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Tourism chief says ‘large' coaches are ‘not wanted' on Ring of Beara

August 17th, 2017 5:11 PM

By Jackie Keogh

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A TOUR manager has threatened to withdraw coach tours from the Ring of Beara because large vehicles are getting stuck at an unusual part of the road from Allihies to Eyeries.

But a local tourism facility boss has said that large coaches are not wanted in the area because they will ‘clog' up the roads.

Drivers approaching Gortahig, which is about six miles from Allihies, often think they have made a mistake and are driving into someone's private yard, according to a local community activist, who wants Cork County Council to find a solution for the problem.

John Dunne said he had been speaking to a tour manager who is frustrated that the larger coach tours cannot take this very scenic route and pass the location where most of the filming for Falling for a Dancer took place.

But it is not just coaches that get stuck – lorries have also run into difficulties at the same stretch, which has a house on one side and two small outbuildings on the left-hand side of the roadway.

According to Mr Dunne, machinery has had to be brought along to help lorries complete the manoeuvre, using chains and grips.

He said: ‘Some vehicles – including 40-seater tour buses – have had to reverse 1km all the way back up the hill in order to turn on private property and go back the way they came.

‘If there is a vehicle parked there – on the private land – they are jiggered. People have even had to get off the bus and walk back up because the coach drivers are afraid to reverse on that part of the road.'

Mr Dunne said he is also aware that one coach was damaged trying to make the turn. And although he said he had no authority to speak on behalf of the people who own the property, he believes Cork County Council could solve the problem by relocating the two outbuildings on the left-hand side of the roadway.

He said he was aware that representatives of the non-national roads department of Cork County Council had studied the problem and had erected signs warning coach and lorry drivers about size and width restrictions, but he maintains ‘further action is needed.'

He told The Southern Star: ‘The Wild Atlantic Way is a big draw, the Falling for a Dancer location is a big draw, and so, too, is the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, so more should be done to provide these tour companies with the level of access they need.' 

Mr Dunne said he has raised the issue with Fáilte Ireland, but did not get a response.

Meanwhile, The Southern Star contacted Tadhg O'Sullivan, chairman of the Allihies Copper Mine Museum for a comment. He said: ‘There are mixed feelings about removing that particular corner. It is seen by some as a safety device against bigger tour buses doing the ring of Beara. 

‘What has been happening for the past few years, and what has been encouraged by tourism groups, such as ourselves, is the use of smaller buses, like the 30-seaters. 

‘This is the kind of tourism we want to promote. We do not want to clog the roads of Beara with big tour buses that are 35-40 seats or more because of the effect it has on traffic, as well as the state of the roads in Beara.

‘The road out to the Dursey Cable Car is also very tight and, realistically, it is not suitable for 40-seater buses.' 

In a response, Cork County Council described the  coast road between Eyeries and Allihies as ‘a narrow winding road which is unsuitable for large buses and large trucks'. 

Aidan Weir of the roads and fransportation department added: ‘Accordingly, the County Council recently erected signs to advise drivers of this – that it is unsuitable for buses or trucks longer than 12m (39 ft) or wider than 2.5m (8ft). The route is accessible for all other vehicle types. The most difficult section is at Gortahig but there are also other very difficult locations on the route. The Council recommends that these large vehicles complete this route via Castletownbere.'

Mr Weir went on to say that the suggestion that tour operators no longer want to run buses to Beara is ‘untenable' as there is ‘an alternative suitable route between these two villages, in the peninsula'. 

‘The Council has no short to medium term plans to realign the Coast Road referred to above as the costs would be enormous for this 15km of road,' he concluded.

Fáilte Ireland-registered tour manager, Angela Healey, who operates tours of the Ring of Beara out of Kerry, is adamant: ‘If you want tourism in Beara, you have to make it accessible.'

Ms Healey said: ‘I know Fáilte Ireland are on about the Wild Atlantic Way but the Ring of Beara is not accessible for coach tours because the section at Gortahig is impassable.'

She said she accepted that Cork County Council has erected signs at both sides of the road leading to Gortahig, but she said they were only put up this year and maps of the area do not indicate any size restrictions.

She maintained that if the local authority did ‘a little bit of work on that section then the route would be accessible to everyone' and that it wouldn't cost much to complete.

She admitted that coach tours can go via the Caha Pass, but she said: ‘That is not the most scenic part of the Ring of Beara – you are cutting out the coastal, or ring route, which is what most visitors want to see. 

‘If it can be done on the Slea Head drive in Dingle it can be done on the Ring of Beara.'

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