Ireland’s Secret Biking Road: The Ring of Beara

The Ring of Beara is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. It’s a phenomenal biking road in the Southwest of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way and it’s going to blow your socks off. Here’s everything you need to know about riding there… 

Ireland Ring of Beara Motorcycle Guide

Contents

By Noel Cairns

By Noel Cairns

Ireland touring expert

The Ring of Beara Motorcycle Ride

You’ve no doubt heard of the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ring of Kerry… but the problem is, so has everyone else! Forget them and ride the Ring of Beara instead. This is an epic ride, it’s quiet, you’ll have it all to yourself, the twists are beautiful and the scenery is stunning. Riding your motorcycle around the Ring of Beara is like having your very own gorgeous slice of Ireland. 

The Ring of Beara is one of my all-time favourite biking roads. It’s a short 118-mile section of the famous 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way. But don’t be fooled by that. In the South West of Ireland, distance is not measured in miles per hour, but in hours per mile! It’s so easy to spend three or four hours riding and feel like you haven’t moved anywhere. And that’s perfect on this road… 

Here’s everything you need to know about riding it, a bunch of top tips and a handy map. Enjoy!

Trip in numbers

  • Distance: 118 miles (190 km)
  • Cost: less than a tank of fuel.
  • Time: one day
  • Riding difficulty: 3/5
  • Conditions: mixture of gravel and tarmac. Road tyres are fine.

How to ride the Ring of Beara

The Ring of Beara is a coastal scenic road and the perfect remote biking road. Coaches and caravans bypass it because of the 2.8-ton weight restrictions and the road past the Allihies Cooper Mines (GPS: 647835, -10.039924) is a mixture of light gravel and tarmac located on the mountain slopes. The only noise is the wind sweeping over the Atlantic.

Typically, the route starts from Kenmare. You can either ride clockwise or anti-clockwise, but I prefer clockwise so the coast stays on my left. Head to Glengarriff via ‘Turners Tunnels’ along a beautiful sweeping biker’s road. Once in Glengarriff, follow the coast road to Lamb’s Head and Bere Peninsula. There you’ll find Ireland’s only cable car that takes you to Dursey Island (if you fancy it). It’s reputed to be the only cable car over water in Europe. These roads are not predictable in any way; they’re narrow, full of sharp bends and caution is advised.

Head to Allihies Copper Mine shaft (51.647835, -10.039924, road name: Cluin Ct) and spend time exploring the area. The tarmac disappears for some miles but follow it until you reach the coast road, just after Lauragh. I advise you to take the road to Healy Pass because at the highest point you will find some amazing views. Continue for the rest of Healy Pass and enjoy the winding road and scenery, and then turn back on yourself and ride it all again until the point where you entered the pass and re-join your route along the R571 back to Kenmare (starting point).

When to go?

  • The best time to ride in the south west of Ireland is May to September with June having the longest daylight of 17 hours.
  • Plan you trip for a dry day if you can, which means organising it at short notice. Ferry companies can be expensive at short notice, but the west coast of Ireland is no place to be on a bike in the rain.
  • We recommend booking and checking with directferries.co.uk as you can find up-to-date and current sailing times and routes and book in advance.

How much?

  • Booking a ferry in advance is cheaper, however if you book in advance and the forecast shows rain then don’t waste your time coming over. You’re better off paying more and getting a dry spell. A ferry across can range from £50 to £150. I prefer to use www.nutttravel.com as they’re always a bit cheaper.
  • There are a few toll roads close to Dublin. The M50 is a toll road but one euro covers most tolls. Once west of Dublin, toll roads are very few.

Accommodation 

  • Stay in Killarney town where there are plenty of hotels, pubs and music venues to choose from.
  • Everything else on the way to the west of Ireland can be fairly bland.
  • Take a look at the below Booking.com map as it’s centred on Killarney, you’ll be able to quickly and easily see the type of places on offer and their current prices.
Booking.com

Getting there and away

  • Ferries arrive in Ireland at Dublin and Rosslare and in Northern Ireland at Belfast and Larne,
  • From Dublin you’ll easily reach Killarney in four hours
  • From Belfast to Killarney in around five hours (or six hours via Mullingar).
  • Once you’re west of Killarney area, travelling loses all momentum.
  • If you’re flying into Ireland, we recommend using Skyscanner.net to find the cheapest prices. When clicking on the departure and arrival dates – try clicking ‘Flexible dates’ as this shows the cheapest days to travel in green. 

Motorcycle rentals and tours

You may not want to ride your own motorcycle over from the UK, or perhaps you’re flying in from abroad. Either way, there are some fantastic motorcycle rental companies in Ireland that also provide guided and self-guided tours. This takes away all the stress of getting there and away and gives you more time to enjoy the ride. 

