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The Great Escape

The pre-20th July travel restriction lifted and I jumped onto Airbnb and booked a house on the Beara Peninsula. We like wilderness, our city children maybe not so much, but after enduring lockdown and restricted movement in suburbia for over four months, we craved ruggedness. 

We had driven around Beara many years ago, before children, when, after a wedding in Skibbereen and with a day to spare I decided it could be done in a few hours. It can but why would you want to try and race against time, missing so much of what unfolds before you as you turn each corner of this glorious, unspoilt landscape?

We arrived in Ardgroom as evening drew in and our gracious host told us we must climb the hill behind the house to see the sunset and view. So off we set through overgrown pathways, over a stile and climbed a short distance until we reached the summit and the spectacle of sun-kissed Atlantic ocean before us. We sat on the large rocks scattering the hilltop amidst bracken and grass and marvelled at this piece of Heaven. What an introduction to Beara.

We had a week that was the perfect antidote to Covid claustrophobia in the capital - we walked the glorious Derreen Gardens, shopped and ate in Kenmare, bought an obscene amount of Lorge chocolate and drove the length and breadth of the peninsula, from Ardgroom to Castletownbere, Lauraugh to Adrigole via the Healy Pass (I was terrified – I have developed a fear of heights in recent years), constantly overwhelmed by the scenery. We visited art galleries and craft shops, we ate wonderful crab in the pretty café in Derreen Gardens and in Helen’s Bar in Lauraugh and counted our blessings that we live in a country that has such good, fresh produce.

One evening, we went off piste, high up, out the coast road beyond Ardgroom, up and down narrow (at times worryingly remote) country roads, where you hoped you wouldn’t meet another car because there was literally nowhere to pull in.

We travelled twice to the tip of the peninsula to try and take the cable car across to Dursey Island, alas in vain. The first time the queue was too long and by the time we would have got across, we'd have had to turn around and come straight back again before the cable car shut for the night. "Come back early tomorrow", advised the friendly attendant. The next day we returned to find the cable car was closed for maintenance. What could we do but laugh and grab a fish and chips from the best mobile chipper in Ireland, the Dursey Deli, conveniently located beneath the cable car. I say 'the best mobile chipper in Ireland' without a shred of exaggeration. The food there is knock-out, a selection of the freshest Castletownbere fish (Monkfish, Cod, Haddock) and chips that are plump and crispy. After our repast, in the chilling mist of an overcast Irish summer day, we walked around the headland to get a sense of Dursey and watched the waves crashing against the rocks below us.

We finished off our week on an unusually hot Friday afternoon swimming in a place I can only describe as idyllic, Glenbeg Lake, joined only by a herd of cows grazing on its banks.