The Beara Way is a 152km (95 mile) long circular route around the Beara Peninsula that begins and ends in Glengarriff, County Cork. The route passes through magnificently rugged mountain and seacoast scenery in Counties Kerry and Cork. Additional walks (e.g. on Bere Island and Dursey Island) can bring the overall length of the Beara Way to more than 200km.
The Beara Peninsula itself (as opposed to the Beara Way) is a 48km long mountainous stretch of land which reaches into the Atlantic Ocean. Quite remote, it has remained perhaps the most unspoilt part of the southwest region of Ireland, and, similar to the Kerry Way to the north, it is a magical world of mountains and lakes surrounded by a picturesque seacoast. The route frequently passes superb archaeological evidence of a prehistoric people in the form of standing stones and burial monuments.
There are also many lovely villages and towns along the trail, such as Glengarriff, Castletownbere, Kenmare, Allihies and Eyeries. A loop of the route includes a visit to Bere Island, and (by an exciting trip on Ireland’s only cable-car) a visit to the sparsely inhabited Dursey Island.
The Beara Way is traditionally walked in a clockwise direction, starting out from Glengarriff and then heading southwest towards Adrigole and Castletownbere on forest trails and mountain paths. From Castletownbere, a ferry is taken out to Bere Island, which has a lovely coastal trail around the tiny island.
The trail continues on from Castletownbere to the colourful village of Allihies, where it then splits – the trail heading west leads to Dursey Sound. From there, a cable car goes out to Dursey Island where there is a scenic mountainous walk. From Allihies, the trail heading northeast takes you to Eyeries and then Ardgroom, which are two more colourful and picturesque villages.
From Ardgroom, the trail heads through Lauragh and on to Kenmare, along a mixture of mountain paths and deserted minor roads. Kenmare is a popular, bustling tourist town, which links the Beara Way to the south, with the Kerry Way to the north. From Kenmare, the trail turns south on two route options to loop back to Glengarriff, via Bunane.
The walking route follows forest trails, miners' tracks, mountain paths, bog roads, cliff and woodland paths, open moorland and quiet tarmac roads. Parts of the trail can be muddy after periods of rain and some of the mountain sections can be quite rugged and remote.
The total aggregate ascent is approximately 5,000m over the entire route and includes a number of steep but short climbs. The only long climb is the mountain section between Glengariff and Adrigole where the trail also reaches its highest elevation of 560m.
Elevation Profile (excluding Bere and Dursey Island) (Click image to enlarge)
Terrain by Stages
Glengarriff – Adrigole: Quiet forest road into a mountain valley, then steep climb on boggy and, especially after rain, in places very wet track and path. Moderately steep descent into Adrigole on the last few kilometres.
Adrigole – Castletownbere: Rugged and sometimes boggy mountain terrain along deserted mountain paths and tracks. Slippery in places if wet.
Bere Island: Coastal tracks and remote paths on the western side towards the lighthouse. Quiet island roads on the eastern side.
Castletownbere – Allihies: Road walk out of Castletownbere, then a quiet mountain path over the hills.
Allihies – Dursey Sound: Coastal path overlooking the Atlantic Ocean as far as Dursey Sound.
Dursey Island: Exposed mountain terrain on the hike to the western end. Return along a scarcely used island road.
Allihies – Eyeries: Mountain track uphill out of Allihies then a boggy path across the side of the hill before descending into Eyeries.
Eyeries – Lauragh: Flat coastal path initially, then a long road walk before a trek across rugged, occasionally boggy terrain.
Lauragh – Kenmare: A road walk followed by more mountainous off-road terrain. Two steeper climbs.
Kenmare – Glengarriff: Road walking from Kenmare to Bunane. Mountain track from Bunane to Glengarriff with stunning views over Bantry Bay.