When the integrated marketing agency I work for offered the chance to work abroad for a month from our Dublin office, I jumped at the opportunity. I have always regretted that I did not elect to study abroad during college, so I was eager to accept this second chance to live in another country, immerse myself in a new routine, and of course, travel around Europe!
One of the places I was most looking forward to exploring was the Irish countryside. Lush, green rolling hills set against striking blue seas and outstanding views everywhere you look …that describes the Emerald Isle! Over an extended weekend, we focused our time on the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, both of which were breathtaking in their own right.
We began our trip from Dublin by heading south to the coastal town of Cobh. With its brightly colored homes and stately church set on a hill, Cobh could not be more picturesque. In typical Irish fashion, the skies went from blue to grey to rainy during the short time we were there. We enjoyed meandering around the hilly streets, before making our way down to a waterfront restaurant for lunch. By the way, the reason that you see so many rainbows in Ireland is because the weather is constantly changing, allowing the perfect sky for a burst of color!
After our quick trip to Cobh, we headed to Blarney with one mission in mind…to kiss the Blarney Stone, of course! I purchased tickets in advance, which made arrival smooth and easy. The grounds around the Blarney Castle are equally as gorgeous as the structure itself; beautiful landscaping, interesting freestanding buildings, and pastures. If you’re like me and are not a fan of heights, kissing the Blarney Stone may prove to be more of a daunting task than you initially thought. In order to reach the actual section of the stone that you need to kiss in order to be bestowed the “gift of gab,” you have to lay on the ground, bend yourself backwards, and then flex the upper half of your body upside down. There are kind gentleman who clean the stone between visitors’ kisses and assist you with getting into this crazy position, but let’s just say, it’s not as easy as it looks if you’re not flexible AND not good with heights!
From Blarney, we headed to Killarney where we stayed one night at the Lake House Inn. I loved venturing into downtown Killarney for dinner! It was such a lively area filled with restaurants, shops, and plenty of pubs with live music and sing-a-longs! We had a traditional meal of fish and chips at The Made Monk followed by a stroll through town to catch the boisterous scene at the local pubs.
For our first adventure in the countryside, we set out to explore the Dingle Peninsula. They often say it’s the journey, not the destination, but with our drive through this area, I’d say it was both!
Slea Head Drive is a scenic loop that takes you along the Dingle Bay through higher elevations and green pastures to sandy beaches that seem like they must perpetually be cloaked in a layer of fog. We stopped at Inca Beach, which is framed by stone walls and uneven steps leading down to the sand.
As we made our way towards Dingle, rolling hills and cows were everywhere we looked! It was exactly what you picture Ireland to look like, but even more beautiful in person.
The stop I was most looking forward to was the Dunquin Pier, a jaw-dropping lookout point that peers over several rock formations in the ocean. The contrast of the turquoise seas against the dark rocks and blue sky (which just happened to emerge as we arrived!) was stunning. This was one spot that definitely did not look like what I pictured for Ireland – it was almost reminiscent of something out of Hawaii! The Dunquin Pier was probably my favorite place we visited along the Dingle Peninsula.
Another favorite vantage point was at Dunmore Head. This was a dramatic cliffside spot set along the ocean with a view of Coumeenoole Beach, which you could hike down to below. Again, the views were unmatched!
Finally, we made it to the colorful town of Dingle! This is cheerful, coastal village filled with plenty of shops and restaurants. We stopped for lunch, got ice cream at the famous Murphy’s, and popped in and out of a few stores before retreating back to the car to head to our next hotel, the Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare.
You can read about the next part of our journey through the Ring of Kerry here