The Beara Peninsula – Slow Food, Epic Scenery & Hidden Treasures

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The Beara Peninsula - Slow food, Epic Scenery & Hidden Treasures

Food Tourism in The Beara Peninsula

When you are a closet foodie (maybe not too closeted), you are in foodie heaven when you score a food tour in the Beara Peninsula in Ireland before the start of the TBEX Conference.  TBEX is the Travel Blogger Exchange conference held 2 –  3 times a year in various places around the world.  It brings together travel bloggers, freelance writers, photographers and journalist whose focus is travel – just about anywhere in the world.  It is two days of, networking, workshops and seminars and FAM trips within the region.

The Beara Peninsula - Slow food, Epic Scenery & Hidden Treasures

This fall the gathering of 600+ travel bloggers, influencers and freelance writers was in Killarney, Ireland. While this was my mom’s third TBEX, it was my first (if you’re not counting my short stint in Barcelona a few years ago ). Frankly, I just can’t say enough about the experience.  As part of the conference, the host country sets up pre- or post- one-day excursions and extended FAM tours for conference attendees.

TBEX Ireland - Killarney - @DownshiftingPRO

Killarney National Park

This year, I was able to score a day in Killarney National Park with a lesson in Irish Dancing (little did they know I have years of experience already) and making Irish Coffee and then a second excursion on a food tour of the Beara Peninsula. One of three peninsulas (Beara, Kerry & Dingle) in the southwest region of Ireland, the Beara Peninsula is part of the Wild Atlantic Way.  

It is a place of ancient megalithic monuments; stone circles, holy wells, sacred peaks and serves as a backdrop to the unique riches of Mythic Ireland. Beautiful vistas and breathtaking scenery are not the only things you will find here, starting about 25 years ago, Ireland has seen a revolution in its cuisine, one that has food lovers all over the world doing their own little jigs.  S

low Food, a movement that has been embraced by the island’s region of West Cork, has thrived with the passion and produce of small family-owned farms and businesses.  We were thrilled to take a look into the fascinating world of these food artisans.

Killarney National Park TBEX Killarney @DownshiftingPRO

Our slow food tour was organized by one of the conference sponsors, Hidden Ireland Tours.  Around since 1986,  it is a tour company that sets up short or long-stay customized excursions for small and large groups. 

During our stay, they had also organized tours of the Dingle Peninsula and were busy with a custom pilgrimage tour of Northern Ireland that I may look at the next time I am in Ireland.  I cannot say enough about the itinerary that they put together for us on our Beara Peninsula tour.

Country Village Shopping

Our day began at the INEC conference centre where we were whisked away in a comfortable Kerry Coach bus.  We picked up our food guide, Andrew Heath from Mannings Emporium, in Kenmare, a quaint town full of shops and restaurants. Our stop was brief as we had a lot of territory to cover in one day. 

The Beara Peninsula stretches into the Atlantic from Kenmare and Glengarriff in the east to Castletownbere and westward to Dursey Island (alas, we did not go that far).

Beara Peninsula_Hidden Ireland Tours_TBEX_Killarney_2017_@DownshiftingPRO

The Emerald Isle is home to many a stunning view but driving through the mountains roads can be daunting for any driver, let alone one who is not used to driving on the left side of the road…  That is why I am so relieved to say that Hidden Ireland Tours was able to take us up, down, and through the rugged mountains, valleys, and coastlines of this area so lush with culture and relics of the past. 

With so much to offer in terms of archaeological and spiritual importance, the Bear Peninsula is a must-see.  The Slow Food movement finds itself an added bonus to this already richly coloured area of Ireland.

County Cork - Beara Peninsula - Hidden Treasure Tours TBEX  Ireland @DownshiftingPRO

The journey feels like it’s only just begun as we make our way through Healy Pass, a gap between the mountains with a narrowly paved road.  Do a 180-degree spin at the pass and you’ll find yourself looking from the lakes of Killarney National Park in County Kerry to the rugged boulder sprinkled hillsides of County Cork. 

Though the heights may be a little alarming when riding a wide bus through the  very narrow 2-way roads winding through the mountains, the views are simply so spectacular that you’ll forget any worries you might have.

