I took to my Facebook page to share our experiences about traveling to the Dingle Peninsula with Baby Alexander. I am compiling them all here in a looonngg trip report (being concise has never been my strong suit) . This is post #2 of 3 (check out post #1 here).
We stayed on the Dingle Peninsula for a little over a week. Since we had traveled here a couple times before I didn’t think there was much we hadn’t seen. Boy, was I wrong. I am pretty sure if we stayed for two weeks more we still wouldn’t get to see everything we wanted. Regardless, here is what we did get to (much more than I thought with an seven month old!).
Our secret beach.
Ok, so it isn’t really secret. It’s on Google Maps. :-) But it felt secret to us since there was hardly anyone around. It was Wine Strand, and it was right down a friendly lane lined with lazy cows and a pretty horse I named Chestnut.
We went there most evenings during our stay.
When Alexander went to bed, Joe and I took turns taking a walk along the beach. First we just enjoyed Wine strand, this tiny little beach with white sand and small waves. Then we ventured over a small headland to a much larger strand that gave panoramic views of Smerwick Harbor and the Three Sisters. Both spots were completely free of other visitors (at least the kinds with passports). We passed locals walking their dogs and few walkers of the Dingle Way.
It was a perfect place just to Be.
If you’re driving the Slea Head drive clockwise, take a left at Bric’s Pub just past Ballyferriter and follow the signs to Wine Strand (it’ll only take a few minutes to get to. Park your car at the end of the lane by the pier. Enjoy (but not too many of you! ?).
We meandered around the Dingle Peninsula for the next week. Picking something to see or do each day. We timed our visits in between naps and feedings. Sometimes we fed Alexander on the road. Sometimes he fell asleep in the car. Sometimes he slept and we just kept driving–allowing us to just take in all the beauty.
Here is one of my favorite areas, Clogher Strand. I love it because it seems to be less busy than Coumeenoole (although that’s beautiful too!). It also has a great view of Inistooskert Island also known as the Sleeping Giant in the distance.
My favorite travel tip for the day is actually about Irish pronunciations. When my husband Joe reads this he will probably laugh–we are both pretty terrible with our Irish place names. But I have learned that words with gh in them, the g’s are almost silent. So Clogher Strand pictured here is really more like Claw-er. Cloghane, another village on the Dingle Peninsula is Cla-hawn. Where on our very first trip I definitely pronounced Cloghane like CLOG HANE. I am still not great, but I am getting better. :-)
I like this site which goes into a little more detail about how to pronounce places in Ireland: http://www.livinglanguage.com/…/tips-for-traveling-in-the-…/
I should also mention that you shouldn’t be nervous or embarrassed to mispronounce a place name to a local. You’ll find the Irish to be very gracious and helpful.
One of the biggest concerns I had before we left was how we were going to feed and change Alexander on travel days and while we were out and about in Ireland
I read all I could from other parents who traveled internationally before. I ended up taking the best tips that would work for us and put them to use.
I brought double the diapers we might possibly need for the entire day with us on the plane (16 diapers). I had a small changing pad and wipes in our diaper bag. When it came to actually changing Alexander on the plane I took just a diaper, a changing pad and a few wipes with me. (The fewer things of mine that had to touch the surfaces of an airplane bathroom the better). When we changed him on the road in Ireland the trunk was our go to spot.
For feeding, I brought along a scarf and a swaddle blanket for nursing (just in case the scarf was soiled in the spit-up volcano that is my beautiful boy).
I also had brought a long enough clean bottles to last the whole day–again no cleaning up in yucky airport or airplane bathrooms for me. We carried on all the formula we would need for the trip. It was cumbersome, but I was happy to know that I would not have to worry about finding formula when we arrived should our luggage be lost or delayed.
Typically in the US, we use distilled water to mix his formula. In Ireland we bought bottles of Evian since distilled water is only found in pharmacies and is super expensive. We researched water options and we could either boil it or purchase bottled water. We went with Evian bottled water, which is supposedly one with the least additional minerals. We’re lucky that Alexander will take a room temperature or even a cold bottle so we didn’t have to worry about heating it up.
I loved that we could feed him just about anywhere. It seemed like we kept one-upping the spots he would get to eat. This one might be my favorite–probably because of the horses. :-)
Ventry Harbour, Dingle Peninsula Co. Kerry
Happy Friday!! More to come on Monday!
Another excursion I just loved was Kilmalkedar Church. It’s one of those sites that are on most of the tourist maps of the peninsula, but is out of the way just far enough that not as many people visit.
The church alone is pretty cool to see–built in the 12th century. There is also an amazing sundial in which you can still see the segments that marked the different times in the monastic day. If you put a stick in the hole it the shadow will fall on one of the segments (if it is sunny!).
But my favorite is the Ogham stone. Ogham is an early form of Irish writing. This stone has a hole on the top and is known as the contract stone. If two people put their fingers in it and touch then whatever they are agreeing too is binding until death. It’s often called the marriage stone for that reason. I guess I really am stuck with Joe now. ?
