Slea Head Drive | Day 11 / 88
“After a long night sleep and some much-needed rest, I set out from Killarney on the road to Dingle. I made a quick stop at Ross Castle and enjoyed the sites. People say I will get tired of all the castles eventually, as they are more than plentiful, but I haven’t yet. Compared to yesterday, the sun is shining, and the drive has been more country than highway. Its beautiful, the Ireland I was waiting for.”
Side note: quotes from my travel journal are “included and written verbatim” .
If you read about the road trips you can take in Ireland, you’ll most certainly hear about The Ring of Kerry. It is a loop around the south western part of the Island and provides stunning views of cliffs along the water and rolling green hills. I heard the drive could be upwards of 6 hours and can be packed with tourist busses and cars. At my last hostel I asked the locals their recommendations and whether that drive was worth it. What I learned was that Slea Head Drive was the way to go instead.
I was on my way to Dingle anyway and Slea Head Road was on the Dingle Peninsula, so it worked out well! There are three peninsulas that jet off this side of Ireland and I opted to take a smaller less crowded route. I was not disappointed.
“The drive through Ireland has been full of rolling hills, lots of cows, and so many shades of green I can’t count them all. The roads are very narrow, and I am surprising myself on how well I am navigating them from the left side of the car.”
The Slea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe) is a circular route, forming part of the Wild Atlantic Way, beginning and ending in Dingle. It takes in many attractions and stunning views on the western end of the peninsula. To properly enjoy the drive, a half-day should be set aside for the journey.
On the 3-hour drive around Slea Head Road there were few houses or attractions which I loved, it was all about the raw beauty. I stopped at a sign that said “Come visit the fort, standing since 500BC”. It was a pile of rocks that they wanted 3 euro to visit so I admired from afar. It’s amazing how long these places have stood. How many people have walked the same path I was on and how many people have seen the same view I was admiring.
“The drive did not leave much wanting. The roads are very narrow, enough room for one car at a time, luckily most cars were going in same direction. Second only to US1s coastal drive in California, the views around every bend were emotion evoking and breathtaking. Mountains gave way to seaside cliffs, and stone walls marked the end and beginning of new land. Flowers and grass grew around stone forts and the Blasket Islands can be seen out in the distance over the water.”
At one point on the drive I was at the most western spot in all the UK/ Europe, Dún Mór Head on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry. This spot was famous for couples eloping and notorious for holding special ceremonies. It was also named one of the most beautiful places to visit by National Geographic.
Dingle was my favorite spot in all of Ireland. It was not fancy, busy, or pretentious. It did not have tourist attractions or museums, it was just Dingle. The small fishing village on the Dingle Peninsula was covered in brightly colored homes, the bay had fishing boats tied up waiting for tomorrows haul, and the locals sat at tiny tables outside pubs visiting with friends.
Fresh fish and chips are sold on the street with signs announcing the fish was caught that morning. The town was small but with the evening light shining over the water illuminating the green hills in the distance, Dingle felt like a home I never knew I belonged to. I arrived early afternoon after spending all morning in the car and I went in search of the Hostel for a change and a shower. In true Catherine fashion, I walked in a couple circles before I found the spot I was to spend the night.
The Hide Out Hostel is centrally located and has very nice facilities. When I walked into the room I met Kelly. Kelly is from Colorado and was on a 11-day trip all around Ireland. It was her first solo trip and to say we hit it off would be understatement. Her trip, like mine, had been one of discovery, self-reflection, and a need. The need to push boundaries, the need to learn about one’s self, the need to meet others who are not like you and learn from and about them. I discovered that everyone travels for different reasons but we all are searching for something to leave us better off then when we came.
I asked Kelly if she wanted to grab some dinner and walk around and we set out to explore Dingle. We shared the freshest fish and chips I have ever had “caught this morning and fried to order” from a tiny stand on a side street. We sat on a bench by the marina eating, feeding the seagulls fries, and getting to know one another. Lunch turned into a pint at a local pub where we encountered a couple who had just eloped, just the two of them, on Dún Mór Head. They were eating wedding cake and the locals in the pub, who did not know the couple, were buying shots of whisky in congratulations. Pints eventually turned into dinner at another pub that came highly recommended by locals.
A stroll around town turned into 10 hours of talking about love, family, traveling, and the need we both felt to get out of our normal routine and do something for ourselves, and only ourselves. Being selfish is looked down upon and I try and lead a selfless life as much as I can. However, this trip wasn’t about anyone else, and Kelly understood that (pictured below).
At dinner I had a delicious heavy and creamy fish stew. After we went next door to a pub for one last drink. There was a young girl, maybe 16-year-old, playing an accordion being accompanied by what we believed to be her father, or uncle, on the guitar. Even now writing this I can feel that feeling in my heart that I felt hearing the two of them play. The most beautiful, harmonic, almost ethereal sound was being played by two people who were themselves overwhelmed by the music and I was in heaven. One afternoon in Dingle and I now have the warmest memories of my time there to remember it by.
