10/03/2018

2 Days at Dingle Peninsula


Hey! Do you remember me? Yeah, I'm the author of this blog and no, I'm not dead. I just needed a very, very, very long creative break and now that that's done, I'm back to blogging! Rejoice! Let's jump right into it like nothing ever happened!

Since moving to Ireland two years ago I've had this dream of touring around the entire island. I want to visit every corner of it, drive through tiny rural villages and stop by every breathtaking view on the way. One day, when I'm inevitably going to leave this place for good, I want to be able to look back to my years in Ireland and feel like I really got to know this country. And that doesn't come only in the form of me being able to place all the counties on the map, know the lyrics to Up the 'RA or recognise the twists and quirks of all the major local accents. I want to see it all.

That's when Dingle happened. I suggest at this point you type in 'Dingle, Ireland' to Google Maps just to really understand the magic of the place I'm about to share with you guys. Alex and I had been talking about renting a car for quite some time now, and our anniversary weekend seemed like the perfect moment to finally hit the gas pedal and embrace the left-sided traffic for the first time.

Needless to say, we're still alive.

Dingle peninsula is at the very South West corner of the Irish isle, in county Kerry. Now, Kerry is the kind of place you absolutely fall in love with - unless you're Irish, then it seems for some reason you just have to hate it. 'Don't look into the Kerry man's eyes, ladies', we were told by a dude in Cork. 'You'll fall in love in an instant.' Now, the local twang sure is a whole world of its own for a non-native speaker, but what hits home for me in Kerry is the absolutely crazy-ass landscape that leaves you believing you took a wrong turn and accidentally drove straight into Middle Earth. In other words, if New Zealand is out of your budget, welcome to Kerry.

We left Dublin after work on Friday and stayed over night in Limerick. From there we head straight to Dingle peninsula through the city of Tralee. The road around the peninsula joins the famous Wild Atlantic Way, but since this wasn't really the season for road trips, the roads were empty. In case you're planning on doing the same trip by car, a piece of advice: rent the smallest car you can possibly find. These streets get narrow.


The landscape gets pretty hilly from the moment you enter Kerry. Our first stop was Lough Doon, this random tiny lake we had spotted on the side of the road on the map. The road to get there travels straight between the most mountainy area of the whole peninsula so we were treated with some pretty awesome views on the way. And a shit ton of fog, of course. The skies had been unbelievably clear for the whole 4-hour drive from Dublin to Tralee, but then Kerry happened and we dove head first into a massive cloud of fog we wouldn't leave before Sunday. Hello Kerry!

LOUGH DOON




This is where the real stuff begins to happen. Lough Doon needs quite a bit of effort to reach, since there isn't a path up the hill from the parking lot and the terrain is as muddy as it gets, but we kept on climbing. What greets you at the top is an otherwordly landscape: this tiny black lake right at the bottom of a mountain disappearing to a curtain of thick mist. There's no one around. Nothing is moving. I was expecting an ancient god emerge from the water but instead stepped into a deep puddle of mud.




As mentioned, there's no path whatsoever. Prepare to turn into a mountain goat. Good shoes is what gets you around in Dingle.




CONOR PASS


I don't have much to say about Conor Pass, our second stop on the Dingle peninsula road trip. It was supposed to be 'the thing' to see on this trip, but as we know, Ireland is as unpredictable as it is beautiful. Enter the thickest fog ever and there goes Conor Pass. Here's a photo of Alex looking disappointed instead.




"On a clear day, you can see Loop Head in Clare, Galway's Aran Islands and the beaches at Castlegregory." We saw fuckall. We sat in our car for 15 minutes hoping for the rain to stop but of course it didn't, this is Ireland for feck's sake. The only other car in the parking lot seemed have a lot going on in the backseat, so onwards we went.

We stopped at the village of Dingle to check in at our guest house and eat lunch before heading to the Slea Head Drive, a coastal route around the very tip of the peninsula. This turned out to be a rollercoaster of emotions and weather conditions...

