Living on the Edge of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

A big thank you to Ireland.com for providing this cliff-hanging adventure. As always, all opinions are our own.

The Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland

Where is the edge of the world?

The Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland

In the literal sense there obviously cannot be one on this sphere we inhabit, but figuratively, and also in a very real way, several spots where the last bit of land holds forth against the sea certainly feel like the brink.

The Dingle Peninsula on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way thoroughly captures this sensation.

The Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland

Heading west, this is the last piece of land until North America, so the locals like to say, “The next parish over is Boston.”

But it is more the landscape than the location that gives the sensation of living on the edge. The rugged slate cliffs and crashing waves see to that.

The road on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way gets quite hairy at times!
The road gets a bit hairy at times!

From our base in the town of Dingle, we headed out Slea Head Drive, Slí Cheann Sléibhe in the local Gaelic tongue, for a closer look at the western most tip of Europe.

The rocky point of Slea Head juts out into the surf offering a stunning view up and down the coast, crowned by the Blasket Islands to the north.

The road on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way gets quite hairy at times! This is a two-way road?!
Wait. This is a two-way road?!

Just beyond the head our guide and font of lore and information, Fiona, pointed out the beach where parts of the Robert Mitchum movie Ryan's Daughter were filmed. No doubt the scenery helped it win the 1970 Oscar for Best Cinematography.

The Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland

Along Slea Head Drive on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, these little dwellings, known as beehive huts, are a source of some mystery. Since they are made of nothing but stone, it is nearly impossible to accurately place a date on their construction.

Slightly farther up the tiny path that serves as a road we noticed several small stone huts.

These little dwellings, known as beehive huts, are a source of some mystery.

Since they are made of nothing but stone, it is nearly impossible to accurately place a date on their construction. Guesses go anywhere from a few hundred to well over a thousand years old.

Along Slea Head Drive on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, these little dwellings, known as beehive huts, are a source of some mystery. Since they are made of nothing but stone, it is nearly impossible to accurately place a date on their construction.

Locally they are referred to as Clochán, and the prevalent thinking is that they were built by hermit monks who were followers of St. Patrick.

This would place them well to the older side of the age estimates, perhaps even dating back to the seventh or eighth centuries. 

Superstition may be the reason the huts have survived so long; without the mystery -- and a bit of fear -- the stones would most likely been taken from the huts to be used in building more modern structures. In this case, we're happy that fear prevailed!

Louis Mulcahy Pottery on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

The Dingle Peninsula is known for its stunning views, green pastures, fantastic food, and recently pottery.

A stop at Louis Mulcahy Pottery managed to encompass all of those in one spot.

Before getting a tour of the facilities, and trying our hand at the wheel, we went upstairs for a bite.

Lunch of crabmeat and potato leak soup at the cafe in Louis Mulcahy Pottery in Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

The little café isn’t elegant but, in situations where eating is involved, we will always take tasty over fancy.

Our lunch of seafood bisque and crab sandwiches would have been right at home in any five-star establishment, but the relaxed atmosphere made it even more enjoyable.

Louis Mulcahy Pottery

Back downstairs we took a walk through the workshops where the beautifully crafted ceramics are all made, then glazed and fired in the two thousand degree kiln.

Many of the items are created by pouring liquid clay into molds, but most are still turned by hand at a potter’s wheel.

Louis Mulcahy Pottery

We found it to be nearly impossible to watch the turning process being done and not want to try it ourselves.

Well, we were in luck, this was our chance. We felt pretty special when we were allowed behind the barrier and inside the workshop, but it turns out that anyone can give this a try.

The GypsyNesters reenact a famous scene from the movie Ghost at Louis Mulcahy Pottery along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland

One of the resident expert potters, Susie, walked through the process step by step, right up until the time that we broke form and reenacted the famous scene from the movie Ghost.

Even with our goofy detour, we managed to make a couple of somewhat respectable cups.

WATCH (and decide!): Which of us created the better cup?

Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

As we drove on the Blasket Islands loomed larger and larger, until we crested a hill and they spread out right before us.

The northernmost of the Blasket Islands in Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way, Inishtooskert, is often called the sleeping giant.

From our angle it was abundantly clear why the northernmost of the islands, Inishtooskert, is often called the sleeping giant.

The silhouette certainly brought the big man taking a wet nap in focus.

Dropping down to the shore, just across the narrow strait from Great Blasket Island, we stopped in at the Blasket Centre for a closer look at these remote islands.

