After having spent exciting couple of days in Ballyferriter, we were now headed towards the next destination of our vacation- the Inch village.
We had checked out of our b&b at around 11am and as we did not have to check into our next accommodation until 3pm, we decided to make a mid-way stop to check out the most popular town of Kerry- Dingle.
Dingle is the peninsula’s main hub, in full ebb and flow during the summer months. This Irish village is known for its vibrant character, lively pubs, fantastic restaurants and colorful little craft shops. The village center oozes charm and character and basically represents all that is quintessentially Irish. Locals are warm, friendly and always willing to share a few friendly exchanges. Dingle claims to have more pubs per capita than any town in Ireland. The cozy atmosphere inside these pubs compliments the attentive staff who will engage in a lively conversation for as long as you wish. Fine dining is synonymous with Dingle and the town has top-class restaurants dotted along the main street. One is spoiled for choice and the variety of dishes offered at each restaurant is long and insanely appetizing.
Our cab dropped us in the heart of the Dingle city centre and the first look around this place felt as if someone had splashed a hundred colors from an artist’s palette onto the dull canvas of our day. Sometimes the Irish villages are dull, grey and dreary but not Dingle. Shops and restaurants are painted in every bright color imaginable and the result is an immensely colorful landscape. The quirky and creative architecture, in addition to all these colors, gives the whole place an infectious energetic and lively vibe.
We headed straightaway to the Dingle tourist center to get our bearings and to inquire if our luggage could be stored with them for a few hours.
I must mention that the tourist centers in all the little towns/villages of Kerry are excellent. The friendly lady at the desk told us that we could leave our bags with them and also recommended popular restaurants and coffee-shops where we could grab a bite after we were done with sight-seeing. Thanking her profusely, we made our way out of the center.
First thing that we noticed as turned a corner around the street, was a bronze statue of a dolphin with huge crowds surrounding it.
Dingle’s unofficial town mascot has long been a dolphin named Fungie. He’s the village’s most famous resident and visitors and locals alike can’t get enough of him. Dingle was always popular but Fungi put it through the roof when he first made his appearance in 1984, escorting boats from the harbor. Since then, this friendly chap has entertained every man, woman and child off the coast of Dingle. The squeals of delight of the kids when they see him do his tricks is a warm sight to see. He’s so adored by the townspeople that they built a statue in his honor. He is so reliable that the local tour-booking offices offer clients’ money back if Fungie doesn’t make an appearance during their tour.
After clicking a few pictures with the bronze Fungi, we started exploring the village on our favorite mode of transportation- our own pair of legs. Nothing beats wandering the streets of old-fashioned, picturesque villages on foot to take in the feel of traditional country life. We strolled for around an hour and explored several little craft shops in search of a perfect souvenir to take home. As one can make out from hundreds of sheep seen grazing the hills in Kerry, sheep rearing is a big business in the area and numerous shops sell all sorts of woolen clothing in the Dingle village center. Traditional Irish ‘Aran sweaters’ have a unique style of their own. They are quite pricey but look authentic and very cozy.
Unfortunately, we could not take advantage of eating at one of the famous restaurants of Dingle as it was quite early in the day and we both were still full from the breakfast. At half past noon, we headed back to the tourist center to retrieve our luggage before the office closed for lunchtime. The lady at the desk assisted us again by calling a cab to take us to our b&b in Inch. We had enjoyed our short time in Dingle.
The main reason why we had chosen Inch village as the next pit-stop of our vacation was the fact that it had a magnificent four-mile strand (beach) of firm golden sand at its doorstep. Many state it as the best beach of Europe. Located on the main Killarney to Dingle Road, Inch beach has been a holidaymakers’ favorite for decades. It is particularly crowded by the surfers and is backed by sand dunes which are well known to archaeologists for old habitation sites. We had eagerly waited for the summer to have a beach holiday and I was praying for sunny weather for our next two days in Inch so that we could relax all day long at the beach.
Our b&b was named Foleys and we had selected it after reading rave reviews on tripadvisor. Their website said that its a family run place with a rich history and as it was located within a kilometer from the beach, we jumped at the chance to stay here. It also had its own pub.
We received a warm welcome from the owners (a warm middle-aged couple) and after being allowed to check-in our room a bit early, we both dozed off till late afternoon. In the evening, we went for a walk on the beach and strolled on the shore ,for a long time with the gentle waves playing around our ankles. Water was still pleasant even though it was nearing dusk. Inch beach is clean, safe, sandy and ideal for family outings, sandcastle building, and swimming.
