The Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is set to be Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork. Annascaul House B&B is located on the Dingle Peninsula the ideal place to stay for touring the Atlantic coast.
Tralee to Dunquin (The Blasket Islands)
With Tralee at your back, all roads lead west to a place that National Geographic once called “the most beautiful place on earth”: the Dingle Peninsula. Creep along the north of the peninsula, tracking west past through the villages of Camp and Castlegregory. The hulk of Mount Brandon (named after Saint Brendan) looms large after tiny Cloghane village; it’s the highest peak on the peninsula and marks the end of a Christian pilgrimage trail.
Next, along what is known as the Slea Head Drive, stop at one of the peninsula’s most mysterious sights: Gallarus Oratory. Completely made of stone, and in the shape of an upturned boat, Gallarus Oratory (and its adjoining 15th-century castle) is an early Christian church overlooking Smerwick Harbour. The coastal scenery revs up the drama after the tiny village of Ballyferriter (and the very beautiful Beál Bán beach), as you head towards the pretty Gaeltacht village of Dunquin, with views that stretch out to the deserted Blasket Islands.
Dunquin (The Blasket Islands) to Dingle
Should Dunquin’s super-pretty harbour or surrounds look familiar, don’t be surprised. The film Ryan’s Daughter was predominantly shot in the townland here. Don’t miss a walk along Coumeenole Beach, with its little rock pools, tiny caves and surging blue Atlantic Ocean. The views of the deserted Blasket Islands are great from here – the last residents were evacuated from the islands on 17 November 1953, and most settled in Dunquin.
You can take a boat from Dunquin out to the Great Blasket during the summer months, to explore quiet, pristine beaches and heather-flecked hills. Be on the lookout, too, for “An Fear Marbh” (The Dead or Sleeping Man), a Blasket island called Inishtooskert eerily mimicking a sleeping (or dead!) giant on his back.
Bid farewell to the Blaskets and Dunquin’s quixotic harbour and begin the final scenic stretch to Dingle town. Make sure to stop off at Louis Mulcahy’s shop along the way, where you can pick up a beautiful piece of handmade pottery, or try your hand at making your own.
Dingle town next and it is the best of both possible worlds. It has an arty bohemian vibe (local weavers, cheesemakers, potters and jewellers call the town home), while at the same time maintaining a traditional heart that never seems to erode (unparalleled traditional pubs and friendly locals speaking beautiful Irish are two of Dingle’s claims to fame).
The town beats with a culinary heart, too, and its annual food festival (October) is one of the island’s finest. Savour excellent seafood at Out of the Blue and the Global Village restaurants; enjoy the “craic” at Foxy John’s, half-hardware store/half-pub; or get to know “real” Irish cookery at the Dingle Cookery School (from summer 2014).