Three weeks ago on a Thursday, Tim said, “Hey, want to get away this weekend?” I, of course, said, “Sure!” and proceeded to tell him about this island in the southwest of Ireland that is reachable only by cablecar that I wanted to visit. That would be Dursey Island, just off the tip of the Beara Peninsula (see the first image in the gallery below). We drove Saturday afternoon to Kenmare, where we stayed in The Coachmans B&B. We were in luck because the rooms were above a restaurant and pub, and a well-known accordian player and his band were going to perform in the pub that evening!
We walked the main triangle of shops in Kenmare and found a place where we could still get food (after 9pm, it’s usually only pubs that are open). We both had work to do, so we headed back to our room just before the music began downstairs. Fortunately, the weather was balmy and so we opened the windows and enjoyed the music as we slaved away on our computers.
The next day we checked out around 11am and began driving the Ring of Beara on the north side of the peninsula toward Dursey Island. The Atlantic water around this peninsula is a beautiful blue-green hue, unlike the water we’ve seen elsewhere off the Irish coast. It took us 90 minutes to drive from Kenmare to Dursey Island, and we enjoyed every minute! The road wound along the coastline, with gorgeous views, despite the gray skies and spitting rain.
Along the way, we drove through the charming and colorful town of Eyeries (here’s a video). There is a lot to see and do on this peninsula, from copper mine tours to kayaking with seals and more. We will definitely be back in the spring or summer! We could spend 3-4 days on the peninsula and not run out of things to see and do. Plus, we didn’t have a chance to drive the Healy Pass, which we are told is spectacular, so we’ll have to return for that.
The trip was a happy combination of our American “circle drives” and our Irish “end-of-the-road” drives! To reach the cablecar you literally have to drive to the end of the road. We paid our €8 each (round-trip) and waited a few minutes in the brisk wind and drizzle for the blue and white car to return from the island. When it arrived, a young man stepped out of the car, followed by his dog!
The cablecar operator stays in the small building on the peninsula, and you just climb in and close the doors. Before we left, I saw a notice on the window that said that only 6 people live full-time on the island. The operator told us we could only stay 10-15 minutes, which was fine. The weather was too unpleasant to walk around for more than a few minutes anyway. Our company for the journey was an Irish man with a small crate of groceries. After getting curt answers to my questions of “Do you live on the island?” and “How long have you lived here?” it became clear that our companion did not want to engage with American visitors on the 8-minute crossing. Not to worry, though, because we were thoroughly enjoying the views and the sway of the cablecar on its way to the island.
The interior of the cable car is quite rudimentary. Tim said it reminded him of an ice-fishing house from the 1950s. It holds about 6 passengers or a total of about 1200 pounds, with dogs and cargo. There is a wooden bench on each side of the car, and sliding doors that meet in the middle on the embarking/disembarking side of the car, along with a simple hook to latch the doors shut for those who want to be extra safe (ha!).
When we arrived at the island, we disembarked and looked around quickly to see if there was anything worth walking to. It was very windy, raining, and a bit chilly. None of the avenues to the end of the island looked appealing, and all that was close and in view from the cablecar was a tiny building and about 10 autos, one of which had a smashed-in rear window. Thus, we took a few pictures and within about 5 minutes got back on the car. It left immediately and we were the only passengers returning to the mainland (here’s a video I made, and a video Tim made).
We continued driving the Ring of Beara through Castletownbere to Glengariff and from there returned to Kenmare and made it to Killarney before the light faded. We continued driving back to Galway and arrived in time to join our friends the Hannagens for dinner at McSwiggans in Woodquay. We had a really great time with them and decided to set a weekly Sunday dinner date with them for the rest of our stay here.