The Beara Way takes you to secluded and unknown corners of Ireland. It is an incomparable experience for hikers who love remote and wild trails. The mixture of majestic mountain ranges, rugged cliffs and proximity to the coast make the Beara Peninsula a very special place. In this post, find out everything you need to know about hiking the Beara Way.
Not far from Killarney and the famous Ring of Kerry, the Beara Peninsula combines similar breathtaking landscapes with the tranquility and authenticity of a not yet fully developed holiday area.
The Beara Way runs around the entire peninsula and takes you to places where time seems to stand still. Visit lonely islands, hike over mountain passes and walk through valleys, where stone circles protrude from the ground, and you don’t meet anyone but sheep for hours.
1. Where is the Beara Way?
The Beara Way is a 152 km circular route in the south-west of Ireland. The starting point of the Beara Way is Glengarriff. From here this long-distance hiking trail loops around the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. The route can also be supplemented with additional stages on Bere Island and Dursey Island.
2. How long does a hike on the Beara Way take?
For a complete circumnavigation of the Beara Peninsula you should plan at least seven days of hiking time , if you take the stages on the islands it is nine. You can also choose to just walk part of the Beara Way and avoid some of the more difficult sections. With Hillwalk Tours, you can select your preferred duration and number of kilometers to walk per day choosing between 5 to 11-day hikes at Gentle, Moderate and Challenging levels.
3. What is the difficulty level of the Beara Way?
The Beara Way is considered a moderate to challenging hiking trail. The reasons for this are the total ascent of 5,000 meters in altitude and the fact that on some routes there are long distances between the individual overnight accommodations. The terrain can also be uneven and boggy on some sections.
4. How do I get to the Beara Way?
Those who want to travel by ferry can come from Cherbourg in France to the nearest port in Rosslare.
From Cork, take the local public bus number 252 or 236. It runs three times a day and will take you directly to Glengarriff in around two hours and there are also some local private bus providers operating from Cork City.
5. Where can I stay on Beara Way?
From B&Bs to hotels to campsites, hostels and even a Buddhist center, Beara has a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. B&Bs are especially recommended for hiking the route as they can be found in the many small villages along the trail.
When you’ve been out and about for hours in wind and weather, there’s nothing better than knowing that a hot shower and a cozy bed are waiting for you. In addition, B&Bs support the local economy and give hikers the chance to meet and talk with locals. In this way, hiking tourism greatly contributes to the economy of rural regions like Beara.
And after all, the hospitality of the Irish is not world famous for nothing.
6. What shopping and dining options are there on Beara Way?
Although the Beara Way leads to remote regions, hikers don’t have to worry about their physical well-being. The regional cuisine includes a lot of fresh fish and seafood, but there is also a good offer for vegetarians and vegans. There are restaurants, cafes and / or supermarkets in almost all of the small towns along the route.
In small villages like Adrigole and Lauragh there is only one small supermarket and one café, respectively. So make sure you arrive before the store closes at 7pm. Otherwise, however, you can usually book a meal in addition to an overnight stay in the B&B.
With only 6 residents, it’s not surprising that there are no facilitates on Dursey Island.
Weather and best travel time
7. When should I hike the Beara Way and what is the weather like in Beara?
The Beara Peninsula weather data shows that the period between April and October is best for hiking. Rainfall is lowest in April, June and July. July and August are the months with the highest average temperature.
However, these are only the general trends. In Ireland, especially near the coast, you have to expect daily weather changes and the famous “four seasons in one day”. This is where the Atlantic meets the mainland again for the first time and clouds like to gather along the mountain ranges of the Beara Peninsula.
We would recommend the summer months of June and July as the best travel time, because then the Fuchsias and Montbretia bloom along the way and enchant the landscape with their strong colors.
8. What do I need to bring with me for a hike on the Beara Way?
The standard equipment for a multi-day hike in Ireland should include the following items :
- Rainwear (jacket, pants and protection for the backpack)
- Good, worn-in and waterproof hiking boots
- Replacement hiking socks
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen)
- Sufficient water and provisions. A water filter helps fill up at streams and springs along the way.
- Mobile phone, charging cable and adapter
- Map and / or GPS receiver
- Alternating layers for different temperatures: good base layers (bottom layer, not cotton, please), fleece, long-sleeved T-shirt.
- First aid: blister plasters, petroleum jelly and headache tablets
For the Beara Way in particular, it is advisable to take other items with you:
- Light change of shoes. This will prevent you from getting blisters on longer stretches of tarred roads.
