In the last entry I told you we finished the day in Killarney, where we stayed at the 19th Green Guest House. This B&B was very nice, if a little outdated, but I can’t really recommend staying there unless you’ve rented a car because it’s about a 3-mile walk into town. (Oh, and the hydrangeas outside were sooo pretty.)
Killarney is a very affluent town with a bit of a wealthy-people-on-holiday feel, complete with multiple golf club resorts and a race track. In fact, the day we arrived was “Ladies’ Day” at the races – every other woman we saw was dolled up in heels, a slinky dress, and a HAT! The hats were amazing. That’s something I could get in on.
In the morning, our driver had arranged horse-and-carriage rides for us. The town of Killarney is half-surrounded by the Killarney National Park. The park is massive (I think our carriage driver said it was around 25,000 square acres) and contains Lough Leane and a small mountain range called the MacGillycuddy Reeks. Our “jaunting car” ride was about an hour long so we only got to see a little bit of the park, but it was a great way to see the area. We got a group rate for €12 per person, so I’m not sure how much it normally is. But these carriage rides are very popular in Killarney and of course they only operate in the summer, so I think it’s at least worth it to do once.
After leaving Killarney we made a quick stop in the quirky town of Killorglin. This town has a yearly “Puck Fair,” which is basically a festival celebrating… goats. Apparently each year, some men of the town go into the hills and capture the best wild goat they can find. I have no idea what the standards are for defining goat quality, so please don’t ask. They then bring this goat into the town where they crown him and give him the title of King Puck. I’m not really sure what happens after that, but it sounds like a hell of a party.
The Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula is a large area, and all of it is breathtaking. I’ll try to break it into more specific towns.
Inch Beach is another popular surfing spot, but the landscape is what I found remarkable about this sandy beach. Land extends forward on either side, creating a little bay. I heard some others on the trip saying that it reminded them of Hawaii, and though I’ve never been there myself, it didn’t surprise me one bit. As usual, the pictures don’t convey the full beauty of the area.
We decided to be brave and wade into the water a bit, but damn was it cold! I don’t know if Ireland has a prime beach time, but July is not it. Not on the Atlantic side at least.
Dingle is the name of the peninsula as well as the name of a very quaint little, mostly Irish-speaking fishing town. It’s become a bit touristy, but even in July it wasn’t too bad. One of the main attractions in Dingle is its resident dolphin, Fungie. Supposedly he was named after the fisherman who first discovered him; this fisherman had a grungy beard that people said looked like a fungus, so that had become his nickname. The story is that Fungie came into Dingle Bay with a pod of other dolphins, and ended up being left behind. Or perhaps he just decided he liked Dingle too much to go, because he hasn’t left since.
You’ll see dolphin tours advertised all around the wharf area – there are a couple different places that will take you out on a boat to see Fungie and they leave about every 45 minutes in the summer. We really wanted to do it, but unfortunately we wouldn’t have had time for the hour-long boat ride as well as lunch. If I remember correctly, the price was €16 per person, and if you don’t see the dolphin you don’t pay. Sounds like a fair deal to me. When we go back (because we will, damnit), we’re going to do it right and meet Fungie.
Pictured to the left is Alex coming out of Foxy John’s, which is an establishment 80% bar and 20% hardware store. Go in to buy a hammer and stay to chat with the bartender over a pint of Smithwick’s while you’re at it. (By the way, it’s pronounced “smith-icks.” Forget about the W.)
Slea Head Drive
The Wild Atlantic Way is a scenic road that winds around the west coast of Ireland and we got to enjoy the Slea Head Drive section of it, which shows off some of the Dingle Peninsula and the scenery is to die for. But be really careful if you drive it because the cliff-side road is narrow and winding and you shouldn’t actually die for it.
Along the way there are plenty of places to stop and get a gorgeous view. The first place we stopped was the Stonehouse Restaurant, which was built in the style of old Irish stone houses. We didn’t actually eat there, but the view was beautiful. If the day is clear (as it was for us, luckily), you can see all the way to the tiny Skellig Islands.
If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend catching a boat over to Skellig Michael. The spiky, mountainous island is home to the remains of a monastery from around the 7th century. The beehive huts, walls, and other structures built by the early Christian monks are still in tact today. Aside from being a fascinating site, the island itself is an experience to be had. Stone steps were built into the nearly-vertical side of the island and you have to climb to the top before you’ll find the settlement. The wind is relentless, resources are minimal, and the idea of living there – intentionally – seems insane. But hey, you’re bound to spot a puffin while you’re there.
The Sleeping Giant
Then it was back on the bus to a lookout over the Sleeping Giant, an island off the coast that does indeed look remarkably like a giant snoozing on his back on the water.
The Three Sisters
Our last stop was at the lookout point for the Three Sisters – a set of three small peaks that sweep gently out to sea, as you can spot in the background of this picture.
But the best part about this stop was that to the left was an area of cool, ever-so-climbable boulder formations. We spent a while climbing around and taking pictures and trying to avoid the heather (heather is a thorny bitch). It would be a great place to bring a picnic lunch and a hoodie on a dry day. You’ll need the hoodie because of the wind, unless you enjoy looking like a big frizzball like me.
After that we made our way to Anascaul, where we stayed the night at the B&B Teac Sean. It was a great B&B with bright, inviting rooms, a bar below, and welcoming owners.
Really the only downside is that Anascaul is kind of in the middle of nowhere. But if you rent a car, that shouldn’t be a problem! That night we went up the road to the Randy Leprechaun (a pub owned by Paddywagon) where we had dinner and pints and even did a bit of karaoke.
Stay tuned for our last day with Paddywagon – Blarney Castle and the Guinness Storehouse!