Dingle Peninsula

Ireland Day 3: Dingle Peninsula

The narrow road that winds around Dingle Peninsula.

The farming country of Dingle Peninsula. There are more sheep than people in this remote part of Ireland!

From the town of Dingle, we drove around the peninsula counter-clockwise.  We had most of the road and stopping points to ourselves (we were there in late March), and enjoyed the great views of the rugged coast and the now uninhabited Blasket Islands (the village on the main island is now a ghost town). The government thought it best to move the last of the residents from the Blaskets to the ‘mainland’ in 1953. There are also some interesting historical sites in this remote and windswept part of the Emerald Isle, which provides a feel for the Ireland of yesteryear.  A drive around the end of the peninsula with stops will take about 3 hours, although it is only about 30 miles. This part of Ireland is Gaelic-speaking (yes, English is spoken too).

The Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry to the south is more famous and well-traveled, but the scenery on the Dingle Peninsula is beautiful and a bit less touristy.

Here is a pictorial tour, driving west from the town of Dingle…

The "Beehive Huts" on Dingle Peninsula - thought to be early Christian huts built for pilgrims visiting the area.

The beautiful coastline, with the green manicured hills and very blue waters of the Atlantic:

Coming up to Dunmore Head, the westernmost point in Europe.

Dunquin Harbor, on the Dingle Peninsula coastline. In the right side of the picture there is a ramp for a ferry that goes out to the Blasket Islands. Farmers from the Blasket Islands would dock here (until residents were moved off the islands in 1953), and hike 12 miles to the town of Dingle to sell their produce. This area (but not the Blasket Islands) was affected by the potato famine of 1845.

Some interesting historical sites include the ancient churches:

The Church of Kilmalkedar, a 12th century Irish Romanesque church, with a very old cemetery that pre-dates this church.

The vertical stone (below) that Robyn and I are touching is called an ogham stone (900 years older than the Church of Kilmalkedar), and has a script carved onto it that was used in the 3rd to 7th centuries. The stone marked a pre-Christian grave, and a hole in the top of the stone (where Robyn and I are touching thumbs) was a place where people would come to covenant with one another, standing on the graves of their ancestors.

The ancient ogham stone.

The Gallarus Oratory, which is 1,300 years old, is a marvel of watertight stone construction. The stonework is dry-stacked (no mortar).

The Gallarus Oratory, built about 700 AD.

Historical information references: Rick Steve’s Ireland 2007 and DK Eyewitness Travel, Ireland, 2006.

Ireland Day 2: From Limerick to Dingle Peninsula

On our second full day in Ireland we visited King John’s Castle in Limerick, the Village of Adare (and  Desmond Castle), and Ardfert Cathedral, before making our way to the town of Dingle on the Dingle Peninsula.

Our stops on Day 2

Limerick is not a real tourist destination; it’s more of working city, and the third largest in Ireland. King John’s Castle near the center of town looks better from the exterior than the interior. The interior is mainly set up for modern exhibits. The castle was built in 1200 by King John (of Magna Carta fame). It does have a great setting on the River Shannon.

King John’s Castle on the River Shannon

From Limerick we drove south to the little village of Adare, which is considered one of Ireland’s prettiest villages. It is a quaint village with thatched roof houses, with Desmond Castle (often called Adare Castle) on the outskirts, in addition to the famous castle-hotel of Adare Manor, which is one of the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” in the book by Patricia Schultz (she actually lists 29 sites in the Republic of Ireland, a pretty good share of the 1,000!).

Desmond Castle, Adare

Looking at the Great Hall, Desmond Castle

Ardfert Cathedral is part of the Heritage Ireland system and the Cathedral ruins date from the 12th century, although a monastery was believed to have been founded here in the 6thcentury by St. Brendan the Navigator, who legend says visited the American continent (there is actually some evidence of this in Connecticut, in an archeological site called the “Gungywamp”). There are three medieval churches on the site today, and a short walk away you will find the very substantial ruins of a Franciscan Friary. Ardfert is good for quick stop if you like medieval church buildings. As with many other locations, this site is completely ignored by Rick Steve’s book on Ireland, although he does share some information on St. Brendan.

The intricate Romanesque doorway of the Ardfert Cathedral

Ardfert Cathedral

Franciscan Friary near Ardfert Cathedral

From Ardfert, we drove southwest to the Dingle Peninsula and the town of Dingle, on the southwest side of the peninsula. This drive is quite pretty, with the rolling hills, sheep grazing in the green pastures and views of the sea coast as you get closer to Dingle. A few miles east of Dingle and off the road a mile or so to the south is the little ruin of Minard Castle, a jump-off point in medieval times for sailing to the pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. This castle is in a cow pasture, and we treaded lightly to avoid any trespassing issues. The castle sits above a beautiful beach (Storm Beach) and bay.

Minard Castle near the town of Dingle