After one of the longest lockdowns in Europe, Ireland is finally opening up. Next week, hotels and bnbs reopen, followed by outdoor dining the following week, with indoor dining, pubs, etc. likely returning in July. Museums and cultural sites are beginning to reopen, and for domestic tourists at least, there’s a lot to look forward this summer.
Obviously, not being able to travel and enjoy tourism is minor compared to the other things that have happened during this pandemic (I feel like this is so obvious I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but just to be clear that I’m not trying to place it on a similar level), but as someone who has spent the preceding years (and even the first half of 2020) travelling as much as possible, it has definitely felt weird to have not even left the county since September of last year.
Luckily I’ve gotten to do plenty of fun things around Kerry like trying another route up Carrauntoohil and hiking Crohane mountain, but I’ll be looking forward to doing more as restrictions loosen. For now even the tiniest trips offer a nice chance to get out and explore.
This past weekend, we took advantage of a sunny day and took a small drive just across the border into Cork to see the Beara peninsula.
Our morning began with a drive through Kilgarvan and Kenmare (a road Steve is very familiar with as it’s part of his post route), and then along the eastern side of Kenmare Bay. The weather started off somewhat overcast but it cleared up as we got farther south, and by the time we crossed the Kerry/Cork border, the sun was bright and the clouds were dissipating. We didn’t really have any plans for the day, or enough time to go hiking; we just drove toward the bottom of the peninsula, stopping to enjoy the sites along the way.
At the bottom of the looped road, we drove down an out-and-back that took us to the very tip. Across a small channel we saw Dursey Island, apparently an interesting spot for hiking and birdwatching, and connected to the mainland by Ireland’s only cable car. Said cable car is about as rickety-looking as it’s possible to get, but seemed to be moving smoothly to take a few tourists back and forth. We’ll have to return and explore it properly at some point.
Before we returned to the main road, we crossed a farmer’s field to check out a ringfort, one of many that dot the island. Mostly built during the Bronze Age a thousand or more years ago, these stone forts are always fascinating to see.
Back on the loop, we drove on for another half an hour until we reached Castletownbere, a quaint little town that is known as the fishing capital of Ireland. With most of the coffee shops and cafes still closed due to covid restrictions, we grabbed sandwiches in a Spar and started our journey back to Kerry. I’d say it’d be a lovely place to return to when things are more open though.
This time, instead of driving along the coast, we cut through the peninsula on an inland route that took us up over Healy Pass. Despite the fact that they are sometimes terrifyingly steep and winding, full of blind corners, Ireland’s mountain passes are always worth traversing for the views at the top.
Steve and I have already made plans for weekend trips farther afield to Mayo and Kilkenny, and I’m hoping by the end of summer it’ll even be possible to leave Ireland for a trip back to the States. But for this week, a drive along the Beara Peninsula was the perfect tiny getaway to explore somewhere new.