Jennifer Long of Inveraray Farm, a family-run B&B located just off the Ring of Kerry, chooses her five best things to do in Beaufort. The B&B has amazing views of the Gap of Dunloe, as well as the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks to the south and Lough Leane and Killarney National Park to the east.
Take the Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe (Bearna an Choimín) or ‘The Gap’ as it’s commonly known, is a narrow mountain pass forged by a glacier. It separates the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks to the west and the 832m Purple Mountain to the east. It’s a photographer’s paradise with stunning lakes, abandoned cottages, and old stone walls and bridges. You’ll also see plenty of Beaufort’s colourful sheep, and, occasionally, mountain goats, hares, deers and eagles.
On the other side of The Gap is the Black Valley. It’s another area of outstanding beauty and a wonderful place to explore further. It was also the last place in Ireland to receive electricity and telephones back in 1976 so you can immediately get a sense of its remoteness.
If you’re going on foot you can park at Kate Kearney’s Cottage at the base of The Gap and walk up to the top and back down again. The round trip will take approximately three to four hours. You can also take a pony and trap (known as a jarvey) up and walk down or vice versa.
The Gap of Dunloe Tour is very popular. It includes a boat trip across Killarney’s lakes with an option for a pony and trap from Lord Brandon’s Cottage (in the Black Valley) back down to Kate Kearney’s Cottage. Again, this trip can also be done in the opposite direction.
If you have a bicycle, and don’t mind hills, you can use peddle power (main picture) to get you to the top and back down again. You can also continue on to cycle the Ring of the Reeks or back around via Killarney National Park. These longer loops are best for experienced cyclists, especially if you’re going via Killarney National Park as you’ll be riding on the popular Ring of Kerry. This stretch can be very busy with many tour buses completing their day trips in the afternoon. My advice is to go early.
Although you can drive through The Gap we discourage people from doing so. It is very narrow and not for the faint-hearted. During the day it should be left to the walkers, jarveys and local traffic from the valley. If you do want to drive through during the summer, do so either before 8am or after 6pm.
At 1,039m Ireland’s highest mountain may sound like a mere hill compared to some but don’t be fooled. It, like many of the other mountains that make up the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, is challenging enough to climb. Coupled with changeable weather conditions it’s wise to take sensible precautions and bring the right gear when climbing Carrauntoohil (Corrán Tuathail). This includes appropriate footwear and lightweight layers including waterproofs. The temperature is nearly always a good few degrees cooler at the top than it is at the bottom. Bring plenty of snacks and fluids.
On average, the round trip will take between six and eight hours, depending on the route you take. The views are well worth it and on a clear day you can see mile upon mile of breathtaking Kerry landscapes.
The most popular route is to park up at Cronin’s yard, walk in via Hag’s Glen and up the Devil’s Ladder. You can then descend using the same route. Kerry Mountain Rescue has detailed information about Carrauntoohil and the various routes as well as information to keep you safe.
Stride up Strickeen
OK, striding up might be a slight exaggeration for many but, for those either intimidated by Carrauntoohil or restricted by time, Strickeen is a fantastic alternative. At roughly 350m, the name translates as Little Peak.
It’s suited to all ages with average fitness making it a great climb for the whole family. Little legs can get a bit tired but from five-plus most children should be able to make it up and down without an issue.
Strickeen is accessed via the Gap of Dunloe. It’s best to park at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and walk to the start of the climb. Follow the road for approximately 1km and you’ll see a gate on the right hand side that is clearly marked.
The first part of the climb zig zags up a well-defined path with lovely views of The Gap below. When you reach “the lonely tree” (you’ll know it when you see it), you’re approximately halfway. Take a few minutes here to enjoy the views across the fields of Beaufort to Lough Leane, Castlemaine Harbour and the Dingle Peninsula. The path continues on to the left of the summit and then curves back around to reach the top.
The second part of the climb isn’t so steep, but the path isn’t so well defined and the ground can often be a bit boggy under foot. Take care to step on the drier, sturdier ground. However, don’t forget to look up and admire the uninterrupted view of the Reeks as you go.
Even when the rest of the Reeks loftier peaks are in the clouds, Strickeen is often cloud-free making it more likely you’ll see those glorious views. To descend, either go back the way you came, or take the steeper but quicker route from the summit back to the lonely tree. You can be up and down within two to three hours. It’s a great way to spend an early morning or late summer’s evening.
Eat, drink and be merry
For a parish with such a small population Beaufort (Lios an Phúca) has plenty of options when it comes to eating out. What is also nice is the balance between locals and tourists at the various venues. Along with Americans, French and Germans you’ll get plenty of opportunities to hear the Kerry accent in all its glory “But chrisht, t’will be challenging enough to undershtand”.
There are three pubs that do great food. The Beaufort Bar and the Inn Between in Beaufort Village and Kate Kearney’s Cottage at the foot of The Gap. All three have different vibes. Kate Kearney’s is the most lively, often hosting traditional Irish music and dance nights. The Beaufort Bar and the Inn Between are usually more relaxed. If you’re into whiskey The Beaufort Bar has more than 300 different types and offers whiskey tastings starting at €35pp.
The food options don’t stop here. Heather Restaurant is also near the foot of The Gap and does delicious breakfasts, brunches, lunches, coffee and cakes. It’s open daily until 5pm.
If you want to spoil yourselves a little you can visit the restaurant at the five-star Dunloe Hotel. Throughout the summer they’re hosting Jazz Sundays at their Grill Restaurant. Last but not least are our two cafes. The Coffee Pot, also at The Gap, and the Tea Rooms at Cronin’s Yard.
See a Gaelic football match
This doesn’t always make it into the travel guides but, in my opinion, it should. Gaelic football runs through the blood of the people of Ireland, and Kerry in particular. The GAA is of huge cultural significance and, just as everyone should try Guinness in Ireland, they should also watch a game of football or hurling.
In Beaufort the school and church are located outside of the village. However, the football field has pride of place, slap-bang in the centre. With the most amazing backdrop of the Gap of Dunloe and MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, a game on a fine summer’s evening couldn’t be more picturesque.
You don’t need to understand the rules to appreciate the skill and athleticism involved. What is useful to understand is a goal scored in the net (like soccer) is worth three points and a goal hit between the bars (like rugby) is worth one point. If a team has one goal and four points it will be written 1-4 and the total is 7 altogether. For example, two teams with scores of 3-11 and 1-17 would be level at 20 each.
Beaufort are currently All Ireland Junior Champions, something that we are immensely proud of. With several of our players also playing at county level it’s a great time to catch a game and see some real talent. You can check upcoming fixtures here.
Read more stories on our Notes from the Reeks blog