- Outdoor gaiters that you can pull over your shoes. They prevent water from entering your shoes on boggy stretches. Waterproof socks can also be an advantage on some sections of the Beara Way after heavy rain.
- Walking sticks
Maps for the Beara Way
9. What is the best walking map for the Beara Way and where can I buy it?
Here you can download GPS coordinates from Hillwalk Tours for your navigation device. When booking a hiking tour with Hillwalk Tours, you will also receive a walking pack with all the necessary maps and detailed turn-by-turn route notes.
“OS Maps” are the topographic maps of the official land survey in Ireland and contain valuable information on landscape elements such as archaeological monuments and every settlement, no matter how small. OS Maps numbers 84 and 85 cover the Beara Way and are available in the OSi online shop and in many outdoor shops around Ireland, especially in Cork, and also in some supermarkets on the peninsula.
Islands on the Beara Way
10. How can I visit the islands on Beara Way?
The Beara Way offers you the opportunity to get to know two very different, enchanting islands. The ferry or cable car that takes you to the respective island is right on the Beara Way. Both islands have circular trails that are part of the Beara Way route and allow you to explore these magical places on foot.
Bere Island is located in the south of the Beara Peninsula and is only 1.5 km from the mainland. A ferry takes you from the harbor in Castletownbere to Derrycreeveen in the west of the island in just 15 minutes. Another ferry runs further east between Pontoon and Rerrin , the largest settlement on Bere.
There are several pubs on Bere Island. O’Sullivan’s in Rerrin is a particular favorite. In Rerrin there is also a small shop with a post office and a café.
Bere Island has a long history. Archaeological monuments from the Bronze Age, the Middle Ages and military defenses, such as the characteristic Martello Towers, from the 19th century are still on the island today. While over 2,000 people once lived on Bere, the number of inhabitants declined sharply after the Great Famine. Today Bere Island still has around 200 residents.
Bere offers travelers not only silence and distance from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Bike rental and hiking trails enable outdoor fans to discover the island with their own muscles. On a “sea safari” you can watch dolphins, various birds and maybe even basking sharks by boat.
Hikers can choose different route options (14km / 24km) in Bere Island. Two circular routes run in the west and east of the island. If you want, you can connect the two to a double loop. However, all of the hiking trails reveal equally fantastic views of Bantry Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Dursey Island is located to the far west of Beara and can proudly claim to be Ireland’s only cable car . This is not only a tourist attraction, it also serves to bring the approximately six residents from the island to the mainland. Given the low population, it is not surprising that there are no shopping opportunities or facilities on Dursey.
The island’s remoteness in particular enables visitors to observe local wildlife and enjoy a slower pace of life.
A branch of the Beara Way takes you all the way to Dursey Sound, the body of water that separates the island from the mainland. The trail forks just before Allihies and the trail markings lead explicitly to the west to Dursey, or east to Allihies. The Dursey Island Loop Walk is 15km and takes you from one end of the island to the other. It has an ascent of 250 meters.
Highlights on the Beara Way
11. What are the special highlights of a hike on the Beara Way?
Countless things make the Beara Way a terrific experience and everyone who hikes it will experience unforeseen, unique moments. After all, the beauty of hiking consists largely of its closeness to nature, which is different in every moment.
A rainbow over a mountain pass, the glittering sun on the waves, an amusing conversation in the pub, raindrops in a spider web or a hiker playing bagpipes by a lake are the special moments that cannot be planned and that make a hike unforgettable. And if something goes wrong, comfort yourself with the fact that small mishaps make the best stories in retrospect.
The landscape scenery of Beara is definitely a big highlight. As a peninsula, Beara offers beautiful views of the sea, as well as the impressive mountain peaks of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks on the opposite Kerry peninsula, the highest mountains in Ireland. The Beara Way also takes you to remote valleys and lonely mountain passes, where there is no house or soul to be seen and you think time has stood still.
The incredible number of archaeological sites contribute to this impression. The vast majority of all stone circles are in this part of Ireland and the Beara Way will take you straight to some excellently preserved specimens of these mysterious monuments.
History buffs also pay a visit to the Allihies Mining Museum. Here you can find out all about the time when Allihies was the largest copper mine in Ireland. The chimneys of the old mines still tower up into the sky between stone walls and green fields.
The contemporary, colorful rainbow houses that nestle in the hilly landscape in Eyeries, Ardgroom and Allihies are also a magical sight. A visit to Dursey Island and a ride on Ireland’s only cable car are also among the very special experiences in Beara.
