Ireland By Foot

Hiking the 95-mile Dingle Way reveals the true Emerald Isle
By Melissa DeVaughn
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The sun had cast its last shadow along the stone ruins of an ancient church by the trail when my husband and I reached the sparsely populated village of Camp. To call Camp a village is a stretch by any means—a few cottages hidden behind refrigerator-size hedges, one store, a restaurant, a pub, a church, and what looked like a bed-and-breakfast were all that we saw.

But we were pleased. To our right was Tralee Bay, heading toward the Atlantic. To our left, were the Slieve Mish Mountains, hills really, by our Alaska standards, but beautiful all the same, dotted with sheep and crisscrossed by meandering stone walls.

It felt Irish. It looked Irish. And as the first village we encountered along the Dingle Way, it seemed a perfect place to stop for the evening.

We were wet from miles of hiking in on-again, off-again rain and exhausted from scrambling over rocky hillside terrain.

Yet, at the same time, we were exhilarated. This was our newlywed gift to ourselves—a weeklong hike along the 95-mile Dingle Way, a scenic footpath skirting Ireland's southwest coastline in County Kerry.

The trail, or "boreen" as it is called by the Irish, offered us a peek at an Ireland that we never could have seen by car, or even bicycle. It allowed us to stroll barefoot along empty beaches, rest on soft, grassy fields, and walk among flocks of sheep grazing on the lush, green hillsides.

Rather than politely waving at passersby from within the safe confines of a rental car, we were able to stop and chat for a while. By walking, we didn't see all of the Emerald Isle, rather we slowed down and savored a small but spectacular part of it.

Melissa DeVaughn is a free-lance writer and editor living in Eagle River, Alaska. She is author of Alaska Off the Beaten Path (Globe Pequot Press).

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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