Wonderful Ireland Walking Tours – Dunquin to Caus, Ireland

The last full day of my trip, was also my last chance to hike again. I was fretting over the decision quite a bit. I had my blister pads, I had my new walking shoes. I packed my hiking boots in case of emergency. I read the directions, checked the route a million times and the weather. If all went right I could do it without causing more damage. If it went wrong, I could call for a pick up. I chose to hike.

I am very glad that I did, though it was still tough and I kept checking my feet every time we stopped. We hiked from Dunquin over a small hill and wound up overlooking where I had toured the day before. We even walked some of the same roads. It was pretty neat knowing what I knew from the tour of the area and having the slower pace to walk through and see it all again.

The route was flat after that first hill, thank goodness. And it did end up raining a bit but not enough to force me to change my shoes. The low land coastal scenery made this leg of the hike my favorite by far.

The winding trails along the cliffs and the cool ocean air was so pleasant. Being able to hike between houses and farms on small dirt paths made it feel like something out of a movie. Which it was, both Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away were filmed in the Dunquin area.

We stopped for lunch when we hit the beach for the first time. Resting and eating our sandwiches (pronounced sang-which among the locals) from Gleeann Dearg. We saw the other groups that had stayed at our guest house pass us. And then we picked ourselves up from our cozy grassy knoll and carried on down the beach. At one point when we got closer to Murreagh Village we saw a group racing rather large horses on the beach. I would guess it was a part of this Seaview Equestrian group, however having not stopped to ask I cannot say for sure.

We walked off the beach and into the village. Stopping for pints for some, bathroom and assessing the rest of the day for me, at the local pub and ice cream from a local shop down the road. Everything seemed to be holding up alright for me, so despite still be anxious about any of this being a good idea I trudged on.

And it is a good thing I did because immediately following our break we hit the cliffs and they were nothing short of amazing. I could have sat here all day but we had to walk on. After the cliffs we turned inland on some roads near Baile na nGall (prior to the 2003 Official Languages Act it was known as Ballydavid) and crossed a few cow fields. There was a patch that would have been pure sludge but because of the recent dry weather it was not. Thank goodness. Then past a small river and to our inn for the night in at the An Bothar Pub and Guesthouse which is right near Shanacill, though the address appears to be Caus. However neither show up online as official towns, just blips on the map.

Advertisements

Gleann Dearg – Dunquin, Ireland

The second to last night of my trip was spent in the Dunquin settlement, at a guest house by the name of Gleann Dearg. Dunquin is the most westerly settlement in Ireland, but not a terribly formal settlement near as I could tell. More a rural cluster of houses and business, without  much of a city center. When I was dropped off at the guesthouse to wait for my group I was advised there wasn’t really anything to walk around and see other than the museum which was closed and the harbor which was a bit away.

I was again dropped much earlier than my group was set to arrive. And without anything to go out and explore I chose to stick around the property. The guesthouse is a part of a working farm. The owner of the guesthouse when I arrived was out in the fields. I was shown to my room a sweet little attic type room with an a-line ceiling and the most comfortable twin beads I have ever sat on.

In the absence of much to do I showered, organized by bags for the next day. Made some tea and sat in this little window box to read Northinger Abbey which I found in the downstairs sitting room. My group showed up a couple of hours later just in time for dinner. Given there wasn’t much of a town, there weren’t restaurants their so the lovely ladies at Gleann Dearg made up a three course meal. We were served a zucchini soup, a chicken and eggplant main course and a meringue desert in a lovely summer room complete with grape-vine ceiling.

We were served again for breakfast in a similar warm style in the summer room. I was going to brave the walk for the day. In my eagerness I was ready to go earlier than the rest of my group. So I spent some time wandering around this lovely property.

In doing so I met one of the sheep dogs, who was VERY eager to heard me around the property. He herded me to the stick pile and we played fetch until my group was ready.

All in all I think this was my favorite place we stayed. Not that I disliked any of the others. But there was something incredibly warm and inviting about this guesthouse and the wonderful owner. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to feel like a true guest and a member of the house hold with the in-house meal and the homelike feel of the house itself.

