Bere Island – Nature, Culture, and Heritage
Bere Island’s place in history is assured. The West Cork island’s Martello towers date from the Napoleonic wars; Several American ships based here during World War I met their fate at Pearl Harbour, and – after the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 – the island became one of three Irish ports retained by the UK.
Why has this West Cork island so often been at the centre of events? The answer is Bere island’s strategic position at the mouth of Europe’s deepest harbour.
Berehaven and Lawrence Cove offer unrivalled shelter for boats of all sizes, something settlers have recognised since the Bronze Age, as the Druid’s Altar wedge tomb, St. Michael’s Holy Well and a scattering of standing stones and ring forts testify.
But it is its military might for which Bere is best known. In addition to the Martello towers, the island is home to a signal tower and Lonehort, a military fortification dating from 1899. It also houses two six-inch guns, an infantry trench, engine house and various underground structures. The result is unique, almost like an open-air museum.
A looped walk (guides available) takes in the best of the sites, with wonderful mainland views of the Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountain ranges of the Beara Peninsula, and Lawrence Cove Marina is perfectly suited to visiting sailors.
The deep waters of Bantry Bay are not solely taken advantage of by people. Killer whales, basking shark and bottle-nosed dolphins are all regular visitors, making Bere Island one of the primary bases in the southwest for diving, sea safaris, deep-sea fishing and watersports.
Six Things to do on Bere Island
1. Join the Bere Island Parkrun
Bere Island is one of the world’s most distinctive parkrun locations. It’s weekly 5k run takes place each Saturday morning at 9:30am throughout the year, and the single loop island parkrun offers fantastic views out over Bantry Bay, and the Beara and Sheep’s Head peninsulas. You can register with the parkrun here to make sure you receive your official race time, and more information is available here.
2. Take a Guided Tour of the Island’s Heritage Sites
Explore Bere Island and learn about its past on one of the guided Bere Island Heritage Bus Tours which alternate between the east and west ends of the island. Guided walks are also available and can be booked by contacting Barry Hanley Tel. +353 (0)27 75995.
3. Enjoy Fish & Trips
Experience the Wild Atlantic Way through trips around Bere Island or hours of angling fun. Whale and dolphin watching trips and sunset cruises are also on offer! Tel. +353 (0)83 812 3374 or email email@example.com
4. Experience a Bere Island Sea Safari
Climb aboard a specially designed rib and experience a thrill like no other as you explore Bantry Bay and see the lighthouses, caves, cliffs and beaches, as well as a great variety of birds and wildlife. Watch out also for dolphins, puffins, kittiwakes, porpoises, seals and much more. The regular trip lasts one hour, but a group charter can be arranged for a longer duration for a visit to any destination in Bantry Bay.
Contact Seán Harrington, West End, Bere Island, Co. Cork
Tel. +353(0)86 8595701 firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Visit The Bere Island Heritage Centre
The Bere Island Heritage Centre is home to The Bere Island Experience Exhibition which details the unique history and lifestyle of Bere Island. It also features regular themed exhibitions throughout the year. Tel. +353(0)27 75956
6. Walk the Beara Way
Beara Way walks begin at both ferry points (Rerrin & the West End – see “How to Get Here”) and lead you along trails that offer stunning views across the Slieve Miskish and Caha mountains, and the chance to visit a wide range of historical sites reflecting the island’s military heritage. Walking weekends are held throughout the year.
BERE ISLAND FAQs
Do you need a car to visit Bere Island?
Bere Island is one of the larger West Cork islands, at 11 kilometres, east to west long and 5 kilometres north south wide in size.
You can visit as a foot passenger on one of the island’s two ferries or bring your car or bike. Bere Island is served by two car ferry services, which sail year-round from Castletownbere and the Pontoon.
For details, see how to get to Bere Island.
Do people live on Bere Island?
Census 2016 recorded a population of just under 200.
Can you swim on Bere Island?
There are lots of places to swim across the island. The most popular beaches are Scairt Beach and Cloughland Strand.
Are there places to stay on the island?
There are some great glamping, B&B and self-catering places to stay on Bere Island. For up to date listings, see the Bere Island website.
Can I travel over on one ferry and back on the other?
No – you will need to buy separate, single tickets for each trip if you would like to use the services of both ferry companies during your visit.
BERE ISLAND EVENTS
BERE ISLAND MAP
Find your way to island events, sites of interest and places to stay with the help of our map of Bere Island.