We came back to Foleys and went for an early dinner at their pub. Many pubs host live traditional music sessions in the evenings so that tourists can experience the warm welcome of the Kerry culture and we had our first experience of the joyful Irish musical night at Foleys which we enjoyed immensely. We properly got acquainted with the lovely lady named Fidelus Foley who owned the place and seeked her help to plan our next two days in Inch. It seemed unlikely that the following day would be sunny enough for us to spend on a beach. Thus, we had decided to visit another one of Kerry’s little towns- Killarney for a day trip.
Fidelus informed us that there was a bus service that ran through the Dingle peninsula each morning and we could signal it to a halt right outside our b&b. She introduced us to another lodger, a sweet girl named Melanie who belonged to Germany and who had been staying at Foleys for many days now. She had used the bus service to different locations a number of times in the past week and Fidelus assured us that they would help us wave and stop the bus after breakfast the following morning. We spent a nice evening chatting to them and went up to our room soon after our meal. After preparing our run-sacks and batteries for phones and camera for the next day’s outing, we were dead to the world long before the clock struck ten.
We woke up to a reasonably bright morning the next day and arrived early at the dining room for breakfast where Fidelus was already buzzing cheerfully. She seemed to be the task master responsible for running the b&b and as we found out much later, was also the ‘chef’ everyone kept referring to, responsible for producing lip-smacking delicacies in the pub. We helped ourselves to the generous helpings of the traditional Irish breakfast along with steaming cups of tea. Afterwards, we stepped outside the pub door to await our bus service which was expected to turn up sometime around 10 am. We were relieved when Fidelus and Melanie, as promised, joined us with their morning coffee and we all chatted merrily while waiting for the bus. We befriended the Foleys’ family dog, a shy Dalmatian by the name of Spot and we were an animated group enjoying the morning, laughing and chatting nineteen to a dozen.
As we waited for the bus, Melanie brought to us the map of Killarney which she had kindly marked for us, based on her own visit to the town. She suggested that we rent bikes as that was considered the best way to explore the area and the vast national park. Promptly at ten, we saw a huge grey bus emerging from afar. Immediately, we all began waving vigorously and the driver grinned and signaled to us in return, nodding to indicate that he had seen us. Thanking the helpful duo, we hopped onboard and were soon headed towards our destination.
Killarney is located on the mild South West of Ireland in the County Kerry and it is a hot-spot of activity for tourists seeking to undertake a tour of the famous Ring of Kerry. Exploring the surrounding area could keep you busy for days and Killarney is a place to relax after a rewarding day of sightseeing, to laugh and share stories over the sound of the fiddles and drums while you rest your tired feet. This town too is populated with enthusiastic and welcoming pubs and people. It brims with heritage, activities, and world class hospitality. No matter where you find yourself, you’ll be greeted by a warm welcome.
As always, we headed to the tourist information center on arrival at the town centre and getting the necessary maps and information from there, proceeded to a bike rental shop across the street. At first, I was apprehensive about the idea as it had been ages since I had ridden a bike last but hubby convinced me that this seemed to be our best bet to see the most of this area in a single day. I reluctantly agreed.
To the southwest of the town, lies Killarney national park, a 26,000 acre expanse of rugged, mountainous countryside. It was the first National Park established in Ireland. The extraordinary combination of misty mountains, reflective lakes, whispering woods and raging waterfalls, all under tumultuous changing skies, adds magnificence to the scenic beauty of this natural wonderland.
We had zeroed in on visiting the famous Tork waterfall as hubby wanted to take pictures of the falling water which was something he had been wanting to do for a long time. The motherly lady at the bike shop helped me put on my biking gear and my husband and I chortled on seeing each other decked up like ninja warriors. As I hopped onto my bike and pedaled to the adjoining main road, in that moment itself, I felt glad that we had decided to hire a bike as opposed to walking or hiring cabs. It was a whole new experience. Never had I ever ridden a bike outside India and also, never had I ever ridden a bike as an adult. It was exhilarating!
The routes were well-marked and the ride to the National park was easy and mostly downhill. We both goofed around once we got onto the bikers’ lane away from the traffic and stopped at regular intervals to catch our breath and to take pictures.
