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Wild Atlantic Way (I): Kerry & Dingle

When we started to plan our summer trip to Ireland we had to accommodate for different needs as we didn’t only travel with our kids (3 and 6 at the time), but also took my in-laws for the first 10 days with us.

We decided that we all would enjoy nature and the rather “wild” side of Ireland and the west coast sounded just like what we were looking for. Due to our last holidays we knew that our preferred setting when staying at Hotels and B&B places was to at least stay somewhere for 3 night in order to have a minimum of 2 full days enjoying one particular area. Our two munchkins are amazing in the car if we bring enough coloring and audio books. Audio books and music are our favorite travel entertainment, both kids use their own MP3 players and favorite stories/songs while enjoying the views out of the window or they draw, flip through their books or craft something. Sometimes it is hard to get them out of the car if the story has not yet ended.

Our first 4 nights we spent at a beautiful and comfortable B&B: The Grove Lodgehouse. We loved the views out to the garden and river. The breakfast was amazing and the Porridge the best I honestyl ever had (apparently a Jamie Oliver recipe). It did not only come with a brown sugar topping, maple syrup, cream and fruits but also a shot of baileys irish cream to pour on top! Very decadent.

On our first day we wanted to drive the Ring of Kerry. But due to the fact that our first weekend happened to be a bank holiday weekend our host recommended us to do the Ring of Skellig instead. First it is way shorter and therefore more relaxed when travelling with smaller children, and second a much quieter alternative to the Ring of Kerry. The streets are quite narrow and there are no tour busses and very few campervans out that way, it was rather peaceful and absolutely beautiful. Definately our tip for all those who love travelling off the beaten track.

Ring of Skellig

1st Stop: Ballinskelligs Beach

This is a beautiful long stretched beach perfect for the kids to explore. There is a small creek flowing into the ocean at the end of the beach and old Ballinskellig Castle ruin you can climb up from the inside. The castle was used to guard against the pirates back in the 15th and 16th century. It makes for a lovely backdrop to the beach which is by the way Blue Flag listed. You can also walk from the beach to the old Abbey ruins which used to be a priory connected to the abbey on Skellig Michael island.

2nd Stop: Skelligs Chocolate Factory

As a nice treat for the kids we stopped at the Skelligs Chocoalte Factory opposite St. Finian’s Bay. Driving over the hill to the bay you have an amazing view onto the Skellig Islands. At the chocolate factory you can taste the freshly made treats from the chocolatiers while learning all about chocolate. The tasting is free and the Cafe offers some lovely rich hot chocolate drinks.

3rd Stop: Kerry Cliffs

After climbing up a steeper road with the car to the top of the hill we enjoyed some amazing views onto Valentia island, the Skelligs and back into the inland. Just another kilometer further down you can stop at the Kerry Cliffs which are maybe not as high as the Cliffs of Moher but definately as spectacular and almost empty compared to their bigger alternative. There are some beehive huts the kids loved to hide in before you get to the cliffs first lookout.

4th Stop: Valentia Island

As recommended by our host we drove back to Killorglin via Valentia Island, taking the bridge over from Portmagee and the Ferry from the East tip of the island. The ferry leaves about every 10 minutes until 9pm. On Valentia Island it is even quieter. The visitor center offers a great exhibition on the Skellig Island and they offer two different boat tours to see the islands. We booked the Eco tour for the next day, which takes you arround both, the Little Skellig Island and Skellig Michael. Driving to the top of Valentia islands does cost a fee, the views are nice but after the Ring of Skellig we thought it not really worth the money. You can also stop at a cliff lookout which is rather small. On the way down you can do a little excursion to see the dinosaur tracks on the northeastside, but due to approaching dinner time and two hungry monkeys in the car we skipped that. This made our older little monkey a bit angry at first. She loves dinosaurs! We also missed out on the Valencia Ice Cream Parloud (shame on us!) which is supposed to be another possible highlight for little travellers. But we really needed to have something proper first, and by the time we finished dinner they were of course closed!

Day trip out to Skellig Islands

The Eco tour out to the Skellig Islands took us out to Little Skellig Island first which is home to the worlds second largest gannet colony. From further away, it looks like the rock is of a light grey color. Getting closer to the island you start to realize slowly grasp the reason why. About 60.000 gannets live on Little Skellig from spring to october. It is great fun watching the catching fish and flying in and out while approaching the island. The boat takes you arround the island approaching Skellig Michael from the southeast side offering you the direct view onto the landing spot with the towering ruin of the monestary on top. The steep paths leading up to the old monestary are quite impressive, hard to believe that monks lived on this island for years and decades at a time. Our captain stopped at the landing to deliver some cigarettes and alcohol for the archeologists researching the old lighthouse at the west tip of the island. On our way back we saw some of the last puffins for the season flying by the boat and floating in the water. Before starting the trip, the captain told us the puffins are gone for about a week now, so I guess they must have either forgotten someting or just procrastinated their leave out to the Atlantic ocean where they stay until the next breeding season starting in May next year. Crazy little things with a very distinct fast flapping.

Dingle Peninsula

Another typical Irish mixed weather day. Today we decided to take the kids out to see the local Dolphin in Dingle and have a look at the Aquarium. On the way to Dingle we stopped at Inich beach for some beach driving. You can take the car on the beach and drive along the shore for about 1km. You can also camp there but you won’t be the only one ;). It was quite misty but the local surf school seemed to have a lot of fun nevertheless.

When we arrived in Dingle we realized what a touristy place it is. Very cute shops, not very big but busy busy. We scored one of the last parkings at the marina in front of the Aquarium at arround 11am. Most of the tour boats are leaving arround noon, so I guess arriving before that was a good coincidence. After visiting the Aquarium which we all enjoyed, especially touching the rays at the touch pool, we booked one of the Funghi Dolphin tours with xxxx. This is something I would only do with smaller kids, with bigger kids I would personally book one of the tours going out to Blasket Island and arround for a chance to see dolphins, seals and whales and if in season basking sharks and puffins (the later is only available for the 4h tour). The puffins stay till end July early August and just left for about a week when we were there. Basking shark season is mainly in Spring, so something we missed as well. Our kids thought that the Funghi tour was the best thing we did in Ireland. It was nice as we saw the dolphin for a long time following us next to the boat. Personally I am not a big fan of several tour boats chasing this single dolphin, at least it looked like it. The dolphin seemed to enjoy riding the waves of the boats though and I guess it is ok as he could just dive and take off if he’s got enough of the children screaming his name out loud.

The Slea Head drive from Dingle is quite beautiful especially arround the bay with the Three Sisters in the background (PIC). We only did the lower part of the drive turning back to Dingle as we still wanted to explore the northern part of Dingle as recommended by our hosts. Driving over the Connan pass we realized how nice and sunny the weather was on the other side. The bay and beach driving out to Brandon is absoluteley picturesque. We stopped at a very authentic pub at the pier in Brandon (Murphy’s) where we enjoyed some crab sandwiches on local brownd bread while the kids played just a the little beach below the seating area outside. It is especiall beautiful there in the late afternoon when the sun is low and light glittering on the water. While the southern and western parts of Dingle are super busy, the north offers beautiful quiet long beaches and is more peaceful and authentic. But if you want to eat out in of the lovely restaurants you also need to reserve during the summer season.

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