Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scotland + Ireland: The Dingle Peninsula Day 6

We went round and round about which western coastal area of Ireland to visit. Most people do the Ring of Kerry, but since we were doing just a day trip and driving ourselves, we wanted to skip the crowded tourist loop. I really wanted to check out the lesser known Beara Peninsula—it was a touch closer to Cork and was supposed to be much, much less crowded than Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula. Plus there was the option to hop across to a little rocky island refuge and see a pretty amazing mountain pass. But after the third or fourth Irish person we asked about it appeared to have never even heard of it, the others in our group really wanted to head to Dingle. I'm pretty sure we were all just saying it wrong, but I went along with the group's decision. And it was one of my favorite days of the entire vacation.

We headed straight out in the morning on the hour and 1/2 drive to the town of Dingle. Cam was so excited to pass through Killarney just so she could sing on repeat An Irish Lullaby my mom taught her. I read Rick Steves' Dingle section over her constant too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ras. Everyone got excited as soon as we hit the coast. We drove through the beach town of Inch and I wished we could stop, but I had to mentally file it away for a return trip. It looked fantastic!

We pushed on to Dingle to try and explore the town a little bit before doing the 30-mile peninsula loop. My fellow Rick Steves' lover Leslie took on the tour guide duties this time and we attempted to do a walk around town. But it was crowded and no one was really feeling it. Plus a storm was rumored to be on its way in and we were worried about not being able to do the whole loop before it hit. We managed to make time for a quick sweet at local Murphys, which has to die for ice cream. Cam does not like overly sweet things, so she was over the moon to find flavors like Dingle Sea Salt and Caramelized Brown Bread. I was a huge fan of the Irish Coffee with whiskey. Spurred on by sugar, we hit the loop.

There were a ton of turn off spots to get out and stretch your legs and we roughly followed along Rick Steves' self-guided tour of the loop. Every stop seemed better than the last. We hit up a gorgeous beach that had beautifully blue and green colored water. The kids played tag and ran and ran and ran.

We eventually hauled them off to our next stop—a prehistoric ring fort and a little spot to feed some sheep.

We completely lucked out and ran into a sheep herder and his dogs popping in to administer some medicine to his herd. The dogs were out of their minds excited to jump the fence and once in rounded up a huge herd of sheep like total bosses. They circled them, nipping at their heels, and keeping them together so the real boss could medicate them. It was insanely cool to watch and we didn't want to leave there either!

But we were all starting to get hungry and needed to make some moves for lunch. There are several little spots along the loop, but none of them were catching people's interests. Then we ran into the tourist situation I had been worried about. The loop is supposed to be one way, but inevitably someone tries to drive the other and holds up an entire caravan of tour buses it can't squeeze past. I was annoyed, but we were only stuck for about 20 minute until a tour bus driver, who'd clearly run into this situation before, reversed some dude's van a loooooooong stretch back on the loop so everyone could get by. By that point, we were starving. So we ended up stopping at the Blasket Centre, a cultural center and museum, and had a truly fabulous lunch with gorgeous views and more space for the kids to run around outside.

After lunch we made one more glorious stop on the loop to take a 15-minute walk out to Clogher Head for insanely beautiful panoramic views. The wind was whipping and I was super glad I'd remembered to throw in the kids sweatshirts, hats, and gloves. They insisted on climbing every perilous rocky outcrop and we had to drag them back to the car once again. It was a bit of a drive back to Cork, so we tried to coax the kids into taking car naps. I don't know if they actually slept, but I sure did. By the time we got home, the only real option was a hotel dinner, but everyone was happy to do that. We did the Blarney Castle and Kinsale the next day, which I posted previously, and then moved on to Dublin. So I'll post on that next!


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