Best Seafood Chowder in Ireland

 Beara Coast Hotel in Castletown-Bearhaven_ Hidden Ireland _ Beara Peninsula - DownshiftingPRO

Our special food trip here was led by a renowned foodie in whose company, we will wander through some of the wildest and most spectacular scenery one is ever likely to encounter in between calls to some of the leading figures in the small-scale productions of these highest quality speciality foods.

A day of laughs and intrigue, richest inspiration and delicious tastings.  From 8:30 to 5:00 pm, we made our way through the culinary map of the Beara Peninsula.

Our journey begins as we head to the Beara Coast Hotel in Castletown-Bearhaven, where we are presented with a wonderful cooking demonstration for award-winning chowder.  Chef Mark Johnston shares with us his “Best-In-32-Counties” recipe… Yum Yum… Monkfish, smoked hake, haddock and salmon are all in the mix; that’s right, Irish chowder only has fish and no shellfish or mollusk.  I learned that it was fairly simple to make but the key was the fresh fish (right from local fisherman) and to not to boil the fish or you will overcook it.  Once it starts to fall apart in the broth, you’re in trouble.

 Beara Coast Hotel in Castletown-Bearhaven_ Hidden Ireland _ Beara Peninsula - DownshiftingPRO

Newest Gin Producer

Beara Peninsula TBEX Killarney Beara ocean Gin @DownshiftingPRO First batch ever

Next, we made our way to the recently opened gin distillery: Beara Ocean Gin, another product using ingredients from the land and sea local to the area.  It’s the first of it’s kind to use saltwater in its recipe, to replicate the saltiness of the Atlantic seawater which is only a couple kilometres from the distillery itself.  It infuses many local aromatics including the ever so prominent Fuchsia, a brightly fuchsia coloured flower that you can spot along the side of the road in bushes for the majority of the summer months.

Beara Ocean Gin - Beara Peninsula - Hidden Ireland Tours TBEX  Ireland @DownshiftingPRO

Insider’s Update: Beara Ocean Gin is now in their third year and have recently won the “Best Gin in Ireland award”. No small fete for a distillery which opened the week that we came to visit in 2017. Over the past two years Beara Ocean Gin has won several awards in this crowed market.

Beara Ocean Gin - Beara Peninsula - Hidden Ireland Tours TBEX  Ireland @DownshiftingPRO

We were privileged to have been the taste testers for their very first ‘official’ batch.  We have the picture to prove it!  This is a brand new distillery but once again the attention to local produce and resources and a detail to artisan craftsmanship is so prevalent in this region.

Beara Ocean Gin - Beara Peninsula - Hidden Ireland Tours TBEX  Ireland @DownshiftingPRO The Beara Peninsula - Slow food, Epic Scenery & Hidden Treasures

Local Artisinal Cheese

My favourite part of this slow food tour by far was a visit to a cheese producer.  If you know me well enough, you know I’m a big fan of cheese, so I was particularly excited for our next stop, the home of Milleens Cheese – arguably the pioneers of the Slow Food movement themselves.  What an experience, driving up a steep mountain so we could meet, speak and sample cheese with the humble creators of award-winning cheese.

Our host told us the history of how he and his wife began making cheese to solve a simple problem: they had too much milk.  After tweaking the recipe, they brought their cheese to the London International Cheese Show and were stunned to be awarded Supreme Champion. What makes it so special, you might ask?  Well, first, this cheese is made with raw milk. 

The cheese that many of us are used to does not use raw milk but rather pasteurized milk that has been boiled to kill any bacteria before it is consumed.  Though this may seem crucial, however, boiling the milk actually gets rid of a lot of beneficial bacteria, ones that add a unique flavour to the cheese.

Milleens Cheese - Beara Peninsula - Hidden Ireland Tours - @DownshiftingPRO

This cheese is only available locally and to a few European Union countries because of the local microflora consumed by the cows in the area.  When asked why he will not increase production, he stated that you cannot get this particular flavour unless the cows were feeding on this particular grass which also contains residue from the ocean spray.

Milleens Cheese - Beara Peninsula - Hidden Ireland Tours - @DownshiftingPRO

His son, Quinlan, now makes all the cheeses and we were able to taste a wide variety of the cheeses which Milleens produces ( aged to different degrees and even a smoked).  Following this, a feast of a slew of local cheeses, meats and wines to fill us all up. 

