Dingle

Leaving the Cliffs of Moher, our destination was the Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost part of Ireland and all of Europe. Rather than stay in the large town of Tralee, considered the start of the peninsula, we continued on to Dingle and found wonderful accommodation at Benner’s Hotel. I will always remember the delicious meal we had, the best duck breast I have eaten before or since.

1.Benner's Hotel

Next morning, after a short stroll around the narrow streets lined with colour,

6.Dingle7.Dingle

we set off to discover the peninsula. Slea Head Drive is a 47 kilometre loop, starting and ending at Dingle, that takes you right to the western edge of the country. The road is very narrow with occasional passing points and so, is driven in a clockwise direction. The scenery was spectacular from the outset.

8.Slea Head Drive

Our first stop was Dunbeg Fort, the ruins of the dry-stone structure, built around 800 BC, hang precariously onto the sheer cliff.

9.Dunbeg Fort10.Dunbeg Fort11.Dunbeg Fort

Used until the 11th century, the expansive views of Dingle Bay would have given plenty of warning of invasion. The rocky coastline looked very substantial

12.Dunbeg Fort

but much of the area consists of earth rather than rock. During fierce storms in January 2018, parts of the fort tumbled into the sea and it has been closed to the public ever since.

13.Dunbeg Fort

Near the fort there is a group of clocháns, fascinating beehive huts built from stone without mortar to create the ‘beehive’ appearance. Thought to date back to the 11th century, these huts were once family homes.

16.Clochain14.Clochain15.Clochain

The view from Slea Head lookout was breathtaking, although the mist obscured anything beyond Dunmore Head, the westernmost part of the peninsula.

17.Dunmore Head from Slea Head18.Slea Head

The loop road took us to a most fascinating place, Gallarus Oratory.

19.Gallarus Oratory

The 8th century Christian church is amazingly well preserved, the dry-stone walls having repelled the elements for over a thousand years.

Inside, the solidity of the walls becomes apparent around the only window, directly opposite the entrance.

22.Gallarus Oratory

Outside, there is a stone column, carved with a Celtic cross and an inscription in an old Latin script used between the 5th and 10th centuries.

23.Gallarus Oratory

There was such a feeling of peace around us, I imagine it would be quite different with a coach load or two of tourists in the warmer weather.

Mount Brandon seemed to dissolve into the clouds as we meandered our way back to Dingle. The second tallest mountain in Ireland takes its name from St. Brendan the Navigator who, according to legend, spent forty days on the mountain preparing for his voyage in search of the Garden of Eden in the 6th century.

26.Mount Brandon

It’s easy to see how Johnny Cash was inspired to write Forty Shades of Green on his visit to Ireland in 1959.

27.Dingle Peninsula28.Dingle Peninsula29.Dingle Peninsula

 

The Burren

Much as we would like to have stayed in Galway a few more days, our time in Ireland was limited and there was so much more to see. Driving southward, we were once again surrounded by enchanting scenery. Scattered farmhouses wrapped in green, stone-framed pastures overlooked peaceful waters.

1.burren road2.burren road

Just outside Ballyvaughan we encountered Irish gridlock and spent some time chatting to the farmer. We will never forget his name, it was Michael Cannon.

The landscape changed the further we drove into the region known as The Burren.

6.ruins, the burren

The great expanse of limestone karst covers around 160 square kilometres in County Clare, the rock has been dated back to the Carboniferous period, around 350 million years ago.

7.the burren

The water soluble limestone has eroded over the years and formed the channels, known as ‘grikes’ and blocks, known as ‘clints’. It’s hard to believe that when people first inhabited this area 5,000 years ago it was a lush forest. Clearing the land for farming, along with time, grazing and erosion all contributed to the appearance of The Burren.

8.limestone karst, doolin9.limestone karst, doolin

We were too late to see the array of wildflowers that bloom among the rocks in spring but there was evidence of life in unexpected places.

10.fern in limestone karst

We strolled around the quaint coastal village of Doolin with breathtaking views from the harbour.

11.doolin harbour12.doolin

Once part of the mainland, Crab Island is a renowned surfing location, though not today. The building is the remains of an 1830s constabulary outpost.

13.crab island

Further across the water, the Aran Islands are just visible. The group of three islands sit at the mouth of Galway Bay and can be reached by ferry from Doolin.

14.aran islands

There is a path along the cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, about an 8km walk with green fields on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other.

15.doolin cliff walk

Not to mention spectacular scenery along the way.

16.cliffs, doolin

The Cliffs of Moher, on the southwestern edge of The Burren, are 14km of vertical cliffs rising to a height of 214 metres at the highest point. O’Briens Tower stands on that headland, built in 1835 by landowner Cornelius O’Brien as a viewing point for tourists. From Doolin, we could see beyond the tower, all the way to the rock formation known as  Hag’s Head at the southern end of the cliffs.

