Bere Island parkrun, Ireland

Bere Island parkrun route
Bere Island parkrun route. West to East and back, anticlockwise.

Bere Island has been a must-visit destination among parkrunners in the know since it started. It involves a fun ferry-ride (two options in the summer, one otherwise), warm welcome, great scenery and communal gathering in a local cafe afterwards. There is nothing not to like. I picked a friend up from Kerry airport – the closest, but you’ll have to travel from any airport so can take your pick – and headed to Castletownbere, on the mainland.

Heading to the ferry
Heading to the ferry.

They say a lot of things about this parkrun. It’s a 9:30 start, but really 9:45 because it’s relaxed and they allow people to get there from the mainland. The bus is a white-knuckle ride. Not quite my experience, but it was definitely a bouncy, chatty and fun thing. The post event chat is some of the best. The views are gorgeous. Take anything outlandish with a pinch of salt, but anything good is likely to be true. It’s worth a read through the news reports on their website for a flavour.

We hopped on the Bere Island ferry at 9, and paid up – it’s all very relaxed, and the €10 return (cash) each for ferry + bus is collected when they’re ready. I don’t know whether they always take money on the way out, and just don’t on the way, back, but certainly the same person counted us in to the ‘parkrun special’ ferry at 11:15 that takes back those who choose to take the bus back from the cafe. On a nicer day, you could happily make a day of it on the island, and walk back to the ferry. In the summer months you can catch Murphys ferry from a few miles out of town (the pontoon, as they refer to it), which takes you straight to Rerrin, and walking distance from the start.

The record attendance is 181, swelled by summer visitors, but on this cool day we had just 29. A chance to meet more or less everyone, though we had more chance to chat to those on the bus and ferry.

Walkers and runners set off up the road
Walkers and runners set off up the road.

Unlike other parkruns, this event is on roads. It is so quiet that they don’t need to be closed – we didn’t see any traffic, and I’m sure any locals who aren’t taking part are well aware it is happening. There are a couple of other races on the roads at other times in the year, which I’m sure operate in a similarly relaxed manner.

Coastal view, watery sun breaking through clouds
View off the North side of Bere Island.

The start is uphill, and you soon come to great views away to your right, looking away to the South East. From here you can see other parts of Ireland, though locals are happiest when telling you that the “next stop is America” when looking out to sea.

We were lucky with the weather, which was dry and cool, but even then it was subject to rapid change – in this case, just the cloud and light conditions, so my photos look quite different from moment to moment.

We had a short first-timer briefing, with a map of the course. It didn’t matter to me, a bum knee reducing me to walking and giving me time to check the course map any time I felt like, but lack of one crucial direction sent Steve momentarily the wrong way. If in doubt, take the right fork, they said, and that’s true for everywhere except at the top of the course, when you should turn left. There are arrows there and a couple of other places, so if in doubt, follow the white arrows on the road.

Take the right fork.
Take the right fork. And follow the arrow.
Near the end, coming back in to Rerrin
Near the end, coming back in to Rerrin.

Afterwards we were feted for our parkrun count, and got stuck in to scones and coffee/water. We were made to feel welcome in a very short time, and if it hadn’t been so much fun, the bus ride back to the ferry would have been sad.

Later that evening, we ate at Murphy’s Family Restaurant, and were joined by three parkrunners, part of a larger work Christmas party. We headed on to McCarthy’s bar (yes, that one from the front of the book), where the musicians had heard of parkrun and gave us a shout out, and those same parkrunners came after dinner and talked to us some more, of running, the local area, music and more.

Come for the event, stay for the socialising. Great views, talk, welcome; all the best of Ireland.

Fishing boats in the harbour
Fishing boats in the harbour – they were kept in port by a large swell in the Atlantic, so this is actually a mournful sight for the locals.

Results from event 286, 14/12/2019.

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