Friday, 25 September 2015

Ireland Part Three - A Little More from the Dingle

Please bear with me.  I’ve got a few more pictures to share with you from the Dingle Peninsula and you don't want to miss these.  

I know I’ve already shared quite a few but I can’t seem to help myself because it was there on the Dingle that I fell in love with Ireland.  It’s just an absolutely amazing place – such spectacular beauty yet it’s so rural and peaceful, with houses and farms dotting the patchwork countryside here and there reminding you that regular people get to live wrapped in the beauty of this environment.   

Life seems to move at a slow pace out on the Dingle.  Even the yawning sea gulls seem to be affected by the laid back attitude here.  

In fact, it almost seems as if time has stood still here, with the buildings and sometimes the roads looking like they haven't changed in many many years.  There is a quaintness about it that is very appealing.

This is a big piece of land, yet if you gathered all the residence living on the peninsula together, their numbers would be small.  It’s no wonder really though because with as gorgeous as this land is, it is also a hard and rugged place to make a living.   

What are the main sources of income?   

Well, there is tourism and it is quite obvious why this land attracts so many visitors just like us, but this is Ireland after all and the window of opportunity for tourism each year is short-lived and reserved mainly for the warmest months of the year which hopefully also brings drier weather.   But such a short window probably means not many are getting rich off the tourists.

Then there is fishing and again, it’s obvious why as this is a peninsula after all sitting on the Atlantic ocean.  But I don’t think anyone is under the false impression that fishing is an easy business to make a living at either.   

And then there is agriculture and with plenty of rolling green hills, that seems to make sense.  But this is a beautiful yet rugged landscape and I doubt that it is vegetables or fruit that are the main items farmed here.  It’s likely livestock as we saw cows and lots and lots of sheep dotting the countryside. 

And it was into a sheep field sitting in one of the most beautiful spots on the entire Dingle Peninsula that I bring you now.  On our third day in Ireland, we headed back to the end of the Dingle to take a hike along the coast overlooking the Blasket Islands.  

We parked on the little road leading down to the tiny yet fierce Cuomeenole beach that we had visited a couple days before, but this time we hiked in the other direction away from the wave crashing beach, going up along a cliff hanging over the Atlantic Ocean, getting higher and higher as we went.  

The adventurer in me found this dramatic setting simply exhilarating to hike through.  But the mother in me found it absolutely terrifying.  This hike was amazingly beautiful, beyond words really, but at the same time, there was nothing between us and a sheer drop off.   

Watching your 10 and 7 year old climb along a precarious perch like this puts your heart in your throat and yes, I will readily admit that I became nagging mom.  “Leah, stop talking and watch where you are going.”  “Ellie, stop flitting around and just walk normally so you don’t fall over the ledge.”   

They don’t seem to perceive the danger like adults do.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I don’t know. 

What I do know is that the view we had as we walked along the edge of Ireland on the Dingle Peninsula was spectacular, amazing, breathtaking, dramatic, awe-inspiring… the seeming endless ocean surrounding the green hills of the Blasket Islands with a brilliant blue sky overhead... I think you get the picture.

And speaking of pictures, as we walked I couldn’t help but to shoot some of my own photos with my weeny little camera phone.  I often stand in awe watching Eric take photos and seeing him and his camera silhouetted against the very extraordinary landscapes he is trying to capture on film.  

I’ve started taking photos of him in these instances.  I’m calling it the “Photographing the Photographer” series. 

The Dingle is full of raw beauty.  Maybe that is the best way to describe it.  We saw it everywhere we went, and the very last night we spent there, the Dingle seemed to give us one last taste of this raw beauty as a little parting gift...

a picnic on a beautiful deserted beach under a blue sky as the sun sank slowly towards the horizon.  Does it get any better than this? 

Late in the afternoon we had stumbled around this rural countryside for awhile trying to find a store that was open where we could pick up some provisions for a picnic on the beach - some crackers to go with the cheese we had brought along, a bottle of wine with a screw top as we had no corkscrew, some drinks for the girls.  Once we had what we needed, we went in search of the perfect beach and the perfect beach we did find.   

This is a place called Wine Strand... 

and it was here that we had the perfect end to a perfect visit to a seemingly perfect and peaceful place called the Dingle Peninsula.  

We had the beach to ourselves.

The girls skipped along the waters edge as the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean tickled their feet.

They explored the many tidal pools in search of strange sea creatures...

and they scrambled around on the rocks jutting out into the surf, trying not to slip and get their shoes full of water.

An empty beach - nature's playground.   

