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

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.

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.

Annascaul Ireland

Annascaul Ireland is a very small village, it appears somewhere in the range of 300 individuals make the town their home. It has a church, two grocery stores a number of inns and pubs as well as a coffee shop and art gallery which I sadly didn’t make it in due to the hours we were in the village. 

Annascaul is however most known for its famous former resident Tom Crean. Tom Crean was a Antarctic explorer who was born near Annascaul in 1877. After his many expeditions around the world he returned to the small village to open The South Pole Inn with his wife in the 1920s.

Annascaul was also where the sculptor Jerome Connar was born, though he emigrated to the United States when he was quite young. Jerome Connar is known for a number of monuments in Washington DC, including Nuns of the Battlefield. He is also responsible for the memorial of Tom Crean in the Annascaul public park.

I was injured out for day three of hiking so I could to explore the whole of the village while I waited for my ride. Which didn’t take long. The main street is probably only a half a mile long and like most things in Europe the stores didn’t open until much later than I was there. But despite the size, it was one of my favorite stops. Small and quiet with of course the kindest people imaginable. While there isn’t a lot to do here, if you find yourself in the area it is worth a stop in.

Wonderful Ireland Walking Tour – Camp to Annascaul, Ireland

According to our guesthouse owner day two of the hike was ” a nice walk, a child could do it”. Which prompted our trip catchphrase “d***t Kathleen!”, which we of course say in jest because Kathleen was lovely. In truth it was much easier, it was all road or trail walking, it was mostly flat and it was a much cooler day.  But 15 plus miles is 15 plus miles, no matter which way you cut it, it’s not easy.

The day started out going uphill from our inn, back up the road we had walked down the night before. And despite it being cooler it was HUMID! I struggled a lot that morning. Plus after the very elaborate application of mole skin to cover the prior days blisters I was already walking a little gingerly to begin with. All that aside, coming down off that hill into this valley was worth the struggle. The flat valley stretched out a head of us and strolling through the sheep fields was just magical.

Following our directions and the ever-present little yellow man signs we had no trouble keeping on track and on schedule. We went through a patch of conifur trees (which seemed very out-of-place among the rolling treeless hills). I later learned these government required crops that are later logged for export. The man who filled me in on the purpose did not say it kindly. Evidently the needles from the trees are so acidic they are damaging the salmon runs, which have since the English logged the Ireland hundreds of years ago, have evolved to needing less acidic conditions for spawning.

After we broke out of the valley we were on the other side of the pennisular in a very cute little beach stop called Inch Beach.  We passed by a lot of “Do Not Enter. Beware of Bull” signs, on thankfully closed gates to get down to the little town. While we sat and ate our lunches another group of hikers we had seen earlier in the day passed by us going the other direction. They asked us if we had seen the bull signs and then told us they jumped the fences and walked through the field! We nearly fainted on their behalf. Don’t do that. Ever.

We sat and enjoyed our lunch at Inch Beach, there was a nice big fluffy golden retreiver that I got to pet. My tomato and cheese sandwich was to die for and I even got a nice big capuchino to keep me going.  Then we picked back up and headed up the hill again. We then curved left long the hills and past the ghost estates which were built during a builder boom in Ireland before the housing market crashed and still sit incomplete and empty. The last bit of the hike that day was really hard, it was all highway walking. We were all really tired and my feet (blisters) were not feeling super. We happily landed around dinner time in Annascaul.

The Drive-In – Condon, Oregon

A few weeks ago I talked about the Condon Hotel which is a darling historic hotel in Condon Oregon. While we were there we obviously needed to eat dinner. There were a couple restaurants that we wanted to eat at, one was closed and the other was out of to go boxes. Third times a charm took us to The Drive-In, which is on the south end of town across the street from the newly built city park which was also having  a farmers market that we had wandered around earlier in the day.

We chatted with the owner a bit while we waited for our burger, which we split with a large order of curly fries and a chocolate shake. He had mentioned that they had recently opened but they were busy so I didn’t get the chance to get too many details about how new or the history of the building they occupied. It was clearly built as a drive in, and was very popular with the locals.

They had an extensive menu with some really fantastically inventive burgers. We chose one that had a slice of ham as well as the burger. It was incredible! If it weren’t a 10 hour drive from my house I would go there for dinner every week.

We had a wonderful time sitting there waiting for our food, not only chatting with the owner but the locals that came and went for their dinners as well. I love getting to witness this kind of small town community and caring. They do not have a full website but a Facebook page with their hours can be found here. I would highly suggest stopping in if you find your way out there. Though as I write this in August they are currently closed as they are feeding the firefighters in the area trying to keep the wildfires from burning any more farms and historic homes. Once again, small town caring and community, it’s so wonderful to see.

