Hiking Tips – Ireland

If you ever have the opportunity to hike in another country, don’t think. Just say yes.
Is it going to be easy, no.
Are you going to hate it at some point, yes.
But go on and do it anyways. It doesn’t have to be ten days like my friends did or even five days (which turned out to be three for me) even if it’s just a day it is an experience of a life time.

Rarely when one travels do you find yourself away from the busy city life, off the highway and tucked up in some remote corner of somewhere looking at the most peaceful and beautiful scenery imaginable. Getting to this idyllic local is going to be hard, but you can train for that. And do, if you need help check out all my training posts.
You learn a lot about yourself under duress and duress it will be. No matter how ‘easy’ a trail it is, 14-17 miles a day will never actually be easy. These things you learn, mostly about how to overcome the discomfort and instead appreciate your opportunity and surroundings, are things that help make us all better people. Thus pushing these limits is important.

All the difficulties aside, at the end of the day you accomplished a physical feat that will remind you that you are alive and capable and strong. You spent time outdoors, freeing your mind of daily clutter. You spent time with people you love without the distractions of daily life. At least hopefully you love them. You will find out real quick on the trail if you don’t.
Reasons why you should embark on such a trip aside, here are some things to remember if you are thinking of this particular trip.

Research Everything.
Starting with if you want to hire a tour company and which  company. You can manage without a tour company, inns in the area will transport your bags and thanks to online maps you can find your own directions. Figure out what your budget is and what your comfort level of the unknown is. If you hire a company, research. Find out what they offer, what their transport is in case of emergency. For example ours provided extremely detailed directions which other hikers were envious of, I don’t know what company they used. But if instructions are important to you, look at Wonderful Ireland Walking Tours. They were lovely people and treated us like gold the entire time.
Remember the Weather
It’s Ireland, it rains, a lot. Research the weather patterns and rainfall averages. Figure out if you would prefer rain over mosquitos. It’s one or the other.
Pack Carefully
Even if you have transport for larger bags, any bag with any weight is going to get uncomfortable after 6 hours. Get fitted for a good pack and get light gear. Look up Dingle Ireland packing lists and just bring it all. I mean this honestly. The lists are very comprehensive. And very true with regard to waterproof items. My only additional suggestion to the list is to also bring sneakers. Hiking boots are great in rocky or mucky trail, which there is a lot of. But here is also a lot of road walking. Your feet, hips and knees with thank you for the extra cushion that you can slip on when the weather allows for it.
Bring First Aid
This is especially true if hiking the Dingle Way. Not because it is particularly perilous, but because it is remote. Very very remote. There was approximately three towns in five days that had anything close to sun screen or band aids. Only two had actual pharmacies with things like pain killers and blister pads. You don’t need to bring your entire medicine cabinet but a couple of things to get you to the pharmacy is a must. Especially those blister pads. TRUST ME.

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An Bothar – Caus, Ireland

My last night was at the An Bothar guesthouse in Cuas Ireland. I honestly thought it was Ballydavid the entire trip, but I know little about Irish geography  so it isn’t surprising I had it wrong. Regardless the pub and guesthouse sits at the foot of Mt. Brandon. It is the last stop on Slea Head Drive and the Wild Atlantic Way. It is lovely and well worth the stop if you are in the area.

It was much larger and much more modern than most of our accommodations. Overlooking the farms we have walked through earlier in the day on one side and the mountains on the other. We ate our dinner here as it was really the only option but it was as expected quite good. We also got to meet the owner of Wonderful Ireland Walking tours and a few of the local sheep dogs while we ate.
I was sad it was my last night. But I had to get up so early I retired from the group so I could shower and pack for the flight. I left the window open all night and heard the lambs bleating from time to time. I woke up to them at 4am and ran out to meet my car which was right on time. The drive out was lovely, we drove over roads I had walked and some roads I hadn’t. My driver was kindness itself, as was everyone I met in Ireland. I got information about history, living there, his family (his wife had already driven me a couple of times), kids etc. It was a great way to end my trip, I nearly gave him a hug when he dropped me off. It felt like leaving an old friend.

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Wonderful Ireland Walking Tours – Dunquin to Caus, Ireland

The last full day of my trip, was also my last chance to hike again. I was fretting over the decision quite a bit. I had my blister pads, I had my new walking shoes. I packed my hiking boots in case of emergency. I read the directions, checked the route a million times and the weather. If all went right I could do it without causing more damage. If it went wrong, I could call for a pick up. I chose to hike.

I am very glad that I did, though it was still tough and I kept checking my feet every time we stopped. We hiked from Dunquin over a small hill and wound up overlooking where I had toured the day before. We even walked some of the same roads. It was pretty neat knowing what I knew from the tour of the area and having the slower pace to walk through and see it all again.

The route was flat after that first hill, thank goodness. And it did end up raining a bit but not enough to force me to change my shoes. The low land coastal scenery made this leg of the hike my favorite by far.

The winding trails along the cliffs and the cool ocean air was so pleasant. Being able to hike between houses and farms on small dirt paths made it feel like something out of a movie. Which it was, both Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away were filmed in the Dunquin area.

We stopped for lunch when we hit the beach for the first time. Resting and eating our sandwiches (pronounced sang-which among the locals) from Gleeann Dearg. We saw the other groups that had stayed at our guest house pass us. And then we picked ourselves up from our cozy grassy knoll and carried on down the beach. At one point when we got closer to Murreagh Village we saw a group racing rather large horses on the beach. I would guess it was a part of this Seaview Equestrian group, however having not stopped to ask I cannot say for sure.

