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…
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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16 thoughts on “Ireland’s Secret Biking Road: The Ring of Beara”
We have done the top half of the WAW and coming back to do the west element. We’ll add this in. Thanks for the tip
Hi Karen, what was the top half like, was it worth doing? And what time of year did you go? Thanks!
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
Awesome reply and super helpful. Cheers Luke!
Hi Karen, that’s awesome! Glad you found this article helpful and hope you enjoy the west side! 🙂
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,
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!
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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