DINGLE WAY – JULY 2019
The Dingle Peninsula is a large curved finger that sticks out into the ocean in the southwest of Ireland. This is where we want to hike a substantial part of the Dingle Way, a long-distance path around the peninsula. The complete trail is 179 kilometers, a healthy adult will complete this trail in about eight to nine days. We do want to hike a long stretch, and we also want to hike several days in a row, but 179 kilometers in nine days seems a bit too much for us. With a bit of puzzling and a lot of help from a local travel agency – the unsurpassed Celtic Nature – we put together a beautiful itinerary. It consists of five hiking days, six overnight stays in tiny B&B’s, luggage transport (so we don’t have to carry too much on our back), and some transfers to remove a few kilometers from the original daily distances.
We believe that our children – now that they are six and nine – are ready for a multi-day trek. They even react with great excitement. Our surroundings however occasionally respond with less enthusiasm. Hardly ironically words like ‘child slavery’ and ‘forced labor’ are being used. We don’t really see the problem, in the past we also had to simply join our parents on their hiking expeditions. That really wasn’t a bad thing. And a bit of rain won’t kill them. That’s what rain gear was invented for.
We spend the first night in Camp in the B&B of a sweet old lady, at the starting point of our Dingle Way. There we leave our car with the stuff we don’t need. The stuff we do need during the week will on a daily basis be transferred to the next accommodation. That way we are able to travel light, with not much more in our backpack than a raincoat, a packed lunch and a bottle of water.
We hike from Camp over the mountain ridge to Inch Beach, from where we are transported to our B&B in Annascaul. It is drizzling slightly. Regularly we see some familiar faces of hikers that were in the same B&B as us. They catch up with us, then we will catch up with them again. Their skeptical glances at the beginning – when our children clearly still have to get into their rhythm – gradually seem to disappear. Tessel is constantly strolling a bit behind us, but she keeps on going like a little diesel train. And at the end of the day Teun is totally worn out, but also very proud of himself. He’s done it! In the evening, after all this exertion, we thoroughly enjoy the fish ’n chips that our B&B host puts together especially for us.
On the second day we are transported by car to our starting point, a short distance before Lispole. This way we make sure that the leg remains manageable – a maximum of 15 kilometers per day. The hike takes us through a mountainous area to the town of Dingle. The sun shows itself more and more; in the afternoon the weather even becomes radiant. We wrestle through the mud, past prickly bushes and over the small steps, fences and dikes that separate the meadows from each other. It doesn’t exactly go without a hitch. Teun struggles with his toes, Stijn has a hip problem and Ellen has a sore calf. Gradually we find out that we have chosen our starting point a bit too sloppy: when we arrive in Dingle we discover that we have hiked more than twenty kilometers! And we still have to walk two kilometers to our B&B just outside town. In the evening Claire from Celtic Nature takes us by car to Dingle for dinner. Claire is the one who created this beautiful trip for us, it’s very nice to meet her. And it is a small miracle that Tessel is still full of energy after such a long day of hiking .
The third hike, on Saturday, takes us from Fahan to Dunquin. This section is known as one of the most beautiful parts of the Dingle Way, which we can confirm. The sun is shining brightly, the sky is a clear blue and we walk the first part without any problems. But suddenly in the middle of the mountains we lose our way. Should we go left, right? Or straight up? Stijn tries out some small paths, but can’t find the right way either. We choose a route where we get stranded between thistles. For a moment the motivation is fading fast, but in the end we make a pragmatic choice and plough straight down the mountain towards the coastal road. At least we then will know where we are again. By mistake we wander in the middle of a private terrain with historic bee hive huts. Oops, that was not our intention. But at least now we know where we are on the map.
With crystal clear views of Skellig Micheal and the Blasket Island archipelago we continue along the busy coastal road to Coumeenoole Beach. Here we take a dip in the ocean and continue on to our accommodation in Dunquin. We have hiked a respectable 14 kilometers today. The host of our cozy private cottage serves us a great three-course dinner. The cottage is lovely, and is equipped with a bath and an extensive DVD collection. It’s perfection, what more do we need?
On Sunday morning Claire picks us up and drops us off at Smerwick Harbour. From there we walk along the coast to Ballyganneen, about fourteen kilometers further up the road. The first part leads along the beach to Ballydavid, where we have a nice swim. With a lot of effort we pick the children out of the sea and hike the last part of the day along steep cliffs to Moorestown. What a beautiful day! We spend the night in An Riasc, a luxurious B&B, where we are thoroughly pampered.
The next leg of the Dingle Way is the toughest and goes from Cuas to Cloghane over Mount Brandon. It was clear beforehand that we would not do this hike. It is more than twenty kilometers of climbing and slithering along a lonely, rugged mountain path. And with little visibility, because it’s very cloudy today. So we gladly skip this hike. Instead we are dropped off in Cloghane and hike an easy but beautiful trail around Lough Doon, a glacial basin surrounded by high mountains.
At night in the pub in Cloghane we hear the story of a couple of hikers who did take the route over Mount Brandon today. In the middle of the mountain they had to rescue an Argentine hiker who had slipped and hurt himself badly. He was lying on the ground with a dislocated shoulder, groaning loudly. It seems we have made a wise decision today not do do this hike. While we make a toast with our fellow hikers on the happy ending, they make a confession. At the start of the first day they saw us. They had mocked us a bit because of our decision to start this hike with two young children. Five days later we can laugh about it together.
On Tuesday morning we are taken by cab to Camp where we get back into our own car. It’s been a successful trip, and a beautiful and diverse one. The view were incredible and were constantly changing. On a hiking day we passed through many different landscapes: hills, rocks, dunes, beaches and cliffs. And apart from all the natural beauty, we also came across (pre-)historic buildings such as Menhirs, Ogham stones and beehive huts. It was simply lovely.