Allihies, the last village at the end of the beautiful Beara peninsula, sits between an impressive rocky mountain range and the rugged Atlantic coast.
The saying ‘a view around every corner’ certainly applies here. The panorama from Barnes gap is unforgettable and, as you descend towards the village through the small fields, the Man Engine house at the Mountain Mine leaps out from the grey mountain ahead.
Copper was mined in the hill behind the village from 1812 to 1884 and at its peak over a thousand people worked there. The remains of the steam engine buildings dot the hillside. The beautiful white sandy beach below the village came from the crushings of the quartz rock from which the copper ore was extracted. The copper ore was exported in sailing ships to the smelters in Swansea.
Allihies Copper Mine Museum (ACMM), at the foot of the village, bears witness to the phenomenal copper mining industry at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution that changed the land and people of Allihies forever.
DIRECTIONS: Located on the R575, 70km from Bantry on the Glengarriff Road.
Eyeries (historically spelt Irees or Iries, from the Irish: na hAoraí) is a village and townland on the northern coast of the Beara Peninsula overlooking Coulagh Bay and the mouth of the Kenmare River in the south-west. It lies at the base of Maulin which, at 2,044 feet (623 m), is the highest peak in the Slieve Miskish mountain range that forms part of the backbone of the peninsula.
Eyeries could be called the most colourful village in Ireland. With bright pastel paintwork and the village kept in pristine condition, Eyeries has been a winner of Ireland’s Tidy Town competition for many years.
The village has a stunning view of the surrounding hillsides, the sweeping vista of the Beara Peninsula, the always-changing face of Coulagh Bay, the rising swell of the distant Kerry Mountains, and an unbroken horizon that is often painted in stunning sunsets.
Eyeries is remarkable: one of the most south-westerly villages in Ireland, it is situated on a bluff that overlooks Coulagh Bay and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean. Those who live or visit here can spend hours listening to the surf, taking in the gentle smell of the ocean, or walking to the sandy and rocky beaches only minutes away.
Due its stunning location, Eyeries has been used as the backdrop for a number of films including The Purple Taxi (1977) starring Fred Astaire, Peter Ustinov, and Charlotte Rampling, and also the 1998 TV series Falling for a Dancer, a dramatisation of life and love in 1930s Ireland based on the novel by Deirdre Purcell.
Information courtesy of www.eyeries.ie
DIRECTIONS: Located on the R571, 58km from Bantry on the Glengarriff Road.
SPECIAL AREAS OF CONSERVATION: Kenmare River, Cleanderry Wood, Glanmore Bog.
VILLAGES NEARBY: Ardgroom
The name Ardgroom refers to two gravelly hills, Dromárd and Drombeg, which were deposited by a glacier. It lies to the northwest of Glenbeg Lough, overlooking the Kenmare River estuary between the coast and the Slieve Miskish Mountains.
Near the village lie a number of megalithic monuments, the most picturesque of which is probably the stone circle to be found to the southwest of the village. It has the name “Canfea” but is sometimes called the Ardgroom SW Circle to distinguish it from the remains of another stone circle northeast of the village. Unusually for a stone circle, its stones tend to taper toward points.
Allihies Copper Mines
In 1812, life in Allihies changed dramatically when a rich copper deposit was discovered in the area. The biggest copper mining enterprise in Ireland was then established by the Puxley family and this brought the Industrial Revolution to this remote corner of Ireland.
This is the extraordinary story of exemplary engineering coupled with less than exemplary social conditions. The evidence of this industry is to be seen all around Allihies in the form of the large Cornish engine houses that housed the magnificent steam engines that made the mining possible, constantly pumping out water for deeper and deeper mining, driving winding gear and lowering the miners, via Ireland’s only Man-Engine, to depths far beyond the level of the ocean.
For most of the nineteenth century Allihies echoed with the sound of giant machinery crushing the quartz rock, which held the copper ore. Dressing and separating the ore was an arduous task for man and machine and the resulting ore was shipped to Swansea for smelting.
