We started the day with breakfast downstairs in the Marriott. The Marriott in Limerick is a brand new hotel and very nice although the service was not as good as I usually expect from Marriott. After breakfast, we decided to head towards the Dingle peninsula. First, because it was less crowded than the Ring of Kerry and second, because I categorically refused to drive on anything described in Rick Steve’s Ireland book as “treacherous”. The thought of having to back up on a cliff-side road to let a tour bus through gave me the chills.
On the way out to Dingle, we drove through many small villages, many of whom were past “Tidy Village” award winners. Who knew there were contests for that? Since we were on a mission to accomplish both the Slea Head Loop Drive and the Cliffs of Moher on the same day, we merely looked as we drove through. Well, Mom and Vicki looked, I was still concentrating on the left side of the road. Although I have to say at this point I was feeling much more comfortable driving (although that would change later). As we got closer to Dingle, the terrain became much more mountainous but the roads weren’t too bad (translation: still mostly 2 lanes and opposite traffic not going more that 100 km or so). Arriving in Dingle, we couldn’t help being proper tourists and taking many pictures of the harbor and town.
After pictures, the next order of business was lunch. We ate in a restaurant called the Marina Inn. Mom and I had steamed mussels which were delicious. Vicki ordered fish cakes which turned out to be more potato than fish but was an adventure nonetheless. After lunch, we did a spot of shopping and then piled in the car to drive the Slea Head Loop.
Before leaving Dingle, I pulled off into the last gas station to top off the tank. I had 3/4 of a tank but am truly my father’s daughter and couldn’t start the journey without a full tank. Almost immediately the breathtaking scenery began. We stopped once to take some pictures of the coastline and then again to visit pre-historic beehive houses. These are houses that were built by pre-historic man around 2000 BC. Walking through the fields dotted with sheep, we climbed up the hill to view them.
Climbing back into the car, we continued on our way. There were many more opportunities for photographs of dramatic views. Some of the most fascinating were of famine cottages and the old stone walls dividing sheep pastures and old potato fields.
Yet further down the road, we found the ruins of an old church at Kilmalkedar. The original monastery on this site was founded in 636 AD and the current ruins date from around 1200 AD. The funniest thing about this stop was that we ran into two other groups of Americans here. One group was from Chattanooga and the other was from Marietta. What were the odds?
After Kilmalkedar we wrapped up our tour of the Slea Head Loop back at Dingle. Anxious to see the Cliffs of Moher, we plotted the best course using our helpful GPS lady. Turns out that the quickest route took us across the Shannon River using the Tarbert ferry. For 18 Euros, we cut several hours of driving off our trip to see the Cliffs. We drove on board and parked the car then went up top to watch the brief 20 minute crossing.
Safely back on dry land, we started the car on what we hoped would be a brief trip to the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately, I missed the first turn the GPS lady wanted us to make. No problem. She recalculated and we continued on our way. The next turn she wanted us to make wasn’t a road I was willing to try, so we continued on the road to Ennis. For the next 30 km or so, we engaged in a tug of war with the GPS lady. Finally, she saw things our way and directed us towards the Cliffs via Ennis. This probably would have been fine if I had not missed an important turn in Ennistymon. In all fairness, I’m still not convinced that was a road and not an alleyway. GPS Lady recalculated and all was fine for 10 minutes or so. Then she had us turn right onto an R road. (For a description of R roads, see previous posts). Still, being on my second day of driving on the left and feeling a little more confident, we continued on a road that was about a lane and a half wide. I’ve discovered that works ok as long as you stop when traffic approaches and let THEM maneuver around YOU. Then things began to get interesting. We turned onto another road which was only 1 lane wide. Then we turned on a road that was about 3/4 of a lane wide with high grass and stone walls on both sides. I’m pretty sure nobody in the car (including the GPS lady) breathed a full breath for the 30 minutes of maneuvering on what can only be described as cow paths. This led to much debate among us as to how wide we figured a road had to be to be on a map and in the GPS, as well as a quip as to how many roads must a (wo)man walk down before they can see the cliffs.
Finally, we turned back to an actual road and came to the Cliffs of Moher. Or at least what should have been the parking lot for the Cliffs. By now, thanks to our pasture adventures, it was about 8:45 and everything was closed. However, determination had us finding an “alternate” way into the car park and dashing up the steps to the Cliffs. With cameras in hand, we were just in time to snap a few shots of the Cliffs in the setting sun.
Triumphant at accomplishing out two goals for the day (Dingle and the Cliffs), we climbed back into the car around 9:30 for the drive back to Limerick. Desperate to get back onto an N road (again, see previous posts) before total darkness (thank goodness the sun doesn’t set until after 10 pm), we didn’t stop for dinner (not that anyplace was open). Finally, back in the civilization and relative good roads of Ennis, we stopped at a gas station for some grub. Luckily, we found some fruit and fresh baked scones and some Irish cheese to take back and eat in the hotel. Back on the national road to Limerick, we made the hour long trip and arrived back safe and sound in our room about 11:30. We made the quick web cam call to Dad so that he would know we were safe, devoured our gas station grub and fell into bed exhausted but fulfilled. On to Dungarvan and the Cairbre House B&B tomorrow. Stay tuned!