Friday, October 14, 2011
On the Beara peninsula
The nearest to Coomhola of the several peninsulas that reach out from West Cork into the Atlantic is the Beara peninsula around which runs a route labeled the ‘Ring of Beara’. The ‘Ring of Beara’, although less in terms of scale, has as much scenically to offer as that of Kerry but without the razzmatazz. Yesterday I drove out on the road that skirts the south coast of Beara. Near Adrigole, a village at the head of a sea inlet, I watched several otters swimming across the sea in front of me. Later, at the agreeable small town/ large village of Castletown Bearhaven, I rested and sheltered from the rain in the Copper Kettle café where I chose, from an excellent display of irresistible home-cooked cakes and pastries, a generously cream-topped slice of multi-berry crumble to accompany an equally good coffee. The peninsular terminates at Dursley Head, the western tip of Dursley Island to which what must be a unique cable car runs above the narrow channel separating the island from the mainland. Beara was far from free of tourists, I doubt that anywhere in Ireland is that, but they were few and, on the whole, seemed to be like myself, un-organized folk who, rather than travelling from one pre-ordained site to another, travel rather blindly trusting to stumble serendipitously on something or other interesting and worthy of further investigation; folk who prefer to make their own guide books rather than read the often spurious opinions of others. Here in the Beara I felt able to connect with the spirit of place; a sensation that had eluded me on the ‘Ring of Kerry’.
Turning my back on Dursley Island I took the road that runs along the north shore of Beara where copper mining flourished during the nineteenth century. Near to the colourful village of Allihies, traces of the copper mining industry, derelict chimneys and buildings, remain and green stains, evidence of copper ore, are clearly visible in the cliffs that edge the sea. At O’Neill’s Bar in Allihies I stopped for lunch; my now almost regular daily pint of Guinness and the second excellent, overfull crab sandwich of my trip.
Red-billed Choughs aerobated from cliffs above me somewhere between Allihies and Lauragh, where the road turned to take me over the Healy Pass and back to the south coast of the peninsula. The narrow, poorly surfaced road climbs up through apparently magnificent mountain scenery, sight of much of which was denied me by prevailing inclement conditions. The weather had been far from pleasant all day. As the afternoon wore on, it was rapidly deteriorating. However, as I descended from the summit of the pass the sun almost broke through the cloud to produce some truly amazing skyscapes above an equally amazing landscape.
Should, before I leave next week, the west of Ireland be favoured with anything approaching clear weather, I shall return to Beara to see some of what I missed yesterday, to enjoy another of the Copper Kettle’s pastries and, perhaps, to feast on yet another crab sandwich in O’Neill’s Pub.