Activities / Historic & Archaeology
The Hag of Beara
Legend has it that this rock which rises above Coulagh Bay represents the fossilized remains of the face of the Cailleach Beara awaiting her husband Manannan, God of the Sea, to return to her. Her presence still haunts visitors who leave coins, trinkets and all sorts of other small offerings, on and around the rock. Other legends say that the Hag stole a Bible from the Catholic cleric Caitighearn. In order to recover his revered book of God, Caitighearn struck the Hag with his staff, instantly turning her to stone. Whatever legend you believe in, the Hag of Beara in many ways has come to represent Mna na hEireann – the women of Ireland – due to her power, fertility, and strength. Surely she will rise to help nurture Ireland once again. Located only minutes from Eyeries, on the Kilcatherine coastal road, the Hag is worth a visit.
Getting there: Kilcatherine is across Coulagh Bay from Eyeries. Look for the sign on the Left Hand Side as you drive by Kilcatherine Church.
Kilcatherine Church and Graveyard
This ancient monastic site and ruined medieval church date from the 7th century. The church is named after the mysterious St. Caithighearn, reputedly known as "The Cat Goddess", and has a curious stone head that looks like a cat set above the door archway in the southern facade. The leaning stone on the left is one of the earliest stone crosses in Ireland.
According to the book written by Daniel M. O’Brien, “Beara, A Journey Through History” gives the stone head carved head an important clue. It is seen in churches in Italy and Austria and regarded as pre-Christian and possible connected with snake worship. In the graveyard is an 8th- or 9th- century old cross which was published in the National Library. From the monastic Map of Ireland the site would appear to have been a nunnery rather than a monastery. In the Decerials Letter of Pope Innocent 111 (1198-1216) the parishes west of Bantry ( Kilmocomogue) are given as Cellechdach, (Killough Or Killeacac), Cellmana, (Allihies or Kilmanagh, Cellchattigern (Kilcatherine) and Cellmoceogain (Kilmackkowen). There is an undated Mandate from Pope Eugenius 1V (1431-14470) to the Arch deacon of Ross, to collate and assign to Allan O’hualloccayn, clerk of the diocese of Ross, to be promoted to all, even Holy Orders, and to hold a benefice even with cure and having been tonsured, to receive and hold a canonry and the pretend of Kyllmana and Kyllcharrine. The book “Beara, A Journey Through History” can be bought at local shops and Tourist office in Castletownbere.
Getting There: the Church is across Coulagh Bay from Eyeries. Just take the coast road through Ballycrovane and keep driving west to Kilcatherine. You’ll see the Church on your right hand side.
The Ballycrovane Ogham Stone
In nearby Ballycrovane (a small fishing harbour 4 km north of Eyeries) stands the 17.5 foot tall Ogham stone, the largest of its type in Europe. It bears the inscription 'MAQI DECCEDDAS AVI TURANIAS' which translates as "Mac Deich Uí Turainn" or "son of Deich the descendant of Turainn". Centuries old, it is a testimony to the ancients who dwelled in this place of sky and water so many years ago.
Getting There: the Ogham Stone is in Ballycrovane, approximately 4 km from Eyeries along the coast road toward Kilcatherine. As you near Ballycrovane harbour, keep an eye out for the Ogham Stone sign.
Thief’s Bridge (Droichead na Gadaí)
And so it is said that: one day a thief and a priest were walking along the shore together on what is now the Beara Walk, not far from Eyeries. It began to turn dark and stormy and the odd couple decided to find shelter. The only dry place around was under an old bridge. The priest, who was holding a large ornate staff said to the thief, who was carrying only an old dry rood of a walking stick, “I shall plant my staff in the ground. It will bloom with roses and we shall be safe for I am not sinful, unlike you, poor thief.” The priest planted his staff in the ground and went to sleep. The thief, who had been thieving for many years and knew that he was sinful, turned his eyes into the dark, storm-filled night and lifted his eyes toward Heaven. “I know that I am only a sinful thief, dear Father. But I pray that with your Word my sins shall be forgiven and I shall sleep safe.” The thief then planted his rough rood of a walking stick into the ground and went to sleep next to the priest. The next morning the storm had cleared. The sun shone from the heavens and glinted on the waters of Coulagh Bay. Having awakened, the priest and the thief realized that the staff and walking stick where no longer where they had planted them. They wandered out across the course rocks. The priest found his ornate staff first. It was broken into a thousand pieces and scattered in the detritus found in the foaming surf that cascaded onto the rock. The thief at first could not find his walking stick. “Look!” said the priest with wonder. Thrusting up from the very rock was the walking stick. It was covered with a thousand roses, as red as the blood of Christ. “I was not humble before God,” the priest said to the thief. “Forgive me, thief. A sinful thief, begging forgiveness, will have the ear of God even before a holy man who does not know how to humble himself.”