Streams of water ran from the dressing floors down to Ballydonegan Beach, passing through the huts and mud hovels that gave shelter to hundreds of Irish labourers and their families. Allihies was overcrowded, with each dwelling in the village housing at least 25 inhabitants. At the height of its operation, the mines employed almost 1500 people.
The mines eventually closed in 1884. There was a subsequent working of the mines in the 1920s and further exploratory work from 1957 to 1962, which declared the mines to be no longer viable, proving that the nineteenth century miners had done a very thorough job.
“The celebrated Berehaven Coppermines justly rank with the best copper mines in Europe” William Thomas 1880.
Hag ‘An Chailleach Beara’
The Hag of Beara is the narrator of the finest old Irish poem in existence. She is said to have lived seven life times before being turned to stone. She is mentioned in verse by Padraig Pearse “Mise Éire Siné mé ná an Cailleach Béara”. The rock lies beside the coast road from Eyeries to Ardgroom on the Kilcatherine Peninsula. Find the turn to Loch Fada, keep on coast road for another mile and it is on your left at the top of a steep hill.
Kilcatherine Cemetery is well worth a visit. Follow the coast road from Eyeries to Ardgroom, you come across it soon after passing the Hag of Beara. The Cemetery is thought to have been built by the same monks who built the beehive monastery on Skellig Michael. Some of the headstones are ancient, one of them just a cross, hewn out of rock. There is also a famous cat’s face.
Milleens Cheese, made in Eyeries, is the Big Bang of Irish artisan foods. Before Veronica and Norman Steele began making their cheese in 1976 (starting with the milk of a one-horned cow called ‘Brisket’) there were no distinctive, speciality Irish artisan foods that spoke of the place they were made in and the people who made them.
There was good food of course, lots of it, but there was nothing at the intersection of art and creativity, there was nothing in the zone of agriculture.
Milleens was new, but the Steeles understood its inspiration to be ancient, specifically “the dairy tradition in Munster, which was a major influence on us; the tradition of small farms with six or seven cows, with very high quality milk which reflects the specific micro-climate of the area.” They brought that tradition back to modern Ireland.
In doing so, they also enshrined a vital aspect of the West Cork way: “making a living making something that matters,” as Norman Steele once said.
Along the magnificent coast of Beara there are centres for sailing, whale watching, swimming, angling, scuba diving, surfing and other water sports, with horse riding and lake/river fishing very popular inland. Other local activities like kid’s camps, island trips, and garden walks all make up the infinite variety that this region has to offer.
Allihies Copper Mine Museum
The museum is housed in the Methodist church built in 1845 for the Cornish miners who came to work in Allihies. It tells the story of copper mining at Allihies from the Bronze Age right up to the 1960s. The visitor will find out about the geology, history and geography of this unique place through artefacts, models, multimedia and the small library. Many of the exhibits can be handled and there are some surprises to discover along the way. See a model of the Man Engine that took miners down to the copper veins – the only one ever installed in Ireland!
With admission to the museum, visitors receive a map of Allihies Copper Mine Trail. This way-marked walking trail takes in six of the seven mine sites around Allihies. Follow in the footsteps of the miners and enjoy the stunning natural setting of this post-industrial landscape, where two more engine houses still stand and the remains of other mine-related buildings, such as powder houses and dressing floors, await discovery by the visitor. You will travel by the beach along the cliffs and across fields to the mountain. The trail can be completed in sections and would be regarded by walkers as an easy walk.
Sun streams into the Museum’s Copper Café on a fine day through the long windows at its gable end. On a very fine day, there is seating outside which places you right in the middle of the Allihies landscape. A hive of activity at lunchtimes, the Copper Café can also be a perfect spot for a newspaper and a coffee on a summer morning.
The museum also boasts an exhibition space, often filled with the work of Allihies’ thriving artistic community. Regular music and charity events are also run at the museum.
In 1990 the Beara Way Walking Route was set up. It is a route of 120 miles from Glengarriff to Dursey, Dursey to Kenmare and back to Glengarriff. The route includes Bere Island and passes through towns and villages on the Beara Peninsula. See The Beara Way under the Walking section.
