I have been hearing about Dingle for years now. The people, the places, the things to see and do. Patrick lived there for a time in his early 20’s where he made friends he still knows today. We have been talking about visiting Dingle together pretty much since we met, and now seemed like a better time than ever.
Dingle resides within the Dingle Peninsula, which is a tiny jut of land on the most western part of Ireland. People actually say “Next Stop, Boston!” to emphasize this. The town itself is tiny, only 1500 people actually live there full time. There are at least that many Tourist who visit on any given day, and the weekends are dedicated to plenty of pub goers. There are 26-27 different pubs which serve this town, plenty of which have been around for nearly a century.
The town has primarily been a fishing village for the better part of the last century, but had been a main port for trade for hundreds of years before that. The land surrounding the town is windswept, and oh-so-green. Everywhere you look is green, grassy field after green grass field. On the tops of hills you can see castle ruins, and if you are brave enough (and wearing a nice heavy coat), you can hike out to see those ruins up close.
Honestly, Dingle was incredibly charming. I had trepidation’s about Dingle, because I am a city girl and what can this teeny tiny town have to offer? Well, a lot, it turns out. I know for a fact I will be visiting Dingle again to enjoy this beautiful place.
About a week prior to our trip Patrick forwarded me a link from a suggested AirBnB activity for a Falconry presentation in Dingle. Am I interested in seeing some fancy/deadly birds? Hell yeah I am! We booked the presentation, which was approximately an hour long and $18 per person. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we definitely got more than I could have hoped.
The presenter first brought out a box of newly hatched owls, which were between 1-3 weeks old. I don’t know if you have ever seen a baby bird, but as far as baby animals go, they are not the cutest. “Mildly haunting” I think might be a more accurate description.
Then, everyone in the group was asked to take a leather glove and get into a wide circle, and then the real presentation began. First with a barn owl, and then with a hawk, they flew the birds of prey to everyone’s gloved hands. It was truly magical getting to see these very interesting, and very beautiful animals fly so close.
Finally, we got to see an eagle. I don’t know if you have seen an eagle up close and personal, but they are huge. They allowed us to hold the eagle for a moment, and the presentation was done. A great experience, and awesome opportunity to learn about birds of prey in a very unconventional and unexpected place.
Killarney National Park
We took a day drive to Killarney, which the drive itself is beautiful to begin with, and only an hour and a half away. The national park was owned privately at one point by an American who then gave it back to Ireland. Ireland turned the the land into a national park, and now here we are.
The park includes not only some incredible landscape and forrest, but also interesting historical architecture. Ross castle was our first stop, which is a restored mid-evil tower house. You can enter the tower by way of a 45 minute tour, which I highly recommend. You get a tour of the restored building, information on the specific history of the building, as well as the mid-evil residents who built it.
Killarney National Park is so large that you can’t walk through it in a day. We drove about halfway through and our next stop was the Old Weir Bridge. We almost missed the pull off to find the place but we eventually parked and there is a walking path that takes about 20 minutes. At the end of the path is a small cafe, where we had lunch. Backtracking along the path from the cafe, you will find a little winding goat path to access the bridge. Old Weir bridge marks the meeting of the three lakes in Killarney national park and is believed to be over 500 years old.
The national park was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. The forest contained more shades of green that I knew was possible. It is the kind of place that makes you understand how people could have believed that magic existed. With only 11% of Ireland’s land being forested, this is a really special place to see.
Dingle is not a place you go for fine weather. It is the kind of place that takes a sunny day to understand why people love it. One sunny day makes up for 8 rainy, cold, windswept days, which was the case of our trip. On the one sunny afternoon we had, we decided to drive around Slaehead, which follows the perimeter of the Dingle Peninsula.
What can I say about the Irish landscape and coastline on a sunny day? I really don’t think there are any words that really do it justice. Rolling green hills, dotted with dozens of sheep, expands as far as you could see to the east. Sharp cliffs that drop down into the dark blue Atlantic Ocean directly to your west. We stopped at multiple points along the way to take it all in.
In addition to the beautiful scenery (and abundance of sheep) there are also some interesting historical signs as well. The Kilmalkedar Church is a romanesque church which dates back to the 12th century and is surrounded by a cemetery where locals are still buried at to this day.
The church itself is in ruins, but with the sunny day, was still interesting to explore.
When we landed in Ireland, I can’t sugarcoat that I was disappointed, namely with the weather. I was ready to start summer of with nicer weather that we were leaving in Seattle, but I think the universe had other plans for me. My only regret with Ireland, and Dingle in particular, is that I’d had the mindfulness to be more appreciative of the experiences I had. Hindsight is 20/02 though, and looking back through the pictures we took reminds me of how special this place really is and I honestly can’t wait to go back someday.