After hiking around 1000km on the pilgrimage in Spain I was lucky enough to visit Ireland for the first time to visit a family friend with my Mum. The ritual of getting up at 6am and having to hike for hours is still embedded in my brain so I planned to hike the Dingle Way in various parts as my Mum was kind enough to drive me to start and end points! I would not necessarily recommend the schedule I followed as each day I started from a random place, basically wherever I got dropped off.
The official trail is around 180km, I was not carrying my GPS so I am going to reference DingleWay.com for maps and other trail information. This trail was a great way to get out and see rural Ireland and the amazing scenery that I would liken to Hawaii.
Day 1 – Inch to Dingle.
As I was staying in Inch I started my hike from the back door of the house. I set out with three dogs, my friend and my Mum, after a short dog walk and directions to the official trail I was left on my own to follow the little yellow man, see the photos and you will understand what I mean. This is slightly different to hiking in Spain, the weather has been more variable, within meters you can have sun then a rain shower – the benefit of so much rain is the lush green fields and foliage, the downside is having to cover up and remove your jacket every so often.
Today the hike had some minor ascents and descents but nothing too crazy. The hike covers some single track with hedges growing in from the sides, as soon as humans create a trail Mother Nature does its best to take it back and there becomes some kind of equilibrium creating an enjoyable hiking experience, almost covering you from the outside world and allowing an escape into the moment of the journey. The single track weaved in and out, joining with the road often, the hidden gems of old castles and remote beaches break up any monotony of hiking along asphalt. When the blue sky breaks through the clouds it creates a stunning array of blue shades in contrast to the green and yellow below.
After the asphalt you then start to cover farm tracks, climbing up and over stiles marked with the yellow man symbol. The community has done a great job of keeping access open and directing the hikers towards Dingle. Soon enough I saw Dingle in the distance, hiking down off of the hills and in the town to a vast array of Irish pubs where the live bands had already begun or were setting up for a night of song.
Day 2 – Dingle to Ferritersquarter
Hiking is best done with another person, it helps pass some of the more tedious terrain – although that is not an issue on this hike, every turn has a great view. After yesterdays hike I persuaded my Mum to join me and hike from just outside Dingle through Ventry and towards the Dunquin area. Again the sky and weather are variable, the showers are broken by clear sky, the single track trail is broken by the asphalt road and the views of the farmland are broken by the stunning beaches laying below.
Ventry harbour makes a nice hike, plus there is a coffee shop nearby, a welcome break before we get too far in. As we moved on from coffee we headed up the hill and traversed along the hillside with the ocean sitting below to the left, the land feels remote although there are signs of life everywhere, the heather adds a dash of colour to the ground and the white houses sit far off in their clusters. We pass village after village in the distance, just small clusters of houses with few facilities, the view of Slea Head coming over the top of the hill is a great sight, the rugged coast with the rays of sun shining through the clouds. We even manage to find a spot to grab another coffee!
As we pass through the other side of Ferristerquarter we decide we have hiked far enough and the next stop is a bit of a way still. Now we just need to get back to the car! No one stops for me, my thumb is starting to get tired, fed up I sit down and my Mum takes over…..one car, nothing, two cars pass, wait a moment that one stopped, as it reverses the guy offers a lift, I overhear and jump up off the side of the road much to the dismay of the person offering the lift, maybe I should have shaved or perhaps it seems safer for drivers to offer a lift to singles, any how we get a ride back to our car. Our driver was great offering information about the local area and even stopping for us to grab some food.
Day 3 – Ballycurrane/Brandon Mountain
On the north side of the Dingle way lies a larger hill/mountain that seems to overlook everything and is crowned with a white cap of fluffy cloud. I was hoping the cloud would clear up so I could make it through the saddle and down the other side of Brandon Mountain.
At the drop off point I am not sure where I stand on my map that really lacks any details, just large dots on the various points of interest. I can see the mountain in the so I weave my way through the lanes and around the houses to a gate laying at the bottom of a steep hill walk. The trail winds up the hill, over small natural ditches with rocks strewn around, the sheep left evidence of being here and the gates have signs asking to be closed after passing. The hill is deceiving longer than it looks at the bottom but eventually I make it to just below the saddle of Brandon Mountain.
From here I take a break, watching the cloud pull back and then close in again, hoping I can find a gap to pass without getting lost. I have my doubts as my map is poor, I have limited supplies and no real idea which way the trail runs, also around these parts are the peat bogs, you can quite easily disappear and return the earth, or at least somewhere under a lot of mud and water. I look back down the hill behind me, then back at the cloud, how far down is the cloud on the other side? How wet will it be? What are my options if I go astray? My final decision comes with a reluctance, I hike back down the way I came and then try to figure out where I need to go to get a cell phone signal and a lift home.
Another couple of hours pass hiking down the road, I try and thumb a lift but alas no one stops for me. Soon enough I get a signal, make the call and finish the day at a pub having dinner with my Mum and friend. I didn’t make it over Brandon Mountain but it was an adventure and a fun day.
Day 4 – Ballyquin to Camp
Unfortunately this is the final leg of my hike, personally I think I left the best for last. I turned this in to a pretty long day hiking somewhere around 30km. With my back towards Brandon Mountain I started hiking around Brandon Bay. As I hit the beach I turn to look back at Brandon Mountain, looking down at me with its white cloud reminding me that I failed to make it over. Its hard to make progress while stopping and looking at the scenery, dodgy the waves lapping up the beach and enjoying the sun with the cool breeze coming off the ocean.
Hiking up around Fahamore, small enclaves of houses peak up over the long grass, I imagine it can get pretty stormy out here in the winter – today everything is calm and the boats just bob up and down over the small waves in the harbour. On the other side of the point is another long stretch of shoreline, this time the beach is dotted with rocks and features that look like they are from volcanic activities many years ago. The sun is persisting through out today so plenty of sun screen is required and plenty of sitting on the rocks and watching the ocean break on the sand with the birds floating in the breeze. The surf schools are in full swing with groups of kids heading out to hone their skills, other families are exploring around the holiday homes closer to Castlegregory. This would probably have been a good place to end the hike but my plan was to hit Camp.
At this point I diverged from the sand and hiked through the villages passing the stone houses and old church. When I hit the main road in Camp I found some respite from the sun at an old gas station before attempting to direct my driver to pick me up. My map is pretty simple but after a few minutes I get a ride from Camp to Inch, through the winding roads passing through the mountains and getting some great views down the valley. Its a rugged, harsh landscape that beckons me to return when I have more time to explore.