The Irish landscape and its peoples have never had a better commentator than the remarkable Tim Robinson: wise, graceful, erudite, sensitive, engaging, informative. His works on the Aran islands, on Connemara, and on The Burren are profound and seductive, but he has never turned his attention to Beara. Nonetheless, some of his writings are essential reading; Setting foot on the shores of Connemara and other writings (Dublin: corrected edition, The Liliput Press, 1997) is a good introduction.
Two other books offer extensive wisdom on the Irish landscape, even if they have little to say about Beara: Frank Mitchell and Michael Ryan, Reading the Irish landscape (revised edition, Dublin: Town House, 2001), and Atlas of the Irish rural landscape, ed. F. H. A. Aalen, Kevin Whelan, and Matthew Stout (Cork: Cork University Press, 1997).
The modern evolution of the landscape, often from a West Cork viewpoint, is astutely and sympathetically reflected in many works by Peter Somerville-Large, of which two good examples are Irish voices: an informal history 1916 to 1966 (London: Random House, 2000), and The coast of West Cork (second edition, Belfast: Appletree Press, 1985)—which includes chapters on Beara.
Maps of Beara
Specific to Beara are sheets 84 and 85 of the Discovery Series of 1:50,000 maps (Ordnance Survey Ireland), essential for basic navigation to the coves, boreens, and mountains, as well as the roads, villages, and towns, while The Beara Way (Ordnance Survey Ireland, 2000) provides large-scale (1:25,000) maps, with notes, of about 120 miles of waymarked walks. Less detailed, but helpful because the whole peninsula appears, in perspective view, on a single sheet, is The Fir Tree map of the Beara peninsula and South West Cork (Richard Candler, 2000). More specialised and limited, but handy and widely available, is Antiquities of the Beara peninsula, an illustrated sketch map by Jack Roberts (Bandia Publishing, no date).
Books about Beara
A great many books mention Beara in more or less detail and can be read, or used, with pleasure. For historic remains on Beara, the essential reference work is Archaeological inventory of County Cork. Volume 1: West Cork, ed. Denis Power and others (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1992); unfortunately there is, as yet, no equivalent for the portion of Beara which lies within County Kerry. Also essential reading is a fine collaborative work: William O’Brien and contributors, Local worlds: early settlement landscapes and upland farming in south-west Ireland (Cork: The Collins Press, 2009), which includes detailed archaeological investigations of three settlement sites on Beara and a great deal of readable yet learned context.
A personal selection would also include Beara: history and stories from the peninsula, compiled by Gerard Harrington (Castletownbere: Beara Historical Society, 2005), and the same author’s In the path of heroes (?Castletownbere: n.d.); The grand tour of Beara, compiled by Penelope Durell and Cornelius Kelly (Allihies: Cailleach Books, 2000), which includes a useful Beara bibliography; Penelope Durell, Discover Dursey (Allihies: Ballinacarriga Books, 1996); Colin Breen, The Gaelic lordship of the O’Sullivan Beare: a landscape cultural history (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005); R. A. Williams, British Mining no 42:The Berehaven copper mines, (Sheffield: The Northern Mine Research Society, 1991), which covers social history and the Puxley family, as well as technical matters; Siobhán Hawke, A social and economic history of Bere Island 1900-1920 (Castletownbere: The Shell, 2004); and Daphne D. C. Pochin Mould, Discovering Cork (Dingle: Brandon Book Publishers, 1991), which is particularly interesting on geology and landscape development. Last (because difficult to categorise) but assuredly not least: the light-hearted but thoughtful McCarthy’s Bar, by Pete McCarthy (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2000) conveys a strong and sympathetic flavour of modern West Cork, with much emphasis on Beara and the denizens of its (now) most famous bar (where copies of the book can be bought).