Aaaaah Tropical Ireland
Welcome to warm and sunny Ireland. There was a rare drought throughout the country the summer of our road trip. My friend Angie and I had prepared for chilly weather and rain but were met with sunny skies and warm pleasant weather. It was sad for the trademark Ireland greens, but good for us little travelers.
We had started in Dublin, visited the Rose Festival in Belfast then drove through southern Ireland towards Galway. We were spending a couple days in west Ireland and no trip to west Ireland is complete without a trip around the Ring of Kerry. We were starting with a different ring… of the Dingle variety, one peninsula down.
Ring of Dingle Road-trip
We started at the base of The Ring of Dingle, heading down Slea Head Drive. I had my guidebook in hand to navigate as Angie drove. Our book had a play by play of what we would see along the way. At the 1st landmark we were instructed to set the trip odometer and follow along to each site listed at the coordinated mile markers.
On the way, we excitedly passed our 1st patchwork green valley of our trip. The grasses had been crispy brown in the rest of the country so we were happy to see it.
Once we were on the peninsula, the scenery began to take on a tropical look. There were colorful flowers lining the roads and palm trees. The sea shined a glittering turquoise.
First Stop…Seaside Soup
We first stopped for soup at the Stonehouse Restaurant. It was sunny so we sat out on the benches overlooking the water. The soup and bread were good and it felt amazing to be outside in the sun.
Stacked Stone Fahan Beehive Huts
Shortly up the road we came to the Fahan Beehive Huts. The huts were built somewhere around 2000 B.C. We began the short hike up a steep hill to the stone structures.
“Is it just me or is everything we want to see uphill?” I puffed.
“No…everything seems to be uphill both ways.” Angie breathed as we hoisted ourselves upward.
There were several huts near the top, each built using corbelled dry stone. Although only 5 huts remain, at one time there were over 400 stone structures at this location. The stone was stacked intricately inward without mortar and has remained wind and rain proof for centuries.
The Narrow Kerry County Road
We jumped back on the road. I consulted the guidebook and the odometer and determined our next stop would be Coumeenoole Beach.
We inched up the narrow stone lined road overlooking the sea. Sometimes the road was one lane and we would round a corner and be surprised by another car within collision range coming right at us. There were several times we needed to back up the road to find a pull off so the other vehicle could pass.
A Beach Vacation in Ireland
“I did not expect this was going to be a beach vacation.” Angie inched around a tight turn.
“I know…me neither.” I pointed to the turnoff. “But look how amazing the water looks. We got so lucky with this weather.”
The water looked Caribbean blue, like we were somewhere tropical. Dark rocky islands loomed in the distance. The grass was a lush green and flowers were everywhere.
Angie located a spot to park along the steep road down to the beach and we hopped out and shuffled down the steep hill.
At the bottom there was quite a few people building sand castles and playing in the water. I kicked off my flip flops and took a mad – towards the waves…my feet feeling happy in the warm sand. When the toes touched the water however, I hit the brakes and turned around shocked at the cold, cold, cold. There were a few people diving in and swimming but I could not even imagine.
We gazed around at the blue water surrounded by sea cliffs. Wild flowers dotted the hill behind us. Eventually we trudged and puffed our way back up the steep hill towards the car.
“Good gravy!” I huffed, “Everywhere we go is uphill.”
We got to the car and downed some water then wound back onto Slea Head Drive.
“Oooh…I’m excited about this next one, Dunquin Harbour.” I announced, peering at the odometer to check the distance.
“What exactly is it?” Angie asked.
I’m not actually sure but it looks like a really cool hike down to the water. I read a story about a guy who thought that the walkway was the road and drove down and got stuck down there for quite some time.” I laughed.
“Yeah…these roads are so narrow…I could see how someone might not be able to tell a road from a path.”
“We laugh now,” I said. “We could be the next ones stuck down there.”
We cautiously went to an area where other cars were safely parked and not stuck and got out.
Puffing up the Dunquin Harbor Path
There was a stone-lined steep walkway zig zagging down towards the teal water. Little purple flowers poked through the grass. We could see Skellig Michael and other islands further out. We did a shuffle walk…trying not to slide down. At the bottom was a small boat dock surrounded by a sandstone cliff.
After taking in the view we dog panted up the steep stone path.
“I could see how someone would think this was the road.” Angie puffed.
“It really is always uphill with us.” I breathed.
The Stone Gallarus Oratory Chapel
We piled back in the car and set off for the Gallarus Oratory, an early stone chapel. There were no other visitors at that time and we were able to take our time looking at the construction of the small structure. There was a cemetery in the back.
Stone Church Ruins of Kilmalkedar
A short way up the road was another church in ruin. The Kilmalkedar church is a 12th century Romanesque building. A stacked stone wall surrounded the property and cemetery.
On the way off the peninsula we stopped at the 1891 Lispole Viaduct for a better view.
We stopped off for dinner and Angie’s continuing quest for The best fish and chips in Ireland. I had a cheesy vegetarian lasagna and we continued towards our hotel, The Teach de Broc in Ballybunion. We hit a small Irish traffic jam on the way.
Sea Caves at Ballybunion Beach and Jellies
Once we checked in, we stopped at the Ballybunion beach in town. Tall sea cliffs formed a crescent around the beach. The 1500 A.D. Ballybunion Castle loomed over us from atop the cliff. The east wall is all that remains after the Desmond wars.
We began the walk towards the shore. My feet kicked off their flippies and were getting ready to run towards the water when I noticed a number of purple mounds in the tides along the beach.
“Holy moly!” I yelled out. “Check out all the jellyfish!”
Angie peered down at the little starred jelly blob.
“Awww…the tide must have stranded them…they are everywhere”
I slapped back on my flippies and we flip-flipped towards the cliff. We dodged around the gleaming jellies. Small caves were all along the cliff.
We shined a light into a few small caves and ventured inside. Sand and seaweed lined the floor and the walls seemed almost a gleaming mahogany.
Outside of the cave, the edge of the cliff resembled an elephant trunk drinking from the frothy waves.
We passed the seaweed baths and made our way back to our hotel for a late night snack, a stout and some live music and friendly conversation.
What is your favorite Ireland road trip?
Click here to read about our next day in Ballybunion…the fog, a snack stealing horse and the sea cliffs