Mossie Tour – Dingle, Ireland

The fourth day of hiking I decided again to not. Due to the terrain of the trail I thought it best to not risk tearing up my feet anymore. Many years ago when I first started traveling the way this day unfolded probably would have terrified me. But the great thing about traveling is you get used to uncomfortable situations and the unknown really fast. So instead of being sad or anxious I just ran with it.

The tour offices close early in Dingle (after my group showed up). I was pretty much standing outside the doors when the tourist office opened the next morning. I asked if they had a tour that I could get on last min, any tour. They said maybe, but the guy needed three for it to be worth it and I was only one. Check back at 11 was the answer.

I sprinted back to the hotel (mind you while Dingle is small these two places are on the opposite end of town). I packed my own bag for a day of hiking but with my new sneakers instead of my boots. I grabbed my sack lunch. I used the ‘bat phone’ to set up my ride for 3pm, I took screen shots of directions to our hotel and directions to a couple of things in town in case my tour fell through and said good-bye to my group. Later when I stopped back in the tourist office there was a french couple that wanted a last min tour as well but needed a third. Perfect! Off we went.

Our tour guide was Mossie and it was a wonderful day. He gave us a quick history of the Irish English conflict during the Tennent farmer years and showed us Burnham House which was the home to Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron of Ventry.  Mullins was one such land owner, not kindly favored by the Irish. It is now a girls school so we didn’t get to go in.

Mullins had removed a lot of old land markers and grave stones when he took up residence in the area. When he was removed and the land returned to the native Irish, stones that were found were placed in his yard. The language is read bottom to top, and the stone pictured above was a grave stone. However, there is no grave to mark where it sits today and the site like many is lost to time.

After the Mullins house we went back in time to the Pre-Romanesque period and visited some Clochan sites, more known as Beehive huts. Not the same that were filmed in Star Wars, those were replicas not originals. They were modeled off those on Skellig Island. Skellig is a UNESCO site and to film in the huts would have been too risky. However some exterior shots were taken on the island. My head in the picture above is covering Skellig. At the site we visited we got to see a complete hut, and were given a lot of history and information around usage. And I got to hold a baby lamb.

After the huts we drove along the coast toward the Blasket Islands. The coast line was just gorgeous.

We made our way  past the Blaskets to Dunquin. Dunquin is the most westerly settlement in Ireland, the Blaskets are the most westerly bit of land in Ireland. The area is Gaelic speaking first, and English is learned as a second language. The view-point below is over looking a ridge to the far left where the Star Wars sets were built. And little did I know it at the time, the next day I would be hiking all through this area.

We learned that the majority of the archeological sites are actually on private land, rather than state-owned property. So most sites that you visit will require payment. This is normal and helps farmers pay for the upkeep of the area. So if you ever find yourself in the area and someone asks you for 3 Euro to see some ruins, chances are they aren’t there to fleece you. It is well worth the cost to see some of these amazing sites.

The last site we visited before returning to Dingle was the Gallarus Oratory. Little is known about the churches origins. It is thought to be dates to the 12th Century. It was discovered in 1756 by Charles Smith. The small church has a doorway and a small window facing west and east respectively. Over the window is a couple small outcroppings that are thought to have once held candles. Next to the church is a flat pile of rock and a headstone, archeologists found human remains here but again little is known about them.

An Droigead Beag – Dingle, Ireland

After we hustled out of the Marina Inn we walked around town a bit. My group since it took so long to clean up and dry off from the rainy hike was going to miss seeing Dingle, which is the largest of the towns on the peninsula. They wanted to wander around before it got dark and see what there was in town.

We found live music in a few places but they were far too busy to find a place to relax and enjoy it. Standing room only, and in one case the waitresses were having to come outside and go back in another door to get items to and from the kitchens.

About the time we gave up we walked past An Droigead Beag, not knowing that it was a popular place for music we just heard some low-key music and wandered in. It was surprisingly empty so we grabbed a table in the corner and ordered drinks.

At first it was two local fellows playing, then they stopped. We thought it was over for the night, right when we got our drinks. But after a few minutes a woman joined the younger of the two gentlemen that had previously been playing. Who ever she was, she was amazing! Not many people came by, probably because it was more on the mellow side where as the other locations we had walked past were more of a party atmosphere but we loved it.

