Eat your way around Kenmare

Karen Coakley runs a public food tour of Kenmare. \ Lynda Kenny

Kenmare in Co Kerry seems like the obvious place to embark on your Beara adventure. This planned and compact mid-18th century town delivers a colourful, cosmopolitan pop, and is easily explored by foot.

Start at the tourist information centre for details of the 1.5km heritage trail that winds a tale through the town. Alternatively, window-shop your way around the independent retailers that include Annabel Langrish for wildlife-inspired prints and Irish-made gifts, Begley & Bowie for statement sweatshirts and Fiachra Crowley ceramics.

If you are like me, however, you might prefer to be guided by your tummy. In that case, Karen Coakley- AKA Kenmare Foodie – is the woman you need to meet.

Karen started her food tours in 2018 to share “Kenmare’s food story”.

“Everything that you taste on the tours is made ‘over the road, out the back, down the lane’ and people love that,” she explains, when we meet for coffee at one of the stops, Bean & Batch. “It’s hyper-local.”

Tastings range from French-inspired patisserie favourites, cheese and chocolate to locally brewed beer, with public tours every Wednesday at 11am for €80 per person. This summer, Karen has also launched a weekly Killarney food tour, but also offers private tours, including one of the wider Beara Peninsula. Visit

Before I head that direction myself, on Karen’s recommendation, I swing by Brook Lane hotel to pick up one of their famous sausage rolls for the road. While there, I bump into hotelier Dermot Brennan, who breeds the pedigree Saddlebacks himself and tells me that one of the factors influencing the park’s unique flavour is that his free-rangers love to munch on seaweed collected from local shores. Lucky pigs – and luckier customers.

Take a walk on the woolly side

Maria Moynihan on an alpaca trek on the Ring of Beara

Visitors to the Beara Peninsula might be more used to sheep-spotting, but about a 20-minute drive from Kenmare you have the opportunity to take a walk on the wild side … with alpacas.

Run by Mia and Simon Foy, The Naked Sheep in Tuosist offers a daily two-hour alpaca trekking experience through woodland, with stunning views over Cloonee Lakes and Kenmare Bay, with Instagram opportunities aplenty.

The trek – which is suitable for anyone over 12 years of age and costs €45 per person – concludes with a spinning and fibre demonstration by Mia. B&B in the onsite Alpaca Lodge and Llama Lodge is also available.


Back to the industrial revolution in Allihies

Crossing the county bounds and continuing to Allihies – the last village at the end of the Beara Peninsula – there are times that I feel like I am the only person on the road that winds and wows around every bend.

Hard to believe then that in 1812, the discovery of a rich copper deposit here saw Allihies utterly transformed by the industrial revolution.

“Can you imagine the difference?” poses local guide Carina McNally of Beara Baoi historical and walking tours as she leads me up “Pig Street” and along the same trail that so many miners trudged every day to work.

Carina McNally leads historical walking tours along the Beara Peninsula

“If you see all those old steam engine houses in the distance, imagine those puffing out black smoke? The noise of industrial machinery,” continues Carina, as we reach the summit with its view over Ballydonegan beach. “The pollution, the dynamiting underground … and that as opposed to now.”

A member of the Beara Historical Society, Carina interprets everything from the industrial architecture to the social conditions of the time (records indicate that at one point, every dwelling in Allihies village was housing at least 25 inhabitants).

“It was pure exploitation,” surmises Carina, who can tailor her privately booked tours to interest and fitness levels and also offers walks on nearby Dursey Island and of pre-Christian sites (prices from €70, see

If you prefer to explore solo, however, the Allihies Copper Mine Museum (admission €6 adult/€3 child) offers an expertly curated insight into this fascinating time period, with a lovely cafe on site. I enjoyed a very generous warm chicken salad with feta and beetroot for €11.95. You can also ask at the museum counter for a map of the Allihies Copper Mine walking trail that takes in six of the seven mine sites.


Glorious Garinish

The gardens at Garinish Island, near Glengarriff. \ Chris Hill

While Beara is full of surprises – like the Dzogchen Beara Buddhish retreat – no trip can be considered complete without a classic visit to Garinish Island.

Catching the Harbour Queen Ferry from Glengarriff (€15 return for adults/€8 for children over four, prebooking available at we spot seals and a white tailed eagle before docking at this lush garden paradise influenced by the Gulf Stream.

Admission to the island is paid separately (€5 adult/€3 child) and, at present, is cash only. It’s money well spent, however as you can feel your shoulders physically drop as you pause at the reflection pool in the Italian garden with its Casita teahouse or take in the majesty of the Caha Mountains from the Grecian Temple.

It’s easy to lose yourself among the trailing wisteria, rambling roses and rare rhododendrons. However, if you have a chance, take the tour of Bryce House to learn more about the family who transformed Garinish – in particular, their warm relationships with their house keeper, Maggie O’Sullivan, and gardener, Murdo Mackenzie.

The house has been exquisitely restored down to the smallest details, such as having Maggie’s copybook of recipes on display, and the tour takes 40 minutes. Numbers are limited, so check daily tour times on arrival on the island and get there 10 minutes beforehand.


Hungry for more?

Just outside Glengarriff, garden designer Kloe Wood and RHS horticulturist Adam Carveth – otherwise known as “Two Green Shoots” – have created an outdoor paradise where everything is edible; from the topiary to the trees.

A breakfast tour at the Garden of Re-Imagination in Glengarriff

Experiences at the “Garden of Re-Imagination” range from an afternoon tea tour priced at €24.75 per person right up to their brand new foraging and fireside picnic lunch experience served in their Atlantic Irish rainforest clearing, which is priced at €89.75pps and is available on request (subject to a minimum of six people).


Where to stay

Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff

George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Maureen Hara, and now Irish Country Living are just some of the people who have stayed in Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff.

Given its location overlooking Bantry Bay, it’s little surprise that there has been a hostelry on this site since 1745. A bay view room (from €250/night including breakfast) takes full advantage of that view, though with more modern touches like a rainfall shower, Voya toiletries, Lavazzo coffee machine and botanical inspired interiors in silver and sage.

Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff

Heading up the kitchen is Eddie Atwell, and at the Garnish Restaurant, we savoured a summery supper of butter poached hake served with mussels, smoked bean, confit potato, tender stem broccoli and herb cream (€28), followed by a zingy lemon posset with white chocolate and pumpkin seed cookie, berry gel, raspberries and lemon sorbet (€8). More casual dining is available in the bar, while breakfast features local suppliers like Glenilen yoghurt and Gubbeen charcuterie alongside a range of hot dishes served to your table.

The sea spa at Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff

Irish Country Living did not get a chance to try the spa, but prices appeared reasonable as a guest discount flyer in the room during our stay advertised a 30-minute facial or hydrating body brush or back, neck and scalp massage, along with the use of the thermal spa hot tubs and sauna and a glass of prosecco/mimosa for €55.

There is a fee to access the thermal area and the slightly more eclectic interiors in the main hotel may not be to everyone’s taste, but for location, food and friendly service, it’s easy to see why Eccles Hotel is still the grade dame of Beara.

A one-night stay in a double bay view room with breakfast and dinner starts from €370. Visit

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