Failte (Welcome) to Ireland
My adventure on the Emerald Isle began as soon as I arrived at the Dublin airport, where I immediately felt at home. With a bit of trepidation, I picked up my right-hand-drive rental vehicle and ventured, for the first time in my life, into the Dublin rush hour chaos. I navigated my way out of town with the oncoming traffic now to my right. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long to adapt to the new normal on the streets. That included being eternally watchful for sheep in the middle of the road around every bend.
I headed north to Monaghan and then west to Sligo, spending a couple of days at the Castle Leslie Equestrian Center and on the Atlantic Coast Trail Ride respectively before turning my vehicle southward to begin my equestrian holidays on the Dingle Peninsula.
The drive that day was bathed in sunshine as I drove from the northwest coast of Ireland to the Dingle Peninsula Trail. Along the way I was mesmerized by the ever changing Irish landscape; from the northwestern shores of the Atlantic with their dramatic coastlines, the industrial area of County Galway, and the beautiful patchwork of neatly laid out pastures of County Kerry, divided by stone walls and hedges. These images are forever imprinted on my mind. To break up the 8-hour drive I chose to ferry across the mouth of the Shannon River from County Clare to County Kerry.
The road to the Dingle Peninsula became increasingly narrow and winding the higher into the mountains I drove. The peninsula welcomed me with its indescribable beauty; mountains dipping into the sea, white sandy beaches and fields of green as far as the eye could see. The town of Dingle is bright and colorful with neat little boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. This is also a great destination for non-riding companions. From the moment I arrived, I wanted to spend more time here.
The outfitters welcomed me and showed me to my quaint and charming accommodations. The riding stable for my holidays was on a hillside overlooking the town of Dingle on the bay and I particularly enjoyed the beautiful views at sunset.
The next two days brought clear, blue skies with warm and sunny autumn weather for exhilarating riding. We enjoyed long, posting trots along back roads lined with fuchsia hedges, canters along the beaches and views of some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen.
Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and the horses easy to handle. Both days I enjoyed my mounts; Irish Hunters who were very reliable, surefooted and up for a trot or canter at a moment’s notice. The highlight of my riding was topping Mount Eagle and viewing below us the magnificent sight of the Blasket Islands basking in the sunlight. The Blasket Island information center provides educational insight into life as it was half a century ago when people were still living there. It is a must-see for visitors to Dingle and is part of the ride itinerary. We left the horses in front of the center, tied to a rail where they waited patiently for our return. The Dingle area allows its visitors to step back into the time when Gaelic, which to this day is still widely spoken on the peninsula, was the tongue of all Ireland. The local road signs posted in both English and Gaelic are vivid proof of that heritage.
Ride Review written by Biggi Hayes