Ireland. In a word, lovely.
This past September was the first time my husband and I had traveled there. Two friends were getting married and we were lucky enough to be on the invite list. The wedding was beautiful. The couple wed under an ancient tree, thick branches extending out and up, creating a canopy unlike one I’ve seen. We laughed, we danced, we ate, we climbed trees, we took the rowboat for a spin, and enjoyed a day of unseasonably beautiful weather in the Irish countryside.
After the wedding we extended our trip another week and explored the southwestern edges of the country. We drove on the left side of narrow roads, stone walls and giant hedges lining the sides. Sheep dotted the hillsides and cows grazed at the tops of seaside cliffs. The hills and houses were vibrant with color, even on dreary, rainy days. We took some boat rides, saw dolphins, visited the Cliffs of Moher, and explored a shipwreck on Inisheer, the easternmost of the Aran Islands. We got caught in a cold downpour and sought refuge in castle ruins, and we were treated to traditional Irish music in the country’s pubs.
The whole country was beautiful. I could go on about our adventures, but I’ll just focus on one: my favorite spot of the trip.
There’s a point at the very end of the Dingle Peninsula called Slea Head. The peninsula narrows to a point and trails off into the ocean, dotting the water with tiny islands. Starting from Dingle (yep, Dingle), we drove along the south side of the peninsula, making stops along the way for exploration.
Near the end of the peninsula there’s a beautiful beach and a parking lot filled with cars and giant tour buses. There’s a lovely view and this is where the majority of people stop. Looking up to the hillside, however, we spotted a trail that disappeared around the side of the hill towards the rocky islands. Naturally, we checked it out.
The trail took us up a hill and over a stone fence with a sign saying “no dogs,” (I’m sure the sheep don’t like dogs very much). We followed it around the far side of the hill and we soon were out of sight of the crowds. From there we were able to make our way right down to the rocks that sit next to the ocean. It was a beautiful day, thick, puffy clouds crawling across the sky, shafts of rain in the distance over the water. We had left behind a parking lot full of tour buses, and were the only two people in this magical place.
We stayed a while; did some exploring, ate lunch, listened to the thunder of the waves crashing against the rocks, watched water swirl into little crevices and whirlpools before receding back into the ocean. It felt like we had discovered this place, like it was ours for that tiny sliver of time.
Eventually, it was time to turn back. We returned a different way, climbing straight over the top of the hill instead of along the edge. We discovered an old stone lookout, and then headed back to the hubbub of the parking lot, where I was pleased to discover a woman selling chocolate and coffee. It was a lovely day in Ireland.
Although we were in a new country, on an larger adventure of our own, this day had the feeling of a tiny adventure. We had our home base established in Dingle and had heard about Slea Head the night before from a bartender at the pub. We hopped in the car to go check it out, and that morning, we were explorers.
Those few hours at Slea Head stick out as one of the highlights of a trip full of beauty and adventure. I’d love to go back and do more hiking and exploration like we did that day, leaving the parking lots and tour buses behind.
If you’re ever in Ireland and make it down to the Dingle Peninsula, check out Slea Head. Go past the tour buses, up the hill, and out as far as you can. You’ll be glad you did.
***any really good looking photos in this post, and on the blog in general, can be attributed to Seth Iverson. Thanks, Seth!**