Oh and the views from there aren’t half bad either. ?
I have a couple more off the beaten path sites to show you in the next couple of days. Until then!
Every day I would wake up to Joe’s weather report—not the kind where you hear if it is sunny or raining out. He would only announce whether the top Mount Brandon was covered in a cloud—not exactly helpful for planning the day. ? He loves Mount Brandon and so do I. It’s one of the best hikes in Ireland. We weren’t going to do that with the little guy. So we “settled” for some other St. Brendan sites.
The first was Brandon Creek at the foot of Mount Brandon—this is the spot where he supposedly set out to find paradise from. I think he had an eye for pretty places. We drove down the very steep and narrow lane to the pier. The tide was out and there weren’t many other people about. It could be dangerous with congestion and water though so be careful if you go (hence the sign), but it was a perfectly peaceful and beautiful spot.
Another was Brandon Point, which was actually on the opposite side of the mountain from Brandon Creek. To travel there you need to go through Dingle town over Conor Pass and through the village of Cloghane. It takes some time to get to so this isn’t a spot for day trippers to Dingle town usually. It’s also pretty popular with hill walkers (doesn’t that hill just beg to be climbed?).
Besides these gems, my favorite find for a good meal near Brandon Creek was An Bothar Guesthouse and Pub. We had a delicious meal here. You know it’s a great spot when you walk in and all the locals at the bar turn around to see who came in the door (and then smile as you pass by).
A little bit of a long one today, but my best tips yet I think. :-)
Coumeenoole Strand. As you can see it’s a beautiful spot (even with just the photos from my old iPhone). It’s also a popular with tour buses. One morning we thought we would take the long way around to Dingle town from Ballyferriter (basically driving the Slea Head drive backwards or counter clockwise). We were soaking in the views at the upper pull off and along comes a bus parking right beside us. About 50 people descended in order to take in the scenery too.
While a little sad that we didn’t have it to ourselves, I thought no big deal. It’s a pretty spot so everyone should enjoy it. Then another bus pulls behind the first one—completely blocking the entire pull off. No one else could get in and we couldn’t get out. Then along comes another bus—they had to squeeze by the pull off on the already tiny road to get by.
After about twenty minutes, Joe was able to sneak out after one bus left and before yet another one pulled in. As we continued on our way into Dingle town I started counting buses. I soon lost interest because there were so many.
We were a bit disheartened by it at first. We hadn’t visited Dingle since 2008. So almost ten years had passed. Much has stayed the same– the people, the scenery, magnificent hiking. But, and this is a big but, there has been a very large increase in visitors. If you like having places all to yourself and you don’t plan right, you might be disappointed.
Would I still recommend Dingle? Absolutely.
So here is my biggest and best tip I can give someone driving the Dingle Peninsula: Drive Slea Head mid-afternoon or later. By 3 PM all of the big buses are in Dingle town or have moved on to another location.
A couple more tips: If you want to enjoy Dingle town shops without lots of other visitors, go in the morning between 10 AM-12 AM. All the shops should be open and most of the buses will still be on the Slea Head drive.
Stay in a B&B outside of Dingle town in one of the smaller villages on the Peninsula. Dingle has become a favorite for hen and stag parties (bachelorette and bachelor parties). Therefore, many of the pubs turn into clubs on the weekends. Smaller village pubs are more likely to be trafficked by regulars and still might offer traditional Irish music (ask around). If you stay a couple of nights you can still hop into Dingle town in the evening if you want to.
Edit: After reading and responding to your comments, I thought I would add a little note for those of you just reading this that we traveled in mid-May. April through early June and September through October is usually shoulder season and the time I most often recommend to go (and I still do!). The travel season is getting longer as Ireland has welcomed more visitors each year for the last several years. You may not run into any buses or you might see a few. Don’t let that discourage you. Ireland is a great host and you’ll have a wonderful time!! :-)
Most days we would take our time getting around in the morning—making breakfast, drinking tea and waiting for Sal to wake up from his morning nap. Early afternoon we might grab a quick bite to eat, take in a spot or two and then get dinner.
I thought I would share with you some of the spots we visited throughout the week. Some well-known, others just off the beaten path a little. Details are in the descriptions next to each photo.
That’s it for this installment. One more to go!
If you are planning a trip to the Dingle Peninsula, you should know that we’ve stayed on the Dingle peninsula before so these aren’t all the sites and things you can do (Great Blakset Island, Blasket Island Center, Fungi the Dolphin, kayaking in the bay, climbing Mount Brandon, etc., etc.). We tried to do a few things that perhaps most skip when they only have a short while on the peninsula. I hope it gives you a few new ideas of things to do.
Are you staying on the Dingle peninsula? Have you already been? What else did we miss? I’d love to add it for next time!