Trip of a lifetime: Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, Part 1

Part 1 of 2 parts

My wife Mary Ellen and I just returned from a one-month visit to Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. With subspecialty certification in travel medicine, I won’t claim this as essential travel, but it certainly wasn’t a tourist trip. We have a son’s family in Ireland that we don’t see often even in the pre-COVID-19 years. Thanks to my grandfather’s birth in the Great Famine time in 1847, we hold Irish citizenship.

Most importantly, we had the unique opportunity to quarantine in a rural area. We decided to accept the risk to ourselves and to minimize any to others. One of Rick Steves’ associates, Cameron Hewitt, has carefully described his process in a recent blog. Fortunately, due to quite empty flights and airports, we were able to do so safely. Even after two weeks of isolation, we had minimal contact with others, and unlike some, we did use masks.

The small town of Ventry, near our house in Ireland, has a much-reduced-scale relationship to the popular town of Dingle, as Edmonds does to Seattle, but with more quiet charm. It has an Irish-designated, three-mile “Blue Flag” beach, one open restaurant, and a “shiopa” (shop) that is well stocked with provisions and that also contains the post office. A supermarket in Dingle delivered food and sundries. This is a Gaeltacht area where Irish is widely spoken.

Rick Steves has described this locale as the most scenic part of Ireland, and that has greatly boosted visits to the area — prior to this year. The town of Dingle draws a lot of that attention with its many music pubs and boat rides to see Fungie, the resident dolphin. However, the pubs and B&Bs had closed, and the tourist economy has been badly damaged. Happily, we were more than satisfied with the bucolic nature of our more immediate surroundings.

From even within the house, we could view the green hills, the Ventry Bay, and the cattle beyond the stone wall. Its“Wild Atlantic Way” slogan uses the weather variations within hours as a promotional tool. While the area is generally cooler and wetter than Edmonds, we had several near 70-degree days, but also a bout of 55 mph winds. We even had a run of clear nights, where because of low light pollution, we could see beyond a few stars and planets to whole constellations.

We were interested to note many similar plants such as hydrangeas, honeysuckles, even Chilean rhubarb, but it is the profusion of hardy fuchsias that rule the roadsides. And the sunrises, clouds, and sunsets were unfailingly beautiful. And, of course, with mixed rain and sun, we were blessed with a rainbow on our lane, but the leprechauns hid the pot of gold.

There was little close contact with locals, but our son’s family joined us for more than a week, so we had 4- and 9-year-old grandsons, to quickly end our loneliness. For the past decade, our Ireland visits were limited to the center of Cork City. While, like Dublin, it has interesting features, both of these are cities in Ireland. Where we were staying IS Ireland. Not only was it more idyllic, it was far safer than us going to a hotel in Cork — and our son’s family got a respite from the dense city.

Ireland had done pretty well with managing COVID-19, but recently brought students back to the universities and opened the pubs. Bad idea! There was a flare in cases, and the day after we returned, Ireland reinstated features of lockdown, so our good fortune held throughout.

Because our son had a car, we were able to see some more of the peninsula’s beauty and the notable historical features spread about — and I’ll address that with some more photos in Part 2. We do not ignore that we experienced a true blessing and hope that Edmonds readers can derive a few moments’ escape from hearing our story.

Until we meet again.

— By Kevin O’Keeffe

  1. Sounds like a wonderful way to stay safe. Glad you were able to enjoy all aspects of your trip safely and thank you for sharing.

  2. I agree that The Dingle Peninsula IS Ireland. Wild and beautiful! It is where I go in my daydreams and I cannot wait to go there again. Thanks for sharing your story, Slainte!

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