We had a wonderful visit to the Dingle Peninsula.  When you are planning your travels to a new country with so very many places to visit, it is often times overwhelming to try and decide which of the few places you will actually visit with your limited time.  You don't want to choose wrong and be disappointed.  With the Dingle Peninsula, we chose well.  

I didn't want to leave.  There was more of Ireland to see, but the Dingle Peninsula captured my heart.  We stayed out on the Peninsula and watched the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean, a fitting end to our visit.  We only left when we couldn't see anymore.  Goodbye Dingle...

I hope we meet again.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ireland, Part Two - A Trip to Killarney and the Dingle's Inch Beach

While we were staying out on the Dingle, we managed to pull ourselves away from the peninsula for a day to travel inland a bit to explore a little of the interior of the emerald isle.  We headed to Killarney National Park.  Now does that name sound Irish or what?  When we set out, we really weren’t sure where exactly to head in Killarney National Park, but as we got closer and continued to study the map, we decided on a place called Muckross House and Gardens that's located within the park border.   

Muckross House sits on Muckross peninsula which is located between Muckross Lake and the much larger Lough Leane (another lake but you wouldn’t know that by the name would you).  There are a lot of Muckrosses in Killarney National Park.  Where this name comes from, I don’t know.  The estate house that stands there was built for a man name Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife - clearly no Muckross in that name.  I suspect the name Muckross was around long before they took up residence on this peninsula. 

It wasn't this huge house that we were here to see though.  We had another plan for the day – we wanted to go hiking and the trail that winds it’s way through the forest and around Muckross Lake was perfect.   

As we made our way towards the trailhead, we kept a keen eye out for the jaunty cars (aka horse drawn carriages) that kept whizzing past.  No need to get in front of one of those and the drivers didn’t seem too interested in slowing down if someone was in their way.  

The trail through the forest was enchanting.  

Is there any question as to why Ireland's nickname is the emerald isle?   

As the trail wound its way through the moss covered woods, every now and then it flirted with the edge of the pristine lake giving us gorgeous views.  

The lake was a beautiful but interesting mix of boulders and rocky shoreline all covered in lush green foliage. 

We happened upon a little beach, a perfect place for the girls to play and practice some rock skipping.  

As we carried on, the trail took us away from the lake for a bit, but not for long.  We reached a stone bridge that marks the separation of Muckross Lake from it's much, much, much larger neighbor, Lough Leane.  I'm glad we picked the smaller of the two lakes to hike around.  

As we reached the far side of the lake, exactly opposite from where we had started, we came upon a tea house, a welcome surprise as we had neglected to pack water or food for what was turning out to be a longer hike than we had anticipated.  

We stopped for a quick drink and a sandwich, the girls played out on the old stone dock for a bit, and then we carried on around to the opposite side of the lake...

which was just as extraordinary as the other side had been...

and just as green.  As we neared the end of the hike, we crossed a bridge with a crystal clear stream flowing under it.

The water was tumbling down a hill through the lush green forest, but in the opposite direction that we were heading.  We were tired and thirsty again...

but how can you resist following nature's calling when it looks like this?  It was a short jaunt uphill and when we arrived we were met by a beautiful waterfall.

Torc Waterfall to be exact.  Hiking a few hundred extra feet uphill on our tired legs was well worth it.  

Now you may think that our day ended here, but it didn't.  As we drove back towards Tralee, the town we were staying in, we couldn't help but turn and head out onto the Dingle peninsula again.  

Our previous day's journey around the peninsula and left us yearning to see more of the Dingle and its majestic seashore and vibrant green cloud covered hills.

There was still daylight after all and our time here in Ireland would be short so we didn't want to let it go to waste.  We headed towards an odd piece of land that juts out from the south side of the peninsula into Dingle Bay, stretching almost entirely across the Bay but not quite.  It's called Inch Strand, or Inch beach, and the tiny little town sitting at it's start is simply called Inch.  A strange name that implies something small, but Inch beach is anything but.  Inch strand is a huge series of sand dunes on one side and the longest stretch of perfectly flat beach that I have ever seen on the other.  

And where the beach faces the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it is continuously barraged with gigantic waves, movie size waves that a surfer would love.  You know the kind that rise over the surfer's head and look like it's going to swallow him or her up.

Despite the gloominess of the weather and the strong cold breeze, the water was littered with surfers.  As we gazed out into the wildly churning water we could see little dark dots bobbing in the ocean.  

There was a whole line of surfers in the continuously crashing surf waiting for the right time to catch a wave and ride.  And ride they did, well a few of them did anyway.  

These were mighty big waves, and despite all the hopeful wave riders we saw out in the water, we only saw a few actually make it up and ride to the end.   And that is Inch Beach - a surfer's paradise. 

There will be more from the Dingle peninsula tomorrow.