La isla bonita! 3 great reasons to see Bere Island this summer

After a recent visit there, KATHRIONA DEVEREUX extols the virtues of one of Cork's stunning islands
La isla bonita! 3 great reasons to see Bere Island this summer

NATURAL BEAUTY: Bere Island has so much to offer visitors, says Kathriona Devereux

I HAVE been known to spontaneously launch into a burst of the Cork classic Beautiful City when I’m met with a striking vista of Leeside.

It’s usually sung in a posh accent and a pitch too high for my range. My children wince or join in with an imitating howl.

I might erupt on the N27 coming down from the airport, when I see the city spread out and glinting on a summer evening. Or a few lines of “charming and pretty” might sneak out coming in the Lower Glanmire Road, if the river is flat and the sun is striking the water in a particular way.

I’m sure I’m not alone in voicing my appreciation of Cork by strangling the city’s anthem, but on a recent trip to Beara I was compelled by the drop dead gorgeous view of Adrigole Harbour with Hungry Hill in the background to blast out a remixed version

Beautiful Beara, charming and pretty,

Beautiful Beara, my home by the sea.

We were en route to Bere Island, pushing it to make the 5.30pm ferry, so the adapted lyrics weren’t great, but you can appreciate how beautiful the views were if they moved me to song!

For those of you who have yet to visit Bere Island, here are three reasons why you should go:

Ferries

Murphy’s Ferry departs from the Pontoon about 5km before Castletownbere and brings you to Rerrin on the east side of the island.

Bere Island Ferries leaves from Castletownbere itself and brings you to the west side of the island.

The best part about visiting an island is that the adventure starts as soon as you queue for the ferry. The worst part is reversing the car along the ramp onto the ferry. It’s nail-biting when there is little margin for error, but the ferryman assuringly instructs you with varying nuances of the word “perfect”.

If you are someone who passed your driving test on the fifth attempt and don’t have the nerve, the ferryman will reverse your car on for you.

Or, even better, leave your car in the mainland car park and bring your bike or walking shoes and experience the island on foot or on bike.

The island is about 10km long and 3km wide and is very accessible. The sound of bees in the hedgerows and the hilarious noises of sheep conversations are easier to appreciate when you’re not in a car.

Views

I don’t know how resident islanders get any work done with the sublime views out their windows. They say they take the views for granted, but the vistas are constantly changing with the weather and the light; or something random will appear out the window that demands your attention - an enormous cruise liner passing by or an ugly oil tanker on the way to Whiddy Island are incongruous distractions that are hard to ignore.

Swimming out the inlet of Cloughland Beach and looking to the remote northern side of Sheep’s Head, there is barely a hint of civilisation in view. It is rare to find a swimming spot in Ireland where you can be alone with your thoughts and the scenery but, once the day-trippers and holidaymakers have packed up for the day, you can have a bit of paradise all to yourself.

Great food and hospitality

I haven’t stayed in a traditional B&B for years and my kids were full of endless questions about how the whole thing would work.

Would you have to eat your breakfast in your bed or make it in the kitchen? Where would the B&B owner sleep if we were sleeping in their bed?

Staying at the Martello View B&B was the perfect introduction to the quintessential Irish experience of bed and breakfast.

My kids were sold on the spacious family room where we all got to sleep together.

Sausages and endless orange juice for breakfast plus rubs with Ben, the friendliest and most affectionate dog, meant we had to make serious assurances of a return trip to stop the wobbly lips turning into full-on tears on our departure.

If you want to experience the best of seafood, get yourself to the Bere Island Bakehouse, informally known as Edel’s, for a plate of sizzling prawns swimming in garlicky butter with salad, chips and two crucial pieces of toasted bread for mopping up those delicious juices.

I also deeply regretted agreeing to share the delicious baked cheesecake from The Lookout café, so when you go, order yourself a whole one!

On your bike

Back in the city, I was delighted to hear that bike hire is now possible from the Marina Market, with the company Midleton Greenway hiring out electric, hybrid and kids bikes to allow people venture outside the range of the public bike rental scheme.

Summer is the perfect time to try out cycling. You don’t have to worry about rain gear, the roads are generally a bit quieter with schools closed, and there is no better feeling than the gentle breeze on a bike on a warm summer day.

A gorgeous day could be had by filling up on delicious food at the Marina Market, hopping on a bike to burn some calories, and taking in the scenery of the Marina or the new greenway to Passage West.

A 20km round trip would take little more than an hour and provide a superb, car-free, experience of the harbour.

You might even find yourself singing Beautiful City.

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