Hidden Beach: Back to Nature at Ballydonegan
Ballydonegan Beach is quiet and rustic, carved from a stretch of Ireland’s wild Beara Peninsula.
Ireland is better known for its green landscapes and rainy skies than for its sun and sand, but that’s precisely why Ballydonegan Beach remains quiet and untouched. Stretching out near the town of Allihies on Ireland’s Beara Peninsula, it’s a rustic reminder of how peaceful beaches can be.
To reach Ballydonegan, muster up an adventurous spirit. Roads weave wildly toward Allihies, cutting through piles of rocks left behind from copper mining. Allihies is part of the Beara Way, a long-distance walking and cycling route around the Beara Peninsula featuring historical sites and architecture. Many say getting out of the car and experiencing Beara on foot or bicycle is the best way to get a feel for the southernmost of Ireland’s peninsulas. The route also passes through several charming villages.
Of particular note is Eyeries, a small village with quintessential Irish charm: rows of colorful houses and kind, good-humored locals who won’t hesitate to offer directions around their stunning locale. Eyeries also offers quick and easy access to Dursey Island, an almost deserted haven with no businesses—not even a pub!—and fewer than 20 fulltime residents. Similarly uncrowded, Allihies’s relaxed scene features yet more colorful houses, home to many fine Beara artists. The village stands out before a backdrop of the Caha Mountains and steel-gray Ballydonegan Bay, which gently laps the shore of the hidden beach.
With gritty sand bearing remnants of Allihies’ copper mining past, Ballydonegan Beach has a weathered toughness, softened only by the muted colors of the surrounding landscape. Jagged black rocks poke up at each end of the shore, and choppy waves slop lazily against the sand that slopes up toward the village about a half-mile away. Arrive in any season and expect to see few crowds. At Ballydonegan, the sights and sounds of nature are abundant, unobstructed by the outside world.
Fittingly, Allihies is home to a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Center called Dzogchen Beara, which received a visit by Ireland’s president Mary McAleese in 2007. Underwater relaxation is also an option at the Cluin Dive School, which offers various classes at Ballydonegan Beach and accommodations in Allihies. And for travelers left revived by the sea and fresh air, the village’s Copper Mine Museum tells the imagination-sparking stories of miners from the 1800s. Multimedia exhibits depict the era’s emerging technologies, such as water and steam-powered machines.