Coaches & Buses in West Cork and Kerry in July 2008, including Bus Eireann, private operators, rural transport scheme and island operations. All photos by Gabriel Conway
The Beara peninsula is one of the lesser-known treasures of Ireland, just as pretty but far less spoilt than the nearby Ring of Kerry. The Cork/Kerry border runs along the middle of the peninsula, with the western end being wholly in West Cork.
For such a remote area, it is well served by public transport, with Bus Eireann services on both sides of the peninsula, a long established private operator on the Cork side, and a well-developed network of rural transport services that reach right to the end, and even out to the largest island off Castletownbere.
The photo above, taken on the southern side, on the road from Glengarriff to Castletownbere, shows Bus Eireann VC116 parked around 4-5km west of Glengarriff. There is often a schoolbus parked at this location, though I suspect that VC116 has been working a regular service.
In the background can be seen Bantry Bay and the Sheeps Head.
A closer view of VC116 – the VCs are the mainstay of many services in the area, though they are being slowly cascaded to schools work now.
Over the many years that I have visited Kenmare, I have seen generations of buses come and go on the Kenmare/Killarney service (these days numbered 270).
In the mid 70s Leyland Leopard E14 was the main bus, with E69 sometimes doing duty as a backup. In the late 70s and early 80s, C27 was the only bus on this service for a long time, until replaced by new KR97 in 1985. This was to be the last new bus that the route received for many a year, as a succession of midlife coaches followed when the KR was eventually relegated to schools. There was a PL for a while in the late 90s, and then VC60 became a regular, up until about a year ago, following which a variety of VCs have been used, with VC109 appearing often.
SC235 is the first brand new vehicle I’ve seen on the route since 1985, and is seen here departing from Killarney Bus Station for Kenmare (irish: Nedin) on an early morning journey.
Also at Killarney, VC86 waits to take up duty on the 040 express service linking Tralee and Killarney with Cork and Waterford.
Also fairly new, SP104 is seen here at the part of Killarney Bus Station closest to the Outlet Centre. These coaches are very sleek looking, and have the most flush fitting doors of any I have seen.
Sister vehicle SP108 seen in the coach parking area near the bus station.
A variety of independent operators coaches can be seen at Killarney throughout the year, and there is almost always several varieties of Kavanaghs on display!
Galvins of Dunmanway are often seen around Killarney on tour work.
Back to the Beara peninsula, and VC28 is seen at The Square in Castletownbere, ready for the 1100 departure to Kenmare on route 282. This is a magnificant trip, which involves crossing the mountains to the nothern side of the peninsula and into Co. Kerry, with some spectacular scenery and narrow roads. In the summer, two round trips a day are operated Monday to Saturday, while in winter months a shorter version runs once a week from Ardgroom to Kenmare.
An hour an a half later, VC28 has arrived in Kenmare and dropped off its passengers, some of whom will continue on to Killarney on VC109 on the 270.
The buses are seen at the top of the main street in Kenmare, where a dedicated Bus Eireann stop is in place. CIE and Bus Eireann buses have used the main street as a stopping point for almost 50 years, however a local politician has launched a campaign to have the bus stop moved to a different part of town, in order to make 5 further car parking spaces available in the main street. This despite the fact that the new location would involve considerable disruption for the bus services, forcing them to navigate the one-way system twice for some departures, and would be less convienient for the passengers.
During the summer, two buses are needed for the 270, so VC109 is working the service as well as SC235 – it will be interesting to see which one is retained for the one-bus winter timetable!
The early afternoon departure that the VC is about to work takes connecting passengers from both the 282 Castletownbere service, and the West Cork 252 route, formerly the 044 expressway.
Since the late 1970s there has been a summer-only service from Cork through Bantry and Glengarriff to Kenmare, until this year always running on to Killarney.
Originally an Expressway service, recently numbered 044, it has this year been downgraded to a stage service, numbered 252, and does not run beyond Kenmare.
When started in the 70s, the route used to take the scenic Molls Gap road to Killarney, though in recent years it has used the quicker Kilgarvan routing. It remains one of the few services in Ireland to operate through a hand-carved mountain tunnell, between Glengarriff and Kenmare.
Buckleys is an operation connected with Kerry Coaches of Killarney. One of their luxury minicoaches is seen here at the triangle in Kenmare.
Here is an interesting and very well-preserved import to these shores. Possibly a former postbus from the UK, this Leyland vehicle now seems to be used as a private camper van, and was in Kenmare for the fleadh weekend at the end of july.
SP18 seems to be a regular overnight visitor to Kenmare, on CIE touring work.
Back to Castletownbere, and here we see the very long established private operator O’Donoghues, who operate bus services from Castletownbere to Bantry and Cork. Their base is right in the centre of the town, at the main square.
A few miles off Castletownbere in Bantry Bay lies Bere Island, which is connected to the mainland by two car-ferry services, one of which leaves from the centre of town.
The ferries are very small, and have room for just six cars. The trip out to the island is well worth the time, although reversing down the slipway and up the ramp onto the ferry can be nerve-wracking, particularly when it is at an angle as seen here!
Trucks are also carried to and from the island, though only one at a time. And buses too, as I was to find out when I arrived out on Bere Island . .
A Ford Transit minibus of the Bantry Rural Transport scheme is seen at the harbour on Bere Island. Because of the way it was parked against a wall, the only possible front shot was this one, from the ferry slipway with zoom lens!
The minibus provides transport both on and off the island, with regular services being operated to and from Castletownbere via the ferry, and a twice-weekly evening service to Bantry. This is just one of a network of buses operated by West Cork Rural Transport, with government funding, covering the areas of the Beara and Sheeps Head peninsulas that Bus Eireann do not reach.
Bere Island itself is delightful, with few cars, quiet roads, and a huge amount to see. The size of Manhatten island, it is somewhat less densely populated, though you will find two pubs, a great coffee shop and a resturant as well as other facilities alongside the quiet hill walks and miles of empty laneways.