“The Kerry Camino by kind permission of Senior Times where this article first appeared.”
When I first suggested to my two friends that we should walk the Kerry Camino, which stretches from Tralee to Dingle town, they laughed derisively. One of them, fresh from the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrim route in the north of Spain, uttered “Three Days! It only takes three days. Sure that’s nothing!” The other friend said: “That’s just Kerry getting in on the Camino act!”
Indeed, that’s exactly what it is. The Kerry Camino “piggybacks” on the Dingle Way, a longer route which takes in the whole of the Dingle peninsula and takes eight to nine days to traverse. The “Camino” leg takes only three days, and stretches from Tralee to Dingle town and uses the yellow Dingle Way arrows to mark the route.
The Team behind The Kerry Camino project are mostly made up of committed local people who wish to encourage walkers to their beautiful part of the world. You can find them on their web site, http://www.kerrycamino.com.
There is a wide variety of terrain covered on this three day trek. Small roads or boreens make up a large part of the trail, and on-road walking is kept to a minimum. You are looking up at mountains rather than down from them, making the journey very manageable for a reasonably fit adult.
I discussed all this with my good friends and eventually, my persistence paid off and on Saturday, 8th June we headed from Dublin to Tralee planning to begin our “Camino” the
following day. We had come to a comfortable solution to all our issues. One friend and I would walk together, while the third suggested she’d drive our luggage from stop to stop! It turned out to be the perfect combination for all of us, two who liked trekking and one who didn’t.
We over-nighted with Tim and Mary Walsh in The Willows B & B on Clonmore Terrace, in Tralee. Mary and Tim were a lovely couple who gave us plenty of tips for our walk and told us that there were facilities available for Dingle Way or Camino walkers to have their luggage ferried for them if they weren’t lucky enough, like us, to have a friend willing to do it for them. After an excellent full Irish Breakfast in The Willows, we set off for Blennerville on Sunday 9th June, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year (so far). And what a rite of passage that was.
Like the Camino de Santiago, Camino cards are available from the Kerry Camino website which are stamped along the way at various stamping stations. One downside of the stamping of the card was that admission to the Blennerville windmill was required to have our first stamp applied. What a swizz, we thought! We were glad to see though that all other stamping stations along the route were freely and good humouredly applied each time we asked.
We applied our Factor 50 sun cream in the shade of Blennerville’s lovely main street and set off to find the Camino route proper which brought us off the beaten track and onto the first leg of our journey to Camp village.
Our Day 1 information leaflet told us we would be walking for 3.5 to 4.5 hours, a distance of 18km with an ascent of 200m. While the route is very well signposted, and contains stunning views of the north side of the Dingle peninsula, the terrain is stony and can be difficult underfoot and you’d want to be a long distance runner to do it in that time. The people we met along the way who had come up from one or other of the “escape routes” to picnic and enjoy the day, looked at us pityingly when our sweating figures tramped into view. “How far to Camp?” we’d cry, wiping our brows. Each of them said the same thing. “You’ve another two to three hours to go before you reach Camp!”
Another gruelling hour would pass with the blistering sun beating down upon us, when we would meet yet another group of Sunday picnickers. “How far is it to Camp?” we’d ask again. And the answer would come back as predicted. “Oh you’ve another two to three hours to go before you get there.” We eventually arrived tired and weary into Camp to find our driver friend sitting comfortably outside Ashe’s pub, fresh as a daisy and happily reading the Sunday papers under a parasol. Having sworn we wouldn’t touch a drop of alcohol on our three day trek, we unceremoniously dumped our bags and sticks, ordered three Gin and Tonics with ice and lemon and languished in the shade with the other Sunday afternoon revellers. What a treat!
Day two found us on the road to Anascaul after a very pleasant evening in Kathleen Daly’s Bed and Breakfast, Finglas House, in Camp Upper and yet another full Irish Breakfast the following morning. We amazed even ourselves at our powers of recuperation from our difficult first day. Not a blister or sunburn in sight.
Camp to Anascaul was a breeze compared to Day 1. 17km with an ascent of 270 m, we were able to look around us, photograph the foxglove and emerging fuschia and enjoy the
views of Inch beach as it appeared over the mountain. We had planned to meet our “driver” in the café on the beach as advised by our Day 2 leaflet. But Inch Beach and the car park of Sammy’s was awash with litter after the very hot day on Sunday so we took ourselves off up the hill to Joan Green’s Bar and Bistro where the most delicious bowl of chowder and fresh clean facilities awaited us.
When we arrived into Anascaul on Day 2, Camino professionals at this stage, a busload of Canadian women were disembarking in the pouring rain into Teach Sheaín’s for “music and Irish Stew”. When we returned that way an hour later, having booked into our B & B, they had been fed and “watered” and engaged us in lively conversation as we passed. “We love your rain,” they said. “It’s so soft and warm!” They’d been at the International Quilting Festival in Galway and were on a tour of Kerry before going back home to Canada. One lady said: “I’ve been all over the world, I was in Hawaii only last week, and Ireland is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been! So green and lush!” We were lured into spending a good hour with these pleasant and good humoured ladies in Teach Sheaín’s before heading down to the South Pole Inn for dinner, and partook, yet again despite our good intentions, of large lemony Gin and Tonics.
We over-nighted in The Old Anchor Inn in Anascaul with Brian and Beata, the perfect hosts. Their B & B was warm and comfortable, with the most delicious of breakfasts, while Anascaul itself was a delight! “I bet you have a good Tidy Town Committee here,” I said to Brian the following morning as he served us our full Irish. “Trees and flowers everywhere and an air of well-being!”
“You’re right!” he said. “I was just at our meeting last night!”
Our third day trekking was again so easy, compared with the first. Even the rain which returned in the afternoon failed to dampen our mood. This section of the route, takes in open farmland and yet again, we were enchanted with the vistas of natural beauty along the way. Slurry spreading seemed to be the order of the day though and I kept being reminded of that Father Ted episode when Pat I shot JR Shortt pressed the red button in his truck, spraying Dougal and Ted with raw sewage. Luckily that didn’t happen to us, even though our comforting yellow arrow Dingle Way signs disappeared about five miles from Dingle town. But every road leads to Dingle we learned, and so we found our way, into our last but not least, B & B of the trip, the Lantern Townhouse, wonderfully situated on Dingle’s Main Street.
Like Anascaul, Dingle town was a delight. It was full of tourists, with pubs and restaurants, of which there was a mesmerising selection, filled to the brim. We spent an evening in John Benney’s and were thrilled with the guitarist and accordionist who were playing that night. Indeed, live music filtered out of every bar as we made our way back to the Lantern each evening. We spent two days in Dingle, driving out to Slea Head, marvelling at the great Blasket Interpretative Centre, walking Coumeenole Beach, and returning in the early evening to test the waters of Dick Mack’s pub or Foxy John’s where we sat happily on the “hardware” side, before having our evening meal in The Marina Inn.
I am happy to report that Dingle is alive and well and sparkling with life. Not a sign of a recession anywhere. Maybe their good fortune will spread itself further north and east like St. Brendan did on his Camino all those years ago. We’ll definitely be back, this time to continue on the Dingle Way route from Dingle town all around Slea Head and onwards to one of my favourite places in the world, Cloghane.
Copyright: Maeve Edwards June 2013