Taking the Castletown Bere road out of Kenmare will bring you along the Ring of Beara. This peninsula seems to be in the shadow of it’s more well known neighbour, The Ring of Kerry. If you have the time, this really is a most unspoilt area of natural beauty, but also brimful of history and culture.
While you could begin exploring Gleninchaquin Park (more about this here: https://eatandexplore.ie/gleninchaquin), as you continue along the R571, Lauragh will be the next village that you might like to have a scout about.
Leaving Gleninchaquin behind, you will pass by the Cloonee Lakes, mainly the lower lough on the road side and soon after (about 500-600 metres) you will come to a junction with a road turning to the right. This will bring you down the coast road to Lauragh and it is this road that we will return along.
Remaining on the R571, the road will now bend, twist and climb and you will find yourself driving between Knockatee mountain towards your right and the higher Knockreagh closer to your left. As you round a 90° bend, you may be tempted to pull over (if it is safe to do so!) and take in the views that now stretch out below you – towards Kenmare Bay, Rossmore Island and the Ring of Kerry. Getting back in to the car, as you turn the corner you will now be looking on a very different, but utterly breath-taking scene; a sweeping valley dotted with sheep and guarded on either side by solid rocky hills, sloping down into the lush greenery that envelopes the village of Lauragh.
In the village on the left hand side, you will see Lauragh Post Office which has now developed a cafe, Pedals and Boots. Here, you can have delicious coffee, a selection of home baked goodies including many gluten free options and a small savoury offering. You can also hire bikes or do one of their recommended walks of the area. On my next visit, a cycle up to Glanmore Lake is on my to-do list!
Coming back around the loop, follow the road signs for Killmackillogue. Derreen Gardens will be on your left hand side and a visit to these gardens will show off the unique micro-climate that Lauragh enjoys. Famous for the magnificent Rhododendrons and Azalea’s, May – June is a particularly good time to visit to see these in full bloom. There are walks through the gardens and you will see tropical palm trees, ancient oak trees and if you are lucky, you may spot a few local deer as I did on the day of my visit!
Back on the road, snatching glimpses of the water to your left and Knockatee on your right, you will shortly arrive into Killmackillogue harbour. If the door to Helen’s is open, it would be rude to not pop in and enjoy a pint, and sure while your there you might as well get a bowl of mussels taken from the harbour waters just outside the front door. Whether you get settled in for the evening with strangers who are now your friends, or keep exploring – I’ll leave that decision up to you!
Heading back for Kenmare, continue along the road past Helen’s, keeping the sea on your left. The road will rise above the water and driving along here on a sunny evening (winter or summer!) the sunsets rays will throw light on Kenmare Bay and across to the mountains of the Ring of Kerry. Curving inland, you will be reminded of the lushness of the area as the ferns burst out of the ditches on either side and the trees form a canopy overhead.
Just to your left will be the turn off for Tuosist village and before you know it, you’ll find yourself back at the junction you drove past earlier. Will you turn for Kenmare or back for Lauragh and more of the Beara way?
Go on! Have a look and see what is waiting for you just down the road in Ardgroom!