Glenbeigh Races

Glenbeigh Races is the best beach racing in the world See the star jockeys of the future. 

The annual racing event on the beach at Rossbeigh Strand in Co Kerry takes place every year at the last weekend of August or first weekend in September depending on the tides, with horses running on the 3.2km (two miles) of sand spit which extends out into Dingle Bay.

The setting for Horse and Pony Racing on the magnificent Rossbeigh Beach is unique and entries have been received from all over Ireland with all the top names in Horse and Pony Racing entered.

The races are the centrepiece of a weekend festival with plenty to entertain the whole family. The local pubs of the area also play their part, with fantastic nightly entertainment in “The Towers Hotel”, “Ashes Bar”, “The Red Fox Inn, “Sweeney’s Village Pub” and “The Olde Glenbeigh Hotel”.

The advice to race goers is to get there on time to get a good vantage point and sample the unique atmosphere of racing on the beach. Many of the country’s leading bookmakers will also be in attendance.

The Glenbeigh Races were first held on Rossbeigh Strand in 1924. However this was to prove to be a costly venture as the local Garda Sergeant, a Mr. Scannell summonsed the organisers to court for their failure to have the required permit. The four people summonsed were:
• Diarmuid O’Sullivan (grandfather of Peadar, current Race Committee Joint Treasurer)

• Tom Cahill of Droum
• Pat Morris of Mountain Stage (the then proprietor of the shop in Mountain Stage)
• Tom Jones, then a local school teacher

For this they were fined £80, a huge sum of money then, later reduced to £20, still a considerable amount of money. Coming close to the ending of the divisive Civil War one can speculate that there might have been differing attitudes to the legitimacy of the administration of the legal remit involved. Needless to say, having suffered such penal penalties there were no further attempts to host the races for quite a while.

It wasn’t until 1957, that another attempt was made to host racing in Glenbeigh. Amongst the organisers were Patrick Clifford and Johnny O’Mahony, and they are still today active and involved the organisation of Glenbeigh Races.

Over the next number of years, Glenbeigh began to become established as a holiday location, helped by the growing international reputation of the Towers Hotel, and the races held in late July / Early August grew to be the centrepiece of a festival that stretched to over ten days.

Indeed, the hotel proprietor at that time, the larger than life Ernie Evans used to host a party in his house at Rossbeigh on raceday which became the place to be for those who perceived themselves to be “celebs”.

Initially a one day event, the Glenbeigh Races became a two-day meeting before reverting back to one day. One year, the organisers even attempted to host jump-racing, but this proved to be a disaster as horses cannot get enough grip on the hard sand of Rossbeigh to enable them to jump properly, and all that resulted was a series of refusals, unseated riders and horses running out.

Another less than successful innovation was the introduction of Sulky Racing (Trotting Races where the horses pulled a small lightweight cart or gig, also known as Standardbred Racing). While the surface was in this case ideal, the public were not interested and despite the popularity of this sport in West Cork, the experiment in Glenbeigh was abandoned.

However by the mid 1970’s interest in the Glenbeigh Races was dwindling, largely brought about by the small number of horses participating, and the uncompetitiveness of the racing.

In what was to prove to have disastrous consequences, there were no races held in 1978, so when racing was scheduled for 1979, the Public Liability Insurance Premium jumped to £9000 – because no premium was paid in 1978, a new policy was required, and the old rate was lost. For that year the London-Glenbeigh Association paid the premium, but with such unsustainable costs for Public Liability Insurance, the races ceased.

In 1996 the Glenbeigh Races were resurrected following the negotiation of an umbrella insurance policy that enabled all Horse and Pony Racing throughout the country to avail of Public Liability Insurance at reasonable cost. Glenbeigh Races is now one of the biggest race meetings on the Horse and Pony Racing Calendar.

If you wish to contact a committee member please use the e-mail address provided below. We welcome all suggestions and comments and of course if you wish to be listed as an accomodation provider we would be delighted to hear from you. We would also welcome any photos or images that you may have of previous festivals.


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