Enjoy some of the most scenic parts of this enchanting circle by walking the Beara Way from Eyeries to Allihies on the tip of the Beara Peninsula and back again. During your walk, you will see some of the most spectacular sites that the West of Ireland offers: Scarrif Island rises whale-like from the middle of Coulagh Bay; the Skellig Islands break like mystical giants from the middle of the Atlantic only a few miles off the coast; walkers can often see seals, dolphins, porpoises, and basking sharks hunting for prey in Coulagh Bay. And seabirds and a variety of hawks often accompany walkers as you make your way across the stunning, wave-swept shoreline.
Fishing and Angling
Fish the rich Atlantic waters surrounding the North and South of the Beara Peninsula, which influenced by the Gulf Stream, brings warmer water and exotic species of marine life to our shores.
Water Sports & Sailing
Should you crave adventure during the summer, look no further than taking part in water sports along the magnificent coast of the Beara Peninsula. Local companies provide a wide range of water sport and sailing activities. Coulagh Bay, at Eyeries’ doorstep, is a perfect location for both kayaking and wind surfing with easy access to the bay from the strand or at the pier. The waters of Coulagh Bay are crystal clear with a wide range of sealife. Villagers are happy to share their local knowledge of the best places to snorkel and scuba dive including magnificent underwater rocky outcroppings.
The appetites of golf lovers are more than satisfied when they feast their eyes upon our lavish courses. Just outside Castletownbere is Berehaven Golf Club with a magnificent view of Bere Island and Berehaven Harbour. It is a nine-hole golf course. Glengarriff’s nine holes are in one of the loveliest settings in Ireland, with scenic views abounding – the one from the fifth tee is exceptionally beautiful. Bantry Bay Golf Club is an 18 hole championship golf course.
Beaches on Beara
Adrigole pebble beach is situated at Trafask (2.5 miles from Adrigole village on Glengarriff side) which is signposted from the main road. Another popular bathing area is the sandy inlet at Zetland which again is signposted from the main road.
Allihies: The beach at Ballydonegan on the way to Allihes village from Castletownbere was constructed using crushed stone taken from the disused Copper mines in the surrounding area. The beach also boasts an adjacent camping site with toilet facilities and is a short walk from the picturesque village.
Ardgroom: Droumard Strand is located 1.5 miles from Ardgroom Village on the Kenmare Road. It is one of the safest and cleanest in the Beara Peninsula.
Bere Island: A small sheltered strand is located on the South side of Bere Island overlooking Bantry Bay. It is signposted from the village Rerrin. It has sand a gravel beach and is safe for bathing for young and old.
Castletownbere: Tralahan, approximately half a mile (1 km) from the town on the main Allihes road, has been developed in the last number of years. Toilet facilities are now available. Take the first left turn, after the football pitch on your way out of the town on the Allihes road.
Eyeries: The Strand at Eyeries is signposted from the village. It has a sand and gravel beach and is safe for bathing for young and old. There are swimming lessons held during the summer.
Garnish beach is to be found at the tip of the peninsula en-route to Dursey Island. Comprising of fine white sand this beautiful beach also has toilet facilities. It is near Garnish Post Office and is well worth a visit on a sunny day in Beara.
Travara / Travaud: Both swimming areas are to be found on the northern side of the peninsula, between Eyeries and Urhan. They are popular bathing spots and host annual swimming lessons every year.
Spend a day learning from Beara resident photographer John Eagle. Go over to Dursey Island and walk where the roads have little traffic. Known for the birds and whales this island beckons those who want to get away from it all. www.JohnEaglePhoto.com
Southern Irish Lighthouse tour with John Eagle the author of the best selling book ‘Ireland’s Lighthouses A Photo Essay’.
Exciting 8 day tour of Irish Lighthouses from Inisheer to Hook Head, getting up close and personal with most of the major lighthouses on the South coast of Ireland. The tour is limited to 9 people due to the size of the boat for Bantry Bay tour of lights. For more information and how to book your place please visit: www.JohnEaglePhoto.com