Bere Island lies at the entrance to the magnificent Bantry Bay and guards the deep water harbour of Berehaven, reckoned to be the second most secure natural harbour in the world after Sydney Harbour. The island, with the Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountain ranges of the Beara Peninsula providing a dramatic backdrop, is roughly 11kms x 5kms in size. Accessed by car ferries, Bere Island lies just 2kms offshore from the town of Castletownbere, the largest white fishing port in Ireland. With a population of 200, Bere Island retains that distinct, easy charm of a rural community far distant from city life.
Due to its strategic location Bere Island has a very interesting heritage. The island is rich in archaeological sites dating from the Bronze Age through to Medieval times, These include, standing stones, wedge tombs, ring forts and burial sites. There is also the remains of a Viking naust, or boathouse. The strategic deep water harbour of Berehaven was an important British naval base until 1938. To protect this valuable asset, at various stages Martello towers, a signal tower, military barracks and a vast Victorian military fortification which hosts two six inch guns were constructed, all of which can still be seen today. The Heritage Centre contains an exhibition of the island’s history and culture.
Bere Island is a quiet paradise, of a size that is easily manageable for walkers and cyclists. Bird watchers and plant lovers will delight in the many species to be found on land and at the water’s edge. Did you know that whales, basking sharks, and bottle-nose and common dolphins can all be sighted in the waters around the island? Other activities to be enjoyed on Bere Island include swimming, sea angling, diving, sea safari and other water sports. During your visit, make sure you take time to dine on some fresh, local seafood in local restaurants, or enjoy ceol agus craic (music and fun) in the island pubs.
Whatever your reason for visiting Bere Island, a warm welcome always awaits you!