17.cliffs of moher, o'briens tower & hag's head

We left Doolin to have a closer look at the cliffs, passing a contented local on the way

18.doolin local

and a rather impressive edifice on a nearby hill. The 16th century Doonagore Castle has been in the same family since the 1970s and is their private holiday home. The views would be astounding.

19.doonagore castle

We finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher in all their majesty but time was ticking on and we still had no idea where we would be spending the night.

 

22.cliffs of moher

 

Mersey Bluff

The waters of the Mersey River travel 147km from Lake Meston in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park to escape into Bass Strait at Mersey Bluff on the northwest coast of Tasmania.

1.Mersey Bluff

The dolerite headland was formed 185 million years ago in the Jurassic Age. As the rock cooled, joints and fractures were created along with some very flat surfaces, providing places where the Aborigines would sit and carve.

2.Mersey Bluff

Tiagarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place has been closed for quite some time due to lack of funding. The building houses the history, art and culture of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and there are several rock carvings and middens along the bluff walk.

3.Tiagarra

The lighthouse was completed in 1889 and was automated in 1920. The addition of four vertical red stripes in 1929 make it quite distinctive.

We followed the footpath around the bluff with spectacular views of the coastline to the east.

6.Mersey Bluff

There are many rock formations along the way, it’s not difficult to see why this one is called ‘the hat’.

7.The Hat

The lighthouse receded behind us

8.lighthouse

as we rounded the point, the sun highlighting the colours in the rocks.

9.rocks

I could sit for hours and watch the incoming tide sneak its way into each crevice, retreating angrily in defeat.

10.Mersey Bluff

11.Mersey Bluff

Diamonds sparkled on the water as far as the horizon.

14.Mersey Bluff

We passed a craggy memorial to a brave young man who lost his life while trying to save another.

17.Mersey Bluff

The path continues to Mersey Bluff Reserve but we took the short cut back instead, through the picnic ground with serene water views.

19.Mersey Bluff20.Mersey Bluff

Dunluce Castle

The light was beginning to fade as we left the Giant’s Causeway and we had yet to find accommodation for the night. Heading to Portrush to do just that, we diverted to investigate Dunluce Castle. The ruins of the medieval castle perch precariously on the edge of a cliff and are reached by a bridge connecting it to safer ground.

1.Dunluce Castle

The first castle at Dunluce was built in the 13th century by the 2nd Earl of Ulster. In the 16th century, Sorley Boy McDonnell arrived from Scotland and based himself at Dunluce Castle, consolidating his territories in both Ireland and Scotland.

2.Dunluce Castle3.Dunluce Castle

He certainly couldn’t complain about the view.

4.Dunluce Castle

There is a pathway leading down to the cove, looking back at the castle gives a rather startling perspective.

6.Dunluce Castle7.Dunluce Castle

There is a story that the castle was abandoned in the 17th century after the kitchen , along with the kitchen staff, fell into the sea when the cliff face collapsed. It’s easy to believe but apparently a myth, as paintings from the 18th and early 19th centuries show that end of the castle intact.

8.Dunluce Castle

There are caves under the castle, although we didn’t venture that far.

9.Dunluce Castle10.Dunluce Castle

The north wall of the residence building collapsed into the sea sometime in the 18th century, I wonder how long before this one follows?

11.Dunluce Castle

Meelup Trail

Our last day in the Margaret River region dawned clear and sunny, perfect for a morning walk. The Meelup Trail starts at Old Dunsborough beach

1.Old Dunsborough Beach

and follows the coastline for 11.5 kilometres to Eagle Bay. We fortified ourselves with coffee from the Silver Bullet Espresso van, a gorgeous Airstream caravan parked at the boat ramp.

2.Silver Bullet Espresso

The detail in this lovely sculpture doesn’t really show in silhouette. Sculpture by the Bay is an exhibition of works held on the foreshore each March as part of the Dunsborough Arts Festival. This was the winning piece from 2015, installed near the boat ramp.

3.Dunsborough boat ramp

We walked past some beautiful homes with stunning views

4.Geographe Bay

before the trail narrowed and we were embraced by dense coastal vegetation.

5.trail

It was a bit early for most of the wildflowers,

but the magnificent Barrens Clawflower was putting on a wonderful display. Endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, the name is from the location where it was found in 1920, West Mount Barren.

Further on, the trail opened up and the coastal views were spectacular.

13.trail14.Geographe Bay15.Geographe Bay16.shags on a rock

Strategically placed seating invited a chance to rest and take in the view and perhaps spy a passing whale.

17.whale watching18.Geographe Bay19.Geographe Bay20.Geographe Bay

Granite rock formations lay scattered throughout the landscape

and along the sheltered beaches.

26.beach27.beach28.beach29.Geographe Bay

Lunch time was approaching and there were more wineries awaiting us. We returned along the same path,

30.forest

encountering this Shingleback lizard basking in the dappled sunlight.

31.Shingleback lizard

Isn’t he handsome?

32.Shingleback lizard