OK, let’s get it out of the way…Dingle is a funny name for a town. I can’t quite put my finger on why it feels so weird, but it does, doesn’t it? Just try saying it out loud. When people ask where we’ve come from and I have to say “Dingle” it’s like eating out at a restaurant with cheesy menu item names that make you order something embarrassing like macho nachos or the Tijuana tea tickler. There, now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the blog post title, we can get on to beautiful southern Ireland. Our stretch of good weather followed us through Dingle (mostly), and our drive there from Galway was the beginning of our introduction to truly lush, green Ireland. The road takes you through some of the quaintest towns amidst stretches of rolling hills and pastures full of sheep, cows and horses. And I know they are all nice little towns because every time we drive through one Alan says, “well this is a nice little town!”
And the flowers have been quite the pleasant surprise in this country. They seem to be everywhere, and they are stunning and colorful. Just driving along the roads feels like you’re taking a detour through the Secret Garden, with hydrangeas, fuchsia and yellow, red, orange and purple flowers everywhere.
On our drive into Dingle we stopped to visit the famed Cliffs of Moher. It’s pretty easy to see why they have the reputation they do. It’s a seemingly endless stretch of rugged, steep rock cliffs, and if you’re lucky you can even spot puffins.
After a quick ferry ride to skip some of the long way around the Shannon Estuary, we ended up in a town called Tralee. This spot is famous for its roses, and we made a brief pit stop to walk through a park full of loads of these beauties. Well worth the stroll.
The view from breakfast at our Dingle B&B was a telling teaser of what was to come…
The main activity for visitors to Dingle is the Slea Head Drive. We stopped first for a very quick hike up to the Eask Tower, where the views were stunning, despite that there was a concentration of sheep poo so dense on all available ground as to make you wonder just how those sheep could ingest so much fiber. Strangely, we passed only one other couple during our visit. Maybe we were early? Regardless, the isolation and breathtaking views were much appreciated.
We continued along the long stretch of road that hugs this blustery coastline. The roads do not get any wider though, and a flat tire (or tyre, as they say) incident had us parked in a row of sightseers for a good half hour. It was no bother, as the view did not suck. Plus, we got to witness the Irish friendliness in action as several people rushed to help the guy with the flat.
And the long stretches of driving have been made much more fun by an unexpected pleasure: talk radio. I’m serious! We are thoroughly enjoying the talk radio here in Ireland. It’s partly learning all these slang phrases like “she thought she was a cut above butter milk” and “getting locked,” but also the interesting content and hilarious listener questions and comments. Never would have thought, but I’m a huge fan of Irish talk radio.
The view from this point was one of our favorites. The way the ocean looks here is unreal.
Isn’t this sandy cove the most perfect little beach spot? I never would have guessed that the oceans in Ireland would look so tropical (that color!). But trust me, these are no tropical waters. The Irish must have very thick skin to swim these cold cold seas.
After a full day of sightseeing we hit the pubs for some pints, and killed some time as we waited for a table at the best restaurant in town: Global Village. Worth the wait for the broccoli and blue cheese soup, duck and lamb three ways.
Also worth a shout is Inch Beach, a beautiful spot we paused at for a few photos before continuing onto the Ring of Kerry.
And in case you wanted further proof we are in Ireland, voila:
Dingle is the name of the peninsula and the main town, where we stayed. Slea Head Drive is a loop that covers just the western portion of the peninsula.
Transportation: We drove from Galway City and stopped at the Cliffs of Moher, which is on the way if you take the coastal route. We took the ferry across the Shannon Estuary from Killimer in County Clare to Tarbert in County Kerry. At €18 one way it’s no bargain and the scenery is nothing special, but it cuts more than 100km off the trip. Beyond Tralee we took the quicker N86 as it was getting late, and this route was plenty scenic. I think going over Conor Pass is even more scenic. We departed Dingle headed for Kenmare (on the Ring of Kerry) and took Route 561 past Inch Beach, a blustery spit with a surf school.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Lighthouse B&B just outside town (a 10 minute walk). The common lounge is cozy, there are lovely views of Dingle Harbour and the breakfast was very good. It is nice to stay near town as pubs and live music are plentiful. But if you just want peace and quiet and perhaps lower prices, there are many B&Bs on the peninsula.
Food and Drinks: Our first splurge meal of the trip was at Global Village. On the Zagat scale, I’d give it a 24. The scallop appetizer was our only selection not sourced from the peninsula, and I thought it was the worst of four dishes. The broccoli and blue cheese soup was yummy and a bargain at €5. The duck platter appetizer and lamb plate main were both very good. Demerit for being out of my first wine choice and then bringing me a younger vintage without acknowledging it.
We enjoyed pints at McCarthy’s Pub. The town is best known for seafood (despite our one seafood dish at Global Village being my least favorite). Other restaurants and pubs that came recommended include Doyle’s, Half Door, Chart House, Marina Inn, Paul Geaney’s (airier and brighter and seemingly more family oriented than some) and The Mighty Session.
While on the Slea Head Drive we had a fine lunch at Tigh Ui Mhurchu in Ballyferriter.
Activities: At the very start of Slea Head Drive we did the half hour hike up to Eask Tower. You are meant to pay €2/person. The views from the top are glorious. Boat trips, including visits to the Blasket Islands, are popular. There are several pre-historic sites (beehive huts and such) along the peninsula. I think the new Dingle Distillery accepts visitors, though its first batch of whiskey won’t be ready for some time.
We visited the Cliffs of Moher on the drive from Galway City. The Cliffs are perhaps Ireland’s most famous natural attraction, and they are impressive. We parked at the visitor center and walked across and then strolled a while in each direction up and down the coast. This meant we paid €12 (€6 each), but you could visit for free by parking elsewhere and walking in; i.e. the only part that charges is the parking lot (and it costs €2 to climb O’Brien’s Tower). The visitor center is fine and the design blending in with the landscape is smart, but don’t beat yourself up if you skip it. The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walking Trail links the villages of Liscannor and Doolin, I think the whole way covers 20km. There are also scenic boat rides for a different perspective. I think some depart from Doolin and perhaps elsewhere.
On the (mostly) coastal drive from Galway City one passes several charming towns. These include Kinvarra, Lahinch (yummy sandwiches at Quills gourmet deli; a big beach; well known links golf course; Moy House hotel just outside town looked nice), Kilkee and Kilrush. We spent a few minutes at the Tralee Town Park enjoying the magnificent rose gardens.
July 29-31, 2014 (Tuesday-Thursday)