The bar itself was gigantic. Low ceilings, and cozy up front but as you walk back there was two more bars. Allegedly there is also a night club upstairs. It must have not been open the night we were there. We saw a lot of young party goers come in, go to the back and then immediately go back out again. We stayed until the young woman was done singing and then wandered back to our hotel for the night. It was a lovely evening all around.

Marina Inn – Dingle Ireland

Our dinner in Dingle was at the Marina Inn, which was suggested to us by a number of people. It did not disappoint. I had to have the fish and chips, not a lot of places along the peninsula had them and I was pretty excited to try them. They too did not disappoint.

We thought the South Pole Inn was crowded the night before, but we be wrong. The Marina Inn was CROWDED! And for good reason, their food was amazing, they had music and sporting events playing. The service was quick and that is actually saying something considering how crowded not only the Marina Inn was but just how crowded Dingle was. There were so many more tourists here compared to the other towns we had stayed in and as such the restaurants and pubs were all packed. We took our time, but did not linger for long given just how many people were trying to eat here.

Naturally I had to take pictures of the bar, though given how crowded it was I mostly got pictures of rear ends. Sorry everyone! They will never know anyway, I doubt they read Where Sasha Went. I also had to snap a shot of the decor above our table. Growing up the way I did I have a special place in my heart for all things nautical, and these were just too sweet. I might need to make one someday for the house.

Coastline House B&B – Dingle, Ireland

Our hotel in Dingle was the Coastline House B&B. It is an incredibly nice hotel at the end of town overlooking the water. The rooms were the largest we had for the trip, the bathrooms were updated and the house clean, bright and terribly comfortable. Wi-fi was available as well as tv’s and the what was now becoming a typical in room tea and coffee service.

After the group returned and we were all properly cleaned up and dried off, we set about trying to dry out everyone’s essential wear for the next day. Socks, shoes, everything was set up on the radiators to dry out and when we returned from dinner and they still weren’t done we set about attacking things with hair dryers.

The dining room was downstairs next to the front lounge area, like the rest of the hotel it was bright and clean. The food was amazing. A large buffet of breads and cereals were set up for us. And then made to order hot food was brought out for everyone as well. Once again we left feeling full, offered a packed lunch and off everyone went the next day.

Goat Street Social – Dingle, Ireland

Being alone, without any means of finding things to do and in terrible weather can be a horribly defeating feeling while on vacation. I was certainly in danger of getting down on myself and feeling like I had wasted a lot of money for nothing on the first day of having had sat out on hiking.

But when the jewelry shop worker at Jon Weldon  suggested I take shelter in a cafe up the street my whole day turned out. Goat Street Social is a rather small establishment that serves coffee, brunch, and lunch though I was only in it for the hot drinks and cake. I was lucky to find a table as it was entirely packed but I wedged my way in. After having removing as many wet layers as socially acceptable I set my things up to dry and enjoyed a nice pot of tea and some almond orange cake. I grabbed the only novel off the high shelf above my head and started reading about Ewan McGregor’s motorcycle trip from Scotland to South Africa.

I didn’t finish the book, though it was a decent read. The place started to get really busy and I didn’t feel right holding up the table any longer given I had finished what I came in for. I gave up my small table to a couple. I could tell the waitress wanted to make sure I was actually ready to leave and not feeling pressured but was immensely grateful to not have to turn another customer away.

I went back the next day as I once again chose to sit out the hike. The terrain was not going to be great for my more comfortable but also significantly less water proof shoes. So while I waited for my ride again I headed straight back up. This time choosing a cappuccino and the sticky toffee pudding. Which was to die for.

In researching information about the establishment it appears that there used to be a place called The Goat Street Cafe in its place which has since closed. The new cafe, Goat Street Social is however open, obviously since I went there…twice. They must be new given how little information is on the internet. The cafe can be found at Grove, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland and is open 10:30 to 3pm seven days a week though it does close for bank holidays.

Dingle Ireland

After being picked up in Annascaul for my day off I was dropped off at the marina in Dingle where my group was hiking to for the day. I was still feeling pretty defeated having chosen not to hike that day and given the condition of my feet woried that I was out for the rest of the trip. I had only brought two pairs of shoes, my hiking boots, which were unwearable at this point and my sandels which I was wearing. The second I was dropped off it started pouring. Step one I had to solve the shoes issue, and fast as even walking from the marina to the city center (all of two blocks) I was entirly drenched.