Getting There: less than a mile from Eyeries. You can still visit the spot of the Thief’s Bridge. Take the Beara Way toward the Strand. Ask a local for directions.
The British Coast Guard Station
Want to see a piece of Irish history? The Coast Guard Station, built by the British, was attacked and burned in 1920. Legend has it that a local woman informed the local IRA that a cache of rifles and other armaments were kept there. The IRA decided to neutralise the threat. And that they did. The old Coast Guard station is now a ruin, but visitors can still see the rooms in which the members of the British Coast Guard lived and slept; the Coulagh Bay views that they constantly surveyed; and the local stone constructed Boat House in which they protected their Life Boat.
Getting There: walk down the small laneway across from the Post Office. At the pier, walk over the metal steps to the Right Hand Side, and onto the Beara Walk. Keep walking along the coast for approximately 1.5 miles, toward Ballycrovane. The Coast Guard Station is on your right hand side, located on a small hillock overlooking the Bay.
Stone Circles & Raths
The environs surrounding Eyeries have been populated by peoples for millennia. They have left behind an amazing assortment of structures. Visit them and feel the eyes of the long dead study kindly as they watch you discover for yourself the magic that they employed to build these marvellous artefacts. Here are just a few:
Ardgroom Stone Circle
Commanding a fine view from its exposed position over Bantry Bay, this fine axial-stone circle has stones similar to the pillar-like slabs of the smaller circle at Drombohilly (Kerry), 9.6km (6ml) NE. In this circle also 9 stones survive, with some unfortunately missing: one can be seen in a field fence some distance to the N. They range from 30cm to almost 2m in height. Outside the circle, to the E, is an associated standing stone. The axial stone is, unusually, set with its long axis vertical. 3.2km (2ml) W is the tall Ogham-inscribed standing stone at Faunkill-and-the-Woods. 9.6km (6ml) S by W is another fine circle at Derreenataggart West. Less than 4.5 km (3 miles) E is Shronebirrane stone circle, Kerry. Access: 7.2km (4 1/2 miles) WSW of Lauragh Bridge and about 500 meters SSE of the L.62 road, approachable by farm lane and across bogland.
Gowlane Stone Circle
Standing Stone (Menhir) in Co. Cork A fine standing stone around 3m high. In a back garden and currently used as one end of their washing line!
Ancient Village or Settlement. This is an early Christian settlement. Enclosed by an oval enclosure formed by a wall still standing to 2.5m in parts and an outer ditch. The remains of huts and internal structures can be made out all over the site. In mediaeval and later times it has been reused for burials and a crude cross marks the position of a former chapel on a revetted platform. There is a standing stone circa 60m to the West and a possible boulder burial nearby.
Caiseal Coillte, Cashelkeelty Stone Circle, Lauragh, County Kerry
A half-hour’s drive from Eyeries is the small village of Lauragh, County Kerry. Park in the simple car park, take a fine walk, and enjoy some of the most stunning stone circles in the area. Click here for further information on this site and the beautiful walk that takes you there
Dereenataggart Stone Circle, Near Castletownbere
This is a fabulous example of a recumbent stone circle. There were originally 15 stones in the circle of which only 9 of them are still standing. Three of the stones have fallen at the west and there are three missing stones. One of the portal stones is 2.4 metres tall, the other is broken only a stump remains. The stones are graded in height from the portal stones to the recumbent stone. This is the large slab to the left in the top image. As you can also see in the header image the top of the stones slope toward the recumbent stone. There are gorgeous views of Bear Island to the south. A visit is strongly recommended. On your way up to the circle from Castletownbere keep an eye out for the standing stone at Knockaneroe.
Come to Eyeries Village. Embrace the tranquillity.