scenic perambulations along the Irish coast
The southwest corner of Ireland is comprised of several peninsulas that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean. The rugged terrain is tempered by verdant scenery and dotted with small, colorful towns and cute seaside villages. Killarney makes a great launching point for exploring the oft-visited Ring Of Kerry, but S’s family decided to head a little further north to the Dingle Peninsula instead.
Of the many Irish towns S visited during the nearly two weeks she and Munchkin spent in the country, Dingle was far and away her favorite, and not just because its name is so much fun to say. It is cute, artsy, and known for its fantastic food. Even before reaching Dingle, S felt like she had eaten her weight in seafood; fresh fish and ocean products topped the list of foods we missed in land-locked Moldova. Dingle’s artisanal restaurants, however, were a cut above the rest.
After taking turns walking around the town while Munchkin napped, S’s family piled into the car for a drive around the scenic Dingle Loop. It was pretty late by the time Munchkin awoke from his nap, which made for less than ideal lighting. The sweeping views down to the coastline were dramatic, beautiful, and too expansive to be captured in a single frame.
In addition to the panorama views of the countryside, there are also various interesting sites along the Dingle Loop. Due to the late hour, S’s family only made one stop — at a small, ancient fort surrounded by lush cliffside pastures that overlooked the ocean. Sheep roamed around, as they have done for millennia in this green, placid corner of the universe.
S’s parents had hoped to visit the Blasket Islands, but the swells were too high and no boats were going either of the days that S’s family stayed in Dingle. Instead, they drove up to Connor Pass and went on another scenic drive. Although there are parts of the loop where the road heads inland, for most of the time the pavement skirts the coastline.
S’s dad parked near a beach to let Munchkin play in the sand and let off some steam after a morning spent cooped up in the car. Despite the sunshine, it was chilly, and S and her family had the beach to themselves. While everyone else remained buttoned up, Munchkin was completely unfazed by the wind and the frigid water, and would have happily spent the rest of the day splashing around in the ocean if the family’s vacation planning had been left up to him.
There is a whisky and gin distillery just outside of town, but no one thought to call ahead and reserve a tour. After walking out to the distillery, S realized that they didn’t have enough time to wait around for the final tour of the day. Even though the last day in Dingle proved to be a bit of a bust in terms of the planned activities, the town’s charm easily ensured that it was a day well spent nonetheless.
The final destination on S’s coastal tour was Galway, but there were two more sites en route to Ireland’s cultural capital. First, S’s family stopped at Adare to visit the town’s eponymous manor. It was suitably pompous and made for a beautiful lunchtime stop. In addition to golf, the estate’s main activities are archery and falconry. Normally, the latter can only be experienced through a private showing of the birds, but S’s family got lucky. The manor was holding a promo photo shoot, so all of the estate’s exotic falcons and exquisite owls were on display right on the front lawn.
After lunch, S’s dad pointed the car towards the Cliffs of Moher. It is one of Ireland’s top tourist destinations and rivals Killarney for the country’s greatest number of annual visitors. The cliffs are certainly pretty, though S found the coastal route through California’s Big Sur far more breathtaking.
At the end of September, Galway hosts an international oyster festival, which S’s family missed by a couple of weeks. One of Ireland’s largest cities, Galway has a cobblestone-lined historic center and a large harbor. S’s family walked around the city a little, but mostly used Galway as a base for touring the Aran Islands, whose sheer cliffs filled S with an equal mix of awe and trepidation for Munchkin’s wellbeing.
After a week of unlimited sunshine, the weather turned sour just as S’s tour with her family reached its end. It rained hard the entire three-hour drive to Dublin — the beginning of an inclement season that would dog the rest of S’s travels around Ireland.