Ireland By Foot

Irish Hiking Explained
By Melissa DeVaughn

Ireland is crisscrossed with footpaths that will take you through hamlets such as Camp. We chose the Dingle Way for two reasons: It offers scenic seashore hiking, and it seems less tourist-laden than Ireland's more popular trails, such as the Kerry Way, the country's longest way-marked trail at 134 miles. Most of the trails are well-marked with concrete posts bearing a painted yellow hiker symbol.

No matter where you walk, you're practically guaranteed a double-treat—great hiking by day and, if you choose, relaxed, entertaining evenings in the villages by night.

Along the Dingle Way you'll eventually reach the town of—you guessed it—Dingle. In this bustling waterfront community of more than 20 restaurants, a pub on every corner, and plenty of bed-and-breakfast or camping opportunities, be sure to make some time to visit the local tourist attraction, Fungie the dolphin. Boat tours operate daily, traveling out to the bay where the half-tame Fungie is virtually guaranteed to play, diving alongside the boat to passengers' delight.

Some of the best hiking along the Dingle Way is to be had between Dingle and the scattered village of Dunquin. This 13.5-mile section takes you first along country roads, over green pastures, then down to the beaches of a small seaside resort called Ventry. For more than a mile, you can flirt barefoot along the water's edge, all the while looking at the climbing that awaits ahead, as the trail skirts along Mount Eagle.

The trail follows country roads, old stone walls, and even slips between rows of giant hedges as if it were traveling along a tunnel. We walked past miles of open pastures, encountering sheep by the hundreds, and hiked among shaded trees in silence. We passed by farmhouses, cottages, and empty barns. We walked by lazy cows and grazing horses. And once, we rounded a bend in the trail to see the ruins of an ancient castle far in the distance.

On the flanks of Mount Eagle the view opens up to the picturesque Blasket Islands, rugged, rock-sloped chunks of land jutting out from the mainland. In Dunquin, the locals take obvious pride in the beauty of their region, touting it as the setting of many films, including the Cruise/Kidman weepy, Far and Away.

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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