The Beara Peninsula

Tuosist (Co. Kerry)

Coornagillagh Strand (Photo by derrynid)

Tuosist is the County Kerry section of the Beara Peninsula, stretching west from just south of Kenmare along the coast for 23 miles to just before the village of Ardgroom (Co. Cork). Enclosed by the Cara Mountains and the sea, Tuosist has some of the loveliest scenery to be found anywhere in Ireland, with views out to the Atlantic Ocean and across Kenmare Bay to the majestic range of Magillicuddy`s Reeks.

In addition to spectacular marine vistas, the area has lovely glens with  ancient woodlands, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. The hedgerows abound with Fuchsia and other colourful wild flowers; the plentiful rhododendron is at its most colourful in spring and early summer. There are numerous walking and cycling routes.

Tuosist’s name comes from the Tuath Ó Siosta or Tuath aes Iosta, and can be translates roughly as “The Territory of the Soista or Iosta people”.

There is much evidence that Tuosist was occupied during the Bronze Age. The Killaha Hoard, comprising a large number of metal artefacts from that period, was found at the eastern end of the district by farmer James O’Sullivan when he was clearing rocks from his land, and subsequently acquired by the NMI, where they are still stored. Eight ceremonial Stone Circles are spaced out over the whole parish. Less visible are numerous hut sites and fulachta fia or cooking pits.

Ardea Castle, in the townland of the same name, is an atmospheric ruin standing on a promontory overlooking Kenmare Bay. One of the three main castles of the O Sullivan-Bere clan, it somehow escaped destruction by Sir George Carew in 1602, only to be “slighted” by Cromwellian troops 50 years later.

Knockanoughanish (386m) and Knockatee (330m) dominate the skyline of the lovely Glentrasna valley.

Gleninchaquin is a narrow coombe valley, where a spectacular waterfall feeds a series of lakes and streams. It would appear to have been quite heavily populated in the distant past, and contains several interesting arcchaeological sites.

Gleninchaquin Park is a privately owned amenity open to the public, taking  in high Cummeenadilure Lough and higher Lake Cummeenlaughan as well as a partially landscaped lower area with a sensory garden, art gallery, refreshment & picnic facilities.

Lough Inchaquin (Photo by Nigel Cox)

The  Uragh Stone Circle, located near Lough Inchiquin, consists of five megaliths.

Uragh Wood is a predominantly oak-filled habitat for an abundance of bird life, wild mammals and the Kerry slug (shiny black with silver spots, of Lusitanian origin), and a deserted house is home to a huge colony of bats.

The three Clonee Loughs, studded with tiny islands, are set on a series of wooded “terraces” descending the slopes of Knockreagh (500m), while neighbouring Knockagarraneare, Knockagarrane (414m) and Knockonoughanish are dotted with corrie lakes, making for stunning scenery.

Course fishing is available in the attractive Gowlaun Lake, but is not recommended in high Lough Napeasta.

The Cummeengeera Horseshoe walk above Rabach’s Glen takes in the highest local summit, Eskatarriff (531m).

Carraig / Pluais na Scríob (“The Rock / Cave of the Scribing”), supposedly located in this area, is said to be covered with Mesolithic petroglyphs or inscriptions different from conventional Ogham writing, but is widely dismissed as a hoax.

Josie’s Lakeview House seafood restaurant enjoys a spectacular view that takes in Lake Glanmore with its magnificent mountain backdrop.

Glanmore Lake Hostel, a converted schoolhouse at the foot of the Healy Pass, is an austere  An Óige facility set amidst spectacular scenery.

Lauragh (Co. Kerry)

Lauragh (pronounced “Larack”), a tiny village on Kilmakilloge Harbour, is the only population nucleus in Tuosist.

Derreen House & Gardens

 

Derreen House is a pleasant mid-C19th building, rebuilt and enlarged in the 1920s after being burnt down in the Civil War. Plush, undulating lawns sweep down from the house to the woodland below.

 

Upon inheriting the property in 1870, Sir William Petty‘s descendant Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, designed and planted the gardens over a period of nearly 60 years, when not otherwise engaged abroad e.g. as Governor General of Canada and Viceroy of India.

 

Derreen Garden, nicknamed “the Kerry Rainforest”, is now managed by his great-great-grandson Charlie Bigham and his wife Claire. The woodland garden is famous for its American trees, many of which have become venerable giants, such as the 43m / 140ft giant red Cedars.

 

Rhododendrons in May at Derreen (Photo by qu!nlyn)

 

One path follows the sweep of the shoreline through tunnels of rhododendron, some rising as high as 60ft, while others wind through the dense foliage of the promontory, opening occasionally to an entrancing rocky glen or a view across the broad Kenmare River estuary to the Ivereagh Peninsula.

 

The garden is home to several rarities, most notably the New Zealand tree ferns that flourish in a small glade, among giant blue gum, eucalyptus and bamboo.

 

A Landlord’s Garden, published by the Hafod Press, gives a history of the Lansdowne family and surveys the development of Derreen from wildwood to one of the most cosmopolitan gardens in Europe, and contains a full analysis of its planting history.

 

The Landsdowne Estate in Kerry under the agency of William Steuart Trench 1849 – 1872, by Tuosist native Gerard J Lyne, is a comprehensive and illuminating study, based on extensive archives, of the operation of the Landlord system in Ireland in  the period immediately following the Great Famine.

Saint Cillian / Kilian of Würzburg is the Patron Saint of Tuosist. Born in Cavan, he is believed to have lived locally in the C8th before departing for Franconia, where he was martyred along with Saint Colmán and Saint Totnan; their jewelled skulls, on display in St Kilian’s Cathedral, Würzburg, are paraded through the streets annually, while their statues are amongst those lining the famous Bridge of Saints across the River Main, and the Kiliani Volksfest is the main summer festival.  A traditional Pattern is still celebrated in Kilmackillogue on his feast day, 8th July.

Lauragh is the northern end of the R571 section via the Healy Pass to Adrigole (Co. Cork).

Notable people from Tuosist include Séan Ó Súilleabháin (1903 – 1996) poet and folklorist, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Irish National Folklore Archives He also collected and published the works of Tuosist poets under the title “Diarmuid na Bolgaighe agus a Chomharsuin“. The collection contains the poetry of Diarmuid Ó Sé na Bolgaighe (1756 – 1846) and ten other poets, the best known of whom was Morty Larry O Sullivan (d.1905).

Tuosist 6000 is a locally published book containing 50 articles on the history of the area and its people over the last 6000 years.