Part 5 of 5
Click here to read Part 4
Our 5th full day in Ireland was going to be a long one so we made sure we set off early from Killarney. Our highlight of the day was to be Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher but on the way we decided to take a detour around the Ring of Dingle. You talk to anyone that’s been and they’ll likely describe Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula as one of the most stunning pieces of scenery in the world.
There are a couple of different ways to start your Dingle Peninsula drive but if you drive north from Killarney (perhaps just after completing the Ring of Kerry scenic drive), then turn on to the R561 at Castlemaine, you can ensure that you have ocean views all the way to the first stop, Inch Beach.
I don’t know how Inch Beach got its name, but it is far from tiny and definitely worth a stop. Inch is one of Ireland’s most famous beaches. It’s a peninsula, three kilometres in length, with rolling sand dunes and a wide stretch of beach at low tide. And if you do visit when it’s raining, there’s a pull-in area on the hill just up from the beach where you can park and take in the views!
They don’t call it The Emerald Isle for nothing! I took this photo just after we left Inch Beach; they’re just some fields but seriously it was so grand that we just had to pull over and take a photo! The only word that I can use to accurately describe the view is humbling. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I haven’t touched the saturation levels on this photo – it really was THAT green! When I think of Ireland, this is what I imagine.
Our next stop was Conor Pass, a 456m (1496 ft) high mountainous scenic drive. It’s the highest mountain road in Ireland and is considered one of the most beautiful drives in all of the country. This single lane mountain-pass twists and turns relentlessly from Dingle town to Brandon Bay. Stop at the summit and you’ll be treated to stunning views of the whole peninsula and its terrain of rust-coloured mountain, sweeping green valley and inky corrie lakes. Unfortunately for us, visibility was not that great.
After heavy rain, large volumes of water run down the mountains in streams and waterfalls. The road brings you close to one of these waterfalls on the north side of the pass. In our case, we only found a very small waterfall! Still beautiful though!
Conor Pass is definitely an adventure and I absolutely recommend it when you’re driving the Dingle Peninsula! The drive provides a very unique view over Dingle PLUS it gives you a story for life. That said, there’s a price to be paid for a good story and here it is; the roads are narrow, winding, and have more blind corners than I can recall accurately but take your time, enjoy the view, and if someone is driving too close behind you then just pull over and let them pass.
Slea Head Drive
To get the most out of the Dingle Peninsula, head off on the Slea Head Drive, a spectacular driving route that weaves and twists around the coast from Dingle. You’ll discover during your drive around Slea Head Drive that there are photo opportunities around every corner. Unfortunately for us, we still had a long drive ahead to get to the world famous Cliffs of Moher so we had to pass on this one. Maybe next time!
On our way, we stopped at the Blennerville Windmill. It is an exceptionally tall five-storey windmill some 21.3 metres high. It is the only windmill along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and is the largest working windmill in Ireland. Unfortunately for us, its sails had been taken off as they were being replaced. However, this did not deter us from taking some photos of this spectacular windmill.
Following this very brief stop, we headed to the nearby town of Tralee as we were feeling rather peckish. Tralee has a reputation as being rough and not very attractive but our main aim here was to refresh ourselves with a quick bite and a deserved cup of coffee! At this point, we cared more about our stomachs than the town’s aesthetics to be honest!
Totally invigorated, we drove off on what was probably our longest single drive to a particular destination, in our case, the Cliffs of Moher. To make it more interesting, we decided to take the scenic route by crossing the Shannon Estuary on the Tarbert ferry. The crossing takes approximately 20 minutes. It costs €20 for a car which is well worth it for the time saved and the photo opportunities from the upper deck (weather permitting of course!). In my case, I could only fool around a bit as the weather wasn’t cooperating!
Once off the ferry, we headed along the N67 rather than the direct route to the Cliffs of Moher. And we’re glad we did as this is a pretty scenic route and we also got to photo bomb an abandoned building. Ireland is home to some amazing architecture, but there are also some equally gorgeous ruins scattered around the country that were once home to a past gone by.
On our way to the Cliffs of Moher we stopped for a quick toilet break at Lahinch Beach, a large crescent shaped sandy beach popular with local and visiting surfers. It’s located a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher and is therefore very popular with locals and tourists alike. The flooding tide makes the beach ideal for surfing, kayaking and kite surfing, with strong currents and waves making it one of the most popular places to go surfing in Ireland.
