By Isabel Conway
Ireland’s second summer of staycations has taken many of us on special journeys to far flung parts of our country, to places we never even knew existed. We have also tried adventures we might never have contemplated before – from having a go at stand up paddle boarding to orienteering and long distance hiking to horse trekking just to name a few.
Travel Times has experienced a bit of everything around the country in recent months, including a first ever stay in a cocoon, otherwise known as a lovely luxury pod.
My stand out short staycation break took me along the spectacular Beara Peninsula on horseback, following the Beara Bridle Way. This 26 km long horse trail, managed by Beara Tourism, features tracks to suit all levels of riders.
Partnered by a fine sure footed 11 -year old Connemara pony named Wolfie we followed the well-marked trail signs taking us through the foothills of the Slieve Miskish mountains on tracks that connect three famous colourful West Cork villages – Castletownbere, Allihies and Eyeries.
After a long absence from the saddle a useful re- introduction to horse riding is made at Kinsale Equestrian Centre, overlooking the Bandon river, encouraged by owner Zoe Barrett to build up some advance confidence
Beara Peninsula’s Katie (Con) O’Sullivan,(20)who knows the Bridle Way intimately – she lives adjacent to it – was our expert guide. My artist friend Helen Williams, also an accomplished horsewoman rode Whiskey a 6 year old chestnut mare. Wolfie and Whiskey were inseparable so a cavalcade was inevitable on our journey.
We joined the Bridle Way at a signpost for the Urhan Valley, south of the colourful village of Eyeries. The Urhan Inn offers a warm welcome to riders and horses, a staging post and fresh water for horses and a welcome sit down and refreshments for humans.
The Bridle Way and the Beara Way long distance walking paths, both developed by Beara Tourism and Development Association, received funds from Cork Co Council and the Dept of Rural and Community Development plus local improvement and economic development zones schemes. Linking many of the peninsula’s major attractions, Jim O’Sullivan of Beara Tourism, the dynamo behind it, believes the trail will be a huge boost for local tourism. The area has unmissable attractions including Allihies Copper Mines and Museum https://www.acmm.iewhich tells of the miners’ lives and also has an art gallery, gift shop and café. Dzogchen Beara Buddhist meditation centre (www.dzogchenbeara.org) serves the best coffee and flapjacks for many a mile , has outside tables overlooking the ocean and a special atmosphere of spirituality.
There are plans to add a further 15 km to the Bridle Way, according to O’Sullivan. In time it may even be brought as far as Berehaven. Castletownbere businessman Donal Kelly hopes. He owns Berehaven Lodge, a collection of attractive holiday homes and he and his wife Joan recently added ten new luxury pods in the grounds. We were among the first guests in the new pods, close to nature, swimming off the nearby slipway and picnicking outdoors.
During our leisurely trail rides Katie led us on to ancient laneways, bog roads, boreens, old mining tracks and winding stone and grass trails between Castletownbere, Allihies, once famous for its copper mines, Urhan and Eyeries. There was no better way to appreciate the superb landscape and peace and quiet of this beautiful part of our country than from horseback.
Wolfie my loveable white Connemara pony almost managed to stand still whilst I struggled into the saddle outside Irene Harrington’s Beach View B & B in Allihies. Irene’s husband Gerard wandered off in search of ropes with which to tie the steeds up to their staging post. Inside the cosy house we rested a while and Irene served up a feast of home- made scones and cakes, in a spirit of welcome and friendliness that sets this part of Ireland apart.
Go to www.bearabridleway.com for all information on the trails, conditions of use etc., See also firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Beara Tourism 027-70054 See also www.kinsale-equestrian.ie Pods at Berehaven Lodge www.berehavenlodge.com cost €150 per night during high season with lower tariffs later on; Overnight at Beach View B& B Allihies €75 doubles,€40 for a single; B & B for horses contact Wild Atlantic Bridleway, Allihies 087-7964444 (Blayne Sheehan) and Teddy Kelly1960@gmail.com or 086-8293348; prices range from €25 for a single stable and €10 -€20 per horse overnight in a paddock.