I can safely say that the day spent in Killarney was the best day of our vacation. We cycled through the countryside and felt that we had entered a different universe all together. The explicit cycling route, away from the hustle bustle of the busy town, was relaxing, scenic and enjoyable. I rediscovered that cycling is a great therapy for the mind and the body. It was a joy sailing at our own pace through the vast stretches of fields with yellow blooms, old bridges, views of rolling hills of verdant green and lakes with their stunning mirror reflections. It all jointly made for a wildly romantic landscape.
In addition to the breathtaking natural beauty, vintage attractions such as Ross Castle, Muckross House and Dinis Cottage which has operated as a tea-room for over 200 years, attract huge crowds to this town all year round. Killarney is well known for its jaunting car tours of the surrounding lakes and national park and the drivers are supposed to be particularly entertaining and knowledgeable.
While cycling our way to the Tork waterfall, we passed by Muckross Abbey, founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary, and Muckross House and Gardens, a Tudor-style mansion completed in 1843.
The way to the Tork waterfall to the falls is a leafy, mossy one but it is well worth the hike/ride. The scenic paths to this rustic attraction make the journey as enjoyable as the destination itself.We parked our bicycles at the parking and heard the falls before we could see it. When we finally reached the viewpoint, we were transfixed on watching the thick gush of water roaring as it burst its way down the mountainside, pouring into pools and tumbling over giant boulders. The spray was everywhere. The size of the waterfall and its intensity vary according to the weather and it is particularly powerful experience after a hard rain.We spent around an hour at the shore, where hubby set his tripod and took gorgeous shots of the mighty structure while I rested my weary feet.
We were booked on the 4pm bus back to Inch and thus, retreated to the town center after having our hearts’ fill of the splendid sight of the falls. The ride back was as much of an adventure as the ride to the place had been earlier.
After reaching the town centre, we returned the bikes and grabbing a quick bite at the Burger king, sat waiting for the bus while sharing an ice-cream cone. We had been hearing since our arrival that Kerry is famous for it delicious range of ice-creams but this was only the first time we were tasting one. I must say that if its the tastiest ice-cream in the world that you seek, you must travel to kerry. It was soo delicious that still the taste lingers on my tongue. Locals use the milk of Kerry cattle in making creamy coffees as well as ice creams and desserts. I want to go back to Killarney just to eat different flavors of ice-cream all day long.
The bus arrived soon and we were soon on our way back to Foleys. Killarney had been magical. It had been a perfect day!
Weather Gods were being kind to us and the forecast for our last day in Inch showed bright and sunny weather throughout the day. Hubby and I, however, were in a bit of a situation.
My husband was of the opinion that we should spend our last day in Killarney as well, biking and exploring the areas which we had been unable to cover the previous day. I, on the other hand, was refusing to oblige because my legs and bottom were aching due to having cycled for hours the previous day. I reminded hubby that the reason we had chosen Inch in the first place was because of the beach and the weather was finally perfect for a dip in the ocean. I wanted the last day of the vacation to be relaxing, not hectic.
We spent the breakfast arguing about the same and eventually decided to part ways…..for the day. I insisted that he go to Killarney without me. I, on the other hand, would be retreating to the room to write pending notes in my travel journal and later, would head to the beach to soak up the sun. Thus, after breakfast, hubby dearest strapped on his gear and cross-checking with me if I was sure about not accompanying him, set off to catch the bus to Killarney. He decided to walk to the nearby village to do some early morning photography and then would catch the bus from there.
Pouring myself another cup of tea (which in itself was a luxury on a vacation as I didn’t have to ration my liquid intake in order to avoid the pee breaks for the day outs), I chatted easily with Fidelus as she prepared the breakfast tables for other guests. She talked me through the history of Foleys which was plain fascinating!
The pub was built back in the late 1800 and the same family has run it since. It has been in the Foleys’ family for five generations now. John and Fidelus took it over in the year 1989 after they got married. They have been running it for the last 27 years now. They started the b&b only a few years back. Each guest room has been named after a family member of the Foley family ranging right from the first generation which ran the pub, to John and Fidelus’s youngest children- twins girls who are eleven. The film ‘Play boy of the western world’ was filmed in Inch and Fidelus’s late mother-in-law catered to the film crew who hung around in the bar a lot as they enjoyed the company of the locals. Siobhan Mc Kenna and Garry Raymond were the main actors. They have also had a fair share of other famous people visit the bar over the years, Dolly Parton and Billy Connolly amongst them .