Galway and the Cliffs of Moher | Day 12/88
Kelly was heading south, and I was heading north the next morning. This seemed to be the pattern on the road in Ireland. Most people I encountered where on their own road trip and many passed in the night traveling in opposite directions. I was heading to my last stop, Galway, and wanted to stop at the cliffs of Moher on the way. Another hostel mate of mine was also traveling North and did not have a car. I offered her a ride for companionship on the long 6-hour drive and saved her from the bus.
“We left Dingle at about 9:15am and pulled into Galway at around 6pm. The drive was 7 hours long with stops along the way.” The path we were going to take was up the coast to a ferry crossing, and then continue to the Cliffs. “Beautiful scenery but even narrower roads. Mountains, rivers, and green countryside accompanied our trip north while I white knuckling it the whole way”. There are tons of cute towns along the way, I would have loved more time to explore (Listowel, Tralee, Kilkeem Doolin).
When we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, it was so much more than I could have imagined. “They almost look fake”. Its hard to explain the grandeur of the cliffs and if you have visited them before, I’m sure you know! They were so much larger than I imagined. I remember thinking that the people walking along the edge in the distance looked more like tiny ants than people. There was a cliff walk that allowed you to walk, at your own risk, along the sides of the cliffs and enjoy them from all angles.
At one side there is a small two-story castle that you can use for reference. In the below picture, it looks like a wisp of a thing but is 20 feet tall! Look for the people along the edge, see how small! I didn’t dare get too close to the edge as I valued my life, but I did look over to enjoy the waves crashing at the boulders below and the sheer magnitude of the view (picture below, see if you can pick out the people standing on top).
We pulled into Galway and I went my separate way from my travel companion. I dropped my bags and went in search of a Claddagh ring. I saved buying one until the last day as they originated in Galway and I wanted one from their birthplace. Once I had my new ring (signifying LOVE, FAMILY, and LOYALTY) on my finger, I went for dinner at Quays (pronounced Keys) Pub and was serenaded by an Irish band singing ballads and pop songs alike. That is where I wrote most of these journal entries.
“I have been more emotional today than I expected. Ireland had been so amazing, and I am sad I didn’t give it more time to fully do it justice, even after 5 days. Ireland deserves more of me and I’ll be sure to come back and do just that. I don’t know if it’s the splendor of Ireland or the point I am hitting in my trip, but I have #allthefeels tonight as I look back at the past 12 days, the adventures and the people, and the days to come.”
Be sure to check out all the posts about Europe and recipes here!
While in the eastern part of Ireland I had plenty of fish. This always seemed appropriate as the places I visited were on the coast and you can see the fishing boats in the harbor, a sign of a fresh catch.
When I was in Dingle, I had a fish stew that was to die for. The weather was turning colder as the night went on and a hot bowl of thick and creamy stew was just the solution. The stew had carrots, potato’s, and a mixture of fish drowned in a creamy sauce that stuck to my ribs.
As summer time is now upon us and the weather turning hot, I wanted to make a fish stew, almost like a soup, that would contain all the flavors of the sea but is lighter and easier to make! This recipe combines fresh thyme, garlic and parsley with white wine, tomato’s, and an assortment of fish (I used clams, cod, and orange roughie).
Perfect for a summer time dinner. While the thunderstorms are rolling on outside, you’ll be nice and cozy inside.
Tomato Thyme Fish Stew
A lighter take on an Irish fish stew is made with a tomato base and herbs, cooked until the fish is soft and flakey.
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 14-ounce can of whole or crushed tomatoes with their juices
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste (optional)
- 4 oz of canned clams in juice (separate the juice and the clams)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (like Sauvignon blanc)
- 1 1/2 lb fish fillets (use a firm white fish such as halibut, cod, red snapper, or sea bass), cut into 2-inch pieces
- Pinch of dry oregano
- 1 tsp Fresh Thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 4 minutes, add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add parsley and stir 2 minutes. Add tomato and tomato paste, and gently cook for 10 minutes or so.
- Add clam juice, dry white wine, and fish. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the fish is cooked through and easily flakes apart, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add in the clams right at the end to warm through with the thyme
- Salt to taste and ladle into bowls to serve.
Great served with crusty bread for dipping in the fish stew broth.
On to Amsterdam and Western Europe NEXT! Stay Tuned
“I am currently stopped at the Stonehouse Restaurant letting my camera battery charge behind the bar and catching up on journaling, I knew the first days of the trip would be a lot while I got my “travel legs” but I’ll have to pace myself and enjoy the moments, not the what-to-do list.”