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Driving the Wild Atlantic Way on the West Coast of Ireland

Posted: 04/08/2014 10:57 am EDT Updated: 04/08/2014 10:59 am EDT

Ireland hasn’t changed much since I was last here in 1969. The scenery is still beautiful, the people friendly, the music lively, and driving is as harrowing as ever.

What has changed is the food. In 1969 it was fish and chips and overcooked meat. Last August my wife, Katherine, and I spent two and a half weeks driving along the Wild Atlantic Way, the road that winds along the west coast, eating the freshest seafood I have ever had. Almost every day we ate oysters, mussels, crab claws, scallops, prawns and fish that had been in the sea just a few hours before.

Ireland has enthusiastically embraced the locavore revolution. Throughout most of the country, fresh local produce, meat and seafood can be found close by, especially along the west coast starting in the foodie epicenter of Cork and stretching along the coast all the way to Connemara, where our trip ended, and beyond.

But I wasn’t here to eat… well, not just to eat. Nor was I here to relive my beer and marijuana-fueled trip in 1969 (to read about that trip, check out my blog). This time I was here as a guest of Fáilte Ireland — a government organization that promotes tourism in Ireland — to seek adventure, or at least what passes for adventure these days for a geezer like me. And I’m not talking about the adrenaline rush of driving down narrow country roads on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road.

The southwest coast of Ireland sort of looks like the toes of a misshapen foot with a misplaced big toe (the Ring of Kerry). As we drove in and out along the “toes” the views were astounding — beaches, cliffs, picturesque villages and ocean panoramas. We stopped often to gawk.

When we weren’t gawking, eating or driving, we hiked — in a sheep pasture on the Beara Peninsula, around Great Blasket Island off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, through the rugged Gap of Dunloe to the Killarney Lakes, along the edge of the vertiginous Cliffs of Moher, and up about 1300 feet to the top of Diamond Hill with views of the crenulated coastline of moody Connemara in the distance.



A couple of days after that, I was pulling slimy fish off hooks on a small boat pitching and rolling in Dingle Bay, fish that I would eat just a couple of hours later at a bar and restaurant across from the docks.


While the food, music and scenery are fantastic, it’s the people who make the country. I felt an instant connection with most everyone we met. With a twinkle in the eye and a lilt in the voice, they were welcoming, warm, and easy to talk to. Maybe it’s the brogue, which is more musical and easier to understand than, say, the thicker accents of Scotland and the working class regions of England. Or maybe it’s the Anglo-Saxon roots we share or the influence of Irish culture throughout the Western world. Whatever the reason, I often felt like I was talking with old friends.

I’m inclined to think it’s the innate playfulness of the Irish, or as Katherine describes it, “they’re in touch with their inner leprechaun.” I am not Irish, but I feel Irish in Ireland. Perhaps, it’s my own inner leprechaun, a leprechaun who happens to like his oysters crisp, his mussels juicy, and his beer cool, dark and smooth.

(For details on his trip, including tour operators and places to stay and eat, read Don’s Adventure Geezer blog on his website.)

" In the Dingle Peninsula Ireland, for surfers who seek the Wild Atlantic Way"

    Posted : April 7, 2014

The Wild Atlantic Way is the new ” Yellow Brick Road ” for surf lovers , for the adventurous , for free spirits and to let anyone move from the rugged Irish coastline carved by huge breakers.

All along the route you expect beautiful beaches, fantastic locations and of course many waves to confirm the growing global reputation of the Irish coast as a surfing paradise.

Take your board and go to the rocky coastline, windswept , which compete with the most important destinations in the ocean , and reached the goal , get carried away by the landscape of the Wild West . And this is the real ” Ireland bidding ” : remote , rocky , windswept , primordial , breathtaking and perfectly “surf -able” ! Take a look at how , sensationally , the land and the sea meet in Ireland and it will be clear that this is a coastline that produces waves of first class. The west of Ireland is constantly exposed to the winds and the storms of the Atlantic combine to inflate . So , by extension and variety, there is no other surfing destination that can compete with the Wild Atlantic Way. In terms of extension triples abundantly California’s Pacific Coast Highway, ten times Australia’s Great Ocean Road and exceeds by 12 times the surface area of South Africa ‘s Garden Route . And it was organized so as to allow ” off-track ” to reach places that will allow you to know the most secret heart of Ireland .