Check out our rental and tour companies page and you’ll see the companies we recommend for Ireland. 

READ MORE: Ireland Motorcycle Rental and Tour Companies

Top tips

  • The most important advice I can give anyone is to plan you trip in dry weather. Seriously, the west coast of Ireland isn’t the place to be on a bike in the rain.
  • Allow three days and four nights in the Killarney area minimum. Not a minute of time will be wasted. This guide is only a small snippet of Ireland’s many peninsulas.
  • Aim to make your overnight stay in Killarney.
  • There are other great areas to take in while there. There’s the Gap of Dunloe, if you fancy it there’s a pony and trap, if not then go early before 8am  and you’ll have the road to yourself before the tourists arrive. There’s the Ring of Kerry, Molls Gap, Ballaghisheen Pass and the Grotto and Slate Quarry on Valentia Island. All of these routes are beautiful and you will easily spend three full consistent days biking.
  • Watch out for ‘L’ (learner) or ‘N’ (novice) plate drivers.
  • Keep you fuel topped up.

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About the author

Noel Cairns

I’ve been on bikes from 12 years old. When I got married the biking stopped, then when I got divorced the biking started again! I’m an average skilled rider, certainly not a speed freak but I love adventures and am passionate about motorcycle touring in Ireland.  

Read more on motorcycle travel in Europe

Thanks for checking out Ireland’s Secret Biking Road: The Ring of Beara Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycling in Europe that we recommend you read next. 

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Are you planning a motorcycle trip to Ireland or do you have any questions or tips to share? Let us know in the comments below. 

23 thoughts on “Ireland’s Secret Biking Road: The Ring of Beara”

      • hi Brad luke here me and my friend done donegal to galway now we took 6 days to do it we weren’t breaking or knecks we stopped off and majority of places and camped for 2nights on keem Bay achill island i have to say it was truelly worth it we done it in Sept 2020 so we got accomadation a bit cheaper as we hadn’t booked anywhere so on night one we got soaked to the skin so stayed in a hotel in letterkenny like 90 quid for the two of us with breakfast in a 2 beds one room the following night we made our way to ballina where it was 85 for the two of us without breakfast on then to achill camped two nights and achill to cliften 70 euro 2 beds one room in a bnb I highly advise this trip. Also if you were considering the beara penninilsula I’d highly advise beara camping its so unique we done 2 days on the beara great craic and we done a weekend traveling cong to maam cross and on down to doolin and cliff of moher and father Ted’s house don’t stay in doolin thó we made that mistake not very biker friendly in the pubs etc if you are to thó go to the campsite at the peir nice bloke runs it hooked us up last minute and didn’t try and Rob us blind money wise stay in lisdonvarna that’s what we said we’d do if it happened we were down that way again. Any question just ask or check out my tik tok @lukie_1250

        Reply
    • There’s no doubt the lower west section is the best and you correct in doing sections at a time, to many trying doing the WAW in one trip and end up missing areas,
      Best Regards
      Noel

      Reply
  1. Noel, I spent most of the lockdown riding the ring of Beara (Covid-19 permitting of course). I’m a local so the start point for me is Glengarriff. Wonderful route!
    Be blessed out on those peninsulas!
    Neil – Ride for the King!

    Reply
    • Covid has really curtailed all travels, luckily there was a break in the lockdown and I got the Irish Photo Rally & Irish Butt Photo Rally completed,
      You’re lucky to live in the most beautiful part of Ireland
      Best Regards, Noel

      Reply
      • Not an easy time at all, Noel. Let’s hope the LORD opens up a window and shines down upon us for a season this summer too.

        Say hello if you’re heading down this way again!

        Reply
  2. Great article. My father was raised on the western most part of the Dingle peninsula. Recently had a friend do the ring of Kerry on a bicycle and I only learned about it after he was done. I told him he should have done either the peninsula above (Dingle) or the peninsula below (which I didn’t know what it was until I read this article) to have incredible views and much less traffic. Looking forward to my next trip to Kerry and will put Beara on the list. Just bought a bike (BMW 1200GS) in Germany to make these types of trips possible with limited leave (I’m US based). Thank You for the route. I love the southwest coast of Ireland and look forward to exploring this peninsula.

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin, glad you like this, its a great area and easy to write about, youve certainly got a beast of a bike to go anywhere you want.
      good luck and safe travels

      Reply
  3. that’s great Kevin, im glad this helped, you’ve certainly chosen a string bike for your trips, good luck on your trip and i hope you get nice sunny weather.

    Reply
  4. Thank you. I did this multiple times (motorcycle camping on a Suzuki GS400) over three decades ago. Planning to ride a bit slower in the summer of 2023. You really picked a great ride to write about.

