Official tourism website for Cork, Ireland

Bere Island

Nature, culture and heritage

Bere Island’s place in history is assured. Its Martello towers date from the Napoleonic wars. Several American ships based here during World War I met their fate at Pearl Harbour. After the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, the island became one of three Irish ports retained by the UK. 

Why has it so often been at the centre of events? The answer is the island’s strategic position at the mouth of Europe’s deepest harbour. Berehaven and Lawrence Cove offer unrivalled shelter for boats of all sizes, something settlers have recognised since the Bronze Age – as the Druid’s Altar wedge tomb, St. Michael’s Holy Well and a scattering of standing stones and ring forts testify. But it is its military might for which Bere is best known. 

In addition to the Martello towers, the island is home to a signal tower and, Lonehort, a military fortification dating from 1899 and housing two six-inch guns, an infantry trench, engine house and various underground structures.The result is unique, almost like an open-air museum. A looped walk (guides available) takes in the best of the sites, with wonderful mainland views of the Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountain ranges of the Beara Peninsula, and the marina is perfectly suited to visiting sailors. 

That said, the deep waters of Bantry Bay are not solely taken advantage of by man. Killer whales, basking shark and bottle-nosed dolphins are all regular visitors, making Bere Island one of the primary bases in the southwest for diving, sea safari, deep-sea fishing and watersports. 

Fact File

Location: Bantry Bay, Co. Cork. By road, the ferry port at Castletownbere is roughly 48km (1hr 40 mins) from Kenmare and 51km (1hr 20mins) from Bantry. 

Size: 11km x 5km. Bere Island can be enjoyed in a short visit, but a longer stay (around two days) makes for a much more rewarding visit. 

Population: 200+

Facilities: Midsummer run (July) Regatta (August), Heritage Week (August) Bere Island 5 mile road race (October).

Top 3 Activities: Military history, Walking, parkrun

Festival highlights: Weekend festival middle of June each  year with live music and trad dancing outside islander home with a mass to celebrate the past  lives  of its residents  and present.

Getting there: Ferries sail year-round from Castletownbere. Sailings take 10 minutes. 

Bere Island Ferries (353 27 75009; 353 86 2423140; depart from Castletownbere next to RNLI station, 2kms away on the Beara Peninsula. 

Murphy’s Ferry (087 2386095/086 8091204/ 027 75988) Leaves The Pontoon which is on the left just before the Golf Club three miles on Glengarriff side of Castletownbere.

Getting around: Visitors can explore Bere Island on foot, by bus, or by hiring a bike.

Find out more: Bere Island Projects Group (353 27 75099; or Bere Island Heritage & Information Service (353 27 75956;

Did you know? Bere Island boasts the most beautiful parkrun in the world. It has also been voted Ireland’s Tidiest Island twelve times in a row!

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