Bere Island: Off the beaten path in Ireland

March 29, 2021 by
POSTED BY March 29, 2021

The Beara Way trail around the Beara Peninsula is one of the lesser known but best hiking destinations in Ireland. One of the highlights along this long-distance hike is Bere Island, a sparsely populated isle of less than 20 square kilometers.

Bere is a beautiful island to visit and is also a place of special historical importance. From prehistoric megalithic tombs and stone circles to a centuries-long history of military activity on the island – historical heritage can be found at every corner of the island.

The Beara Way Hillwalk Tours
Bere Island Lighthouse

History of Bere Island

The oldest forms of historical heritage on the island date back to prehistoric times. Traditional Irish dolmens and other megalithic funeral monuments are scattered around the island. The 3 meter high standing stone of Gallán and the Ardaragh wedge tomb are the most important archaeological finds from this time.

Bere Island, Hillwalk Tours
Bere Island

Located in a large, deep natural bay, the island has also been an important strategic navel location. Starting in the eighteenth century, there were several times when French fleets entered this area bringing troops to support Irish rebellions. In response, the British built round defensive towers called Martello Towers. Two of these towers can still be seen on the island today.

Martello Tower, Bere Island, Hillwalk Tours
Martello Tower, Bere Island

The island also played an important role during the Irish War of Independence: several Irish independence fighters were imprisoned here. Until just before the Second World War, the British had army bases on the island.

Hiking on Bere Island, Hillwalk Tours
Hiking on Bere Island

One of the most iconic sights on the island is Ardnakinna lighthouse. Although the history of this structure does not go back that far – the tower was completed in 1965 – it is one of the must-see places for walkers while exploring the island.

Beara Way Hillwalk Tours Ltd.
Bere Island Lighthouse

How do you get there?

So how do you get there? Although it feels like a remote destination, the island is close to the bustling harbour town of Castletownbere. From here, several ferries depart daily to Bere Island. The cruise only takes about 10 minutes.

Ferry from Castletownbere to Bere island. Photo: Kevin Higgins / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Beara Way is one of Ireland’s most unique hiking trails. It can often feel like you are the only hikers on the trail which is a magical feeling. This is especially the case on Bere Island: quiet coastal paths and secluded back roads add to it’s appeal as a special hiking location.

Bere Island, Hillwalk Tours
Bere Island

Curious about this unique island and the unspoilt Beara Peninsula? Visit our Beara Way homepage for more information.