Dingle – great food, ceol agus craic

Accommodation secured for this year’s Dingle half marathon on 3rd September and I cannot wait, always a great weekend in Dingle. Now all I need to do is start training!

This will be my third year running Dingle, a fantastic race that won ‘Half Marathon of the Year 2015’ in the Running Ireland Race Awards. The views and the spectators are simply the best. The last few miles through Slea Head looking out to the Blasket Islands are particularly beautiful. Tough but beautiful!

Slea Head

The marathon attracts about 2,000 participants, matching the town’s population and there is always a great buzz around the place. Situated on the south west coast of Ireland, it is a food, music and nature-lover’s paradise and is the only town on the stunning Dingle peninsula.

Dingle attracts between 100,000 to 200,000 visitors annually. Its extraordinary beauty has attracted high-profile visitors, such as the Star Wars film crew shooting scenes for the film’s new trilogy. An epic sight along the Dingle peninsula and sure Mark Hamill is more Irish than the Irish themselves at this stage. Capturing the hearts of many with his eloquent description of Ireland as “an endless gallery of incomprehensible beauty.” Also, american actor, Matt LeBlanc drove into Dingle recently in a flashy Rolls-Royce shooting scenes for the BBC’s flagship motor show, Top Gear. Matt and Dingle both looked gorgeous and judging by the viewer response, they were a big hit! #OnlyInIreland

This year, a gang of us are travelling from Dublin and Galway and making a long weekend of it.  Last year, I ran with my friend Helen (and her good friend Claire who lives in the UK) to help raise money for the Renal unit in Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Helen, an amazing mum-of-two, donated one of her kidney’s to her four-year-old son, Hugo.  She ran the race one year after the transplant to mark the end of an incredibly tough journey and to celebrate the success of the surgery. Hugo met us near the finish line to run the final 20 metres, which was really special. The support from everyone was overwhelming and Helen’s strength inspirational. Almost €4k was raised. Amazing.

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Hats off to these two clowns, who ran the full marathon bare foot to raise money for charity.  They ran a good time too!

The first port of call post run is Dick Mack’s for some well-earned beers, my favourite bar in Dingle. It is an authentic, Irish pub and the Best Whiskey Bar in Ireland to boot. There is always a great atmosphere and the staff are super friendly and good craic.

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Tucking into our first drinks…of many
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Random magic tricks in Dick Mack’s after last orders with the lovely barman (right) assisting. Bants and lols, love this pub.

To be fair, there are plenty of great pubs in Dingle, like Foxy John’s, Currans, O’Sullivan’s, O’Flaherty’s, Murphy’s and Kennedy’s Bar.  The South Pole Inn, formerly owned by the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, is on my list to visit this year.

The Marina Inn and John Benny’s Pub are situated opposite the pier in town and are always bustling, especially in the summer. The GAA hurling final is held on the first Sunday in September (the day after the marathon) so we usually try and grab a seat in either to have lunch and watch the match.

Dingle harbour

A weekend in Dingle must also include a boat trip to see Fungie, the town’s beloved bottlenose dolphin! The friendly dolphin is well-known throughout Ireland since 1983 and even has a statue dedicated to him in the town centre.

Conor Pass is also a must-see and is only a ten-minute drive from the town. It is the highest mountain pass in Ireland with breathtaking views…and ice-cream.

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Not sure if I am brave enough to try paragliding over Conor Pass but it looks like good fun. The Dingle Whiskey Distillery  is not far away so perhaps a tasting beforehand would help ease the fear!

Dingle also boasts stunning sunsets and there are so many beautiful places to watch the sun go down. I usually go down to the pier to catch the last of the sun dip behind the mountains. Beautiful.

Dingle sunset

As well as its amazing scenery, sunsets and authentic Irish pubs, Dingle has three of Ireland’s top 100 restaurants listed in John and Sally McKenna’s 2016 annual guide. Having three out of four of the best restaurants in Kerry, Dingle’s accolade as Ireland’s Best Foodie Town 2014 is well-deserved. The three restaurants, Out of the BlueThe Global Village and Idás Restaurant  are well worth a visit. A bit pricey but a real treat. Dingle also has its own Food Festival, which takes place this year from Friday 30th September to Sunday 2nd of October.