The course includes comprehensive and includes more than 1500 activities , nearly 600 events and 53 Blue Flag beaches : useful to know, in the unlikely event that the waves decide not to do …… peep .

The surfers of any level or looking for variety , they will find everything they need

The wilds of South

Located in the south western section of the Wild Atlantic Way, County Kerry endless rugged coastline , the highest peaks in the country and the longest beaches . The Irish call it ” The Kingdom” . Wildest , most impressive and with an element of surprise in addition, argue that this county is different from all the others.

Here also the surfing potential is wild . So, before that the most important secret surfing in Ireland is revealed, it is time to discover another great destination , with waves for all boards.


Inch beach in Ireland is a myth and is now also entering a part of the tradition of surfing , as well as Banna, Ballybunion and offers a magical combination of four miles of beaches interspersed with cliffs. And Castlegregory, with almost 20 kilometers of beach surfing sweet , makes room for everyone.

It might spot dolphins in the open sea dancing . Or join an excursion boat to admire the friendly dolphins Risso , whales or humpback whales : love the calm waters as well as basking sharks , the gentle giants .

But you can not leave without having heard Kerry Irish, sang and talked , without having tasted fresh crab claws or without having toasted the waves of the day in the lively Dingle.

The Wild Atlantic Way is so vast that already divide it into sections sounds like a plan. But in calculating the driving time you will have to double the initial estimate. The report time and distance follows different rules in the west of Ireland .

Be sure to find yourself chatting with the locals will tell you that one or more things of destinations that will be worth going to check .

Or you could indulge in a pub or a restaurant or discover a perfect place for surfing where you can stop for a while ’ .


And while the surfers do their thing , people are not accustomed to the sea can entertain themselves indulging raids fabulous cuisine or enjoying the Irish heritage , craft or a visit to a castle : the Wild Atlantic Way has an ace up his sleeve for everyone!

But whatever route you follow , do not miss the chance to make a long wild ride on the surf, meet new friends and spend unforgettable days , however , to discover the real Ireland .

The wind leads the way in the Dingle Peninsula

50 shades of green. 100 varieties of rain. The world’s by far the nicest people - and most flexible sheep. You can not avoid cliches when Ireland should be described. But it is possible to find new superlatives - the windswept Dingle Peninsula will take your breath anyone.

March 29, 2014 at 15:55

It happens strange things on the Celtic island. It defies the law of gravity and the sheep biting its stubbornly super steep and tattered hills. Here, it is both raining and blowing underneath.

But nothing, absolutely nothing , well except possibly trashed wipers, may counteract the intense aesthetic experience that awaits all who venture out to Ireland’s westernmost outpost - the Dingle Peninsula .

We have left it enough so dramatic ring road The Ring of Kerry when we from the south as well as blowing into The wild Atlantic Way, which really deserves its name. Which way , which beaches , which are waves , the crazy wind, which paradise for surfers brave ! And what a paradise for all language enthusiasts . For we are now in a Gaeltacht , a region where the local language is still Gaelic.

Dingle Peninsula is also in this respect the last outpost of Eire . It keeps the population as stubbornly stick to their own language as sheep in the vertical pastures. We think a little about parting words from the charming hotelier at Caragh Lake - Go n’eirig An Bothar libh - meaning may the road raise with you - and hope that it’s just a figure of speech. At times it feels namely that if the powerful Atlantic winds will make the car lift .

After a contemplative pause at the wonderful location Minard Castle outside Lispole we cross the island and drive up to the north side , towards Castlegregory and the Seven Maghareeöarna .

