There is nothing quite like visiting another country, especially one that is as stunning as Ireland. This year Sara, my in-laws, and I spent a week on the Emerald Isle. My wife and I visited two years ago and stayed in Dublin. I’ve been several time, but mostly on business or quick trip. This time we decided to see the west side of Ireland and rented a house in Killorglin, in the county of Kerry. When you leave the bustling city life in Dublin, you come to realize why this beautiful island is called the Emerald Isle. Even though it is technically winter, almost everything is still green. Huge grassy fields full of sheep stretch out in every direction.
We rented a car, and I drove from Dublin, to Killorglin. This would not normally seem like a big deal, but when you are seated on the opposite side of the car than what you are used to AND the drive on the opposite side of the road, it turns into a HUGE deal. Also, it was dark and not just a little dark, but pitch black. Oh and did I mention that almost none of the roads are straight and so skinny that sometimes only one car will fit through at a time because of the hedgerows on each side? So…many…curves. Thankfully we survived the trip, even though my blood pressure was through the roof!
On our first full day in Ireland we drove (yep I was driving around again, but at least this time it was light) on the Wild Atlantic Way, this is also known as the Ring of Dingle. Words cannot describe how amazing the views are. There were grassy rolling hills, fields as far as the eye could see, and incredible cliffs and ocean views. As we made the drive, we stopped in many locations to get out and take pictures.
The first place we stopped was a sandy beach where you could take surf lessons. We decided against that because it was a bit cold and windy outside. In addition, my lack of coordination might have caused problems, but that didn’t deter the three locals out riding the waves. After watching for a little while, we got back in the car. As we were driving there were many scenic overlooks to pull off to the side of the road. We stopped at many of these to get out of the car and look out at the scenery. Words do not do it justice. I honestly only think pictures can describe how spectacular it is…maybe.
While driving, my navigator, aka my father-in-law, told me to go left and I sorta went right instead. By doing this we ended up driving up Conor Pass. Do you remember what I said about the roads? Imagine a rock face on one side, and a cliff on the other to the equation and you get the idea. There is an overlook while driving through the pass that we stopped at because Sara was getting car sick. It is also where my mother-in-law decided that she was going to go make friends and talk to the sheep after walking up a hill with “super spongy” grass. When we exited the pass, we turned to go towards Brandon’s Point since we were already going the wrong way we figured why not go on an extra adventure.
While driving through we found possibly the skinniest road I have ever seen in my life. But as we made it to the end, the Atlantic Ocean was waiting for us as far as the eye could see. The water was incredibly blue, and the waves were rhythmically pounding the cliff-face. The residents out in this area have to be extremely hardy as well as their animals. The sheep here had extremely thick wool and looked a little scraggly! There were many right up against fence chilling out and eating (the best way to have a conversation with them apparently).
As we were leaving the area my mother-in-law had to use the restroom. There was pretty much nowhere to stop. Thankfully we spotted St. Brendan’s Church, which had bathrooms located behind the church. This was a great impromptu stop because across the street there was a local bakery. As soon as you stepped in it smelled amazing. We chatted with the locals, and bought some sourdough bread and scones. They were tasty! Unfortunately upon leaving Brandon’s Point, we realized that the only way to get back to Dingle was to go back down Conor Pass! So there we went again, skinny road, cliffs and all.
We stopped in Dingle to take a break from the car. We also roamed around in some shops, found a few souvenirs to take home with us, and purchased some postcards. We convinced my mother-in-law to get a stuffed sheep because she was so enamored with the sheep on the hills. After stopping in the pub for lunch and eating seafood chowder, I was reinvigorated, and we were on the move again.
Our next stop was at Dunbeg Fort which is an ancient ruin dating back to 580 BC (or even earlier). This fort is butted up against the cliff-face with a large hill located on the other side. If the villagers were being attacked, they would run behind the wall to drive away the invaders. This was ingenious because by backing themselves up to the cliff they would only have to defend themselves from one direction, and they could see the people coming at them since they were coming down a hill.
We also stopped at the Beehive Huts, which were inhabited from ancient times to 1200 AD. The ancient people made these huts and farmsteads out of stone because it was plentiful. It was a way to keep themselves and their livestock safe from marauders. They were built in a circle. Every layer has the stones lying a little closer to the center until a small opening was left. This would have been closed with a single small flagstone. No mortar was used at all in the buildings, only hundreds of stacked stones. The stones are placed and tilted so they shed water so no water entered during the many heavy rains.
A few kilometers from the Beehive Huts was another scenic overlook where we stopped. Here you were greeted by a gorgeous view of the cliffs and the ocean. There was a small path going down to a rocky point. I decided to walk down it against Sara’s wishes (she apparently thought I was going to fall to my death). She even gave me the “angry wife” face! I am glad I did even though she was mad because I got to see one of the most incredible views of my life. I got to get up close and personal with some seagulls and take a stunning panoramic picture of the rock cliffs.
We later came upon more ruins of what is called the Gallarus Oratory, which is an ancient church built very similarly to the Beehive Huts. I hope they had candles in the building because it was dark in there! While trying to find the Oratory, Sara and I accidentally went in the wrong direction and found a tiny castle in the middle of a neighborhood.
While walking we were greeted by some friendly dogs who we gave scratches behind the ears and belly rubs. Apparently all dogs, no matter where they are, love a good belly rub.
On the drive back into Dingle I started to get sleepy so I let my father-in-law drive. I just thought my blood pressure was bad when I was driving! He liked to hug the left side of the road so much (to get away from oncoming traffic) that we nearly had an encounter with two poles, several pieces of hedgerow, and actually love tapped a curb or two. We finally made it through all the winding hilly roads back to Killorglin where we put up our feet for some rest before heading to the pub for dinner and a pint of Guinness.
All in all it was wonderful and fascinating day driving around within the beautiful countryside of Ireland!