Looking For An Unforgettable Irish Excursion?
I love traveling, it has always been very high on my bucket list to see as many places as possible in this lifetime. So, when an opportunity to travel to Ireland came my way, I snatched it up without a second thought. I had long desired to experience the magical, mystical country of Ireland and it was nothing less than mesmerizing and enchanting.
If for any reason you are on the fence about traveling to Ireland, get off it and go, now! You will see more shades of green than you thought existed, music that will linger with you long after the song ends, warm people you will share a pint with and a culture rich in history and traditions.
One of the most memorable parts of my Ireland trip was a weekend getaway to Dingle. I have to say I was bit lucky as I traveled with a friend who is from Ireland. An advantage to this is the spontaneity that can happen when you are with someone who knows where to go and what to do. So, without planning we hopped in our rental car and drove to the seaside town of Dingle in County Kerry. If you find yourself in this beautiful part of the world, I suggest you do the same. Head To Dingle. You are in for great music, warm people, beautiful landscapes and great culture.
An Introduction to Dingle – An Daingean
Dingle, Ireland is located in County Kerry, West Ireland. A quaint and picturesque town with colorful buildings that dot the shore and stand out against the fog and rain. The air is incredibly fresh and clean and the people are extremely friendly.
In Gaelic, the town’s name is An Daingean and means Fortress. It faces the Dingle Bay with the Brandon Mountains behind it, an ideal situation throughout history to see any invaders who may have been approaching via either land or water.
Dingle and County Kerry, in general, is one of the areas in Ireland where many people still speak Gaelic on a regular basis. It was here that I heard it spoke most often. So, if listening to or speaking Gaelic is what you seek, Dingle is the place.
During my short jaunt in Dingle, I was struck by how important it was for them to think locally. They take great pride in using, selling, and buying as many products made locally in County Kerry as possible. I found this to be wonderful. It was very much a community effort. Even upon picking up any publications or reading materials in town it was emphasized.
As for the food, I found it to be quite good. From the farm to the table was literal. Every eating establishment we went to, had on their menu exactly where the beef, poultry, fish, produce and dairy products came from locally. Everything was fresh and in season.
It is truly a wonderful seaside town and is even the host to the much beloved European Music Festival, Other Voices. A town filled with great food, music and art it reminded me of back home in Northern California, where artists flock for inspiration and the beauty of the seaside.
The Journey Begins
One way to get to Dingle is by going over Conor Pass. A sight to see and experience within itself. It is the highest mountain pass in Ireland and goes through the Brandon Mountains. It provides amazing views, including a waterfall, and beautiful vista points. The road is so small there are more than a few moments in which you can reach out and touch the walls of the mountains. Quite dramatic and beautiful however, it is not for the faint hearted. The roads are extremely narrow. I had an experienced Irish driver. My suggestion, take it slow.
When we drove over Conor Pass into Dingle it was what is considered a “regular” foggy Ireland day. This is an actual picture of what we drove into.
Driving over Conor Pass that day, in the thick of the fog, gave it a surreal and mystical feel. Glimpses of the valley and the mountain playfully sneaked through the fog here and there, building the anticipation of reaching our destination.
Upon arriving in Dingle one of our very first sights to see was a classic. We really got a kick out of the lamb that is so casually hitching a ride on the back of the tractor. We call this photo “The Lamb on the Lam”.
It was quite funny and so characteristically Irish to have a big tractor driving down Main street, where many of the famous pubs and restaurants are located. Main Street is only two blocks from the Marina and steps in either direction to restaurants, pubs and music.
Because our trip was on the whim we still had to find a place to stay the evening. We wanted a room centrally located so we could stroll the streets with out the worry of driving. Archway Lodge is where we ended up at. A cute B&B located right on Main Street.
Many of the B&B’s will let you see the room available before committing to it. I learned that this is a great way to get a good deal, depending on the time of year. If they know you are “shopping” around for a room, they are more apt to give you a great deal or offer. However, I would not recommend going to Dingle during peak seasons without having a room already booked.
There is certainly no shortage of places or types of accommodations to choose from. It comes down to preference and personal choice, from renting your own seaside home to staying at a B&B right in the heart of Dingle. The website Dingle-Peninsula is a great resource for booking accommodations, learning more about the surrounding area, activities and more.
I have to point out that in general I slept really well during my stay in Ireland. In Dingle, even more so. I think it was the fresh seaside air, or maybe it was the couple shots of whiskey I drank, either way I woke up feeling refreshed.
An Droichead Beag – The Small Bridge
A must do in Dingle, in my humble opinion, is to visit the famous pub known for it’s great music sessions. It is called An Droichead Beag or The Small Bridge and it has live traditional Irish music 365 days out of the year. It was named The Small Bridge because it was the first pub a traveler came upon after crossing the Conor Pass.
Inside it has a cozy feeling with low ceilings and exposed beams. As with almost every pub in Ireland it features a wonderful fire place by which one can drink a pint to warm their bones from the rain and chill outside.
Here I am enjoying a pint by the fire 🙂
The atmosphere of listening to a live music jam was relaxed, jovial and created a feeling of community. The musicians were not up on a stage. They play right on our level, creating an intimate feeling. It is easy to approach them, talk with them on their breaks, and of course buy them a pint or two. They encourage audience participation, often playing requests and songs in which many of the pub goers join in singing.
We were able to speak to a couple of the musicians at the end of their playing and discovered one of the fiddle players had traveled all the way from Scotland to play there, the pub is a well known venue to play at for musicians. We stayed there until the wee hours, listening to great music and engaging in warm conversations with fellow travelers and locals alike.
The morning after our evening at The Small Bridge, I roamed the streets of Dingle on my own as my friend slept off the extra whiskey shots from the night before 🙂 I was amazed at all of the wonderful boutiques and art galleries that line the streets of Dingle.
I saw an amazing array of handmade jewelry, clothing and musical instruments. The act of strolling the streets and window shopping was very delightful and refreshing with the seaside air. As a female, I felt completely comfortable being alone.
After another day and night of fabulous Irish meals, watching a game of soccer with locals, and enjoying more music it was time to move on. As we headed out of the charming seaside town of Dingle the driving conditions and weather were much different with blue skies and much less fog. In fact, we were treated to this lovely rainbow.
As I took in the beautiful view I thought back over our weekend. It was only two days and yet we heard great music, made new friends, saw lovely art, enjoyed the seaside, and ate and drank like a king and queen. It was wonderful. Again, I highly suggest you go. Oh, and for all my fellow Star Wars fans, they are shooting the new Star Wars movie there too!