Today’s drive from Miltown Malbay was relatively easy. For most of the coastal route we passed through cow country, with wider, flatter, uncrowded roads.
We even shaved a long chunk of roadway by taking the ferry across the Shannon estuary.
Funny thing about Ireland. Most of the inland is gently rolling hills at the extreme, but when you get to the west coast it’s quite mountainous. The last leg of our day’s journey took us through the Conor Pass.
Signs at the foot of the mountain warned trucks and campers to find another way across. For most of the adventure up to the 1500-foot-high pass, the highest in Ireland, the going was not too difficult. All the bicyclists were going down.
Irish waterfall approaching Conor Pass
Then we came to the last switchback, maybe a kilometer below the road’s summit, and it narrowed to a single lane. The last stretch was hewn from a sheer rock face. Think Going to the Sun Road, but one skinny lane.
We met one car coming down toward us, forcing us to back up a few dozen curvey feet until we could snuggle up against the rock side. Just before the top we encountered another, who fortunately backed out of our way.
It’s the second scariest road I’ve ever driven, bested only by a gravel road that switch-backed 1000 feet up the sheer face of a Utah mesa, with no guard rails. Even that Utah ascent accommodated two-way traffic.
When we arrived at Murphy’s Pub in Dingle, we were told they did not have our reservation. Fortunately they were concerned rather than dismissive, and eventually we ascertained that the reservation with no associated name was ours, and we checked in.
For the remainder of the afternoon we got back into the car and explored the Dingle Peninsula by way of the Slea Head Drive. Another narrow coast-hugging road bordered by mountains, Slea Head Drive offers beautiful scenery along with several ancient stone building sites.
Rebecca in the Beehive
I found the “Beehive” complex to be especially fascinating.
Sheep within ancient rock walls.
Tonight there is live music here at Murphy’s, so the odds are good we will finally hear some native sounds. Intriguingly, we’re told fiddle music is hard to come by around here.
Yes we did. One of three bands we saw, and we even found a fiddler.