As for music, there is usually a trad session happening every night and a couple of late bars such as, An Droichead Beag and the Hillgrove nightclub for the party animals! I think marathon runners get a free pass into the Hillgrove? I remember dancing and I remember sore legs, so sore that it was almost impossible to walk down any steps/staircase. Note to self…stretch properly after marathon!

The ultimate music experience in Dingle is the annual Other Voices Festival. A special three-day music event held in December that involves filming of live performances of both Irish and international bands in intimate settings, such as a 200-year old church called St. James. The filming is produced for an Irish national television series that broadcasts in January. This year the festival takes place on 2nd, 3rd and 4th December. Tickets are like gold dust as they are not for sale. Given that it is a television production rather than a music festival people are not asked to pay for tickets, instead they are given away through competitions on Facebook, Twitter and radio stations etc. I have been unlucky trying to get tickets in the past. This year I am keeping everything crossed! #TicketFairy

Dingle, you have stolen a piece of my heart forever!

Always love to hear suggestions for things to do and see in this beautiful town…

 

 

 

 

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Day trip in Killarney, Gap of Dunloe

Voted one of the top 10 holiday destinations is the world by Trivago, based on reviews of the town’s hotels, Killarney is possibly my favourite place in Ireland. Located in Co Kerry, one of the most scenic counties in Ireland, there is so much beauty to see in Killarney. Also known and referred to by locals as ‘The Kingdom’, Kerry is definitely a must see.

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When I worked as a PR manager, my vacations were precious and Killarney was always my No.1 destination for the Easter holidays – five glorious days of relaxation in paradise!

With Easter approaching at the end of March, it reminded me of my trip last year. The weather was amazing (it doesn’t always rain in Ireland!). I went with three friends and we stayed in the Park Place Apartments. Modern, clean and great value, these self-catering apartments were perfectly located beside the town but not too close, so we weren’t disturbed by noise at night. Car parking is available too. There’s also a lovely authentic French bakery called Petit Delice just around the corning, serving great coffee and pastries to set you up in the mornings!

We planned trips for each day, my favourite being the boat trip through the three lakes of Killarney followed by a hike through the Gap of Dunloe, finishing with a pint of Guinness at Kate Kearney’s cottage. Bliss! (This is a must do when staying in Killarney).

We booked the 11am boat trip departing from the pier at Ross Castle (10 min drive from our accommodation) so we decided to book a tour of the Castle an hour beforehand to make the most of our day. About 50 mins long, the tour of this beautiful Castle was a perfect start to the day.

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Pic of Ross Castle by my friend Jen Stafford

From the Castle it was only a two-minute walk to the pier. Because we had booked in advance, we just had to give our names, pay and board the boat. Complementing the Castle tour, the skipper shared his excellent knowledge about the history and vegetation of the area as we made our way through the three beautiful lakes to Lord Brandon’s cottage. The boat trip was about an hour or so long and although it was a fine Spring day, it was chilly on the boat – wrap up warm!

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We grabbed a coffee at Lord Brandon’s cottage before we set off on our hike. We opted to walk rather than cycle or take a jaunting car. I cycled a couple of years ago but the struggle uphill was real. I wanted to take in the amazing scenery without the hassle of pushing a bike. The beauty of this walk has to be seen to be believed. Myself and my friend Lisa took it easy while the other two led the way but we caught up with them towards the end. It’s hard to describe the beauty in words so I tried to capture it from my iPhone camera as best possible…

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After two and half hours of meandering through the Gap of Dunloe we reached our final destination, Kate Kearney’s cottage. A well-earned Guinness was enjoyed by all except by our designated driver!

We organised a taxi to bring us to Ross Castle to collect our car, which was about a 20-minute drive away. We made it back to the apartment with plenty of time to rest up and change for an amazing dinner at Treyvauds Restaurant. After dinner we stumbled upon live music in one of the bars on our way home so we dropped in for a night cap and a few songs…sure it would be rude not to!

#LoveKillarney