View of the old settlement from the Blasket Centre of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

We could see the remnants of the settlement where a handful of hardy souls held out from the early 1800s until 1953.

At that time an evacuation was ordered by the Irish government because they couldn’t provide for services or the safety of the residents.

In a strange quirk, the small band of settlers, there were never more than a couple of hundred, produced some of Ireland’s best known and beloved literature, The Islandman, Twenty Years A-Growing, and Peig were all penned on the island and are classics all across the country.

The Blasket Centre of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

The center mainly focusses on the history of the island’s inhabitants with films, photos, and artifacts telling the story, but there is a wealth of information on the geology and ecology of the Blaskets too.

Like many oceanic outposts, seabirds love these islands.

Rocky cliffs along the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland

The rocky ledges reminded us of the incredible bird rock at St. Mary’s in Newfoundland, and many of the same species have made a home here.

We saw familiar gannets, razorbills, terns and gulls, but just like our visit on the other side of the Atlantic, we missed the puffins. The little guys just spend way too much time out at sea for our liking.

The Great Hall of the Blasket Center in Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
The Centre's great hall is like an arrow pointing to the
Blasket Settlement and has a wonky, ocean-like floor

Fiona filled us in on another story from this area that might also involve a bit too much time on the open ocean.

On the northern shore of the peninsula, at Cuas an Bhodaigh or Brandon Creek, legend has it that St. Brendan set sail in search of Eden, but actually found America instead.

This would have been nearly a thousand years before Columbus got lost on his journey to find the Far East, and a good five hundred before the Vikings landed at L'Anse aux Meadows on Newfoundland’s northern tip.

The beautiful stained glass mural depicts life on the Blasket Islands along the Wild Atlantic Way
Beautiful stained glass mural depicts life on the Blasket Islands

The saint’s quest was immortalized in many writings throughout the middle ages, but there is no definitive evidence of the voyage; nothing but folklore to back up the tale.

Still, what may be a folktale to the rest of the world is held as fact by many in these parts. Just ask anybody “who discovered America?”

Gorman's Clfftop House on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

While we may have our doubts as to whether St. Brendan ever set foot on North America, we are certain that we found the best possible spot for dinner at Gorman's Clifftop House.

At Gorman's Clifftop House. Our hostess, Sile, greeted us at the door with sparkling wine and steamed periwinkles along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Our hostess, Sile, greeted us at the door with sparkling wine and steamed periwinkles.  

We only knew the word as a color, turns out it is also a small edible sea snail.

Sile demonstrated how to tease the little guys out with a toothpick and, after a sharp learning curve, we were soon eating 'em like champs.

Periwinkles, a small edible snail, in Ireland

Black pudding atop a potato pancake with glazed apples at Gorman's Clifftop House along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland

Periwinkles would be only one of many treats from the sea during the evening, but not before we tried a true Irish staple, black pudding.

The closest thing we could compare it to would be blood sausage, but it includes oats and is fried on a griddle.

Black pudding is often a part of a traditional Irish breakfast, but as an appetizer we enjoyed it served on a potato pancake with glazed apples and a mustard sauce.

Gorman's Clfftop House on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

This was definitely something new to our American palates, but delicious nonetheless.

Bread and butter pudding with thick Irish cream at Gorman's Clifftop House on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland

The main course featured a selection of seafood from the nearby waters, filets of hake, John Dory, and monk fish served with Dingle Bay crab claws and prawns, but the real star of the evening had to be the dessert.

 The bread and butter pudding was fantastic, made even more so by smothering it with thick Irish cream.

This delicious dolce transported us right past the edge-of-the world to out-of-this world.

Pretty much the perfect way to end a day on the Wild Atlantic Way.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Ireland!

A big thank you to Ireland.com for providing this cliff-hanging adventure. As always, all opinions are our own.

YOUR TURN: Isn't the Wild Atlantic Way spectacular?




Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All Did you enjoy what you just read? Then you'll LOVE our book!

Going Gypsy
One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All
 

GoingGypsyBook.com - See how it all began!

ORDER NOW - Wherever Books Are Sold!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - IndieBound - Books-a-Million
Also available as an audiobook from Audible.com

info@gypsynester.com © 2007-2016 Troppo Publishing, All Rights Reserved Privacy Policy
Twitter Facebook YouTube Google+ Pinterest Instagram RSS