Whilst I do love a trip abroad, there is also something special about a ‘staycation’ in Ireland. When Chill Insurance asked me to write about my favourite #HiddenDrive, it was an easy task. From West Cork to Kerry along the Beara Peninsula is, in my opinion, one of Ireland’s best road trips.
After a recent stay in Bantry, county Cork, we decided to do a little exploring with the kids. My husband and I had not taken a road trip from Bantry to Kenmare since before we were married, so it was about time we returned to one of Ireland’s best #HiddenDrives.
Taking the N71 from Bantry for a twenty minute spin will see you into Glengarriff, right in the heart of west Cork. Glengariff is known by locals as ‘the Natural Meeting Place’. On the Beara peninsula, a town of approximately 800 inhabitants, it can get very crowded in peak season. The popular Eccles hotel is a magnet for tourists, it is a great place for lunch with sea views. We took the short ferry ride to Garnish Island which I would highly recommend. Renowned for its beautiful gardens, it also boasts a Martello Tower which offers stunning views of the bay from the top. The kids loved it too.
Once back on the road, we left Glengarriff, turning onto the R572 and drove south west along the Beara Peninsula. An hour (and about 50 kilometres) later we reached the fishing village and sailors favourite, Castletown Berehaven. Also known as Castletownbere, it is the principle town along the Beara Peninsula, two and half hours from Cork city. A little known fact, Castletownbere is the second largest natural safe harbour in the world. If you have the time, you must visit MacCarthy’s Bar. Genuine and original with groceries on sale in the front of the premises and a bar to the rear. It also won Irish pub of the year in 2016, so that’s as good an excuse as any to pay a visit! Much to my husbands dismay, we did not stop and kept driving. We were only about seven kilometres from Allihies, Co. Cork. Pulling into Allihies, we were now as far away by road from home as we could be! Allihies is 394kms from Dublin making it the furthest village in Ireland from the capital. Just some more trivia for you! 🙂
It was time for lunch and we chose O’Neills Bar in Allihies, famous for its ‘warm atmosphere and delicious local food’. Once inside, you feel instantly welcome with an open fire, piano and old photographs, creating a homely atmosphere. The sun had decided to make an appearance so we ordered food and opted to sit outside. You are pretty much on the roadside as you sit on the wooden benches. We had soup and toasted sandwiches, crab salads and the kids tucked into fish and chips. If you have time, try the restaurant upstairs too. They will never admit to it but O’Neills is possibly one of the most iconic bars along the Wild Atlantic Way and has featured on posters worldwide promoting Ireland as a holiday destination.
Next stop Eyeries, a village renowned for the bright pastel paintwork of its terraced houses and the sweeping views of the Beara Peninsula. Eyeries is one of those places that demands you to stop, grab a camera and walk for a while. Overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic ocean beyond, Eyeries is a place where you can let the sound and smell of the ocean take your thoughts. Here we walked the beach and did a little beachcombing before the final push to Kenmare and our next overnight stop.
Most people might take the direct route from Eyeries to Kenmare along the R571 but we knew better. Driving north out of Eyeries, past the post office, take the coastal road to Kilcatherine for the most breathtaking scenery. You will drive through Ballycrovane. This small fishing harbour also offers spectacular views of Coulagh Bay. Continuing on the road you will arrive at Kilcatherine and then head back towards the R571 to Kenmare. As you drive, look left out to sea were you will see the world heritage and monastic site of Skellig Michael and Little Skellig Rock in the distance. Perhaps more famous of late for being the reclusive home of Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Leaving the Kilcatherine coastal road behind us we rejoined the R571 and made our way to Kenmare in Co Kerry, crossing the county border between Cork and Kerry, just north of Ardgroom. The road is mostly along the coast and can be precarious in places but breathtaking at the same time. It was only about 40 kilometers to Kenmare but the last leg of our Beara Peninsula adventure took a little over an hour to complete before we made it to our hotel.
The total journey from Bantry to Kenmare via this amazing drive is about 175 kilometers and should only take you about three and half hours to do without stopping. However in my opinion, you will need a full day to do it properly. Stop for coffee, stop for lunch, tour the villages, listen to the ocean and give your head peace.
So there you have it, my favourite #HiddenDrive is from west Cork into south Kerry along the Beara Peninsula. Whatever you do, don’t rush it, take your time and Chill.ie. 😉
This post was sponsored by Chill Insurance.