Castletownbere (Baile Chaisleáin Bhéarra) is a port on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork in the southwest of Ireland. It's doubly sheltered: Bere Island creates the long anchorage of Bearhaven, then Dinish island sits just outside the harbour. It has a large fishing fleet and some drab industrial areas. But it's the obvious base for touring the rugged, scenic peninsula - the Tourist Office is in town centre. This page describes the south side of the peninsula, but the north side is in County Kerry: see Kenmare for amenities and attractions there.
The town, which in 2016 had a population of 860, is also referred to as Castletown Bearhaven or simply Castletown. It was one of three "Treaty Ports" which retained British Royal Navy bases after Irish independence in 1922, the others being at Cobh and Lough Swilly in Donegal. They were handed over in 1938.
Bus Éireann 236 runs from Cork to Bantry every 90 min or so. On M W F only, two buses continue to Glengarriff, Adrigole and Castletownbere, taking 3 hours in all. Two more buses get as far as Glengarriff. There are taxis in Bantry if you get stuck.
Castletownbere is 50 km by road from Bantry. Follow N71 west to Glengarriff then turn off onto R572.
You need wheels to explore the peninsula and Bere Island.
Bere Island Ferry sails between Castletownbere harbour and 1 Bere Island (west). It sails daily year-round every hour or so and takes 10 min. Return fare for a car is €8. The island landing point is actually Oilean na gCaorach but this page will stick to "west".
Murphy's Ferry sails between 2 Filane Middle Pontoon 5 km east of Castletownbere and 3 Bere Island (Rerrin) aka Lawrence Cove. There are six sailings daily year-round with more in summer, taking 20 min. A foot-passenger return is €8 and a car plus two adults is €25.
- Sarah Walker Gallery on the waterfront displays modern art for sale and hosts events. It's open June-Sept daily 11:00-18:00.
- Dinish Island shelters the town harbour. Don't bother coming, it's an industrial zone, with big trucks trundling over the bridge from the mainland.
- 1 Dereenataggart Stone Circle, on a hillside 1.5 km northwest of town, has eight standing stones and several more broken or fallen.
- Standing stones are dotted around. You pass Knockaneroe Stone at the edge of town on the lane towards Dereenataggart.
- 2 Bere Island is 10 km long by 3 km wide, so it's worth bringing a bike or car. The Heritage Centre (1 km from west pier) is a good place to start. Ruins from prehistory to the 20th century are here and there, with a concentration at Ardaragh West 1 km east of Rerrin ferry pier, and another at Greenane southside. The island has pubs, eating places and accommodation.
- 3 Glebe Graveyard or Cill Achadh an Eanaigh is a bosky, atmospheric C of I graveyard, disused since the mid 19th century. The ruined church is engulfed by the undergrowth but several gravestones are still legible. At the west wall is a mass grave from the Great Famine. From town follow R572 west for 1 km, turn right onto the narrow Glebe Lane, and the graveyard is signposted at the first sharp bend left.
- 4 Puxley Mansion is a 19th century mansion burnt out by the IRA in 1920. In 2007 it was rebuilt and briefly operated as a luxury hotel, but the venture flopped. It's been derelict and barricaded ever since, looking like the set for a gothic horror movie. On some other travel websites the hotel continues to earn good reviews, perhaps from the Addams Family.
- Dunboy Castle is the ruin of the stronghold of the O'Sullivan Bere clan. It was destroyed after a siege in 1602, part of the Nine Years War against English rule. It's by the entrance to Puxley Mansion.
- 5 Dzogchen Beara is a Tibetan Buddist Retreat centre, open daily 08:00-22:00. The buildings are modern; fundraising continues towards construction of a traditional temple.
- 6 Killaugh Wedge Grave is at the junction of R572 (for Dursey Island) and R575 (for north side of the peninsula). It's massive, but just looks like the Flintstones' collapsed garden furniture.
- 7 Allihies Copper Mine Museum, Allihies village, ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 10:30-17:00. Copper has been mined on Beara peninsula since the Bronze Age - bronze is about 90% copper. A major seam was developed in the early 19th century, with buildings and technology similar to the Cornish tin mines, such as the steam-powered pumping stations that enabled deeper working. The mine at Allihies was in use until 1962. The museum, opened in 2007, is in an old Methodist church. Behind it, stroll up the hill track used by the miners. Adult €6, child €2, conc €3.
