Dingle: Whiskey, Beehives and Smoking Hogs

We slept well. It was not due to the craft beer or the red wine, but more the fresh sea or mountain air and a very soft comfortable bed. Good choice, yay, a hotel between a mountain and the big blue sea *chuckle*. We ate almost everything at breakfast (full Irish with lots of added extras) as we had a long day of intense coastal exploring ahead of us. Our first stop was for alcohol. Noooo, not because we were thirsty, but because one of us is a connoisseur. A whisk(e)y one at that!

The Dingle Distillery

This distillery was just around the corner (long and winding road more like it) from where we were, but we were way too early to join in on one of their distillery tours. As we were not so sure how long our day would be, we decided not to book one for later, hoping that one day soon we would return to Dingle…The distillery does not only make whisk(e)y, but gin and vodka too!! The interesting frog-looking car was one of many belonging to a group of tourists who also wanted to tour the distillery.

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive, which starts and ends in the town of Dingle, is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and sort of loops around the peninsula. It is a very popular route for tourists and such, but we were lucky as there were not so many big busses and small bicycles on the road. We travelled clockwise and our next stop was the seaside village of Ventry, where we visited the Celtic and Prehistoric Museum.

The interesting part of this museum is that it is small, yet it boasts items dating back to the Jurassic age. There’s a complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur, a nest of dinosaur eggs, a mammoth skull and an impressive collection of Celtic jewellery. There are many other interesting tools, weapons and artefacts on display, including this smoking hog 🐗

Splashing waves, grazing sheep and piled up stones. We were at Dunbeg Fort, which is a 500BC ruin precariously sitting on a cliff. In a few years time it might not be there, as the sea seems to be eroding it very fast, so please visit if you can. It is not spectacular as in WOW, and it also costs a small fee to walk down the hill, but it has a great historical value. The other side of the road, however, was much more interesting for us. There on the hill were many beehive huts that we simply just had to see. A very charming and friendly old lady greeted and chatted to us for a bit, advising us on which of the Fahan Beehive Huts to see first. The area is not big, but the walk is better, steep, but better, the huts are mostly intact and the view of the sea is amazing from up there. Here too is an entrance fee, but much more worth it!

There are a lot of interesting stops en route, even if it is just to see the cliffs, or a posing seagull that was definitely not camera shy!  😁

Oh, just ignore the one with the fat bum believing that she can soar over the cliffs 😆 and look at the amazing views of the Three Sisters mountains peaks instead. These wonderful photos were taken mostly from the Wine Strand, a quiet and peaceful beach a bit off the main route. Further along we also left the Slea Head Drive and motored a bit northwards to Ballydavid where we found a small pier, which is probably not in use anymore. From here the Three Sisters can be seen too. Take these little detours, you won’t regret it…

These lovely pink sea thrift (Ameria Maritima) flowering plants were growing everywhere near the pier.

So that includes our Irish Road trip for 2015. The next day we left quite early for Shannon, where we stayed for one night at the airport hotel. Yep, the airline we used changed the flight times after we booked everything, so we had to shorten our stay in Dingle because we were flying out at the crack of dawn 😠 grrrr…

 

The Ring of Kerry and the whiskey making woman

Happily leaving the city of Cork, we headed off to our next accommodation on the Dingle Peninsula. We took the longer route, the N71/Wild Atlantic Way, because we wanted to visit Bantry Bay. The sun was shining, the water shimmering and parking (not free) was easy to find. The bay is really beautiful where two of the largest islands, the Whiddy and Bere, can be seen from almost any vantage point. Our main point of interest though, was to visit a house, home and Irish heritage which exists since around 1690.

