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Learning History on Bere Island

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

Bere Island is situated in Cork County with a current population of 190 people. Several of the local guides met our skiffs when we landed this afternoon. Each offered a different itinerary. I chose a loop walk around the island to learn about its military history, which turned out to be quite extensive.

The British had occupied the island in the past. At one point, the island was split between the British and the Republic of Ireland. Those in trouble with the law in one part often ran from one sector to another to avoid capture. There still remains many British buildings, some that were used for military operations and others as housing for the top officers. Some of the buildings are now used by the Irish army, but it sounds as if only occasionally.

Our guide knew quite a bit about the military history and of course, the time of “The Troubles”, when Ireland was once again trying to wrest free from British rule. He also talked about current island life. Bere is at the entrance to Bantry Bay, a deep water harbor to Castletownbere, and a big fishing port. Summer brings many tourists for hiking, fishing, and even glamping. We were there just before tourist season started.

Of the many stops on our walk, we saw a small harbor used by Vikings. Another stop was a military site that houses two six-inch guns. Our guide had the key to this abandoned military installation, so I was able to see the guns up close and learn how they were loaded and fired. The ammunitions were stored underground and fed up through a manual lift system. We were able to go underground, into the dark tunnels, and see the storage and lift facilities. It was quite fascinating.

The military installation has been partially restored, but there is much work to do before it can be left open to the public. I appreciated that our guide had the key and was able to show us around. Once again, the local guides proved to be welcoming, friendly, and informative.

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