The different stages of the Beara Way
Read everything you need to know about the highlights of the individual route sections and the local infrastructure. The stages and experience reports described here are directly from two walkers on the Beara Way. But they are only one example of the possible stage and stopover options on the Beara Way.
With Hillwalk Tours you can choose from various route options and thus adapt the length and difficulty of your hike and the corresponding day stages.
From Glengarrif to Adrigole
Length: 13km, 640 meters in altitude
On site in Glengarriff: Glengarriff is a vibrant town with a characteristic harbor, hotels, small shops (including a hat atelier), a small Spar supermarket and the opportunity to visit the tropical gardens of Garinish Island.
On site in Adrigole: Adrigole is significantly smaller. Peg’s XL Shop was the only way to get food when we visited. It is open Monday through Sunday at 7 p.m. The Adrigole Arts Café is another mile and a half in the wrong direction.
Our experiences between Glengarrif and Adrigole
This section was by far one of the most beautiful and strenuous days on the entire Beara Way and includes Oakwood of the Blood, one of the few forest areas. As we crossed the quiet Coomerkane Valley, we saw a bizarre sight: a giant plastic dinosaur, a gorilla and a crocodile in the front yard of a house!
My partner and I tried to walk this section as slowly as possible and to enjoy the time in nature to the fullest. A picnic on the mountain pass, which also marks the highest point of the Beara Way, is highly recommended. The beautiful view of the romantic Bantry Bay and the majestic Sugarloaf Mountain make up for the steepest ascent of the route that you have behind you after the first day
From Adrigole to Castletownbere
Length: 22km, 700 meters in altitude
On site in Castletown: Castletownbere is a port town equipped with all the necessary facilities. There is a supermarket, pubs, restaurants, hotels, pharmacies, a bank and even a dentist .
Our experiences between Adrigole and Castletownbere
This stage was very enchanting and incredibly long. First we passed the imposing Hungry Hill with its perfect pyramid-shaped top and a structure like elephant skin. Then we saw Bere Island lying next to us and hours before we got to Castletownbere the city was already in sight. That gave us the wrong impression that we were almost there. Instead of leading directly to the place, the path made wide arcs. However, these led us to such magical places as a hidden valley framed by rocks, where the murmuring Rosmackowen River was ideal for swimming.
From a distance we could hear the music of the fair and when we finally arrived in Castletownbere late in the evening, life was raging there at the annual See Festival and some brave people danced in front of a big stage.
From Castletownbere to Allihies
Length: 15km, 500 meters in altitude
On site in Allihies: Allihies is a spectacularly situated village with a crescent-shaped beach, small shops, a supermarket, the mining museum and two trendy bars The museum café has great food and art on the walls. It is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Our experience between Castletownbere and Allihies
The section from Castletownbere to Allihies was our rainy day. For the first few hours, I found the muffled silence of the rain and the white mountain peaks to be romantic. In a field shortly after Castletownbere we marveled at the well-preserved Dereenataggart stone circle . The rain continued and slowly it became exhausting. No panorama but only the next path marker in the form of a yellow hiker who shone towards us from the misty soup, rewarded the climb.
In the valley the clouds lifted and it was as if the color returned to the world. Blackberries hung heavily from the thorns in Allihies. In the Museum Cafe we dried our shoes and warmed ourselves with tea and soup.
From Allihies to Eyeries
Length: 14km, 435 meters in altitude
On site in Eyeries: Eyeries is perhaps the prettiest little town on Beara Way. Everywhere flower pots adorn the streets and numerous benches and a sensory garden invite you to linger. A multifunctional corner shop doubles as a post office and bank and supplies its customers with all the groceries they need. At Cindy’s Gems Café , great things are on the menu during the day (the vegan cake is fantastic). In the evening the popular bistro and the Causkey’s Bar open its doors.
Our experiences between Allihies and Eyeries
We left for Eyeries on a bright and bright May morning. The deep blue ocean shone against the sky as we followed the winding path past the ruins of an old copper mine up to Knockoura, the fragrant mountain. The climb was again a tough start, but the view of the famous rock island Skellig Michael made up for it. When we arrive at the pass, a wide, green plain spreads out in front of us, the colorful houses of Eyeries with tiny splashes of color.
