Kerry vs Dingle
On my 40th Birthday, we took a family camping trip along the Columbia River, on the Washington side. Same camp Lewis and Clark took up and named, Beacon Rock, 200 years earlier. It was here that the Corps of Discovery first documented tidal changes in the river. The Pacific was near!!
It was also here, at Beacon Rock, that I told Hali I want to visit Ireland when I’m fifty. For ten years the beacon of Ireland beckoned. But unlike Lewis and Clark, who spent years planning their expedition, my preparation began the moment I purchased plane tickets. The Ring of Kerry was near!
Like most of our trips to Europe, I start with Rick Steve’s. Why not? He’s been at it for nearly forty years, we follow his travel philosophy, and he’s a local boy. Well, he’s from the Northwest anyway. Plus he’s got an easy to navigate web sight complete with a travelers helpline. Believe me, when investing in travel(just like we would in real estate or stocks and bonds) we need all the help we could get.
In addition to Rick’s Ireland 2012 book, I also used Lonely Planets current issue of Ireland. Both are excellent resources, and offer different travel perspectives. I would often cross reference recommendations to get a more complete review without being overwhelmed by the hundreds of Ireland guidebooks at the bookstore. And by recommendations, I’m not just referring to sleeping arrangements, but all the other components involved in planning a 3 week trip overseas: itinerary, transportation, packing, meals, pubs, tours, sights.
With that in mind, we figured that we could knock out both the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Dingle on this trip. What the heck? We’re traveling during the shoulder season and time is on our side. Okay, you get the picture. So grab your camera and follow us.
First stop, The Ring of Kerry. Unlike the jammed up narrow roads we were warned of, in mid-May we found it pleasantly uncrowded. A few tour busses here and there, but nothing like a snaking caravan that Rick Steve’s describes. We did stop overnight at St. Finian’s Bay so our drive around the Ring moved at slower pace. We had nowhere to be that particular night.
In Sneem we stopped at the farmers market. A “sister of charity” was selling knitted items, mostly for toddlers, and egg “cozies”. Much like the coolers that keep a can of beer cold only these were for eggs. We handed her a couple Euro, passing up on the “cozies”.
The highlight of this stop was a statue. Many tourists can’t pass a statue without a taking a picture of them standing next to it, we can. Not this time. The statue of Steve “The Crusher” Casey dared me to take him down. Apparently, Steve “The Crusher” was a local wrestler who deserved a bronze likeness of himself in the town square. Across the street, a pub-Wrestler’s Tavern.
If you must see a ring fort, Staigue Fort is a good one, just up the road. Well, up the road and onto a narrower road lined with sheep. No room for tour busses here. This stone fort was built without mortar a long time ago. You can tell, there’s no one there, “holding down the fort”. The views the tribes and chieftains had here are spectacular. Probably a good venue for a Trad concert.
We stopped briefly at Carroll’s Cove just to feel the sand between our fingers, not our toes. A wee bit windy and cold that day. Plus Ireland’s only beach bar was closed.
Took the Skellig Ring turn-off. Here we were turned on to the views of Skellig Michael. This remote monastic settlement would be an amazing detour on a calm day; the boats hadn’t been running for weeks. Instead, check out the Skellig Experience Center in Portmagee after some traditional pub grub.
Hold on! Before you drive on to have lunch, take a quick peek in the Skelligs Chocolate Factory. Fountains of flowing chocolate, caramel, nuts and chews will behold you. Take advantage of the generous samples and don’t forget to buy something for later. You won’t regret it.
Now we’re off to Dingle town and it’s wonderfully Gaelic peninsula.