This is the continuation of our trip in Ireland where we left off in Ardmore.
We were already on day three of our trip (April 28th, 2014) and were behind the ‘Sophia tour schedule’ to do all of southern Ireland. How can any of the tours complete all of Ireland in two weeks? There is just no way when there is so much to see. By the way, did I mention I dislike organized tours?
We started our morning with a hearty Irish breakfast that included bacon rashers, pork sausages, fried eggs, black pudding, toast and fried tomato. After breakfast we drove over to Ardmore and went on a hike around the coast line to see some of the ancient sites. We then hit the road and followed the southwestern coast all the way to Bantry.
Our first stop was the beautiful seaside town of Kinsale, Ireland; we loved Kinsale! We had a lovely lunch at one of the cafe’s and both agreed that this is one town we’d really like to come back to stay at and explore more. Our next stop was the very haunting site of Drombeg Stone Circle or the Druid’s Alter a little east of Glandore. We had to follow a secondary road (Sophia called it a trail) with the car to get to the site and hoped that now one was coming from the other side or around the corner. Drombeg Stone Circle has 17 upright stones that at one point in time guarded the cremated bones of an adolescent. The site included the remains of a hut and an Iron Age cooking pit, known as fulachta fiadh. Very haunting!
Drombeg Stone Circle
We continued on to Bantry, Ireland and stayed at the Maritime Hotel overlooking the Bantry Bay. Our stay was uneventful and it appeared that Bantry is one of those towns that most people and tourists drive through on their way to Killarney and the Ring of Kerry. In hindsight, we would have preferred to have stayed in the town of Glengarriff; it just seemed a bit more interesting and personable town.
On April 29th (day four) – we left Bantry and drove around the Beary Peninsula or also known as the Ring of Beary or Beary Way. On the way to the tip of the peninsula, we picked up a young German couple that were hitchhiking and drove them t0 a Buddhist monastery before we continued on to the tip of the Beary peninsula. There was a cable car to a Dursey Island that people take in the summer for hiking around the island or to manage the sheep in the winter. We didn’t take the cable car as it looked like it was very old and very wobbly. The area has many hiking trails, some that can be covered in a day and others in a few days. Once we left the tip and made our way around the northern side of the Beary Way, the landscape started to change from a lush green pastures to a weathered and rugged.
By the afternoon, we reached Kenmare and spent a few hours exploring the town. I, of course, had to buy a new wool hat and a t-shirt while Sophia walked around town taking photos. Kenmare also has its own set of stone circles and we took the opportunity to visit it as well. Kenmare Stone Circle is thought to be from the early Bronge Age and consist of fifteen stones and a burial monument.
Following this little break, we headed into the Ring of Kerry or also known as the Kerry Peninsula around three in the afternoon and headed in a clockwise direction. You might wonder why I mention this! Well, when we reviewed our map-book of Ireland, the book indicated that vehicles should travel around the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise direction. After inquiring about this, we were informed that the reason for this was so that travellers were not going in the same direction as the tour buses and potentially get stuck behind them (remember, small, tiny, Irish roads). We were still early in the tourist season and we were not going to go counter-clockwise as it would take time away from our trip. By starting at around three in the afternoon on the Ring of Kerry, we missed most, if any tour buses and had an enjoyable time travelling and seeing the spectacular coastal scenery! We stayed the night in Killorglin which is located at the end of the Ring of Kerry and marvelled at the fact that we were able to complete two rings in one day! Killorglin was very quiet for a Tuesday night and we ended having dinner at Nicks Seafood Restaurant and Pub. What a nice way to end a busy day!
The next morning (April 30th) we headed to the 3rd ‘ring’ and final ring in Ireland – the Dingle Peninsula and to the town of Dingle. The Dingle Peninsula was much different compared to both the Kerry and Beary Peninsulas with sandy beaches and green hills instead of large cliffs that has made the Kerry Ring so famous. Slea Head Drive, as the drive around the coast is known, forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way and ended up being one of our favourites, but as we kept travelling around southern Ireland we keep discovering that everything seemed to be better and more beautiful than the last place we visited. Our first stop was the Sammy’s Inch Beach & Surf shop at Blue Flag Beach and it was really a beautiful place, with a long curved sandy beach and nice surf shop! This is also where we discovered that surfing has been big in Ireland since the 1960’s (who knew??). From Dingle on up the coast we ran into big, beautiful sandy beaches and numerous surf shops and schools.
As we travelled around the peninsula, we stopped at the Dún Beag Fort build on the sheer cliffs of Dingle. It ended being a bit of a disappointment as we paid to see a few rocks from the side of the road as the fort is blocked off – apparently the cliffs are slowly degrading and taking the fort with it. We continued on our road with sheer cliffs on the right and the Atlantic Ocean on our left.
For something different, we stopped at the Celtic and Prehistoric Museum which has Ireland’s only intact Woolly Mammoth skull, with its tusks still attached, a complete dinosaur skeleton (of a baby dinosaur), a large nest of dinosaur eggs and a cave bear skeleton.
We next stopped at a collection of Clochán or drystone beehive huts near Fahan. Impressive what people can build. The drive took us to Slea Head itself, marked by a stone crucifixion scene, with dramatic views to south Kerry and the Blasket Islands. The drive now followed the coast north through wild open countryside, moving inland. Our final stop along the drive was at Gallarus Oratory, believed to potentially be an early Christian church (Sáipéilín Ghallarais).
We ended our drive back in Dingle and at Browne’s B&B Dingle, one of our favourites. We also had our first introduction to tea and biscuits when we arrived at the B&B which was not provided at any of the other places we stayed at. Camilla, John, and their son the owners were fabulous; Camila was very knowledgeable about the area and the places to see; the breakfasts were great and she made sure you didn’t leave hungry! A really great family, and a return to their B&B is a must! These are some of the people mentioned in Part 1 that I regret not writing about sooner, or more of, sorry!
The only disadvantage in the B&B was the location which is approximately 15 – 20 minute walk to the core of Dingle, but this should not detract anyone from staying here as the hostess will drive you into town if you wanted to have a night out drinking at the pubs; even though it would be a long-ish walk home, though it is pretty much a straight walk. Further, she would even drive any hikers staying at her place to any of the hiking trail heads around the Dingle Peninsula and then pick them up at the end of the day.
Next on our travels are Lahinch, the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, the Aran Islands, and Ballyvaughan. ~Rob & Sophia