Irish Film Destinations – Beara Peninsula & Cong
Ireland has always been a popular spot for film directors, its rugged seascapes, quiet villages and wild countryside making the perfect backdrop to some tragic love story or epic historical drama. Scenic shots beamed throughout the world in films like Braveheart, Circle of Friends and Dancing at Lughnasa have inspired people from all over the world to come in search of the wild and rugged island at the edge of Europe.
While the cast and crew wrap up their filming and move on to their next destination, the villages celebrate their moment of glory by erecting signposts, opening small museums and hanging memorabilia on the walls of the local pub in preparation of the visitors, who will no doubt follow.
Take the lovely village of Cong, for example. Perched on the tranquil shores of Lough Corrib the village clings to its legacy of being the setting for John Ford’s famous film, The Quiet Man, starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne. A thatched cottage has been renovated to replicate the cottage from the film, even down to the furnishings and costumes on display. No matter if you’ve never seen the film (which I have not) Cong is one of Ireland’s most beautiful villages.
Walk through the grounds of the impressive remains of the 7th century Cong Abbey, with its crumbling cloisters and intricate Gothic windows, go fishing on the river; rent a bike in the village and follow the forest trail, before looping back and heading to the stunning gardens of the rather grand Ashford Castle. From here jump aboard a boat and take a trip around Lough Corrib’s many islands. Stay over in a local B&B or those with bigger budgets may take a room in the castle, or as a compromise try out the lovely Lisloughrey Lodge.
Cork has everything, a cosmopolitan capital city, thriving coastal towns like Kinsale or Baltimore and a reputation for being a honeypot for foodies. However, its weather-beaten and often dramatic peninsulas tend to get overlooked, yet here you will find some of the most breathtaking scenery, challenging walkways, deserted beaches and picturesque villages. Jutting out into the Irish Sea, bordering with its county rival, Kerry, the Beara Peninsula has been the setting for many a film, including Purple Taxi, Ondine and more recently Neil Jordan’s Byzantium. I spent two weeks as a teenager in Glengarriff and despite my youthful angst of being stuck in a cottage with my parents with no TV or friends, I was blown away by the peninsula’s beauty.
Visit the intriguing tropical gardens and take a boat out to the stunning Garinish Island, a horticultural delight; drive the scenic coastline all the way to the tip of the peninsula and take the cable car across to Dursey Island and then round the headland taking a break to walk the beach in Allihies, or stay overnight in a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat. You’d do well to time your visit to the Peninsula with the Eyeries Family Festival (July 20th – 22nd 2012) in the secluded, colouful town of Eyeries. The festival is a weekend of music, sports, treasure hunts and fun for all the family.
It seems the location managers know what they’re doing and no doubt they will continue to come and unearth more of Ireland’s hidden gems.