Wow, we just had an incredible three days on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are University holidays in Ireland. Some of Bret’s colleagues invited us on a Good Friday hike, so we decided to make the most of the time off and join them for the hike, then stay in Dingle for a couple extra days.
At 951m Mt. Brandon, by many accounts, is considered Ireland’s 2nd highest peak. It isn’t really, it is just that all of the higher peaks are in one mountain range, the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, which has about 27 peaks stretched over 12 miles (8 of which are taller than Mt. Brandon). So, after the Macgillycuddy Reeks, it is the highest peak in Ireland.
It was overcast, so this was the last grand vista we had before we entered into the cloud zone. To the left is the north coast of the Dingle Peninsula. The first section of the trail ran through private farm land, so there were plenty of sheep to keep us company and several fence crossings. Shortly after this photo, we reached the small cirque on the east side of the peak.
There were some lovely lakes, so we sat for a bit and had lunch in the mist.
The rocks were really neat. They are so smooth and even in color, I thought they were basalt, but it turns out they are sandstone. They are covered in vibrant green and blue lichens.
After lunch, we had the hardest climb of the day. It was a bit muddy and wet, but not too bad.
Here, we thought we were at the top, but not quite…
At the top, we stopped for a group picture next to the shrine for St. Brendan. St. Brendan is one of the 12 Apostles of Ireland and many believe that he was the first European to reach North America. Many Irish Catholics perform a pilgrimage from the southern tip of the Dingle Peninsula to the shrine at the top of Mt. Brandon. We may, in fact, have run in to many of them. There were quite of few folks out on the trail despite the weather and it was Good Friday.
We had the trail to ourselves on the route down however, since we did not take the main trail. We did see some sheep, including a number of little, bitty lambs! So cute. We also saw an Ogham stone, which is a megolith with the oldest form of Irish writing (just slashes).
Shortly after coming back out of the clouds, Bret and I found our dream home.
From there back to the car, we were on a small dirt road that winded through more pasture land.
We were all pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the car. It took us 20 minutes to drive over Conner Pass from the north side of the peninsula to the town of Dingle on the south side of the peninsula, but it is pretty dramatic landscape. After we supped with our hiking companions, Bret and I were pretty happy to be minutes away from our bed at Higgins B&B in Dingle.
Dingle Town and Fungie the Dolphin
Saturday, the weather was a little more clear. We wandered around Dingle for a bit and enjoyed looking in the shops. There seem to be a number of crafty/ artsy people, so intermingled with lots of touristy souvenir shops, there were some nice crafts and art to admire. There also were a couple local craft beers to admire. We stopped by the Dingle Brewing Company, where they brew Tom Crean’s Irish Lager. We enjoyed a short self-guided tour through the brewery, which is located in the old Dingle Dairy. We mostly learned about Tom Crean’s crazy Antarctic adventures. We also taste- tested the wares. Not bad for a lager. However, we preferred the peninsula’s other microbrewery, the West Kerry Brewery. They make a dark ale, a pale bitter, and a porter. We tested out the dark ale and the porter in the local pub.
In the afternoon, we wanted to take the harbor boat tour. Unfortunately, there was not enough interest in that, so they gave a discount on the Fungie- the- dolphin tour. Fungie has apparently made a rock cave just outside of the Dingle harbor his home since 1983. At the discounted price, we were not granted the money back guarantee of a sighting though. Rest assured, we did see Fungie. It was sort of awful though and we really just felt bad for the poor dolphin that is apparently harassed by humans all day. We really enjoyed the views from the trip however.
After dinner, we dropped by a local pub for a couple pints of our favorite local beers, then returned the b&b, exhausted once again.
Bike Ride around the Dingle
Sunday, we woke to one of the nicest days we’ve had in Ireland. Not a cloud in the sky! After breakfast, we jumped on our bikes and began our journey around Slea Head.
We took our time and enjoyed the sights and cafes and restaurants. So many lovely views to photograph (Just wait for Bret to upload his pics!) and soooo many adorable baby sheep. Other than one tough climb, a minor bike crash when I didn’t get one of my shoes unclipped, and a bit of headwind towards the end of the day (luckily a tailwind for our final climb), the day was absolutely perfect!
After our ride, we tried the local chip shop, which we were told by many has the best fish and chips around. It was pretty dang good. Finally, after a four month hiatus from driving, I decided that if little, old, Irish ladies can drive, so can I! I drove the manual rental car home, on the left side of the road- the whole way. Small victories.
Hope everyone else had as lovely an Easter weekend as we did!