Up here , the landscape is quite different , not to say super strange, for the tall grass that grows in sandy soil makes sure everything looks to be covered in a light, slightly undulating fur. The whole area around Sandy bay reminiscent of Bornholm and Gotland. In a quiet, flat and as the name suggests , very gritty . We eat a förglömlig lunch at The Island Restaurant, which has a nice sea view .

We still prefer more drama when it comes to landscape and head therefore against the mythical Mount Brandon , on top of which it subsequently canonized Irish monk Brendan ( 484-577 ) was sitting in his little secret closet of prayer ( today a popular ruin ) and wondered how he would get over to America in a small boat. According to legend , he managed the improbable feat . Unless of course he had been forgotten …

When we look up at the blue-tinted mountain , we understand why it is considered sacred. Just today , it looks as if the sky had fallen down over it and the scary mountain pass is thankfully closed to car traffic .

As everyone knows , Ireland is a very religious country and Mount Brandon , it is many pilgrim trails . The hike up from the charming village Cloghane is certainly a cool visual - and wet - experience. The pragmatic Council to all walkers on this island is always: Packing for four seasons.

We ‘ve stopped counting the showers when we drive towards Dingle, but the wonderful sight when the rainbow plunging into the sea , one can live a long time. As the abundance of graphic cows receiving SvD’s photographer to go into spin.

Goes into the spin we do both when we on the lookout for a small flashlight from falling into the Foxy Johns, as we perceive from the outside like an ordinary hardware store but that turns out to be a hardware store in several senses . For this is since 160 years (!) Back even a pub. Here is the current owner , Mr. Donald Foxy , and serves beer in one hand and sells screwdrivers with the other.

- It’s very convenient, he laughs and tells me that this particular phenomenon is typical of Dingle: When people from rural areas went into town for the day saved you time on both the buy and drink beer at the same place .

The environment inside the Foxy John’s is unbeatable. Here, time seems to have stood still and everyone is doing their utmost to this state shall continue. In town there are several similar pubs left , for example Currans where you can try out a hat or buy a pair of pajamas in conjunction with Guinness - drinking.

- It is as you look just fine to let everything remain as it is , says James Curran , who was born in the house and belongs to the fourth generation Curran pushed the beautiful pärlspontsprydda place for over 140 years .

Dingle is Dingle’s capital city and an excellent and quite lively base to explore the peninsula , the western tip is the most spectacular.

At Slea Head , one can not but admire the dramatic ocean view , but also gain insight into this country’s very poor and sad story . Here are a number of so -called Famine cottages preserved , a reminder of the difficult time when a large part of the population succumbed to starvation when the potato plague afflicted the island between 1845 and 1852.

In Gaelic called this period Gorta Mór , the Great Hunger , and it was then that countless Irish emigrated to the United States. Many of those who remained starved to death or ended up in these poor cottages.

Virtually the entire population of The Blasket Islands , just off Slea Head , forced to emigrate . Since 1953, the seven islands completely depopulated .

Long before the stranglehold of poverty was the Dingle Peninsula a venue for the Vikings, as is evidenced by the name of the fish position Smerwick ( smörvik ) . Dingle was also a haven for monks sat meditating in their little secret closet of prayer of stone that looks like hives and spread throughout the peninsula.

We drive the Dingle Way, which among other things runs along the once -rich fishing coast. Today there pretty desolate and gloomy, albeit breathtakingly beautiful.

After wandering around a bit amongst all the small villages, which always starts at Bally Bally since just means village - we end up with Rita Beigley , a rather dejected owner of a pub in Ballydavid .


Pub owner Rita Beigley remember how much more lively fishing village of Ballydavid was just a decade ago.


- I was born in this house and up until 15 years ago it was how much activity anywhere in the village , she says. But when the EU banned salmon fishing , they took away our livelihood.

Tired but very friendly Rita Beigley may symbolize that Ireland experienced through the ages ; rise and fall in a cyclical flow . Always , the country has risen - from oppression , famine and economic crises. No coincidence that the same flexibility Irish sheep have learned all the tricks to bite the dust . They can certainly learn to walk on water too.

