Our long-awaited trip to Ireland took us anti-clockwise around the entire island, North and South.
We landed in Dublin, where we stayed at Trinity College for three nights, before heading north to Belfast, where we stayed with really nice friends for another three nights. From there we drove around the Glens of Antrim and the Causeway Coast to Derry, which was a good place to stay for another three nights.
For the remaining 10 days, though, we kept moving from one B&B to the next, which meant that we could cover quite a bit of ground during the daytime. Although it was time-consuming to find a suitable (i.e. not too expensive) B&B every night, and to unpack the car in the evening and repack it in the morning, it really was the best solution for us.
As you can see from the map, we pretty much followed the coast from Derry through Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry to Cork. Then, running out of time, we headed inland via Tipperary, Kilkenny, Laois and Kildare, across to Wicklow and finally back to Dublin.
We did make a point of visiting the four extreme points of mainland Ireland, though. In fact, I took this so seriously in my preparations for the trip, that I had printed out and laminated four colourful sheets of paper with the specific location on it. (I admit that this might seem a little excessive… judging from the hysterical laughter of our dear friend in Belfast when he saw the posters.)
And why did I bother laminating them? Well, in the month prior to our arrival, there had been torrential rains throughout the island, leading to flooded underpasses [well, one, in Belfast], towpaths under water, and entire communities cut off from the rest of civilisation, so I wasn’t going to take any chances with my little posters disintegrating in the deluge.
And so they didn’t.
Please also note that I said mainland Ireland. I am most emphatically a land-lubber, and had no intentions of paddling a curragh through heaving swells to some isolated island just to prove a geographical point.
So here you go:
The Easternmost point of mainland Ireland is Burr Point, Co Down. It’s situated near the small village of Ballyhalbert on the Ards Peninsula. And it’s guarded by a ferocious sheep dog, who will insist on playing a game of fetch with you. No, seriously, he’s not ferocious at all, he’s in fact so adorably cute that we almost took him with us. 🙂
The Westernmost point is Garraun Point, near Slea Head, on the Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry. We weren’t, strictly speaking, standing on the most westerly point here, but we had climbed up as far as possible on a narrow sheep track, overlooking a sheer cliff. Higher up on the cliff, there was a big field, with sheep grazing in it. But we didn’t want to trespass on someone’s land by climbing through a fence, so this is as far west as we could get.
In the background, you can just about see the outline of the Blasket Islands. There is a fantastic visitors’ centre in the nearby village of Dunquin, where you can learn all about the people who lived on those islands – in extremely harsh conditions. Many of them, amazingly, became writers.
The Southernmost point is Brow Head. This is near Mizen Head, which happens to be the most South-WESTERLY point. So we visited both of them, as we weren’t sure how far south we’d be able to walk on Brow Head. As it turned out, in order to reach Brow Head, we had to climb over two gates and follow an unmarked track to the cliff-tops overlooking the ocean. I don’t know who the lands belong to – but I promise we didn’t damage anything, we stuck completely to the path, and we left no litter behind us. It was the man at the Mizen Head Signal Station who reassured us that it was completely acceptable to climb over gates… 🙂
So now we can rightfully say that we have not only gone ‘from Malin to Mizen Head’, but also ‘from Burr to Garraun Point’… not that I’ve heard anyone else saying that.