I walked up the street where I spotted a sign that read Garvey’s Sports and Leisure and across the street Okeeffes Pharmacy.  And then I hatched a plan. I poped in the sports store and tried on a bunch of sneakers, I found a pair of Sauconys that were cushy and didn’t rub my feet too much in the wrong places. Then I ran next door and stocked up on blister pads. Then without internet I had to try to find our guesthouse. Luckily I remembered the general direction and marched down to find it. I was clutching the soaked and tattered shoe bag by the time I got there and I don’t feel like it was that far of a walk. The weather was just that bad.

After I found the inn and was promptly turned away as it wasn’t check in time yet. I sat down to get my shoes on, and realized I didn’t have socks. So I put on the blister pads, put on the nylon socks that were meant only for trying on the shoes that I had forgotten to throw away and hit the very wet bricks once again.

I had only one more mission for the day but my group wasn’t set to get in for another 5 hours. After walking into an emberessingly large number of jewlery shops I finally found the one I was looking for and purchased the bracelete I knew I had wanted from the get go. The women that worked at Jon Weldon where I purchased the bracelete told me to go up the street to a cafe to grab some tea and wait out the storm. She also gave us a dinner recommendation.

At no point during the day did the storm let up. All these pictures were from the next day as it was too wet to even pull out my phone let alone try to use it. After my tea and cake break it was late enough to check into the hotel. I started wandering back, hoping into any open shop or church I could find to try to keep dry. Once I got back I set my clothes up to dry, took a hot bath and read some british gossip mags until my group came. They were even wetter than I was, and covered in sheep muck to boot. We did manage to get out for some food and music later in the evening but most of the day we spent drying clothes and hiking boots with hair dryers.

South Pole Inn – Annascaul, Ireland

On our evening in Annascaul, after all the dust settled…or rather after we washed off all the dust from the day we chose to eat dinner at the South Pole Inn. There may have been other places to eat in town, honestly we didn’t even check. We just knew that this was the place we were going to eat.

Opened by Tom Crean and his wife Ellen around the 1920s. The pub is small and cozy, once again exactly what one would expect from an Irish Pub. Stone walls, big fire place, small wooden bar and a handful of tables. The interior is filled to the brim with information and memorbelia from Tom Crean’s life. While we were waiting for food I of course had to pick through the stack of books on the mantel.

The meal was exceptional as all of them were. We had a mix of food, curry, fish, pasta, chicken. It was all amazing. The service was quick, we lingered in the cozy atmosphere and never once felt like we were pressured to vacate even though people continued to stream in through the doors all night. Every one chatted merrily and enjoying their time. Including the baby on the floor by the fire and the toddler in the window box. It was clearly a neighbor hood place, and what a wonderful neighborhood to be in.

Hanafin’s Pub – Annascaul, Ireland

Our first stop in Annascaul was Hanafin’s Pub. And when I say first stop I mean, we didn’t even change. We dropped our packs at our inn, changed out shoes and popped next door for celebratory drinks.

I unfortunately did not get the name of the bar tender and owner while we were there. I wish I had so I could thank him personally for his hospitality and stories. But either way, if you find yourself in the area make sure to pop in for a drink and tell him hello. As with every one we found in the area, the people we warm, the pub was charming and the drinks were perfect.

We sat in the cozy little pub for a few hours, drinking and chatting with the owner. He gave our group suggestions for after our hike was over, driving directions, hours and various places to visit. He told us colorful stories of locals, like one fellow who brings in a crop of potatoes every year to trade for his drinking allowance.

He explained to us how peat farming worked and pointed out that was how he was heating the bar (yes it was chilly enough that night for heating). We had walked past a number of farms earlier that day and just didn’t realize what it was at the time.

He introduced us to the local sport of hurling. The Annascaul team was playing on the Irish language tv channel in some sort of playoff tournament. The sport was fascinating and so much fun to watch. If we had it on tv here I might be tempted to take up watching sports for the first time in my life.