Tag Archives: Castletownbere

Postcards from Bere Island, County Cork

A few weeks ago I was able to go back to Bere Island on a day trip. Bere Island is in Bantry Bay just a short distance offshore from the County Cork town of Castletownbere, and overlooks the deep water harbour of Berehaven.

image

A Pontoon seagull gazes across to Bere Island with its Martello Tower.

 

We caught Murphy’s Ferry at Pontoon that crosses  to the village of Rerrin. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and is very pleasant on a calm day such as this.

 

The Bere Islanders, who number about 200, are very friendly and welcome visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery, to cycle, to walk, to fish, to watch birds and whales, to enjoy the beautiful wildflowers. The  wildflowers were pas their best as we headed into autumn, but I can assure you that you will never see anything like the fabulous linear wildflower meadows that line the roads here throughout the summer.

imageThere is a very rich archaeological heritage on the island, which is well signed.

Around the harbour at Rerrin there is safe anchorage here for some very attractive yachts.

On arrival, the tide was out. How about this as an example of excellence in recycling!

The purpose of the visit was to attend a talk in the Lecture Theatre on the very important role of Bere Island in various times of conflict from the Napoleonic Wars to World War 2 .

These delightful women had travelled over to the island from Durrus to hear the talk and took time to have a picnic lunch in the lovely sunshine.

While inside, the World War 1 building and former chapel, the speaker was having a chat with the early birds.

imageAfterwards there was time for a whistle-stop tour of the island, but only after some delicious chowder in the Lookout restaurant. I loved the very unusual barometer that was hanging on the wall.

At the end of the high season the roads are particularly quiet and attractive for walkers.

It’s not all plain sailing though as we discovered when we met some stubborn locals!

The island scenery is good for the soul!

And so back to Rerrin to catch the ferry back to the mainland

The tide had filled while we were away and the harbour looked totally different.

 

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, Fish are jumpin’ …..

Such a beautiful evening, with water lapping softly

No roll-on, roll-off ferries here –  it’s a question of trusting in the guy directing as you reverse on….

It had been a couple of years since my last visit  and I have been blessed with great weather on each occasion. It makes you want to go back for sure, to this island sitting in the splendour of Bantry Bay.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland, My Travels

Discovering Bere Island

The Admiral’s House! It was to this very prestigious address that I had been invited for a long weekend on Bere Island, County Cork, Ireland. Mindful of the fate of the Titanic, I averted my gaze  on leaving the mainland  and refused to contemplate how the semi submerged remains of what may well have been the ferries of yesteryear ended up on the bottom of the harbour

Above, birds enjoying the remains of a boat at Pontoon ferry departure point, Castletownbere where another once-proud vessel lies abandoned(below)

I committed myself and my vehicle to the capable hands of Murphy’s Ferries to make the short crossing to Bere Island. I cautiously looked around for the lifeboats. None! OK. if my time is up, it is up and I will sink into beautiful Bantry Bay, the deepest natural harbour in Europe!There was a brief  heart-stopping moment when, about 2/3rd of the way across, I saw  what appeared to be a mast and a funnel poking out of the water.  Could this have been a ferry?  No –too big! A bigger REAL ship perhaps?  It turned out to be the wreck of  the  M.V Bardini Reefer, a Panamanian Factory Fishing Vessel, that on 15 December 1982 caught fire and sank!

However, our trusty ferry arrived safe and sound, as it always does, and soon I was enjoying negotiating the narrow, high hedged roads and laneways of Bere Island. The Admiral’s House did not disappoint with its imposing views of Bantry bay and the mainland.

An image of the Admiral’s House from The Admiral’s House webpage!

And so  began a few days of  discovery – spectacular views; gorgeous lanes edged by beautiful linear meadows and hedgerows;  loud silence in marked contrast to military emplacements that once guarded the entrance to Bantry Bay.

Bere is a place for walkers. Suitably clad to deal with changes in temperature and sudden heavy short-lived showers, we headed off on the Rerrin Loop.  Rerrin, the small village is at the eastern end of the island, where the Irish Army still has a presence.

At the eastern end of the island stands an impressive gun emplacement, guarded by a deep moat and kept mown by a herd of goats who share this place with a couple of colonies of bats. It is hoped that eventually this spot can be developed  into a unique tourist attraction.

Goats guard gun emplacements at Lonehort Battery (above). The hedgerows of Bere island are beautiful, untouched by pollution and with many species growing alongside one another.

Fuchsia, gorse, heather, digitalis, honeysuckle, meadow-sweet among others, mingle together. 

Another noticeable feature of the island is the number of ruined and abandoned stone cottages . Abandoned  perhaps because of migration, death or for an upgrade to more modern conditions. Whatever the reason, they leave an indelible mark on the landscape of places that perhaps once resounded with the sounds of children playing  and laughing, but are now in deep silence.

Once a home. Some cottages have signs of once having had gardens and flowers surrounding them.

This hydrangea is now almost as high as the cottage itself and stands in enduring tribute to the person who planted it many years ago.

This cottage, on the roadside has an intriguing stone set into the wall engraved with the date June 1854 – it would be fascinating to discover the significance of this date to the people who lived here once upon a time.

Bere Island has a rich heritage. Vikings, French and British have landed here and the island  monuments reflect this varied history.  Among the older monuments is the Standing Stone (below) dating from at least a millennium BC . This impressive stone stands at the very centre of the island.

Martello Towers,  relics of the early 19th century are on prominent positions on the island and are accessible to walkers who can enjoy the stunning views.(below)

For the less energetic, there are  other fascinating and beautiful walks all over the island with the wonders of nature all around.

Bere is a place of extraordinary beauty, a place of great peace  – far from the hustle, bustle and humdrum of every day life.

As I departed on my ferry after a few days, I earnestly wish to pay a return visit to discover even more of this place that is truly a place apart.

Murphy’s Ferry leaving Bere Island  (Image from D Shiels)

Further reading:

Information on  Martello Towers can be seen here

Information on Bere Island here

 

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland, Social Change