- 8 Eyeries is a tiny village on the north coast near the boundary with County Kerry. It has the Ballycrovane Ogham Stone, 5.3 m tall with an inscription to Mac Deich of the Turainn tribe. Northeast at Ardgroom is a stone circle in good condition with another ruined nearby, with a further ruin 2 km southwest of Eyeries. The 1977 film The Purple Taxi was filmed here, with a stellar cast including Fred Astaire as the village doctor.
- 9 Dursey Island lies off the tip of the peninsula, and remarkably it's reached by cable-car. This runs continuously daily from 09:00, Mar-Oct to 19:30 and Nov-Feb to 16:30, except for a lunch-break 13:00-13:30. An adult return is €10, child €5, and bikes and dogs are carried. The island is 6.5 km long by 1.5 km wide with a paved lane. There's a ruined church and graveyard 1 km from the arrival point, and a Napoleonic-era signal tower towards the west end. There's only a handful of residents and no shops, accommodation or toilets - last chance is the mainland cable-car station. You may camp with the landowner's permission.
- Golf: Berehaven Golf Club is on the coast 4 km east of town. It's nine holes, €20 for the 18 hole double circuit. See Sleep, as it also has a campsite.
- 1 Hungry Hill at 695 m / 2247 ft (a "Marilyn") is the highest of the Caha Mountains, the ridge of Old Red Sandstone along the boundary with County Kerry. The simplest approach is from Healy Pass on R574: expect bogs, views of bogs, and more bogs all the way to the boggy summit. Some other approaches involve rock-climbing. The 1943 novel Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier describes the mountain and a family whose successive generations are swallowed up by the copper mines. They're based on the Puxley family, and actually it was their elaborate mansion (see above) that gobbled their fortune even faster than their mines could create it.
- 2 West Cork Sailing Centre is at Adrigole to the east. They organise sailing and kayaking May to Oct.
- Beara Way (Slí Bhéara) is a 206 km walking circuit from Glengarriff to Castletownbere, Dursey Island, Kenmare and back to Glengarriff.
- The Wild Atlantic Way is the coastal driving route from Cork away up to Donegal. The section through Beara is obvious: along the south coast from Bantry and Glengarriff to Castletownbere to the tip and Dursey Island, then along the north coast towards Lauragh and Kenmare in County Kerry. Feel free to add side-trips such as Bere Island, or to short-cut (eg via Healy Pass), as the notion takes you.
- Spar (Donegan's) on Main St is open M-F 06:00-22:00, Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 08:00-22:00. The bank next door has an ATM.
- Murphy's SuperValu on Main St is open M-Sa 08:00-21:30, Su 09:00-20:00.
- The Copper Kettle, Main Square, Castletownbere, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Pleasant little cafe with good menu choice, hefty portions and excellent home baking.
- Breen's Lobster Bar, Main Square, Castletownbere, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-20:30, F Sa 12:00-22:00. Great seafood and ambiance.
- Further west along Main St there's a Chinese, an Indian and a Pizzeria. Olde Bakery alas has closed down.
- MacCarthy's Bar, Main St, ☏ . M-Th 09:30-22:20, F Sa 09:30-00:30, Su 12:30-23:00. Iconic trad pub and subject of an eponymous book by Pete McCarthy. Frequent live music and a grand wee snug inside the front door. The grocery store has morphed into a gift shop for book and TV related merchandise, suitably eponymous.
- O'Donoghue's opposite MacCarthy's is one for drinking, it's not rated for eating.
- 1 Berehaven Golf Course 4 km east of town has pitches for caravans (€20-25 / night) and tents (€15-20) available all year.
- 2 Lynch's on the Pier, West End, Castletownbere, ☏ . Good central B&B with restaurant. B&B double €90.
- 3 Beara Coast Hotel, Cametringane Point, Castletownbere, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Smart 4-star hotel on headland with good restaurant. Closed until spring 2021.
- 4 Rodeen Country House, Ballard, Castletownbere (2 km east of town), ☏ . Welcoming comfy B&B with exotic garden. B&B double €90.
As of Nov 2020, Three has the best coverage, with 4G most of the way along the peninsula, and you'll manage a call in the village with Eir or Vodafone. There are plenty of dead areas around, and Bere Island has no signal. 5G has not reached this area.
- East to Glengarriff and Bantry, a good base for the two southern peninsulas.
- North across the ridge to Kenmare and the Ring of Kerry.