We walked off the beach and into the village. Stopping for pints for some, bathroom and assessing the rest of the day for me, at the local pub and ice cream from a local shop down the road. Everything seemed to be holding up alright for me, so despite still be anxious about any of this being a good idea I trudged on.

And it is a good thing I did because immediately following our break we hit the cliffs and they were nothing short of amazing. I could have sat here all day but we had to walk on. After the cliffs we turned inland on some roads near Baile na nGall (prior to the 2003 Official Languages Act it was known as Ballydavid) and crossed a few cow fields. There was a patch that would have been pure sludge but because of the recent dry weather it was not. Thank goodness. Then past a small river and to our inn for the night in at the An Bothar Pub and Guesthouse which is right near Shanacill, though the address appears to be Caus. However neither show up online as official towns, just blips on the map.

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Mossie Tour – Dingle, Ireland

The fourth day of hiking I decided again to not. Due to the terrain of the trail I thought it best to not risk tearing up my feet anymore. Many years ago when I first started traveling the way this day unfolded probably would have terrified me. But the great thing about traveling is you get used to uncomfortable situations and the unknown really fast. So instead of being sad or anxious I just ran with it.

The tour offices close early in Dingle (after my group showed up). I was pretty much standing outside the doors when the tourist office opened the next morning. I asked if they had a tour that I could get on last min, any tour. They said maybe, but the guy needed three for it to be worth it and I was only one. Check back at 11 was the answer.
I sprinted back to the hotel (mind you while Dingle is small these two places are on the opposite end of town). I packed my own bag for a day of hiking but with my new sneakers instead of my boots. I grabbed my sack lunch. I used the ‘bat phone’ to set up my ride for 3pm, I took screen shots of directions to our hotel and directions to a couple of things in town in case my tour fell through and said good-bye to my group. Later when I stopped back in the tourist office there was a french couple that wanted a last min tour as well but needed a third. Perfect! Off we went.

Our tour guide was Mossie and it was a wonderful day. He gave us a quick history of the Irish English conflict during the Tennent farmer years and showed us Burnham House which was the home to Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron of Ventry.  Mullins was one such land owner, not kindly favored by the Irish. It is now a girls school so we didn’t get to go in.
Mullins had removed a lot of old land markers and grave stones when he took up residence in the area. When he was removed and the land returned to the native Irish, stones that were found were placed in his yard. The language is read bottom to top, and the stone pictured above was a grave stone. However, there is no grave to mark where it sits today and the site like many is lost to time.

After the Mullins house we went back in time to the Pre-Romanesque period and visited some Clochan sites, more known as Beehive huts. Not the same that were filmed in Star Wars, those were replicas not originals. They were modeled off those on Skellig Island. Skellig is a UNESCO site and to film in the huts would have been too risky. However some exterior shots were taken on the island. My head in the picture above is covering Skellig. At the site we visited we got to see a complete hut, and were given a lot of history and information around usage. And I got to hold a baby lamb.

After the huts we drove along the coast toward the Blasket Islands. The coast line was just gorgeous.

We made our way  past the Blaskets to Dunquin. Dunquin is the most westerly settlement in Ireland, the Blaskets are the most westerly bit of land in Ireland. The area is Gaelic speaking first, and English is learned as a second language. The view-point below is over looking a ridge to the far left where the Star Wars sets were built. And little did I know it at the time, the next day I would be hiking all through this area.

We learned that the majority of the archeological sites are actually on private land, rather than state-owned property. So most sites that you visit will require payment. This is normal and helps farmers pay for the upkeep of the area. So if you ever find yourself in the area and someone asks you for 3 Euro to see some ruins, chances are they aren’t there to fleece you. It is well worth the cost to see some of these amazing sites.

The last site we visited before returning to Dingle was the Gallarus Oratory. Little is known about the churches origins. It is thought to be dates to the 12th Century. It was discovered in 1756 by Charles Smith. The small church has a doorway and a small window facing west and east respectively. Over the window is a couple small outcroppings that are thought to have once held candles. Next to the church is a flat pile of rock and a headstone, archeologists found human remains here but again little is known about them.

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Tralee Ireland

Tralee is the 14th largest urban area in Ireland, at a whopping twenty-three thousand residents. It is also the largest town in County Kerry (which includes the town of Kerry where the airport is). It’s not very big. Regardless, it is incredibly charming and full of things to do. I honestly wish we would have had a couple of days to spend here.

Alas since the purpose of our trip was our walking tour, the only time we had was the afternoon and evening of the day we landed. The next morning at 9am we got up and started our hike to Camp.
After we checked into our guesthouse, we hit the ground running in hopes of battling the evils of jet lag. We started off with a snack and a drink at The Ashe Hotel, named after Thomas Ashe.  As an important member of the fight to Irish freedom and the preservation of the native Irish culture and language he had quite a number of things named after along the peninsula.

We then set off to tour the Kerry County museum, unfortunately they were closed when we got there. If this is something you really want to see be sure to plan ahead, things do tend to close earlier than we expected in Tralee. Instead of the museum we toured around the Tralee Rose Gardens.

The rose garden leads back to a large long brick wall with a small door in it. Behind the door is the grounds of St. Johns Church. The church that stands today was built in 1854 on the foundations of a chapel that had been built around 1780 a few remaining artifacts from that original chapel remain including the holy water font. After wandering around here we met up with the rest of our friends for dinner. I wish like everywhere we went on this trip I had more time to spend in town. It was such a lovely place and look forward to going back one day.

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