Beara is one of five peninsulas that form the distinctive jagged-edged ‘fingers’ in South West Ireland. From North to South they are Dingle, Iveragh, Beara, Sheep’s Head and Mizen. Beara (Irish: Béarra) or the Beara Peninsula lies between Kenmare Bay on the north side and Bantry Bay on the south. Here you can experience the rugged beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way, no two parts of the coastline are the same. Beara stretches out in the middle and trully is a little kingdom of West Cork mystery.
As you see above, Beara is bounded at its most westerly point by Dursey Island, well worth a trip on the cable car. Dursey is the most southwesterly point in Ireland and an incredible place to go hill running.
Moving east along the shores of Bantry Bay, Castletownbere is the principal white fish port of Ireland. Further east still is the scenic village of Glengarriff which has been a tourist attraction from the 18th century.
Glengarriff is the southern gateway town to the Beara Peninsula while to the north, Kenmare, at the head of the Kenmare River, is the northern gateway town. The N71, Glengarriff to Kenmare road forms the eastern boundary of Beara. Glengarriff also has great Parkrun.
Further along the Beara way are the villages of Allihies, Eyeries and Ardgroom. Ardgroom holiday village was our base for a week in West Cork.
Ardgroom is a quaint, picturesque village perfectly located on the Ring of Beara. A central point for walkers, hikers, cyclists, runners who like hills and people enjoying the scenic drives in the area, Ardgroom is a great place to catch up with the locals for a cup of tea or a quiet pint at the village in!
This isn’t an advert for the Beara Way but I wanted to set the scene. Beara is often bypassed for famous cousins in Dingle, Cahersiveen or Bantry, its time had finally come through, just don’t tell too many people.
At the entrance to the magnificent Bantry Bay and just 2kms offshore from the town of Castletownbere, Bere Island is a quiet paradise that has many attractions for walkers, cyclists, bird-watchers and history lovers. Accessed by car ferries, and with a population of just 200, Bere Island retains that distinct, easy charm of a rural community far distant from city life.
Bere Island is also a popular destination for runners who join its weekly parkrun every Saturday. Every July, there’s a bigger test when the Bere Island Midsummer Run draws islanders, mainlanders and tourists alike to the West Cork island which has a rich history and a lively community. The race is part of the West Cork island series.
This was the 6th Midsummer Run which features a 5km and a 10km road race around the scenic roads of Bere Island, with views stretching from Whiddy Island to the USA. Previous winners of the 5K include Sportsworld’s own Andrea McNamara in 2017. There was also a great report on last years race from Mark Heffernan.
This year we had 4 runners taking part. Myself, Maura Ginty and Mark Heffernan in the 10K and Claire Harrington doing the 5K. The race starts at 1 PM and the best way to reach the start is to get the Murphys ferry boat at 10.30 or 11.30. The return trip is only €5.
The start at the GAA club is just a short 10-minute walk from the dock. The facilities are great with showers and changing areas.
This was my second time to run on Bere. My first was the Parkrun, during last June’s heatwave. I found the course challenging but definitely the most scenic I’ve run in Ireland. This years weather was similar with afternoon temperatures hitting 24 degrees. Just to warn you in advance there is a huge hill at the 3KM marker.
I love doing races in different parts of the country as you don’t know the runners and just have to see how the first few kilometres go. The course is two laps so I just settled with a group of 3 runners that was down to 2 after 3 kilometres. My strategy was just to sit on lap one and see how the race went. The course is very hilly so you aren’t going to run a super-fast time.
At 4K you get a break with a fast kilometre. I took my chance to inject a bit of pace and took the lead for the first time in the race. The next 5K was actually very tough as haven taken the lead I needed to keep it. When we got back around to the steepest part of the course between 8 and 9 kilometres the heat was beginning to bite. The top of that last hill couldn’t come soon enough but had enough in reserve to push down the last hill for a fast last kilometre and strong finish. Nice to take the win in 35.32 and get a new course record.
Maura won the women’s race in 44 minutes with Mark just behind. Claire ran 30 minutes in the 5K. I forgot to mention that Maura had won the Parkrun that same morning. They only make them like that in Mayo.
After some chill time on the island, the early evening was spent in Castletownbere at MacCarthy’s bar which is right on the main square. Holding pride of place at the heart of the town since 1860, for over 150 years, the bar has been passed down from generation to generation of MacCarthy, creating a deep-rooted connection between this establishment and the rich heritage of the Peninsula. It’s local, traditional… mesmerising. A little bit of history really. It’s just charismatic. You just have to see it, have to feel it and judge for yourself. Next and final stop was the Village Inn in Ardgroom.
This is an epic race in one of the best spots in Ireland. Such real silence is hard to find. I can’t recommend it enough! Bere Island is a super place, so good in fact that I spent all day Monday walking around and exploring the entire West end of the island and its rich history. I’ll be back next year and will hopefully make one of the other runs over the summer. If you can invite Maura Ginty and ask her to drive the convertible, you’ll be onto a winner.