Animation Dingle Festival

11 Mar 2014 : Aisling Newton

In a joint initiative with Irish animation company Jam Media, Dingle International Film Festival is set to host ‘Animation Dingle’, a one-day gathering where top industry names will gather to celebrate Irish cartoon.

Oscar nominated Irish animator Richard Baneham (Avatar) is to receive the Murakami Award for achievement in the practice of animation. The Dubliners previous credits include ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Iron Giant’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’

Joining Baneham will be Tomm Moore of Cartoon Saloon. The pair, who previously studied animation together in Ballyfermot, will give a presentation on Indy versus Blockbuster films. Moore (Secret of Kells) will also discuss the process involved in creating the animated feature film, ‘Song of the Sea’, as part of collaboration between studios across five different countries. The film was among the highlights presented at Cartoon Movie’s animation co-production forum last week in Lyon, France.

Moore said: “We were delighted with the packed out audience for our presentation on ‘Song of the Sea’ in Cartoon Movie. Many people said our presentation made them hungry to see the film.”

Speaking about the upcoming festival in Dingle, Moore added that: “I’m looking forward to discussing the pros and cons of Indy versus Blockbuster filmmaking with Richie and to hear about the exciting work he is doing at the moment.”

Jam Media, led by CEO Kerryman John Rice, will give an opening address followed by a presentation of the YA-O-TY Award (TY Animator of the Year).

A selection of animated shorts from Ireland and abroad such as ‘Alfred & Anna’, The Battle for Ravenwind: The Right to Radios’, ‘Coda’, ‘Rabbit and Deer’, ‘The Missing Scarf’ and ‘The Neighbours’ will feature at the festival. There will also be a free family screening of the Oscar nominated animated feature ‘Ernest & Celestine’,

The short animation film ‘Ledge End of Phil’, written and directed by Paul O’Muiris and produced by Paul Young for Cartoon Saloon, will also be screening at the festival.

O’Muiris said: “It’s great to have been selected to screen as part of the animation showcase for this year’s Dingle festival. It’s an exciting line-up and promises to be a fantastic weekend.”

The festival is presented by Dingle IFF with JAM Media, supported by The Irish Film Board and assisted by The Creative Media Department, ITT.

‘Animation Dingle’ will take place in St. James’ Church on Saturday March 15, the second day of the four day festival, between 12 noon and 4.30pm.

For more information on ‘Animation Dingle’ and the Dingle International Film Festival click here or follow them on Twitter at @DingleFilm

Porbeagle shark washes up in Kerry

A 6ft shark from the Great White family has washed up on a Kerry beach. The female porbeagle shark was discovered by local photographer Bernard Fitzgerald at the weekend as he was walking on the Aughacasla beach in Castlegregory.

The porbeagle shark may have died giving birth. Picture: Bernard Fitzgerald
The porbeagle shark may have died giving birth. Picture: Bernard Fitzgerald

The arrival of the adult shark in Tralee Bay comes as a tagged Great White shark called Lydia is set to be the first recorded member of her species to cross the Atlantic as she swims within 750 miles (1,200km) of our shores.

Marine biologist Kevin Flannery said the porbeagle shark does bear a close resemblance to the sharks made famous by the Jaws movie.

He said: “The porbeagle does look very like a Great White. People could be thinking that the Great White we have been talking about has landed in Kerry. They are from the same family. I’m sure it gave people a fright especially if they had heard the Great White coming close to Ireland.”

The head of Dingle Oceanworld, Kevin Flannery, said the cause of the porbeagle shark’s death is a mystery as the adult looked healthy and there were no signs of injury.

“It is a fully grown adult female porbeagle. She could have died from giving birth. It’s hard to say. It would be early for the shark to give birth but with the weather patterns this year it could be a possibility.

“I have never seen or heard of one getting washed ashore.”

