Allihies lies at the western extremity of Europe, at the end of the Beara Peninsula, 112 km west of Cork. Copper ores were discovered there in 1812. They worked until 1885, and attempts were made to continue mining in the 1920s and 1960s. The original entrepreneur was the landowner ‘Copper John’ Lavallin Puxley (1772-1856), whose family home at Dunboy Castle, Castletownbere is now a luxury hotel. At one time as many as 1500 miners were employed at Allihies.
A project to interpret the area’s industrial heritage was launched in the mid-1990s whose objective was ‘to recognise, research, preserve and celebrate the rich mining heritage of Allihies’. A museum was opened by the President of the Irish Republic in May 2007 in a Methodist chapel built by Cornish miners in 1845. It displays artefacts, photographs, original drawings and documents, maps and large-scale models, including one of a man engine of the kind that took miners down to their work. Displays also make use of some recordings of people who remember Allihies in the early twentieth century or who can re-tell stories told them by their ancestors. One section of the museum deals with emigration to the United States after the mine closed in 1885. Allihies is set in one of the most evocative industrial landscapes in Europe. There are three pumping engine houses, one of them at great height, on the side of the mountain. The beach and many of the lanes are surfaced with washings from the dressing plant. The village can only be reached after a long drive through sparsely-occupied countryside, and there is no land to the west before America.