Again the path did not lead directly into the village, but took us to the beach and circled the village. So we got the pleasure to swim briefly in the icy sea and admire the view of the opposite Iveragh Peninsula . In Eyeries we treated ourselves to a burger at Cindy’s Gems Café and an after-work beer at Causeky’s Bar and were lucky enough to watch a great sunset over the bay from the balcony.
From Eyeries to Lauragh
Length: 27km, 355 meters in altitude.
This section can be divided into two stages with an overnight stay in Ardgroom (14km).
On site in Ardgroom: Whether you stay in Ardgroom or continue hiking, it is worth stopping here. In contrast to Lauragh, there is a well-stocked small supermarket and the Village Inn is a bar that also offers typical pub food such as “fish and chips”.
On site in Lauragh: When we arrived in Lauragh in the evening, we immediately went to Mountain View B&B and our path did not cross any opportunities to shop or stop. The Pedals and Boots Café gets good reviews on Trip Advisor. It closes at 5pm (April to August) so make sure you get to Lauragh early or, alternatively, pre-order an evening meal at the B&B.
Our experience between Eyeries and Lauragh
On our hike from Eyeries to Ardgroom we had excellent weather again. First the Beara Way took us along dunes to the ruins of a burned coast guard and on quiet country roads to the long lake Lough Fada. Here we took our first quarter-distance break, where golden grass swayed in the wind and white clouds were reflected in the lake.
The path then led us to a ridge from where we saw the entire MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland, in front of us. Outside the supermarket in Ardgroom, another hiker we knew from our B&B was sitting in the sun reading. We drank tea and set out on a stretch that led us away from the coast and deep into the mountains. The impressive stone circles of Cashelkeelty lined the path.
We went through dark rhododendron thickets down into the wooded Lauragh, where we arrived exhausted but happy at our B&B.
From Drombohilly to Kenmare
Length: 19km, 550 meters in altitude
On site in Kenmare: Kenmare is a real town and the gateway to many outdoor activities. This is where the Beara Way meets the Kerry Way. The colorful wooden facades of small shops line the main street and a large number of cafés, restaurants, chip stalls and supermarkets ensure that the stomachs of hungry hikers do not stay empty for long.
Unfortunately the Bookworm Café was already closed when we arrived, but the combination of books and vegetarian food sounds promising. Kenmare also has a pharmacy, bank, post office, dentist and general practitioner .
Our experience between Drombohilly and Kenmare
The host of our B&B kindly brought us to Drombohilly and saved us from walking four kilometers on the country road. It was cloudy in the morning when we walked up a wide sheep meadow to the first pass. Since it hadn’t rained for days, the ground was dry and offered good support. In wet weather, however, this route is undoubtedly muddy. Hiking boots with a sturdy profile, hiking sticks and gaiters are therefore particularly recommended for this route.
The descent brought us to one of the most beautiful places on the Beara Way: the Uragh stone circle . The millennia-old monument is located on the banks of a lake, nestled between wooded slopes overlooking the waterfall of the Gleninchaquin Valley.
Another mountain pass revealed new perspectives on the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. Past yellow gorse blossoms, country roads and villa-like houses, we finally arrived at the bridge to Kenmare. It felt meaningful to cross the river before we walked back to our car at the end of our hike through the bustling streets of Kenmare.
From Kenmare to Glengarriff
Length: 24 to 27km, depending on the route option. 480 to 530 meters in altitude.
You can also split this route over two days with an overnight stay in Bunane (12-15km away).
On site in Bunane: Bunane is a tiny place, but is home to Benoit Lorge’s exquisite chocolaterie. For a more hearty dinner, contact the operator of your B&B and stock up on enough provisions in Kenmare.
On site in Glengarriff : In Glengarriff, there are hotels that invite you to stop by, small shops, a supermarket and, especially important for the departure, bus connections directly to Cork.
Personally, we did not hike the Kenmare to Glengarriff section. But if you walk the entire Beara Way as a circular route, you leave the proximity to the coast here and walk from north to south where the peninsula meets the mainland.
From Kenmare, the Beara Way follows small country roads and avenues for a few kilometers. On a clear day, look out over the Caher Mountains and arrive at the Bunane Heritage Center. Here you can learn about the rich archaeological heritage of the region and then perhaps pay a visit to Lorge’s Cholocaterie afterwards .
Behind Bunane, a steep climb awaits you that will take you up to the Esk Mountain pass. Now Bantry Bay is in front of you and you can enjoy the enchanting sea view again. The last section before Glengarriff lets you immerse yourself under the green canopy of the Glengarrif Forest Reserve until the Beara Way ends where your hike began many days ago.