 

Bantry Bay House and Garden

As mentioned before, the Bantry House has been here for more than three hundred years, and in the same family for about two hundred and fifty years. We didn’t know that they had their own parking, so had to walk up a long steep lane (puff-puff) lined by many big lovely shady trees, which was good as it was quite hot. At the end of the lane you pass through a gate, unlocked and unmanned, which might give the impression that you are free to roam around. Yes, you may roam, but you have to pay an admission fee first. You can buy a ticket for the house (interior) and garden, or just the garden, which we chose. Do not even try to cheat as they do check!

The view of the bay and the islands from the garden is stunning. There’s also a cemetery bordering on the property. They also have a tearoom serving light homemade lunches and teas. The house was opened to the public in 1946 and is now also a Bed and Breakfast. We were very impressed with the attractively laid out gardens! In 2001 Archaeologists found a 17th century deserted English fishing settlement and a medieval Gaelic village on the west lawn. Impressive and Wow! After ambling for an hour or two, we had to rush back to the car because the parking ticket had already expired. Oops! It was also still a long way to the hotel. We could have stayed at least another hour, that’s how awesome it was.

This is what we found along the N71/Wild Atlantic Way

There are many surprises to be found along the roads in Ireland, and this was one of them. A well-dressed sheep in an old vintage car. An amusing yet fetching advertisement for “The Ewe Experience” which is *quote* Ireland’s only interactive & interpretive sculpture garden *unquote*  We unfortunately could not go in as it was closed.

Amazing hills and moutains on the way to Kenmare showing the Turner Rock tunnels. There are three of them and they are quite narrow. Apparently some very large vehicles have managed to get themselves stuck under here. Oh no…

Another delightful surprise was this 200-year old cottage found on the Caha Pass half way between Kenmare and Glengarriff. Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm is still as it was before all the mod-cons like electricity. Old farm equipment, vintage cars and other interesting objects from days gone by can be seen. There are also some farm animals roaming around and Molly’s Old Tea Room and Barn Restaurant serves traditional food. It is a very unique and interesting house which belonged to a very special woman who had to bring up seven small children on her own. She was creative and a genius! She even made her own whiskey! A woman. So there!

The Ring of Kerry and still on the Wild Atlantic Way

We had to stop in Sneem for a wee and a nibble. It is a small village yet busloads of visitors stop here almost every day. There are many interesting sculptures dotted around the town, a panda donated by China and the goddess Isis donated by Egypt, to name but a few. What we will never forget is that there, in the mountains, a shop owner stumped me! Ordering baileys and cookie flavoured ice-creams, he asked if I was South African. Impressed and chuffed, I took off my red turban (my favourite cap) and beamed a big YES. “Have you been to South Africa?” I asked him. “No, never” was his reply. “Uhm, do you know any South Africans?” (hoping he would say yes and show us the way to my fellow countrymen) “No, never ever met one in my life”. Okaaayyyy! So how did he know! Was it the hair (red turban flattened the afro), the nose, or lips, or maybe my bum? I wish I knew. Everywhere else I’m mistaken for Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian (still cannot figure that one out as my curves are not samba-samba). South African? Never ever! So it could only have been my accent…I hope  😊 He must’ve seen some movies or something…

The coastline along the Ring of Kerry is absolutely breath-taking!

 

Waterville House and Golf Links is a golf resort with an 18-century manor.

 

View from the Dingle Peninsula towards the Ring of Kerry

 

The very famous and quite large Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula

 

At last! Our hotel. The house is about three miles from Dingle Village and situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the mighty Mount Brandon. We were heartily welcomed by the owner herself, and shown to a lovely large room with an inviting bathtub…splash-splash which was used almost immediately 🛀🏻 After settling in we had supper in the restuarant downstairs and enjoyed some delicious home-cooked food. It was so good that we ate here every night of our stay. Of course, because they have an award winning chef (her husband) and an award winning restaurant! Forgot to mention the thirst-quenchers 😆 One of us had wine, as you know, sip happens, to it’s better to wine. The other one had beer…bläh. Okay, so he said it was lekker, so lekkerrrrr that he could have easily filled a bathtub with it and splish-splosh-hic-hic the whole night through. We’re talking about the very tasty craft beer from West Kerry Brewery!

