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The Beara Peninsula

The Beara Peninsula is a remote, sparsely populated stretch of land on the southwest tip of Ireland, pretty much as far from Dublin as you can get. Once upon a time, it was the very edge of the known world.

My own direct O’Sullivan and O’Neill ancestors as well as the Harrington ancestors of the father who raised me (whose name I bear) lived here. The original of the Irish family name Harrington was O-h-Iongardail – pronounced like O’Hungerdell – unfamiliar enough that I chose it for a pen name. But anyway, they lived here, and it was a bit like the salmon swimming back upstream for myself and wife and kids to get there ourselves and live – including a few tricky leaps – all the way from New Mexico.

Waves on White Ball Head, Cahermore, Beara
Photo by SA Harrington

The largely treeless, mountainous land and the sea surrounding it, with booming headlands and often relentlessly changing weather conditions, are a source of endless inspiration to me, and any reader of Thief of Tales will get a serious dose of it. Make no mistake, it can be drop-dead gorgeous, switch to sheer savagery, and back again in no time. There will be a photo gallery here someday soon to provide a deeper glimpse.

The Beara economy historically has been boom and bust, with severe poverty at times. The Celtic Tiger economy shared its outrageous increases in property prices (which did not last), but was more parsimonious with sustainable industry and employment. Substantial fishing vessels sit at dockside for much of the year. Sheep and cattle are scattered on the hillsides, with an uncertain future. Local food production could see a new dawn, however, with the way energy is going.

The domesticated beasts are joined by sika deer, foxes, badgers, stoats, and hares, along with congregations of sea birds and other interesting avian species, such as the chough. You have your pick of clifftop perches on which to sit and watch a mighty gannet drift by before your eyes before coursing out over the waves to dive-bomb a mackerel. It was sheer magic to watch my son boldly (but warmly) greet a fox at our back door in the twilight!

Ballydonegan Strand, Allihies, Beara
Photo by SA Harrington

Beara is a quiet and tranquil place, with healthy, oxygen-rich air and nights that are actually dark, balanced by hair-raising roads and the potent reek of slurry on the pastures. It is a beautiful place where people live and work as well as visit. I hope an imaginative foundation can be laid for the future.

The photo gallery will be accompanied by periodic reflections on aspects of Beara, including interesting establishments, events and activities, as well as on being an expatriate family in this place. So, do circle back here from time to time!