    Reply
    • thats a classic nowadays, ive a CB400Four that i would love to take around the area but its about 320 miles from my home, we forget how bad brakes were in the 70’s

      Reply
  5. Hi Nomad,

    Great article. Living in Wicklow and having explored most of the West Coast of Ireland, your advise is spot on with regards to riding in the rain in the West Coast. The whole area is absolutely stunning…. when the sun is out!!!! Otherwise it can be pretty miserable and treacherous.
    If anyone is in the Clifden, Co Galway, head to Clifden Eco Beach Camping. One of my favorite place to camp, with good facilities and has a lovely beach. I camp there at least twice a year.
    Been a while since i explored the West on the bike …. hope to be heading there soon… once i get my Royal Enfield Himalayan 😉 Need a lighter bike than the K1100LT for those roads.

    Reply
  6. Havent stayed at the campsite but stayed in bnb called the kings ….. great bnb and the best pudding around its biught in a local butch and have yet to find puddin as good its supplied by a local butcher

    Reply
  7. Thanks to everyone for the information and comments. I’m from just south of Boston, Ma, USA and a few generations out from Ireland. Been thinking (and now planning) for my bucketlist MC trip along the WAW for a while. Your comments re. the weather are a concern and kind of a stumbling block in planning. Doing sections of the WAW does make the most sense. The West of Ireland is such beautiful country, even in the rain (not so much while exploring on two wheels, I bet)! But holding out in some of the west coast locations during soft days seems time well spent as well! Thinking of spending two weeks riding/exploring the w.coast. I ride a Royal Enfield (500cc) classic on the backroads of southeastern Massachusetts and its coastal towns. A great little bike for someone not in a hurry! Any planning suggestions re. lodging, logistics, eq. needs, good MC rental co’s, etc. would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi Steve, thanks for your comment.
      It’s great to hear about your plans and ride through West Ireland. You’re going to have a brilliant time!
      And i’m glad you found Noel’s article helpful! I’m sure Noel will reply with more information soon, but in the meantime, I’d suggest using Booking.com and finding places in Killarney.
      As for motorcycle rentals, have a look at our Recommended Motorcycle Rental and Tour Companies page
      On there you’ll find a page for rental companies based in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Here’s the direct link: Ireland Rental Companies. Please contact the company on there directly and i’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help.

      Thanks and all the best with your upcoming trip,
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply
    • Steve,
      I live in Galway , but I spent the last 40 years , riding various bikes, in New Jersey (5 years) Michigan (15 years) and Oregon (20 years). Ireland’s weather is always changeable , but very seldom extreme. If you are willing to deal with dampness and a bit of chill now and then you can ride year round here. It takes a bit of getting used to , but well worth it. My last location, Oregon, was way too hot in the summer months so I get more riding days in now than before. Good textile gear and willingness to wait for the clouds to clear is the ticket to a great ride here.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Patrick. Nice to hear from an experienced rider! I can take some “dampness” (Galway pubs, trad sessions and a pint or two drives out any chill)…Ha!
        Wondering if it makes sense to stay put for 2-3 days in one spot; do “day-rides” before moving along to the next area; or just keep on moving along up the coast…? Any thoughts are appreciated!
        Thanks,
        Steve.

        Reply
        • Steve,
          Ireland changes with every mile. The dialect, the scenery, the norms and the weather. Staying put would work, but I think it’d take away from the full experience of the county and locale you are visiting. For example, Connemara is an Irish speaking area. You could ride through it hear the language and move on , but stay the night and it’ll be different. Also, I find that the struggle to find accommodations is often the highlight of my day. I dich the electronics and use the people I meet.
          Irish people will take care of you no matter what…you’ll never, be hungry, cold or without a place to stay. From Donegal to Cork on the WAW you’ll often feel the need to spend another day and that’s what you should do if possible. Enjoy and feel free to contact me here in Galway.

          Reply
    • Hi Steve, the WAW is littered with B&B’s, hotels however I have found this year in particular a lot are fully booked if you leave your planning late.
      I would recommend you plan your trip May, June, July, August and perhaps even early September, there is guarantee of a rain free trip or put it another way, if you get a rain free trip i will be surprised!
      If you really want to get into the area dont plan your over night halts no more than 100 mile apart. to be honest the best planning can be done on Google Maps and search hotels, that will give you a lot more listings than Hotels.com, trivago or booking.com, you can obliviously compare prices on the websites but i notice a lot of Irelands hotels & B&Bs arent on the major sites, possibly because the sites take so much commission.
      This is a great map (https://www.atlanticomaps.co.uk/)

      Reply

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