A small two lane main street adorned with colored cottages and grey stoned square buildings greeted us when we arrived in Dingle. The downtown area had approximately a dozen restaurants and perhaps half as many shops. Some were devoted to run of the mill souveniers, others sold locally sourced Irish wool sweaters and garb. Kayaks, fishing trawlers, and sailboats swept in and out of the blue, shallow marina. We felt at home for a few days.
As we stepped into our Airbnb, an actual bed and breakfast, we were greeted by a small wiry Yorkshire Terrier, Bella, and a German Shepherd mix, Dean. Each morning and afternoon we looked forward to belly rubs and back scratches with them. Our host, Margaret, sent them up to our room each morning 15 minutes prior to breakfast time to alert us. We thought perhaps it was coincidence, but after several days, it was evident they were the reminder. Margaret was an older woman who lived alone and was quite the character. She had an avid love for Elvis and travel. Each morning we were treated to some Irish folk music in the CD player and her amazing Irish breakfasts. With our bellies full, we were well prepared for each day.
Hannah and I rented bicycles from a local shop. They were definitely heavier than our road bikes back in Houston, but comfortable and what we needed. The Slea Head road route is 34 miles, or about 54 kilometers. We grabbed the bikes around 11am and set off. Almost immediately we were beset on by a fine spitting mist, and a heavy fog cover infiltrated the mountains. For the remainder of the day, the weather alternated between skin searing sun rays and bone chilling rain. Aside from the rushing sound of wind, the occasional bleat of a sheep punctuated the quiet crunch of our bike tires revolving on the roads.
Never ending green pastures were parceled off by old rock walls. Bends in the road brought much of the same for the first hour or so of the ride. Eventually we climbed toward the dark blue coastal waters. The blue water contrasted beautifully with the lush greenery and steep jagged rock cliffs. Shortly after, we stopped in Murreagh at Ballinrannig Beach. After a few minutes of enjoying the sun and sand, it began to rain. We took shelter in a small pub named Tigh T.P. A nice red Irish ale warmed us up and strengthened us to continue on.
Further stops included a secluded beach, Clogher Strand, encapsulated by tall craggy cliff faces. Grassy fields dotted with white sheep adorned the top. The views were incredible. We took in the sun and read a few pages of our books before hopping back in the saddle for the remainder of the ride. Shortly after this beach, we encountered narrow one way roads as we neared the pinnacles of the hills. Small turnoff points allowed vehicles to stop for views or allow passage.
The total elevation of the ride was about 1800 feet. Looking back through our rides on Strava (a mileage tracking app), it was one of the steepest we had undertaken. The alternating sun and misty rains made for never a dull moment along the ride. At our final 3 miles or so, we walked our heavy bikes up a steep grade and made conversation with a kind older local woman walking her dog, Mocha. After exchanging pleasantries, she even offered to get us water from her home. While we enjoyed the conversation and likely would have taken her up on the offer, we were nearing the time limit on the bicycle rentals and needed to speed up our return. We spent the remainder of the evening with a few cold Irish beers and delicious food.
Dingle was a special place during our time in Ireland. I would 100% recommend visiting or going back if you enjoy the small-town atmosphere. The locals proved kind and willing to chat at any time and seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with travelers. Many evenings and mornings were spent recounting favorite trips with Margaret while playing with her sweet dogs, Bella and Dean. We were sad to go, but ready for the next city and next adventure.