Ireland Part 3: Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head Drive

Dingle Peninsula, Slea Head Drive

After grabbing some breakfast we made the drive to our next destination in the tiny fishing village of Fenit. We were a few hours early to check into our Airbnb so Myles did some research and we set out to find a hidden beach. And yes it was very hidden, like as in we found the beach that all the locals keep to themselves and don't tell the tourists about. It was completely deserted when we got there and remained that way the entire time we were there! We spent time being chased by the waves (not in the water, it was seriously was cold and windy) and admired the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. 

When we finally arrived at our Airbnb we were greeted by our host Nannette, who was so kind and again couldn't believe we were travelling around the country with a one year old. I mean it's not easy travelling with a toddler but do people just stay home once they have kids!? If you're able to, go travel and take your kids it will be unforgettable! Anyways we quickly realized that the sleepy town of Fenit literally had one bar and it wasn't even open so we drove about 15 minutes into the town of Tralee to grab something to eat. We ate lunch at a hole in the wall place called Dish which was cheap and tasty and then walked around Tralee before grabbing a frozen pizza from the super market and heading back to our place for a night in. 

The next day we ate breakfast at the top rated cafe in town called Yummy Cafe Market. This is a lesson that you should never judge a place by it's name or exterior. I seriously almost wrote this place off when researching where to eat just because of it's silly name and weird look to it. I'm so glad we went because the breakfast was amazing, plus it was filled with all sorts of people from every walk of life which was cool. We then set out to drive the famous Dingle Peninsula/Slea Head Drive (also known as the Wild Atlantic Way) which is rated one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It did not disappoint, we were in awe the entire time and drove for 8 hours, yes you read that correctly 8 HOURS! Never once did we tire or get bored, we were constantly stopping to see the magnificent cliffs, tiny villages, thousands of sheep and so much more. We drove the weirdest way (thanks google maps) which took us down this abandoned dirt road through the mountains for almost an hour. We were definitely at the point where we thought we'd have to turn around because we were so remote there were no houses, like absolutely nothing except sheep.

We made it out eventually on the other side and made our way to Inch Beach. This beach was incredible and is actually made up of a 5km long sand spot. After running around in the wind and sand watching surfers we continued on our way. 

Our next stop were the Bee Hive Huts which were built in the 13th century. It was so unbelievable to drive up to this farmer's house, pay a few euros to step on his land then walk up a hill to this incredible sight. It's hard to believe how these settlements/churches have stood the test of time and weather, they are literally constructed of stacked rocks, nothing holding them together. It's so surreal stepping back in time like that, wondering what sorts of people lived or worshipped in these places.

We continued on our way and stopped at the Dunquin Harbour which served as a transportation point to the Blasket Islands. These islands used to be inhabited but are so remote and dangerous to get to that now no one lives there. You can take a boat across at certain times of the year but unfortunately we were there at the wrong time and the sea was too rough to cross. There was this crazy winding road that went down to the water which used to be known as the sheep highway. I had seen a photo online of this area and had to visit, funny story we actually drove 30 minutes passed it, pulled over and debating going back and I am SO glad we did! Aspen was sleeping in the car and we weren't about to wake him so we took turns exploring while one of us waited by the car with him. There's something so freeing about running through new, open and unexplored places, I felt like a child. We stopped many more times to take in the sites and sounds and people including making our way to the sea side town of Dingle.

Eventually we made our way back to Tralee on the most dangerous road we encountered the entire trip. I cannot even explain how terrifying this road was. It was considered to be two lanes but was just big enough for one car, like I'm talking you needed to move your side mirrors in to avoid hitting the cliff wall. Plus this road wound through some mountains, it was getting dark, and the fog had set in. Let's just say I prayed that entire time that no oncoming cars would come. One did and it scared us half to death, we had to reverse to get to a pull out point to allow it to pass. We eventually made it back to Tralee where we ate dinner at Lana Asian Street Food and which I'd say was one of the top places for Thai food that we've ever had. 

The next day we ate breakfast at Wild in Tralee and made friends with some of the employees. Everyone was so kind and so excited for us to continue on our journey, no one ever seemed bothered that we toted a toddler around with us everywhere we went. We then set off for the 2.5 hour drive to Galway. On our way we stopped in Adare which I had researched online and couldn't pass up walking through the town. This tiny town is known as one of Ireland's prettiest towns thanks to a street lined with traditional thatched houses. Unfortunately a few years ago many of these traditional homes burnt down so it looks a bit different than what we were expecting, beautiful none the less. We walked through churches, castles and graveyards before going for a walk around the river so that Aspen could take a break from the carseat. We stopped at the Blue Door Restaurant for lunch and it was a bust, super expensive and fancier food than what we would have liked. Onwards to Galway! 

