Bonane is a beautiful valley situated in the picturesque south west of Ireland. Set on the main roadway between the quaint towns of Kenmare to Glengarriff, the valley is surrounded by the Sheehy and Caha mountains. The area derives its name from Fionn Mac Cumhall, the legendary leader of the Fianna, who maintained a bothy (both) or hunting lodge here, hence the old Gaelic name Both-Fhionáin (Fionn’s house), now anglicised to Bonane. The peace and tranquillity of Bonane would have provided the perfect retreat after his gruesome battle with the fearsome giant Ein (after whom Neidin, now Kenmare, is named). During the battle so fierce was the fighting that, according to legend, ‘they made the hard ground soft and the soft ground hard!’
Bonane is steeped in ancient history being home to over 250 archaeological sites. This identifies Bonane as having one of the highest concentrations of sites in the country. Recent studies show many of these sites are interrelated and some have major astronomical significance. In many ways unchanged by time, Bonane is a paradise for visitors offering a multitude of activities including hill walking, cycling, fishing, and an abundance of archaeological and historical sites. Separated from Co Cork by a unique hand-cut tunnel, Bonane links both the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara – both trips of breathtaking beauty. The River Sheen with its crystal clear waters (and subject of many ballads) flows through the parish and is popular for fishing.
‘The Druid’ proudly stands in the car park at Molly Gallivan’s. The Druid looks across the valley to the highest peak ‘Barra-Bui’, where a Cairn on the summit marks the resting- place of an ancient Chieftain. This imposing figure represents the first settlers in the Sheen Valley more than 6000 years ago. These people had a great devotion to their Gods and their dead. They had an advanced knowledge of astronomy which is evident from the vast legacy of burial and ritual sites.
In true Celtic fashion, much of the history of Bonane is to be found in the folklore and legends handed down through the generations rather than in written form. (The word Celt, meaning ‘hidden’, comes from the Roman.) Indeed, the folklore of Bonane has echoes of some of the great Celtic legends and is, in this sense, a microcosm of Celtic culture.