Nestled among the craggy coastline of the County Kerry lies a hidden gem, full of truly spectacular features. Luscious, green pasturelands roll away towards the mountains in front, while behind, the aquamarine, foamy waves crash against the easily 200 feet tall cliffs. Dotted with rocky shores and picturesque hills, Dingle Peninsula was my family’s to explore on our journey to Southwest Ireland.
We left our hosts at the Driftwood B&B, located in Kenmare, Ireland at around seven in the morning. Laden with protein bars, highlighted road maps, and rain gear, we thought we were ready for all the adventures the peninsula had to offer. As it turns out, nothing could have prepared the four of us for the stunning scenes (and the tortuous mountain roads) of Dingle.
After a foggy two hour drive, we began noticing wooden signs on the side of the road announcing Dunbeg Fort. We pulled into the narrow parking lot and coughed up the four € per person that were required to gain entrance. While trekking down the short hike to the fort, we learned that it was actually the oldest standing fort in Southern Ireland! Originally built during the Ireland’s Iron Age, Dunbeg Fort was a designated lookout post for attacks from the sea. Situated precisely on the edge of perpendicular, inaccessible cliffs, the fort was in the perfect position to observe everything that occurred on the Dingle coast. As we explored Dunbeg Fort, we discovered that the weatherworn, above-ground stones were just the tip of the iceberg, and that most of the structure lay in great heaps, overgrown by the green Irish grass. Undoubtedly the best part of the fort was its location: cliff-hanging, photogenic views of the blue ocean like I’d never seen before were the 180 degree vista. There was even a trail leading onto some promontory rocks that I was thrilled to explore, until the tide rapidly came in and scared me away.
After we leaving the fort, we enjoyed a scenic drive among sheep-inhabited fields. Eventually our surroundings transitioned from these misty meadows to rough beaches. One shore in particular invited us to stop and survey the panoramic views of Dingle Bay. My dad and I were curious enough to scramble over the uneven, loose rocks and onto the beach. The “sand” was really teeny yellow pebbles, and was speckled with medium-sized boulders which were reaching out into the overcast cove. Seaweed and limpets dotted these rocks, forming an entire ecosystem. Farther along the beach, cliffs abruptly cut off the view of the shoreline.
We reluctantly responded to the calls of my mom and sister and began the exhausting haul back up the sharp stones. As we white-knuckled our pint-sized (Guinness reference) rental car over the narrow, nerve-racking path, we discovered a cliffside viewpoint boasting monuments erected by Ireland’s ancient inhabitants. While the mini Stonehenge was impressive, it was trumped by the natural landscape surrounding it. Miles of untouched, wave-beaten cliff faces stunned us with their unique beauty.
Although I lack the vocabulary to give due credit to the fantastic features of Dingle Peninsula, the awe-inspiring, tremendous, and breath-taking vistas inspire new perspective and wonder into the soul. My family was truly privileged to have had the chance to behold the jagged cliffs, rustic shores, and timeworn architecture that Dingle had to offer. One thing is certain about the coast of Southwest Ireland: if you ever have the chance to vacation there, do not miss out on exploring the untold wonders of Dingle Peninsula.
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