I figured that ending the first part in Dingle (An Daingean.)
Our Thursday started out beautifully. We stayed in Devane´s B&B, which we found particularly lovely. The owners were wonderfully kind and helpful, and made a great breakfast! Best of all, Devane´s B&B is in a bright pink building, and is located on a hill leading into town, thus providing wonderful views of Dingle Harbor! Anyway, who woudln´t want to stay in a bright pink B&B?
The view from our B&B in Dingle
After checking out the open shops in An Daingean, we made our way out to the Slea Head Drive, which loops around the end of the Dingle Peninsula. In reality, the drive isn´t very long, but offers such beautiful views, you really need a day. And that´s just what we did! It was slightly disconcerting that as we entered the drive, there was a sign saying, "road closed ahead," but we figured it would be best to go as far as possilbe.
Our first stop on the Slea Head Drive was at an area with beehive huts. These huts are all over the Dingle Peninsula, and are thought to date from the 12th Century, when Norman invaders forced Irish people to the far coastal areas of the country. The Beehive Huts that we visited were a series of about 5 cirucular huts, encircled by a much larger outer stone circle. It is most amazing to see these structures, as they were built without mortar, and yet they have remained throughout a constant battering from the weather and the sea air for almost 1000 years! Another enjoyable thing about visiting these particular beehive huts was the fact that it is also used as a sheep pasture, so we got to walk among a bunch of sheep and lambs simply to go to the huts!
Sheep grazing with the Atlantic in the background
A view of the ringed area housing the beehive huts
After exploring, I was able to ask about the road closure. Yes the road was closed, but the man operating the site informed us that we would still have wonderful views, and that it was well worth driving out to the closure.
So, we were off again. The views got more and more incredible as the Dingle Peninsula jutted farther and farther out into the ocean. We stopped at Slea Head, which is one of the westernmost points in Europe. From Slea Head, you can view the Blasket Islands. The Blaskets are a series of islands, that up until the 1950s, housed a number of famous Irish authors and artists. The Blaskets are uninhabited now, but there are day trips available to tourists to visit them. I would imagine this would be an incredible day!
A view of the Great Blasket Island as we near Slea Head
Stone walls lining the hillside at Slea Head.
View of the Blasket Islands.
We stopped at the gift shop at Slea Head, which actually was quite helpful. Turned out that the Slea Head Drive was closed off about 20 feet from the gift shop. There had been a landslide on Easter Sunday that caused the road to crack. The woman working at the gift shop suggested we drive back a little ways, and we would come to a mountain pass that would bring us out almost to the other side of the closure. That was PERFECT! The ride through the mountain pass was also beautiful, and we only ended up missing about 3/4 of a mile of the entire drive!
We came out near the Blasket Island Visitor Center, which unfortunately, we missed. We did drive out to a lookout point, where we were able to walk down to the water, and were treated to some amazing views!
Looking back towards Slea Head.
We discussed this scene with two guys from Galway a few days after taking this picture. They described this scene with one perfect adjective "hardy!" This is the ocean, and even though it was sunny, it was April!
The houses here have incredible views, and personal archaelogical wonders (beehive hut)
As we got back on the road again, we came upon Louis Mulcahy Pottery Workshop, in Ballyferriter. The pottery was absolutely beautiful! Even though I lived in Ireland for 4 months, I didn´t know just how famous Irish pottery was. After spending some time in the workshop, we decided we were getting tired. There was a bookshop which I found quite enjoyable, as they had as many books in Irish as they did in English! We didn´t stop in the local heritage museum though, and now, I know this is a place I must return.
Harborside in Ballyferriter.
As the day wore on, we found ourselves at Gallarus Oratory, which is an amazing structure.
Built between the 7th and 8th Centuries, the Gallarus Oratory is the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. It was built completely without mortar, but with a technique called corbelling, that has allowed the structure to be waterproof for over 1000 years! We watched an very interesting movie about the archaeology of the area, including the Oratory itself. It was simply amazing to stand inside a structure that was so incredibly old, yet so well preserved!
After our visit to Gallarus, we were tired, and headed back to Dingle town. We spent some time meandering the streets, visited the harbor, and had dinner.
Since we were so tired on Thursday night, we went to bed very early, which allowed us an early start to our day on Friday. So, around 11:00 (the Irish aren´t very early risers,) we headed out to Doolin. Doolin is in County Clare, so it was approximately a 4 hour ride for us. We drove along the coast to Tarbert, where we got a ferry over the River Shannon. The ferry ride was quick, but I´m glad we did it, instead of driving all the way around the Shannon. The ferry let us off at Killimer, and then we drove up the coast, towards Kilrush and stopped off at Kilkee. Kilkee is a charming little resort town. We explored the beach in Kilrush for a while, and then headed into town for lunch. We had a delicious lunch of fish and chips, and sat on the sun porch of the restaurant. After lunch, we walked around the city center for a while, and then headed for the Cliffs of Moher.
