All our eight days in Ireland left us wondering, Does it actually rain here? The only evidence that it rains most of the time there were the chlorophyll-rich hillsides and the absolute disbelief on locals’ faces when shading their faces from the sun each bright morning. We truly lucked out weather-wise.
Not that it’s hard for my Canadian husband to get a sunburn, but his calves got pretty crispy on a hike off the West Coast of the Emerald Isle. Other than that — and a scraped up hubcap courtesy of yours truly — we had an injury- and incident-free trip.
We drove in a loop over the course of a week:
DUBLIN-CASHEL-KINSALE-DINGLE-LOOPHEAD-LAHINCH-CLIFFS OF MOHER-HOWTH-DUBLIN
While each spot was unique and memorable, I think our favorite was Dingle — for our fantastic bed & breakfast, the music-filled nightlife, the fresh seafood, and especially for its proximity to the Blasket Islands.
me with my mussels, post-hike
great musical duo at Paudie’s
We stayed at the adorable and newly renovated Cill Bhreac House in County Kerry, just outside the Dingle town center. Orla, the owner, was a tireless hostess who fed us hearty Irish breakfasts, recommended the restaurant we ended up eating at both nights we were there (Anchor Down) and the pub we hung out in both nights (Paudie’s Bar), and gave us precise directions for getting to the Blaskets, as well as taking the ferry over to County Clare.
our Dingle home
breakfast with a pastural view
We bought an awesome book called Ireland’s Best Walks by Helen Fairbairn, as well as Rick Steve’s guide to Ireland. Both highlight a hike on Great Blasket Island, which we completed with two Irish companions — a man named Padrig and his Jack Russell Terrier, aptly named Marco Polo. Marco helped us negotiate the rocky and sloping island terrain and guided us along the narrow trails.
Quick history: Great Blasket Island was inhabited by some hearty Irish people up until 1953, when the Irish government could no longer guarantee the islanders’ safety and urged them to abandon their cottages and extremely modest “town”. (At its population peak, Great Blasket had only 153 people; that was in 1841.) Nowadays there is one hostel on the island, but no permanent residents. Abandoned homes and other buildings remain, giving the island a rather eerie feel. Though we visited on a pristine day, it was not difficult to imagine the hardships that the islanders faced, being so cut off from civilization and bearing the brunt of wild Atlantic storms year after year.
The hike took us about four hours to finish. The summit, An Cró Mór, 292 meters above sea level, would have been our turn-around point had we not decided to descend to the southwestern tip…and then summit a second time before circling back to the harbor. It was worth the extra time and effort, as it gave us a better view of the Skellig Islands (you know — where it turns out Luke Skywalker’s been chilling this whole time), and gave us bragging rights for navigating a part of the island that most hikers skip.
The Skellig Islands
If you ever get the chance to get out to Great Blasket Island — either to hike or to relax on the beautiful white sand beach — we would recommend catching a boat from the little man-made harbor in Dunquin.
Choosing to drive to Dunquin and depart from there, rather than departing from Dingle, gave us the opportunity to see more of the Slea Head Drive, which is a grand part of the rugged roadways along the west coast of Ireland called the Wild Atlantic Way. Dunquin itself is also stunningly beautiful.
Dunquin – Sean buying our boat tickets
After our hike, we thoroughly understood Padrig’s Irish mainlanders’ joke about Great Blasket residents:
Q: How can you tell that a group of people are from the island?
A: They walk single-file.