, do bring some food and take note of the times of the last Cable Car off the island.
    If you prefer a more challenging day out on the mountains there are also fantastic hill walks in the peninsula. Two of Ireland’s best hikes, for the more adventurous, are hungry hill which rises to 682 meters over the village of Adrigole and can be seen from much of the peninsula and the hills of Coomacloghane and Tooth Mountain on the northern side of the peninsula near Glanmore lake. Before you set out on these hikes be sure that you are comfortable navigating on open mountains and be prepared for changeable weather.

    Cycling in West Cork.
    Cycling in West Cork.

    West of the town of Castletownbere the landscape is rugged and dramatic and as a result the roads are narrower, which prevents the larger tour busses travelling further west. These quieter roads are ideal to include in any cycling holiday in Ireland. During our 6 Day Adventure Tour we cycle a route from Castletownbere, heading west on the R572 turn right on a minor road on the western end of the town. The road steadily rises as views of the ocean start to come into view. Soon the road passes the Derreenataggart Stone Circle, it is almost hidden and if you were not looking out for it you would easily pass it by. The entrance is marked by a small sign post that can be obscured by the hedge overgrowth. This stone circle is definitely worth a stop and visit. After some more beautiful cycling with sweeping bends and adrenaline inducing quick descents you will re-join the R572. Further west along the R572 you will reach a turning to your left to the Buddhist retreat centre of Dzogchen Beara. The turning is marked by a number of prayer flags on tall poles, which are almost always blowing in the wind. Dzogchen Beara offers spiritual retreats and it is set in magnificent surroundings with its meditation room perfectly perched above the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors are welcome and it is worth calling in to see the views and have a bite to eat in their café. After you have had refreshment at Dzogchen there are two options. For a longer cycle you can cycle west and join the R575 to the village of Allihies, loop on to the R575 to Eyries and back via the R571 to Castletownbere. If you want a shorter day cycle you can return on the to Castletownbere from Dzogchen Beara and enjoy the treat of it being almost entirely downhill.
    Views from Dzogchen Beara
    Views from Dzogchen Beara

    Bear Island is a short ten-minute ferry ride from the main land. A cycle around the island makes for a fantastic day out. If you do not have your own bikes you can rent bikes from ‘Bike n Beara’ who are located on the eastern side of Castletownbere. From the bike rental shop cycle east on the R572 2.7Km 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 see the abandoned British military batteries. Then you can cycle west the length of the island. You can choose between the high road or low road, both equally beautiful. 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 lined with wild flowers and bring a sense of peace and tranquillity as you make your way gently around the island. At the western side of the island you can catch a ferry with the Bear Island ferry company which returns to the town of Castletownbere. Here you can get lunch before the short cycle back to ‘Bike n Beara’. This route fits perfectly into any cycling holiday in Ireland.

    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, this way we can get under the skin of its 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 it or what it is that you are searching for, the Beara Peninsula will not leave you disappointed. Through the towns, the colourful villages and scattered through the countryside of Beara there are museums, cafes, art studios and unexpected treats that will keep you entertained while you explore and will have you longing to return once you leave.

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

  • 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