“…but what keeps Foleys the old traditional bar that it is” Fidelus said “..is the visitors who come over the years and become such good friends to us as a family “
I sat and chatted with her for a while until other guests started pouring in for their breakfast. As it was a bright sunny morning, I decided to step outside and sit on one of the wooden benches outside the pub to get some morning sunshine and enjoy the peace of the serene country neighborhood. Spot came trotting over to me and sat at my feet with his long tail wagging. I stroked him and wondered how living in such a deserted region, with limited population and facilities away from the city life, must be like.
When you are on holidays and free to explore the roaming countryside in your own good time, stopping off to admire the scenery, walking on the beach, long lazy dinners, it seems like a perfect life. Growing up in the country must be a liberating experience for children, where the freedom and fresh air breaths life into them. People here are closer to nature and their lives are simple. Most inhabitants keep to themselves, help their neighbors when it is required and partake in the activities when they are expected to keep the peace. Social life in the country revolves to a large extent around the local pubs with music at the weekends, quizzes and race nights. Us town and city dwellers are unprepared for the darkness of the depth of night in the country. Each night of our trip, I sat by the window of our room and marveled at how dark the night actually is, when it’s not being pierced by a thousand lights and man-made aversions.
There is one particular moment from this vacation that has strongly remained with me since. Our first morning at Foleys, I got up and pushed the window curtains aside to look at the morning view. I looked down and saw that the Foley family was seated on one of the benches by the road- John, Fidelus and their twin girls. They were waiting for the girls’ school bus and were laughing and squealing in delight, watching Spot chasing after a stray cat across the road. The scene before me was very ordinary…yet it seemed extra-ordinary. They were joking and cuddling and together as one family formed the most incredible sight. I thought that it seemed like a scene right out of an Enid Blyton novels which I used to read as a child. The simple country life and the joys of finding happiness in little things. When was the last time that I had been together with my family outside in fresh air, without our mobiles and i-pads, to just enjoy the most ordinary of all the moments? With all the movies and games and internet at our disposal to keep us entertained all day and all night long, we have lost the art of true living. This scene right below my window was the reason why we city people are nowdays going gaga over the countryside and traveling the world- to get away from the grind our daily life has become. It was never meant to be this complicated.
I returned to my room and began to assemble my beach bag for heading to the beach later. I missed hubby and wished that he had not gone away for the whole day. I sent him a snapshot of the weather app on my phone which showed clear skies and sun throughout the day with a text message saying “Wish you were here“. I jumped with joy when he replied “I am on my way back. Didn’t board the bus“
I was thrilled! We sat in the sun outside the pub for a long time and in the afternoon, put on our swim-suits and headed to the beach. We left the camera and most of the stuff behind in the hotel room to just enjoy quality time with each other without any distractions. The water was perfect and we had a great time splashing around in it for hours. Afterwards, we visited a nearby cafe where we shared a massive sandwich for lunch and chatted with the owner who originally belonged to Pakistan. He was delighted to speak with us in Hindi (we are Indians) and told us that he had been running the eatery in Inch for more than two decades now. He told us that he spent each day making many popular delicacies but loved nothing more than ending his days with a simple meal of ‘Dal and Chawal’ (asian lentil dish with rice) It’s always lovely to meet wonderful people from across the globe during one’s travels.
We spent our last evening at Foleys pub amid cheerful banter with the locals and once again, beautiful live music. There was a group tour which had stopped over for dinner and the atmosphere in the pub was lively and electric. Fidelus teased my husband about the fact that he had not gone to Killarney and had returned to me, making him blush throughout our meal. We were going to miss our time at this lovely place. The best vacation is where you meet the best people, every other factor is secondary.
Farewell next day was an emotional affair. We clicked a lot of pictures with Melanie, Fidelus and our darling Spot. John was driving us to the airport which was a sweet gesture. Facebook requests were exchanged, pictures clicked, promises made and best wishes exchanged when we hugged each other and said goodbye. Some places leave a deep impact on your heart. This humble little b&B in a secluded corner of Ireland had won ours. We were going to miss Foleys and swore to return someday soon.
Kerry is, in every conceivable way, the “Jewel in the Crown” of Ireland’s scenic locations. Its remoteness from the major centres of population has enabled it to preserve a unique way of life that refreshes the mind and relaxes the body. On a sunny day, there is nowhere on earth quite like it. On a wet day, you can’t beat the inviting atmosphere of one of Kerry’s many pubs and cafes. The most important element of any country are its people and we were welcomed with nothing but exceptional hospitality and warmth at every step of our Kerry vacation.
The late legendary journalist Padraig Kennelly once said- “A day out of Kerry is a day wasted”