Local photographer Mr Fitzgerald said he was astonished to stumble across the shark when he was walking along the shore last Friday.

“It’s the first time that I have ever come across a shark in all the years that I have been walking the beach. I was really surprised that sharks were so close to our shores.”

Mr Flannery said porbeagles could become more plentiful along the Irish coast following a worldwide ban on shark fishing.

The porbeagle is not known for attacking humans although a Scottish fisherman in 2012 reported a terrifying brush with a 7ft porbeagle who almost bit though his steel top-capped boots and attacked his boat.

“Sharks tend not to attack unless they are absolutely starving,” said Mr Flannery.

Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne Fitzmaurice a calm hand at the tiller as the Kingdom seek to rediscover the elusive winning formula

Eamonn Fitzmaurice: “Everyone is working really hard and we are not that far from getting a result. There was a lot more head-scratching this time last year. It is frustrating but that is the nature of Division One football now. But I am not a worrier.”

“Welcome to Kerry,” Eamonn Fitzmaurice says cheerfully as the lunchtime bell sounds in Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and students turn the bright corridors into a beehive. Nobody is going outside today: the rain is terrible and although there is something of the lost weekend about Dingle even on a slumbering Thursday in March, the entire peninsula is hibernating in this weather.

Fitzmaurice makes us tea and has sandwiches prepared and chats away and as he moves through clusters of students lost in their own conversations and it becomes abundantly clear that Fitzmaurice has a working existence entirely separate to that of his public role – his summer life – as manager of the Kerry senior football team.

“They don’t take any notice of me,” he explains with a laugh when we sit down in an empty classroom. “I’m just another teacher giving them homework.”

History is his subject. There could be no more appropriate speciality for a man whose other life revolves around the inheritance of Kerry football, that restless cause which is simultaneously pulled by the extraordinary richness of its past and an incessant obligation to its future.

Irish teenagers of 2014 are just as interested in Irish history as ever, Fitzmaurice believes. It is an optional subject for Leaving Cert so the kids he teaches are there by choice. In Kerry, history and Gaelic football mingle anyhow. Sometimes, when teaching the Civil War section of the course, Fitzmaurice will refer to the darker passages of local political atrocity – the Ballyseedy massacre or the ambush at Knocknagoshel. And he will talk about the Kerry football team of the 1920s, who had Con Brosnan, a Free State officer, and John Joe Sheehy, an unyielding Republican among its central figures.

People heal
“They co-operated in order to play for Kerry, basically. And they won All-Irelands. So bitter as that war was here, I do think it is true that football helped people heal more quickly. That period really does fascinate me because of the challenges that they had.”

Everything is relative. For the second season in succession, Fitzmaurice is enduring a testing winter as Kerry manager. The retirement of Paul Galvin, the punk spirit of the modern Kerry team and, as it happens, Fitzmaurice’s brother-in-law was a setback to the cause.

The injury suffered by genius-in-residence Colm Cooper a few weeks later was sufficient for many commentators to write off Kerry’s season. Three league defeats have added to the gloom and Tyrone arrive in Killarney this weekend to offer a rigorous examination of just how vulnerable their old friends are right now.

But the Lixnaw man carries himself now with the same unflappable composure that distinguished him during his playing days, when he served as an understated and indispensable centre-back on All-Ireland-winning Kerry teams lit with the best and the brightest. He agrees beating Tyrone tomorrow would be nice. But losing won’t disturb him unduly. “I don’t,” he sighs when asked if he is beginning to feel the pressure.

“I don’t…because everyone is working really hard and we are not that far from getting a result. There was a lot more head -scratching this time last year. It is frustrating but that is the nature of Division One football now. But I am not a worrier. I can’t be fretting over the next game.”

Fitzmaurice is only 35, a precociously young age to land the commander-in-chief role of Kerry football. When Jack O’Connor spoke about Fitzmaurice’s strengths, he often referred to his attention to detail.