Ireland Part 1: Powerscourt Estate, Gledalough, Kilkenny, and Rock of Cashel

 Powerscourt Estate, Glendalough, Kilkenny, and Rock of Cashel

Our hope for these next few blog posts is to take you through our Ireland road trip one stop at a time. A lot of people told us we were crazy when they found out our plan of literally driving the entire way around Ireland (and with a baby) but we loved talking to these people and sharing our stories of our journey thus far. So here we are the beginning of our whirlwind trip.

We arrived in Dublin bright and early at 5:30am local time after nearly 15 hours of travel. Let's just say we were all pretty jet lagged so we didn't see much of the city our first day. We started and ended in Dublin so we weren't that sad knowing that we had a few days to explore at the end of our trip. After recovering with some sleep we grabbed some breakfast from East Village Cafe in Clonkadin and headed straight for Kilkenny. On our way we stopped at Powerscourt Estate and Gardens just outside of Dublin. The 68 room mansion was built in 1741 by a German architect for the 1st Viscount Powerscourt. This mansion was absolutely beautiful and the grounds were vast. Adorned with garden after garden, you could spend all day exploring this property. We took our time wandering around and quickly realized it was not as stroller friendly as they made it seem, but we made it work! Aspen loved crawling around in the dirt, rocks and grass trying to eat everything and anything off of the ground. We ended up eating lunch inside the mansion at a little cafe before we left. 

We then headed to Glendalough in County Wicklow to explore the Monastic City. This is an early Christian monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. There are remains of buildings from the 11th century which was so surreal to experience and see in real life. I had done a lot of research and this area of Ireland was a place that I had to see. It was so peaceful to walk through the graveyards, towers and remnants of churches with sheep grazing nearby. What was so beautiful about it all was that it was nestled in a valley between two lakes.

After a few hours we drove up a tiny road, got out of the car and stood in awe of the view of Glendalough below, Ireland was already blowing our minds and it was only day two!

Onwards we went to Kilkenny, arriving late in the evening we checked into our hotel and then headed into town for some good ol' Irish pub food. Where better else to experience an Irish pub than at Kyteler's Inn, the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to 1263. We were warmly welcomed with a highchair for Aspen and a table by a fireplace. We were surprised at the fact that Aspen was welcome even though it was after 10pm and I had read that most pubs do not let minors in after 9pm. We quickly discovered that is not true and the Irish LOVE children everywhere and at any time (phewf!). We enjoyed a delicious meal and Myles started his Irish beer drinking days off right with the sound of live music just a few feet away.

We went back to the hotel and Aspen's jet-lag sleep saga began. He did not sleep from 10pm until 5am for about four nights, poor guy had his days and nights mixed up. We strapped him in the stroller and paced the hotel halls for hours throughout the night just hoping he'd fall asleep. Anyways we survived and were off the next morning to explore Kilkenny.

We strolled down Medieval Mile through narrow streets with colourful old buildings and awed at St. Mary's and St. Canice's Cathedrals. We decided to be tourists and purchase tickets to go inside Kilkenny Castle and we are glad we did. Although almost all of the 12th century castle has been redone there were a few original pieces which was cool to see. We then walked to the Black Abbey and then stopped for lunch at the Pantry Cafe before wandering the streets a bit more. We ended the night off with dinner at Matt the Millers Pub across the river. 

Another sleepless night later we woke up and drove straight to Rock of Cashel which was incredible. You could see it from a distance, this massive castle like (it's actually a church dating back to 1101) building up on a huge rock jetting out from sheep pastures below. We parked at the bottom and walked up to explore. I absolutely loved this stop of our trip, just watching Aspen in awe of everything around him made me so excited that we had him with us on this trip. He walked hanging onto walls older than we can even comprehend, he rolled around on the grass with an incredible view behind him. We tried so hard to capture exactly what we saw so that we can show our family and friends just what we experienced. We then drove a few minutes down the street and walked to Hore Abbey (est. 1540) which was remains of a church in the middle of this field below the Rock of Cashel. We had the entire place to ourselves and Aspen roamed free, eating grass and wild flowers. This is what we imagined Ireland to be, vast openness with castles and sheep everywhere we look (no but seriously it was actually like that!). We strolled back into Cashel and ate lunch at the cutest pub called J. Feehan's.  After some good quality pub food we made our way to our next destination, Cork.