The Beara Breifne Way
All the trails we’re walking (the National Waymarked Trails) are typically considered long distance walking trails. However, there are a couple of routes in Ireland that are longer still. One of these is the Beara-Breifne Way. Starting on the coast of the Beara Peninsula, the route brings you across 6 mountain ranges, along the banks of the river Shannon, around the lakes of Roscommon, and finally to the karst landscape of the Cavan Burren!
The Beara-Breifne Way is a both a walking and cycling trail that follows the 14 day march across the country in 1603 by Dónal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and and his 1,000 supporters. O'Sullivan Beare was one of the last Irish chieftains/kings, and after loosing his lands and castle at Dunboy to Queen Elizabeth I, he and his followers fled from the Beara Peninsula, travelling 500km north. On this journey they were attacked many times, while also contending with starvation and the freezing cold winter weather conditions, having started marching on New Years Eve. After the 14 days, only 35 people arrived to Leitrim safely, with many having been killed, fallen ill or deserting to join other villages along the way.
The 12 Beara Breifne Way Stages:
The walking route interconnects different walking routes, many of which are National Waymarked Trails! And so long before we knew about O’Sullivan Beare’s flight, we were walking in his footsteps. By the end of this project we’ll have completed nearly every section of the Beara-Breifne Way!
Here are the 12 stages of the Beara Breifne Way, which are tpyically grouped into three sections. The National Waymarked Trails are marked “bold/italic”. I’ve included links to the blog post of each section that we’ve done, which includes photos and videos if you’re interested! There are also rumours of the Ormond Way becoming a National Waymarked Trail this year, so our list might be growing longer …
The Beara Way
North West Cork Way
At the time of writing this, I know that the Leitrim Way was once a National Waymarked Trail, but is currently closed and being redeveloped - however, you can continue along the Miner’s Way instead and still reach the Cavan Way!
The North West Cork Way is a new name to us. I remember when we reached the end of the Ballyhoura Way and we saw signs for the Avondhu & Duhallow Ways. We stood there panicking - the Avondhu Way & Duhallow Way that we had known about finished in a completely different, far away place. Had the trail changed so drastically? Was there now an extra 100km to walk? However, it turned out that at the time, the Beara Breifne Way had their section of trail titled the same name as the National Waymarked Trails in that area, even though their route went wildly off course to that of the National Waymarked Trails. Once we realised that our trails hadn’t started moving themselves around the country we calmed down a bit, wondering how many people had also been as confused as us when they saw different trails with the same name.
Seeing it now listed as the North West Cork Way makes me feel more relieved than I expected, and also curious to see if their route has changed.
For me, the most exciting development of the Beara Breifne Way in 2018 was the addition of the stamps!
If you have walked or heard about any of the many European pilgrim routes, you will have heard about the stamps. As a person walks they collect stamps along the route to prove that they passed through the right places. They can be in churches, hostels, hotels, cafes - pretty much anywhere. You collect these stamps in a “pilgrim passport, which you can show at the end of the walk to whoever it is that gives out the certificates or high fives. I personally really like collecting them - not for certificates, but just as a way of remembering the different places I went through.
The stamps that have been made for the Beara Breifne Way look beautiful. There seem to be black stamps that you collet along each stage/way, and at the end of that Way you get a red stamp to show you completed it. Then, once you collect all the red stamps there is a blue stamp to show that you’ve completed the whole trail. I know many people scoff at stamps, and I definitely understand why you do, but I think it’s a lot of fun for people who do enjoy it.
I’m writing this blog post as the companion piece to the video we released yesterday giving a similar overview of the Beara Breifne Way. It was fun to think about the sections we’ve done, and we’re both interested in maybe walking the route all in one go some time in the future, when our current walking goals are achieved. From people we’ve met on different trails - some involved in the Beara Breifne Way specifically, and some having worked with the BBW - it seems like there’s a huge driving force behind those developing it, which gives me a lot of hope for long distance walking in Ireland. I know that if Carl and I get to walk it all again, there will probably be noticeable improvements and changes on every section compared to when we first walked it.
For more information on all aspects of the Beara Breifne Way, check out their website. If you’ve walked it, or plan on walking it, let us know your thoughts on it!
The other major long distance walking routes on the island are the Irish section of the E8 walking route (a transeuropean walking route from south-west cork, to Istanbul in Turkey), the Ulster Way (a 1000km route in Northern Ireland), and the Ireland Way, which combines the Beara Breifne Way with sections of the Ulster Way.