Rigorously organised
And when Fitzmaurice speaks about his life, he seems to have perfected the balance of a rigorously organised methodology and a very relaxed attitude. For instance, although he has always taught here in Dingle, he lives in Tralee.

The attractions of Dingle are obvious. “It’s on the must-do list,” he vows when asked if he has ever attended any of the fabled Other Voices concerts in St James’s church. But Tralee is more central. It means he has arguably the most spectacular work commute in Europe, driving the Conor Pass daily. “It was a bit tight this morning,” he laughs, and it was, with the narrow road shrouded in mist and a car filled with foreign tourists paused at the mouth of the pass, wondering at the sign for falling rocks warning them to turn back and at the procession of Kerry motorists blithely driving on, rocks and mist and danger be damned. The mountainous drive gives Fitzmaurice a chance to catch breath. He moves from school to home to training without having to ‘be’ the Kerry manager all the time. When he thinks of last summer and Kerry’s breathtaking semi-final with Dublin, he feels now that he maybe was a bit too underground in his day to day life and won’t make that mistake again.

Among the ruins of scenic west Kerry

Wind-sculpted region has a monastic air

John G Dwyer

First published: Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 01:00 Irish Times

At what age have other people started inquiring about the quality of your sleep? In my case it’s middle age, for in more youthful times nobody questioned the serenity of my slumbers. These days, however, I have apparently entered the “sleep deprivation age” as over breakfast recently people were approaching with furrowed brow to inquire how I had slept.


Quite well, actually, for I was in the sublimely relaxing surroundings provided by one of my favourite hotels – the Dingle Skellig. Indeed, I now felt energised to visit a most inaccessible monastic site. So later as I headed out to the wind-sculpted lands beyond Mount Brandon, I couldn’t escape a feeling of regressing in time.

Before me was the spectacular landscape where David Lean made Ryan’s Daughter only to find his stellar cast alarmingly upstaged by the beguiling west Kerry backdrop. Parking at Ballinknockane (see panel) it was through a gate and then along a track before going right and following the waymarkers for the Dingle Way to open mountainside. Heading right for the huge cliffs, an improbable patch of green caught my eye 400 metres below.

This was Fothair na Manach (greenfield of the monks) – surely the remotest, most spectacular monastic site on the Irish mainland. First-time visitors will immediately wonder how anyone, let alone a sandal-shod monk, could possibly descend the monstrous cliffs to reach these ancient fields and clochans. Careful investigation, however, showed that descent is possible by a tortuous ramp and so I began down-climbing. Initially steep going required great care, but the slope eased and I enjoy spectacular views over this wildest of west Kerry shores.

Arriving at the monastic site, the setting was breathtaking but the monastic remains proved unrelentingly minimalist. The exquisite ornamentation of Clonmacnoise’s Cross of Scriptures was never going to be created where survival was the daily imperative.


After exchanging pleasantries with a couple, I began the quad-burning re-ascent. Going upwards on vertiginous ground is less intimidating and quickly I reached the clifftop.

I proceeded right to gain the viewing point of Binn na mBan. Here unfolds a magical prospect of sea, sky and shapely hills, with the Blasket Islands forming a photogenic backdrop. And directly below was the unmistakable sandstone slit of Brandon Creek, where it is reputed St Brendan departed on his first transatlantic voyage. Finally, it’s just an easy amble above the cliffs until a path leads inland and back to rejoin the Dingle Way a short distance from my parking place.


Go Walk West Kerry
Starting Point: Beyond Dingle follow signs for Brandon Creek. When the Dingle Way crosses the road go right and follow the arrows to Ballinknockane parking place. Suitability: The walk is straightforward as it mostly follows the Dingle Way and the handrail of the clifftop. The descent into Fothar na Manach should, however, only be considered by experienced hillwalkers used to coping with steep terrain and possessing the necessary fitness for the demanding re-ascent.
Time: Allow two hours for the clifftop walk or four hours if including the descent to the monastic ruins.
Map: OSi, Mount Brandon, 1:25,000