Whispering Fairies, Rivers of Beer and elusive Precious Stones

Letterkenny welcomed us with a lot of pouring and incessant rain. This was the very first time on our trip so far that we just had no desire at all to do anything. No sight-seeing, no eating out. Nothing. Null. Nada. The rain and gloomy weather just got to us somehow. We did, however, need a pharmacy, as well as something to eat and drink, so that is why, after checking into our semi-posh hotel, we ventured out into the wetlands. After slish-sloshing into a miniscule shopping mall, seeing nothing, buying nothing, we managed to find the only Catholic cathedral in the county of Donegal, the Cathedral of St. Eunan. Oh, did I say that we had no desire for sight-seeing? Really? We also managed to have lunch at a Brewery Bar, shop at a supermarket and browse in a clothing store. We were also the only ones leaving big puddles of water everywhere! Geez, we were soaking wet. Umbrellas?Useless! It was far too windy. We did intend to go to a pub later in the evening, to listen to some Irish musicians, but after “resting for an hour or two” in a warm bed, that idea was trashed. The next day we simply had breakfast, stayed in bed, ate chocolates, crisps and biscuits for lunch and supper, watched TV. No guilt whatsoever 😛

We felt really good after our do-nothing day, full of energy and blind to all the rain. We had a lot to see and do today. We were heading off to Malin Head, via and via and via… 😉 Our first stop was at the Buncrana Castle, situated at the mouth of the Crana river. It is actually a large manor house, but in the 18th century it was normal to call them castles. It is also a private residence and can only be seen from afar, and through a closed iron gate.

The mouth of the Crana river, which flows into Lough Swilly, one of only three glacial fjords (or sea inlets) in Ireland.

The Crana river, with the six arched Castle Bridge spanning it, holds a lot of salmon and sea trout, which makes it a popular fishing area.

Aah, flowing beer…glug-glug-glug. That was the first thing that came to mind when seeing how brown this river was, which also boasted some teeny-weeny bits of froth on top. The water was amazingly clean and clear, but brown. Looked just like a freshly tapped (slurp) Guinness! Why is it brown though? Peat? Tannins?

When you cross the Castle bridge, to the right of the manor house is the wonderfully serene Swan Park. No, no swans. It was named after Henry P. Swan (Harry) who lived in Buncrana, and was a renowned author, collecter and historian. He donated the park to the citizens of Buncrana. The park is quite small, (if you rush or run, you’re out in fifteen minutes) but sooo beautiful, with the river running right through it, a lot of amazing trees, birds and butterflies, and a wee waterfall or two. The best part though, for that inner child in you, is the magical fairy land. There’s a fairy bed-&-breakfast, a fairy post office, library and a few fairy homes. Did I mention magical? Take your time, explore and feel the calmness of this lovely park. It is worth every slow step you take!

After whispering our farewells to the fairies, we headed northwards, driving along the coast of Lough Swilly, towards Fort Dunree, which also boasts a Military Museum. There’s also some abandoned buidlings nearby which are very interesting, but sort of odd. The views from this part of the coast overlooking the Lough are simply incredible.

This little fella calmly crossed the road in front of us! The one and only time we’ve sighted a ring-necked pheasant on this trip. A pleasant change from seeing so much sheep 🙂

The beautiful countryside, which never ceases to amaze! We made a slight detour, what else, driving “cross country” instead of along the coast, on this very long and lonesome road to see a waterfall. On and on the road goes, without seeming to end, and as usual, no other cars or people anywhere. Did we mention AMAZING?

