There's only one word to describe the Dingle panorama: Awesome
A view of the Blasket Islands from Slea Head
ON THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY: Off Slea Head, the Blasket Islands lie calm, sleeping as they always have on the edge of our world
“THIS IS better than Disney World,” said Anne Simmons – and she should know. She’s usually in Orlando, Florida, where she lives.
Today though, she is sitting on a low wall by the road at Slea Head at the very end of the Dingle peninsula and she’s simply knocked out by the view.
The word “awesome” crops up once or twice.
“Every corner we go around,” says her friend Carolyn Brewer from Garner in North Carolina, “we say it can’t get any better but you know, it just does. Awesome.”
“This is better than shopping,” quips Anne.
The sun is shining again, the sea calm and turning that magical turquoise as it nears the beaches.
The fuchsia is out and the hedgerows are filled also with woodbine (honeysuckle) in flower.
The day began well. The Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville rescued me from the rain on Thursday evening. I arrived a drowned rat and left rested, well-fed and dry, thanks in no small part to their baking hot drying room and welcoming fire in the reception.
The Butler Arms has the best spot in Waterville – essentially bang on the beach. It looks directly out into the Atlantic from whence cometh those downpours.
“We’re the only town on the whole Ring [of Kerry] where you can get out of your car and walk straight on to the beach,” says manager Louise Huggard, whose family has owned and run the place since it opened its doors in 1916.
She hadn’t heard of Fáilte Ireland’s idea of the Wild Atlantic Way but thinks it’s great – especially if it lures tourists away from the high-impact destinations such as Killarney and its big hotels.
The N70 Ring road towards Killorglin offers some seriously beautiful scenery – views across Dingle Bay and off west, out to the Blaskets.
The Macgillycuddy Reeks tower on my right, dark and powerful looking; across the bay, the Slieve Mish Mountains answer back.
Turning left at Castlemaine and on towards Dingle, the R561 hugs a narrow coastal plain, farmed for all its worth. The tide is low and the sea smells waft through the air – pungent but refreshing.
Inch, that massive finger of sand sticking incongruously into the bay at right angles to the land, is a heaven for surfers.
There’s a bit of a buzz in Dingle; it’s not swamped with tourists but there are enough visitors around to make the town hum.
When I was last here, maybe 20 years ago, it was still fairly sleepy. Now it has roundabouts, a one- way traffic system and the sort of visitor dependency I associate with villages in south Devon in England, such as Salcombe.