Our guide did not disappoint with the selection that he shared with us local produce, pickles, beef, chorizos, soda bread and of course cheeses. This whole spread was put together by Andrew from Mannings Emporium in Ballylickey, Bantry, West Cork.

Mussels Galore

Our last stop was a visit with some local mussel farmers, Saint Patrick Organic Irish Mussels.  Though many of us were already full to the brim, we made room for the mussel soup and boiled mussels they prepared for us.  Grown nearby, the mussels are grown on ropes strung from barrels in the bays.  Fresh and simply delicious.  What a way to finish up our tour.

Kush or St. Patrick Organic Irish Mussels - Beara Peninsula -  - @DownshiftingPRO

We then bid farewell to the Beara Peninsula, beautiful in its scenic views and fascinating food culture.  We were so lucky to be toured around by such a wonderful guide and hosted by lovely producers of Beara’s food, even in their sometimes tight quarters.  From our friendly driver from Kerry Coaches to the Hidden Ireland staff, the trip was interesting, well organized and this is a trip that we won’t soon forget!  Wait for us, Beara Peninsula, we’ll be back!

Beara Peninsula TBEX Killarney @DownshiftingPRO

We were guests of Failte Ireland , Hidden Ireland Tours, Kerry Coaches, Beara Cost Hotel, Beara Ocean Gin and Kush.  We are grateful for TBEX and the organizers of each pre-conference tours.  No other compensation was awarded.  All opinions are our own and truthful. The Beara Peninsula – Slow food, Epic Scenery & Hidden Treasures

Stay tuned for more Ireland adventures!

The Beara Peninsula_Slow Food Movement_TBEXIreland @DownshiftingPRO
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25 thoughts on “The Beara Peninsula – Slow Food, Epic Scenery & Hidden Treasures”

  1. I ate so well in Ireland. Still dreaming of all the goat cheese and lamb. Yum! I did the Irish dancing too! So fun. I visited the Beara Peninsula years ago, I hope to go back and check out some of the places you mention.

  2. Oh wow! My fiancé and I live in North Wales which is about a 3 hour ferry to Ireland, and we’re always looking for fun weekend trips! This looks great, thanks so much!

  3. What a wonderful experience you had! We were at TBEX as well and hiked the Bearra Way for a week before the conference. I love the food experience you had and it makes we want to go back. The Bearra Peninsula was one of our favorite areas of Ireland.

  4. I would love to visit Ireland one day. I bet that was really fun with a group of bloggers. The food at the Beara Coast Hotel in Castletown-Bearhaven looks amazing!

  5. Oh wow. What an awesome trip! I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland, but this event is fantastic! You not only get to visit Ireland, but you also get to sample all that delicious food and meet and network with other bloggers too! I hope I could be in the next TBEX conference!

  6. I wish I could do more traveling, but we just can’t afford it. I feel like I am missing out on so many beautiful places. The Beara Peninsula is beautiful and so are your photos. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Beautiful finds! Delicious looking food. 🙂 I have never visited your blog before but I love the idea of downsizing and traveling more!

  8. I would love to go on the slow food tour. I have always had a passion for food and love to try new places to eat.

  9. Wow what an amazing sounding time you had that scenery is amazing I bet it was lovely to be lead by a foodie who really knows their stuff as well. I have to say I think I would love seeing the cheese as well yum!

  10. I’ve never been to Ireland, but you’ve highlighted some great places to visit and some rather unique things to try. That Beara Ocean Gin, made with salt water sounds interesting.

  11. Oh my gosh everything about this is heavenly. I would love to visit Ireland in the first place but going there and eating all sorts of different foods and everything else you did I would love it.

  12. What a fun conference! I love that they have had it in three places this year, including the US. I’d love to visit Ireland someday. It’s simply beautiful!

  13. It sounds like you had an amazing time. I just love Ireland. I was there years ago as a teen so I didn’t fully appreciate it. I hope I can go back one day. I would love trying the cheeses!

  14. My cousin is in Ireland right now. Between the pictures he is posting on Facebook and your post, I am REALLy wanting to go to Ireland sometime… like NOW! Looks like they have some delicious food and some stunning scenic views!

  15. Sounds like you had an amazing trip! No shortage of things to see. Seems like a great balance of cities, beautiful landscapes, and good food.

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