To tireless hikers, Ireland throws open a 112-mile arm
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Destinations, September 1998
Dingle All the Way
Tourism is a relatively new game — and athletic tourism an even newer one — on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. Although B&Bs have cropped up on this spit of land northwest of Killarney like, ahem, freckles on a redhead, it wasn’t until recently that locals finished plotting the Dingle Way, a 112-mile trail that lassos the peninsula via
Blennerville to Camp
To undertake your own traverse, begin at The Haven B&B in Blennerville (011-353-66-21217). Owners Jim and Anne Costello readily supply maps and a full day’s fuel; their typical breakfast consists of eggs, toast, bacon, and — mmmm — blood sausage.
If you need further sustenance, pluck blackberries along the 11-mile hike to Camp (population 68), which runs between tangled hedges of bramble and fuchsia, Ireland’s flamboyant answer to kudzu. On the morning we set out, the sun was breaking through the clouds in patches. From a nearby hill, a lone shepherd eyed us as his dog bounded over to baptize our clothes with grassy mud
Toward the end of the day, we crossed the Finglas River on giant stepping-stones. (In Gaelic myth, the sleeping laird Cu Roi Mac Daire was done in by his wife, who called her lover, the warrior Cuchulainn, by turning the Finglas white with milk.) We skipped rocks across its now clear pools, climbed back up to the road, and descended into Camp, where Ashe’s Pub was willing to
Camp to Anascaul
It’s worth the hilly 12-mile trek through bogs and herds of skittish sheep to reach Inch Strand, a three-mile-long beach that’s deserted by this time of year — at least, it usually is. Actually, as we came out of the brush to behold it, several ascot-wearing elderly gents dropped out of the sky in yellow and red gliders.
We saw them again at our B&B in Anascaul, The Old Anchor (011-353-66-57382), whose co-owner, Ann Curran, can suggest day hikes in the area. One will surely take you down the street to the South Pole Inn, a pub-cum-shrine to Dingleite Tom Crean, who made three unsuccessful attempts on said Pole.
Anascaul to Dingle
Dingle is the modern heart of the peninsula, but it’s surrounded by plenty of history. The nine-mile walk’s highlight is the ruin of Minard Castle, built by Normans in 1551 and cracked by Cromwell’s cannons 100 years later. A tiny cove nearby is walled by cliffs that angle to the sea one after the other, like sailboats in a close race.
Drop your bags at Duinan House (011-353-66-51335); then walk downtown to Foxy John Moriarty’s to rent a mountain bike ($8 per day; 011-353-66-51316) and head for the hills. Or call Sci”ird Archaeological Tours (011-353-66-51937). It’s thanks to them we learned that those monolithic rocks the sheep were using to scratch their hindquarters probably had a more noble purpose
Dingle to Slea Head
The Dingle Way’s final stretch offers some of the best scenery — oceanside cliffs, ruins, clusters of early Christian beehive huts called clochßin — and some of the least interesting walking conditions, much of it along paved roads. Near Ventry, however, the path drops to a nice arc of yellow sand. From there wend your way back up to the clifftop road, this
For more information about the Dingle Way, call Killarney Tourist Office (011-353-64-31633) or Quinlan Tours ($879 per week, per person; 800-217-7887).