We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher around 4:00, which was probably a good time as there weren´t to many tourists. The Cliffs are a major tourist attraction, and the number of visitors is growing every year. The Cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, they are 214 meters (700 ft.) high, and stretch for 8 km (5 miles,) along the western Atlantic Coast of Ireland. Having been to the Cliffs 7 years ago, I was slightly disappointed with the changes that had been made, but considering that it was for safety´s sake, I cannot complain much. The Cliffs still afford incredible views, and in my opinion, are still well worth the visit.
The site made famous by Matt Lauer on the Today Show (1 May 2007.) As you can, words can´t begin to do justice to these majestic cliffs.
A view of O´Brien´s Tower standing high on the Cliffs of Moher.
After spending some time at the Cliffs, we were off again to our final destination, Doolin. Doolin is a very small village, located about 10 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is steeped in tradition though, and what it lacks in size, it definately makes up for in character. We stayed at an absolutely wonderful B&B, the Sea View in, that had a lovely view of the ocean.
Our B&B in Doolin
After getting settled, we walked into town. A charming fact about Doolin- the city center is split into two parts, divided by a 10 minute walk. We stayed in the smaller, and probably older part of the center. We walked to the other city center for dinner, in a very new, but enjoyable pub, Fitzpatrick´s. Doolin is exceptionally famous for traditional Irish music, but since it always starts late (between 9 & 10 at night,) we decided to walk back to our side of the center after dinner. We arrived at O´Connor´s Pub around 9, and the musicians were just setting up. O´Connor´s is probably one of the most famous pubs in Ireland, and for good reason. When we first arrived, I was a little nervous because there were so many American tourists. But as the night wore on, the Americans (being the early to bed people that we are,) started leaving, and the pub filled with Irish people from all over the country. The music was exceptional. A real traditional Irish music session is an impromptu gathering of musicians, who often will stop in a pub to play a few songs, or to sing. The atmosphere is quite relaxed, and the musicians are usually amazing! While we enjoyed the music, we also met some incredible people! We met two guys from the Glendalough area of Ireland (near Dublin,) and we met two other guys from Galway. We had some very interesting conversations, and were able to learn much more about the country. The people in the pub were all so friendly, and it was so easy to strike up a great conversation.
Fisher Street, Doolin
Saturday morning, we met up with some of the people we met the previous night, and they took us out to the ferry dock at Doolin. The ferry goes to the Aran Islands, which unfortunately, we didn´t have time for. Despite the amazing weather, the ocean was very forceful, and the crashing waves were magnificent! We spent some time walking out on the cliffs at the end of Doolin, which provided us with some more amazing views of the Cliffs of Moher.
The Cliffs of Moher from Doolin
Crab Island off the coast of Doolin. This is one of the best surfing areas in Ireland.
We also walked far out onto a very rocky, which resembeled the moon. Doolin lies in the Burren, which is an area of Ireland, covered by limestone. The Burren is home to amazing plant life and wildlife. In Doolin, the Burren opens to the sea cliffs. After some time, we came upon very secluded ocean cliffs, where we passed a few hours enjoying nature´s inspiring gifts. Since the ocean was quite active, the waves breaking against the cliffs came up quite high, and hit with such force, that it sounded like thunder. Spending time there was wonderful for the soul.
Sadly, Saturday was our last full day in Ireland. So reluctantly, at 3, we made our way back to the car, and headed back to Cork. We drove through Limerick, and had to give way to a bike tour for about an hour. Our drive home took us by some interesting sights, but there simply wasn´t time to stop. We arrived at the B&B, which was our original B&B in Cork (the Belvedere Lodge,) around 7:00. We were so tired!
Our flight back to Germany was at 6:20 am, so Sunday was a very early morning. We flew Aer Lingus into Amsterdam, and had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam. I have never been to the Netherlands, but after spending time in the airport, I am hopeful that one day, we will go. Mandy and I did get to purchase some amazing cheese at the airport (the Dutch are well known for their cheese.) I also appreciated the layover, as we had a great time to reflect on our trip.
The final leg of the trip was a one hour flight into Stuttgart. We arrived at 5:00 pm in Stuttgart, ready to get back to our lives.
Overall, the trip was absolutely incredible. We saw tons of things, but didn´t over -extend ourselves, so we were able to enjoy every minute. The weather was amazing, and quite uncommon. I simply cannot wait for my next trip to Ireland, because I can guarantee, this was not my last trip there!