Additional Information:

  • 433 S Main St. Condon Oregon
  • 11am to 7pm
  • Closed Sunday

Hotel Condon – Condon, Oregon

Condon Oregon was established in 1893, named by the first post master David B Trimbel after Harvey Condon whoes firm first sold the townsite lots in 1884 after having acquired the land from a local homesteader. The town was once the last southern stop on the Union Pacific line that ran down from the Columbia River. And like most towns in Oregon when the trains stopped running the people stoped coming.

The hotel sits on the main street of town, which thanks to an 1998 initiative has been listed on the National Registry of Historic places and has enjoyed some refurbishment money. Some new businesses have opened up including a number of excellent restaurants, a gift and bookshop as well as the theater and of course Hotel Condon.

Hotel Condon was first opened in 1920. It has been updated with modern amenities and offered complimentary breakfast as well as a wine and cheese reception in the evenings. Our room was just lovely, bright and clean. Updated with comfortable furniture, wi-fi and television. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine and cheese, which we ate outside as it was such a wonderful evening. Then we got burgers to go from down the street and hung around our room. I would highly recommend the hotel, even if it weren’t the only place in town.

Wonderful Ireland Walking Holiday

Traveling is a very unique thing, you have to balance how far out of your comfort zone you are willing to go, with the kind of creature comforts that will ultimately keep you sane while your whole world is turned upside down. Traveling is wonderful and adventurous and important to  knowing ourselves and enjoying life, but it is also hard and scary. So knowing what you want out of the experience and what you can handle are very important when booking travel.

If you do not want to spend 8 hours a day walking through the middle of nowhere or if you do but you want to rough sleep in the wilderness then Wonderful Ireland Walking Holidays is not for you, and that is absolutely okay. But if you want to see things off the beaten path, get a lot of fresh air and exercise but you also want the safety net of an emergency out in case anything happens then read on my friends.

Wonderful Ireland Walking Holidays offers several self guided walking tour vacations throughout Ireland. We chose the Dingle Peninsula tour which is 112 miles split up between 10 days of walking. Some of my group did the whole loop, I however opted for the shorter trip. I started with my group and then left after 5 days of walking. The company offers a variety of options for the peninsula from 3-10 days.

Included in the cost of the tour is airport/train station pickup and drop off. Booked rooms which include breakfast and sack lunches. Luggage transfer from inn to inn so you don’t have to carry your bag with you. Maps, guide-book, emergency cell phone, and hiking poles if you want them.

I wound up hurting myself on day two, so I can attest to how helpful and kind the individuals at the company are. I called on what we took to calling the “bat phone” the morning of a day of hiking, they organized a private ride for me from one town to the next. They showed up on time and I didn’t have to pay for the ride as it was included in the tour price.

The accommodations that were booked for us were above and beyond our expectations. Every single inn was clean, comfortable and the owners incredibly kind.  The food was exceptional every night and the sack lunches exactly what one would need for a 14 mile hike. As an added bonus every place we stayed had wifi so we could connect with our people back home and let them know we had made it to each town safe and sound.

Our bags were always waiting for us when we got to the next inn, clean, undamaged and undisturbed. Not that we were expecting anything less, but I do know people worry about others handling their personal property and there was never an issue with this group.

We were given a packet of very detailed instructions to go along with our maps. Not only is the trail marked to help guide you but the instructions provided down to the turn precise directions to keep you on track and keep you from wondering if you were headed the right way. They were detailed enough that never once did you have to worry that you might have taken a wrong turn. We spent the entire trek feeling confident we wouldn’t be lost or trespassing and that we would be safe the entire trip.

I cannot recommend the tour group enough. The owner is incredibly kind and helpful. He will answer as many ridiculous questions as you can throw at him and do so with a smile. Never once did we feel confused, worried or unsure of ourselves from inquiring about booking the tour all the way to being dropped back off at the airport on the way home.

White River Falls – Tygh Valley, Or

White River Falls was a hydroelectric plant that supplied Sherman and Wasco Counties with power from 1910 until 1960. Much of the damn and associated hydropower bulidings and equipment are still standing at the base of the valley, which you can see in the picture below.

The waterfall itself is about 90 feet, and while in the summer the water flow doesn’t seem like much, in the spring it has enough volume to have earned the nickname of ‘The Niagra Falls of the West’.

The park is free for use, the upper park includes the parking lot and a lookout as well as a series of placards explaining the history of the dam. We did not hike down due to the heat and timing but the trail leads off from the upper lot, down along the cliff, past the hydro building and back along the river. The trail then goes onto state land and private land. There are quite a few resources out there discussing both history and usage of the area, this site World of Waterfalls covers it nicely.

I would very much like to go back in the spring to experince the waterfall at its height and also in more friendly weather to hike down into the canyon. It was a very beauitful spot, and just off the main highway from Maupin so if you find yourself in the area with a little extra time I high suggest the stop.