Cliffs of Moher
The cliffs are Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction too. As a result, there are buses and tours going to the cliffs from all over. Not difficult to find a way there if you don’t drive. No trip to Ireland is complete without at least catching a glimpse of the famous Cliffs of Moher, which is why I was pretty upset when Pat, Doris and Rita, the three amazing ladies who were travelling with me, decided to stay put in the car. Fine, it was foggy and chilly, but we were in Ireland after all!
Their natural beauty has inspired artists, musicians, and poets for generations, as well as absorbing scientists and geologists, drawn by the unique landscape in which they sit. The Cliffs of Moher, the most famous cliffs in Ireland, will leave you awestruck, creating memories that will stay with you forever.
I am normally afraid of heights but had no problem here as there are high slabs of local stone between you and the edge of the cliffs, so you can’t fall over even if you try to! These almost shoulder-high slab discourage most of the tourists from approaching too closely to the drop. It’s also worth walking the whole way from one tip to the other, so wear comfortable footwear.
Formed over 300 million years ago, the Cliffs of Moher are striking not only for their beauty but also for their fascinating history. Standing 700 feet high and stretching for 8km along Ireland’s west coast, the majestic Cliffs of Moher are the crown jewels of Ireland’s west coast. With their astounding height and breathtaking views, these rock formations are some of the most visited natural attractions on the Emerald Isle.
In any case, I definitely did NOT want to stay in the car, especially as we had all paid the entrance fee of €8 each online! Technically, you don’t have to pay to see the cliffs as they are part of the natural landscape. However, if you’re driving, the car parking fee is inclusive of admission. It was only after my walk along the cliffs that I realised we could have taken one of the many side roads and found a free place to park.
Anyway, I’m digressing so off I went hoping the clouds would lift and the visibility increase. And, lo and behold, a few minutes after I reached the edge of the cliffs, the fog and low clouds did in fact clear and I had a ball as I half-walked, half-jogged the length of the cliffs from south to north and back again snapping photos like there was no tomorrow! I recommend that you plan at least 1 to 2 hours for your visit. This way you’ll have time to explore the exhibition and enjoy a cliff walk to take in all the brilliant views from the different platforms. And make sure you look behind you too not just at the cliffs!
What can I say? Amazing! The view is wonderful, and the force and power of nature is really humbling. You can see all this in photos, but what you can’t see in a photo is the atmosphere. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s like Wuthering Heights by the sea! A wonderfully romantic place. Definitely NOT to be missed!
Fully satisfied and ironically energised after my immensely enjoyable walk along the cliffs and armed with a plethora of photos (and some t-shirts and souvenirs too) I headed back to the car. We then drove off for Galway, where we were to spend the night. Galway marks the halfway point on the Wild Atlantic Way and is the only city on the entire 2500km route.
With its tangled lanes lined with colourful shopfronts curving around Galway Bay, Galway is one of Ireland’s most picturesque cities. Bolstered by an energetic student population, it’s also one of the island’s most vibrant, with musicians striking up in its atmospheric pubs and busking on its streets.
In fact, Galway has to be one of the best places in Ireland to visit for traditional music. This is a city that lives and breathes music, from the buzzing street buskers to the endless trad sessions all over town. A trad session is a casual and sometimes impromptu gathering of musicians playing traditional Irish music. Step inside a traditional music pub, and you’re guaranteed an unforgettable night.
The Latin Quarter is home to many of the city’s quirkiest and best-known shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels, along with historic landmarks, events and attractions. With cobblestones streets regularly lined with street performers and entertainers, it’s always a popular destination for both locals and visitors to the city.
In the heart of Galway City is Eyre Square, with a rich history dating back to medieval times when markets took place on the green in front of the town gates. It’s a popular gathering place for people, especially on sunny days. Officially known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, a bust of the US President, who was made a Freeman of the city, marks the spot where he made a speech to approximately 100,000 Galway people in 1963, on his last trip before his assassination.
The city is wild and bohemian, and at the same time full of culture, artistry, exceptional food and music. It’s a thriving and cosmopolitan city, and is a joy to explore with its wonderful cobbled streets, colourful shop facades, and its offbeat café/bar culture.
A visit to the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland is an absolute must for anyone who loves stunning scenery and wants to experience nature at its most awesome. The fact that we coupled it with the Cliffs of Moher made it a very special day indeed!
Without a doubt, Ireland has some of the most impressive scenery in the world, let alone Europe! Ireland is an ancient land of mysticism and history with stunning nature, scenery, flora and fauna all in arms reach. Breathtaking cliffs, rolling green hills, and picture-perfect sandy beaches Ireland has it all. Make your way down the Wild Atlantic way, as we did, swerving down the country roads lined with sheep, indulge in gastronomic gems and simply embrace the scenic vistas. Prepare to be amazed when you do so!