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This could be paradise – the joys of walking in County Kerry

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This past weekend a group of five of us traveled southwest of Galway to the town of Dingle for its annual Walking Festival. We set off on Friday afternoon with a walk to the bus station in the rain (gotta love Galway.).

This was the first time I was going to be traveling via bus (that hadn’t been chartered), so I should have anticipated the adventure that was to follow. First, after arriving at the bus station, we were notified that Bus Éireann (the company we were taking) actually had its own terminal around the block. We hustled over and made it in plenty of time. The same could not be said of our first connection, unfortunately. There was an unusual amount of traffic leaving Galway and therefore we were stuck in Limerick for an extra two hours. We got lunch in a cute pub to kill some time and ended up meeting an, um, interesting man. Part two of our bus ride brought us to Tralee and then after a quick switch we were finally on the road towards Dingle.

Our hostel, the Dingle Gate Hostel, was actually about a 20 minute drive east of Dingle. The bus dropped us off right in front and we were soon greeted by the manager, Brian. We were originally supposed to have seven people in our group, but since we were down to five Brian graciously upgraded us to an en-suite, six-person room. Being that this was my first stay in a hostel I was a little nervous, but I was very pleasantly surprised. We basically had the place to ourselves for two days and breakfast was even included.

We woke up to the sun shining on Saturday morning. Brian drove us into Dingle, and along the way we saw a rainbow-a sure sign that it was going to be a wonderful day. Amanda and I were the only ones doing the hike, so we went off to register at Danno’s while the other girls began to venture around the town.

We decided to do the easy hike and it was just that-a leisurely stroll up a hill through a charming neighborhood before eventually going off into the wilderness. Aside from the very muddy path and some of the most intense winds I’ve ever experienced, it was absolutely beautiful. Luckily the weather cooperated with us and the sun stayed out for the vast majority of the day (first time that’s happened since I’ve been in Ireland I think.). When we made it to the highest point we were going to be climbing to that day we were able to see to both ends of the peninsula (north and south). The landscape changed slightly depending on which way you were facing, and it was all absolutely incredible. I think I said “This is so pretty” roughly eighty times during the hike, and I meant it every time.

After our hike (about three hours total) we got some ice cream (cinnamon and dark chocolate-delicious) and decided to explore the town. We followed a self-guided historical walking tour in Rick Steves’ book from the harbor and all around Dingle. It was really interesting because we were able to see some off-the-beaten-path things that normally wouldn’t catch a tourists’ eye. Thanks Rick. It didn’t take too long to cover the entire town as it’s probably closer to a village in size. Our three other group members, Anna, Kate, and Brianna, had finished their boat tour to see Fungie, the Dingle dolphin, by then so we met back up with them for some food. After dinner we did a mini pub-crawl (only two places) and got to see some great traditional music. While there I ordered my first Hot Toddy in Ireland. It was pretty good but could have used more cinnamon. After we’d had our share of fun and drinks we caught a cab back to the hostel.

When we were dropped off we noticed how incredibly starry the sky was. It’s been so long since I’ve spent the night in a place so remote that it was quite the sight to behold. After looking up for only a few seconds I even saw a shooting star. So corny I know, but cool, nonetheless.

On Sunday morning we had some time to spare before the bus was scheduled to pick us up. I really wanted to wander into the countryside surrounding the hostel because it was so beautiful. Brian instructed us to take a country road that would lead us to up a hill overlooking the bay. Sounded perfect. We set out in the direction I thought he had described…wrong. Pretty soon we were wandering through some farmer’s property and waiting for a crazed Irishman to coming chasing after us with a shotgun. So I didn’t get to do the countryside exploring I had wanted, but I did get to see (and smell) about 20 cows really close up.

We successfully flagged down the bus back to Tralee, I’m sure looking like a bunch of awful hitchhikers in the process. The ride from the hostel to Tralee was probably the most gorgeous bus ride I’ve been on in my life. It had been pitch black out when we were traveling through the same areas on Friday, so we had missed the amazing scenery. On one side were mountains, while the other side was the coast line. Again, it definitely helped that the sun was shining. Since we had a long connection time in Tralee we were able to grab lunch at a pub and walk over to the city park before having to head back to Limerick. That ride was almost as pretty as its predecessor. Overall, the traveling on Sunday was much less stressful than Friday, and we made it home safe and sound in time for dinner.

Thanks to the amazing weather and great group of friends the trip to Dingle was quite the success. I had a wonderful time and can’t wait to explore more areas of the Emerald Isle.

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