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.


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