We’ve arrived! The Glenevin Waterpark in Clonmany. Do not be daunted by having to walk some before you actually see the waterfall. It is not very far away from the entrance, nor is it strenuous. You walk almost entirely on a wooden footbridge, criss-crossing a babbling stream, which is also brown 😀 It also seems as though you’re walking through a canyon, so look up and you will see quite a few goats and sheep chewing grass above your head!! Before you enter the park, to the right of the parking area, you will see an enchanting rose tea-room, with pink and white decor, welcoming you to tea and scones. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there. Oh well, there’s a little shop too, where we bought a well deserved ice-cream!

Okay, so this is the waterfall…the 30 feet splashing bit in the background. Please ignore the silly hands-upper 😛 She is trying to stand in the Pohl-an-eas. Sensing a few ????’s now heehee…Okay, the frothy basin at the base of the waterfall is really called a Pohl-an-eas, which means “fermented pool”, and not that what you might have thought and no, definitely not fermented by the hands-upper’s feet…tsk-tsk 😉

So we’re back on track, that is, back on the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route. Be prepared to make many interesting stops on the way, because it just cannot be helped, or because you suddenly see a long-billed curlew with something unidentifiable in its mouth…

The road to Malin Head, which, being the northerly part of Ireland, is curvy, narrow and goes up, up, up. Definitely not for the weak-hearted. The most northerly point of the island though, is Banba’s Crown, named after a mythical Irish Queen, which can be accessed by car. We drove right up to the tower then walked around. We were pelted with rain and it was very windy, but that only lasted a few minutes, enough to get you soaked tee-hee, but then the sun came out again. Typical! The views from up there are FANTASTIC! The rugged coast, the fields, the Atlantic. Oh, and the air is fresher than anywhere else, either that or our noses were defunct from all those whistling winds. Whatever, stunning, superb, splendid and a must see. What we found cute was the word EIRE on the coast, made with stones.

Traditional 19th century thatched roof cottage

On our way down again, where we passed this cute little traditional 19th century thatched roof cottage.

 

We also stopped at a little pier called Portmore, where we scrambled down to the rocky beach, which had masses of colourful stones, and if you searched properly, you could find quite a few semi-precious stones. Okay, we simply had to try. Somewhere over here is a bling-blingy with our name on it. BUT, as the photos above show, it was like: Ooh, here’s a stone. Creaky-Bend. Oops, wave is coming. Creaky-Jump. Wave is here. CRASH!! Needless to say, we found nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Loopity-loop at Loop Head

The weather forecast said little or no rain, yeah right! snigger-snigger, so we packed our nibbles and headed off to the Loop Head Peninsula. From Doolin it is about two to three Angels Travelling hours, because we took the Wild Atlantic Way, where we stopped at quite a few peaceful and beautiful spots along the way, did one or two loopity-loops, admired the scenery, dipped our toes in the icy cold water at the Spanish Point…uhm…no, not really…but almost…and last but not least, had a few conversations with the locals…uhm…sheep…The Spanish Point, by the way, does exist. Lots of ships from the Spanish Armada were shipwrecked at this area, many many years ago, and the survivors were later executed…

Apparently there are more sheep in Ireland than people. It must have been lambing season, because there were so many cute and curious little babies everywhere! These black-faced sort are the most common over here. You should see how high they climb up a mountain, or balance on a treacherous stone, and all that just for the juiciest piece of grass…and that’s all they do the whole day…chomp-chomp-chomp…

Loop Head is the most westerly point of Clare County, and if you have very good eyes, you might see America. Hee…heee! Eyes not so good are they?? Well, it is out there yonder. The cliffs are about two hundred metres high, with wonderful views at eye level, but someone wanted photos of the sea and ‘do-not-dare-go-near-the-edge’ coast below. Granted, the photos are all incredible, as you can see above, so having shaking nervous rattling knees was all worth it…Eeeeek!

The lighthouse is loved by tourists, and one can climb up to the balcony and admire the all-round view. It costs a few euros though. We opted to walk around, and even had a little picnic sitting on the soft grass and appreciating the shimmering ocean, and the fact that it was warm! It also did NOT rain, and it was not so windy. Perfect weather…considering…