*This post has been pulled over from the old blog. So it mentions things like the 2016 Rio Olympics. Don’t worry, you haven’t fallen into a worm hole and no, there isn’t another Olympics on. It’s just an old post. <3
Some summer we are having here in Ireland. May was roasting. Some decent, hot days with plenty of sun. This was immediately followed by rain that lasted all of June and through the start of July. Today, it’s sunny again, and I have been watching the diggers excavate the field behind my house. The field is to no longer be a field.
I have a bag of Hunky Dorys (Chips – or crisps if you will) open on the bed beside me and the Olympics playing in a tab. Four years ago, I was doing the exact same thing at the other end of Ireland. Angry Pete (how he got that name, I don’t know) helped me run a cable up two flights of stairs so we could watch the games on the big TV at the Killarney hostel we worked in…
Speaking of Killarney!
I recently made my annual pilgrimage back to the first Irish town I ever lived in. Not only is it still my favourite town of all time, hand down, but it also reminds me of all the things I like about Ireland (namely, food, beer and music). Since my usual companions were busy (brother Jack had football and husband Tiernan was working), I took my aunt with me. It was her first time in the county, so I wanted to show her some of my favourite places.
Sadly our trip was planned right in the middle of some of that craptacular weather I was talking about earlier. In anticipation of this, we picked what was supposed to be the “best day” weather wise to drive out to Dingle and Slea Head.
The sheer quantity of people in Dingle over the summer is outrageous! Unsurprising for one of the top scenic drives in the world, but I must have suppressed the memories. It was teeming with people. I couldn’t understand where they were coming from. How can such a tiny town possibly serve them all lunch at the same time? And – most importantly – how did they all fit their cars into the fairly average-sized water-front carpark? I drove around the waterfront a couple of times before giving up and taking a chance on another rouge, blue ‘P’ sign which led me to a great little pay & display near the Lidl. We pulled in and fed the meter some money.
Happily parked, we wandered back through the town, browsing and buying from the many gorgeous boutiques. I know Claddagh rings are kind of Galway’s thing (named after the town that is now a suburb of the city), but I bought my first and only, much-loved Claddagh in Dingle.
For lunch, we went for the packed variety. There are a lot of awesome pubs and fish and chipper in Dingle, but there is no way my hangry beast would have the patience to deal with the crowds of seaside pilgrims pouring off the Fungi tour boats and out of coaches. Fungi, by the way, is Dingle Bay’s resident dolphin. The envy of neighbouring Ventry.
So instead we sat on the walls of the marina and watched the Fungi boats go out, one after the other, into Dingle Bay. It was breezy but pleasant. The threat of poor weather was looming; not yet realised. Our ham and cheese sambos were consumed with some excellent people watching (one of my favourite sports) and, after an hour, we agreed to try our luck on the scenic drive.
Slí Cheann Sléibhe, the Slea Head Drive, is a scenic drive around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. It is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and starts and ends in Dingle town. It is world famous for its stunning views and sheers cliff drops into the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, you can see the super rugged Skellig Islands – now of Star Wars fame. Don’t let the weather put you off this drive, even on a sunny day visibility can be hampered by haze, so a little soft rain is an asset.
Most guides say to allow half a day for this drive and I would have to agree. There is going to be a lot of stopping for photographs! It is also possible to cycle or motorcycle this route as drivers are encouraged to travel it clockwise so they do not meet coaches head on. The roads are narrow, so you really do not want to get stuck. Go with the flow.
We started by driving out passed Ventry, a lovely swimmable beach, but did not stop until we reached a place called the Beehive Huts. The huts are denoted by a hand painted sign on the roadside. Opposite, you can park up on the cliff edge and enjoy the views. Nearby, Dunbeg Fort is situated right on the cliff edge. In recent years it has suffered serious erosion and crumbled into the sea.
Amazingly the drive was devoid of all vehicles. Everyone must have tackled it earlier in the day so they could get back to Dingle for lunch.
Our visit to the Fahan Beehive Huts was a solitary one. We handed our change to a surly looking teen in a ramshackle admission booth and climbed up the slope to the site.
There are five huts, Clochán, in all, dating back to the 12th century when the Norman invasion of Ireland pushed the Irish off the good land and onto the peninsula. I come from an age where beehives are square, so to me the look more like little stone igloos. This was one place on the drive I had never stopped at before, so we spent a little longer here than the average bear so I could take photos of the view.
After the huts we continued on with the drive, the weather steadily deteriorating, and I tried to remember as many of Tiernan’s tour stories as possible. Not much further on we came across a ford that you have to drive across. The only place on the drive where the water goes over the bridge…
Slea Head itself is marked by a statue of the crucifixion. If you stop here you can see the Iveragh Peninsula to the south and the Blaskett Islands to the west. The landscape is extremely dramatic and picturesque with some great walking.
We then dropped down into the towns of Dún Chaoin and Baile an Fheirtéaraigh before cutting a shortcut back to Dingle. There are some very nice pubs and shops in this area, particularly if you’re into pottery and local crafts. We were a bit time constrained because we’d made plans in Killarney for the evening and were starting to get peckish again.
After a fair bit of driving, we pulled into the South Pole Inn in Annascual (where I was recognised as a former staffer of a nearby hostel – I’m so famous). We ordered huge wraps that appeared twenty minutes later, dripping with sauce. The non-driver also downed a pint of local brew. I think we have that food to thank for our excellent mood going into the really bizarre Hypnotist show at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney later that night. Now THAT was an experience I can hardly find the words to describe.
Driving back to Killarney, in the twilight, on full bellies, brought back so many memories of the times I drove that route back in 2012. I remember very distinctly driving back to Killarney from Annascaul, under a full moon, and pulling in at Inch Beach just to watch the waves in the moonlight.