24 Hours On The Dingle Peninsula
Turn your watch back to Kerry time - life is enjoyed at a peaceful pace on Europe's most westerly point
Sunday 14 May 2006
Breakfast with a view of the bay
07.30: It's likely you're awake if you're travelling with children. But even if you're not, it's worth getting up early to catch the morning sun on the calm waters of the inlet upon which Dingle is set. The four-star Dingle Skellig Hotel (00 353 66 915 0200) offers rooms from €92 (£63) per night and is just a five-minute walk from the town. Tuck into a generous breakfast in a dining room that overlooks the bay. The short stroll into town will make you feel marginally less guilty for having that extra wedge of potato bread.
Go slow and use the Kerry clock
09.00: Dingle, Europe's most westerly town, is a beguiling, brightly coloured place that runs on "Kerry time". So the pace of life is calm and unhurried, although Dingle retains a sizeable working fishing fleet. Amble slowly around the quays and pop into the tourist office on the waterfront, then pay a visit to Dingle Oceanworld (00 353 66 915 2111, dingle-oceanworld.ie). Recently refurbished, here you can see all manner of fish, and digest nuggets of information such as the fact that flat fish are not born flat. Oceanworld this year celebrates its 10th anniversary and has a walk-through tunnel, a touch pool, a shark tank and an Amazon display featuring deadly piranha, poisonous frogs and catfish. Oceanworld is open daily and costs €10.50 per adult, €6.25 per child.
Have some fun with Fungie
11.00: All that marine life will inspire a boat trip in search of Fungie the dolphin, which first appeared in Dingle Bay in 1984. Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, had noticed a lone dolphin escorting the town's fishing boats to and from the harbour. Soon after, the dolphin was recorded as a permanent resident of the entrance channel. Fungie is a fully grown, possibly middle- aged, male bottlenose dolphin. He weighs in at around one-quarter tonne (500lb), measures in the region of four metres (13 feet), and usually shows up during the one-hour Fungie-spotting trips run from the marina. If he doesn't, the trip is free. Call the Dingle Boatmen's Association (00 353 66 915 2626).
Dine out at Doyles
13.00: Time for lunch and there's really only one choice, Doyles (00 353 66 91 51174; doylesofdingle.com). First opened in 1790 as a shop and pub, the restaurant now produces some of the freshest and tastiest seafood around. Try the lobster, a house speciality, or freshly landed catch of the day. If you want to stray from the sea, there's also Kerry lamb and Guinness stew.
Europe's most westerly spot
14.30: Time for the Slea Head Drive. This wends its way along the coast offering some of the best views on the Dingle Peninsula. The Slea Head area is dotted with ancient beehive huts, inscribed stones, ring forts and church sites, and the sense of wonder is heightened by the Blasket Islands, lying due south-west from Slea Head. These, the most westerly islands in Europe, were inhabited as far back as the Iron Age and can be reached either by ferry from Dingle Town or from Dunquin. Book through the Dingle Marina Centre (00 353 66 915 2422). There are good walks and a healthy sense of isolation, but if you haven't the energy for the ferry trip, Dunquin itself is well worth a visit. This scattered village is home to the Blasket Centre, which celebrates the lost lifestyle of the Blasket islanders as well as Irish language (spoken widely in this area) and culture.
Where Clinton bought pots
16.30: From Dunquin it's a short hop north to Clogher, a tiny settlement that houses the Louis Mulcahy Pottery (00 353 915 6229). Widely regarded as Ireland's foremost potter, Mulcahy's work has been acquired by luminaries such as Bill Clinton and the Pope. Within a few miles there is the haunting Riasc Monastic Settlement, which dates from the 5th century, and the impressive Gallarus Oratory.
A glimpse of the Antarctic
19.00: Before the sun sets there is a choice of two equally compelling options. You can drive back to Dingle and up to the summit of the Connor Pass, from where there are spectacular views over the Atlantic and of Ireland's second-highest mountain, Mt Brandon. Or you could make a pilgrimage to Annascaul, birthplace of the great Antarctic explorer Tom Crean (1877-1938). Crean was a key member of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance crew, but after many Antarctic expeditions returned to live a quiet life in Annascaul. He opened the South Pole Inn there, which is full of fascinating Shackleton and Crean memorabilia - and as good a place to wind down as any.
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