I spent last weekend driving around West Cork and South Kerry from my base in Killarney. In need of a session to keep me ticking over on Saturday morning, I went looking for a Parkrun. I’d run the Killarney Parkrun last December. It’s a fine course but I wanted something new and more interesting. My plan for Saturday was to visit Bere Island in the afternoon. Whilst doing my research I saw they host a Parkrun on the island. After a quick check-in with Parkrun enthusiast Maura Ginty, I had my directions and a glowing recommendation. From Killarney, it is about a 90 minutes drive along the N71. One of the most scenic roads in the country. A 5.45 start but well worth it to see the sun rise on the Cork / Kerry border.
There are 2 ferries servicing Bere Island. Murphy’s Ferry sails between Rerrin Village and the Pontoon. I got this one at 8AM. Bere Island Ferries sails between Oilean na gCaorach, West End Bere Island and Castletownbere. This is the more popular ferry. It leaves at 9 AM and there is a bus to drop you to the start line and back. All for €10. There is no need to book either. If you have a car I’d recommend the 8 AM ferry as it leaves you 5 minutes from the start and gives you time to explore afterward.
Always one to be early. I arrived at the Pontoon at 7.40 AM, after stopping for one too many times for photos. 20 minutes later I was on the island and being greeted by a local lady who asked me if I was here the run? She then kindly invited me in for coffee. The Bere Island park run, which is on the Wild Atlantic Way offers spectacular scenery of Bantry Bay with a route which takes in a Bronze Age wedge tomb, remains of a Viking boatyard and a former World War One military battery.
The parkrun began on the island on August 29th, 2014 and has grown from strength to strength. Since then, much has changed, the Parkrun has become a regular activity on the Island, making a huge positive impact on the community. About two hundred people live on Bere Island but over six hundred people that have registered Bere Island park run as their home run; I think that says it all.
The course is well marked but there is a allot of holes in the road after the harsh winter. They have a timing clock at the end which is great and a very friendly team of organisers. The local GAA club is used for changing and showers. True to island life it doesn’t get locked. This might have something to do with the fact that the army has a base on the island. The advice from the race marshal was quite amusing in his thick accent “dont run towards the bullets”, “dont run through the village”.
The 5k measured course goes around the eastern end of the island near Rerrin Village. It’s a single lap course but much hillier than most Parkruns that you find in Dublin. The course record for men is 16:04. I went into the race thinking that was doable but after a first KM of 3.40 I was thinking maybe not. The course is amazing. You start off downhill but quickly hit too short steep inclines. To your left is the army shooting range with the sound of gunfire in the distance. You start to pick up the pace when you hear the bullets. The scenery all around the course is top class. Gorgeous cliffs give way to rolling hills. The first 4K is mostly all hills. There is a few flat sections but It’s not until the very last section which is all downhill that you really get moving past 10K pace. They had a lot of visitors on Saturday. 40 or so Air Corps cadets who had been down in the Army barracks all week on an adventure/training camp ran.
It was rather a warm morning (I don’t want to say too hot-we might jinx the great weather we’ve been getting). There was some cloud cover to start with giving a nice cooling effect, but it wasn’t long before the clouds separated letting the sun cast its waves of heat down on us, making for very warm running conditions. I finished in an official time of 17:18 which puts me 5th on the all-time list. It’s rare that I would run so slow for a 5K but I found the heat, holes in the road and hills tough.
I don’t reckon I could take more than 30 seconds off that. It’s a very enjoyable but tough course. At the end of the run, everyone heads to the Bakehouse Cafe in Rerrin Village for a coffee, scone, and a chat.
I cant recommend this enough. Put it on your Bucklist or just drive down some weekend over the summer. I’ll be back in this part of the country allot more. There is a great run down there on July 14th with a bunch from the club going. Check it out!