Beara is one of five peninsulas that form the distinctive jagged-edged 'fingers' in South West Ireland. From North to South they are Dingle, Iveragh, Beara, Sheeps Head and Mizen.
Beara (Irish: Béarra) or the Beara Peninsula lies between Kenmare Bay on the north side and Bantry Bay on the south.
Beara is bounded at its most westerly point by Dursey Island, well worth a trip on the cable car. Dursey is the most southwesterly point in Ireland. Moving east along the shores of Bantry Bay, Castletownbere is the principal white fish port of Ireland. Further east still is the scenic village of Glengarriff which has been a tourist attraction from the 18th century. Glengarriff is the southern gateway town to the Beara Peninsula while to the north, Kenmare, at the head of the Kenmare river is the northern gateway town. The N71, Glengarriff to Kenmare road forms the eastern boundary of Beara.
How did Beara come to be so named?
A plaque erected by the Beara Historical Society offers the following explanation of the origin of the name Beara:
In the early centuries AD, Conn Céad Cathach (Con of the hundred battles) fought a fierce battle against Owen Mór, King of Ireland at Cloch Barraige. Owen was badly injured in the battle. Those of his followers who survived took him to Inis Greaghraighe (now known as Bere Island) as a safe place for him to recover. There, the fairy Eadaoin took him to her grianán (bower) where she nursed him back to full health. Nowadays, this place is known as Greenane.
Owen and his followers then sailed southwards until they reached Spain. There he met and married Beara, daughter of the King of Castile.
Later Owen, Beara and a large army sailed from Spain and landed in Greenane. Owen took his wife to the highest hill on the island and looking across the harbour he named the island and the whole peninsula 'Beara' in honour of his wife. Rossmacowen, Kilmacowen and Buaile Owen most likely are named after Owen Mór and his son. According to local tradition Owen’s wife, Princess Beara, died and was buried in Ballard Commons in the remote and peaceful valley between Maulin and Knocknagree Mountains.
Morning in Beara
Based on Maidin I mBéarra
Based on Maidin I mBéarra
It is my sorrow on this lovely morning
That I not in Beara by the sea
The birdsong calling me across the mountains
To céim an Aitinn where my true love is
If I were there t’is far from fears I would be
My back turned on the troubles of this life
I would be light of heart and singing carefree
At one with her and free at last from strife
But oh alas I’m captive in this city
With duties and responsibilities
My spirit suffocating in these hard streets
Uneasy weary heart sore and bereft
In Bearra all is sweet and pure, live giving.
The sun shines brightly on the sparkling sea.
My love I long to be with you in Bearra
Contented happy as we used to be
By Osborn O’hAimhirgín (Osborn J Bergin)
1872 – 1950