SLEA HEAD



Slea Head is pretty much as western as you can get in the mainland Ireland. It's a very popular place in the summer but since it was mid-February and foggy as hell, we got to tour around in peace and enjoy this very, very typical Irish weather alone. Slea Head is in Coumenoole, the tiniest little village consisting of no more than 10 houses tops.

From the viewpoint in the above picture we headed downhill to Slea Head Beach, probably the most impressive beach I've ever seen. This beach is tiny and not much made for sunbathing, but it's in complete isolation surrounded by walls of rock and moss right by the Atlantic.







Everything was so quiet. I honestly think it was the best part of this whole trip. When you live in the city centre of Dublin, surrounded by crowds upon crowds of tourists, commuters and language school students, it's nice to get away from it all every once in a while and just enjoy the emptiness of rural Ireland.

Right before driving off we got a glimpse of sunlight just so we could enjoy this view of Coumenoole peeking from the mist.



DUNQUIN HARBOUR


Our last proper stop was a weird one: Dunquin Harbour. If you google photos of Dingle Peninsula, you're likely to see pictures of a herd of sheep roaming up the tiny path seen in the photo below, this time starring yours truly.

The Dunquin Harbour is hidden from the main road, so you'll have to walk further down the road after parking the car to actually reach this spot. On a clear day you could see the Blasket islands in the distance, the most western tip of the whole of Ireland. The ferries to the Blasket islands leave from the Dunquin harbour, but only during summer.




The whole tour from Lough Doon to Dunquin Harbour and then back to Dingle from the north of the peninsula took us a good three hours in total. The rest of the evening we spent in Dingle Pub drinking Bulmers (Magners for the rest of the world) and listening to live traditional Irish music like the filthy tourists we are, so I'd say our Saturday was a success.

DINGLE


Sunday morning we spent in Dingle. It was quite the adventure since one moment it would be hailing, the other it turned into the most beautiful sunrise, which then turned into a crazy downpour... All within a span of 15 minutes. Dingle, stop toying with our emotions, please.

Now, if you need to visit one ridiculously picturesque rural Irish village in your life, come to Dingle. It's very popular during summertime (judging from the fact that half of this village seems to consist of B&Bs) but I actually found it very pleasant to visit off-season. You can guess why from the photo below:



It's. So. Quiet. It really was a mental break from the everyday hassle of trying to commute across Dublin on weekday mornings. Guess how many people live in Dingle? Around 2000. No queuing in this village.

We ate breakfast at Deirdre's café. The second thing you probably pay attention to in the below picture (after that flaming hot pink store front) is one of the things that make me really love Ireland - Irish. As someone who comes from a bilingual country myself I find it super fascinating to travel in these Gaelic-speaking areas (or Irish, Irish Gaelic to be exact) and see the language in action, like here. Don't stress about your language skills as Gaeilge though - no one expects a foreigner to speak it. I'm planning on writing a blog post about Irish later on, so stick around if you're interested in learning more! (I actually studied two whole modules of Irish during my postgrad but all I remember is 'Where is the toilet', so that was an effort gone to waste...)



Deirdre's café served me hands down the best pancake breakfast I've ever eaten, with real maple syrup. (Alex: "Oh yeah.... That's the real stuff.") Maple syrup costs a big penny here in Ireland so the last time we got an actual taste of real maple syrup was back in Canada...

If you're looking for a good restaurant to dine in later during the day, we had our anniversary dinner at The Ashes Bar. Most of the restaurants in Dingle concentrate on sea food, very understandably since it's right by the Atlantic, and our dinner at Ashes was so, so good.








The drive back to Dublin took us roughly 4 hours, stopping in Nenagh for lunch on the way. Driving on the left turned out to be super easy after living in here for a few years and cycling to work alongside traffic on a daily basis. It even feels a bit silly to think we were so scared of it before. Then again, I wasn't the one driving so who am I to speak...!

Have you been to Dingle? Have you visited other cutesy rural towns in Ireland? Share your tips in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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2 comments:

  1. Spent a week in Dingle last summer, our first time in Ireland. We want to retire there now. ��

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    1. I was thinking of the exact same thing while visiting! It seems like the perfect place to unwind from the hassle of the outside world. :)

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