Roof-of-the-world view in Blaskets walk

BLASKET ISLAND VISITOR CENTRE WALK

LEAVING the visitor centre we turn right, along a tarred road. A few minutes along we reach a crossroads.

“Ceathrú” is carved into a boulder by the roadside and a youth hostel sits on the corner. We follow the narrow, ascending road ahead.

The tarmac ends and we continue on the track, marked The Kerry Way. It shortly splits; we take the right fork. Now we have a superb view of the Blaskets, Beginish, to our right and the huge bulk of Great Blasket to our left and below. Between the two, further out, Inishtooskert, “Northern Island”, a pyramid of rock rising out of the sea.

One thinks of Tomás Ó Crohan’s book, The Islandman, and the stoic acceptance of a life where sons and fathers risked their lives in boats to feed the community, and the shawled women waited on cliff tops, sometimes with no hope but prayer.

On the track ahead, there is not a house in sight. At the high point, we enjoy a wonderful view to Smerwick Harbour and Ballydavid village across two stretches of water, with the magnificent Three Sisters and Sybil Head sweeping skywards to our left.

A path now bears left The Graigue, An Ghraig, an impressive outcrop of the oldest rocks in Dingle, spewed from a volcano 400 million years ago. For the sprightly, it is worth climbing The Graigue for a roof-of-the-world view. Just beyond is a fine photo opportunity on a clear evening or when the sun, like a spotlight through the clouds, focuses on the islands or diffuses over the sea. Time stops; even the sea seems without sound or motion.

The track has taken us in a loop, and we head down to the tarred road again. Reaching the crossroads again, we turn left. As we walk away from the youth hostel, the land to the north-east rises to the pyramid of Cruach Mhártain mountain.

We shortly take a secondary road to the right. Here, we pass the famous Kruger Kavanagh’s, a legendary watering hole. Kruger was a Kerryman who went to America and worked in show business. He came home with a pocket-full of dollars in the 1920s and bought the bar where, until his death in 1971, American stars of stage and screen regularly came to visit him. Indeed the choice of Dunquin for Ryan’s Daughter and, later Hollywood’s “Far and Away” probably arose indirectly from Hollywood familiarity with the stunning scenery seen from the back window of Kruger’s pub.

We soon pass a house on the right, which carries a plaque to the writer, Séan Ó Catháin, “a noble Blasketman”. The road descends steeply.

We cross a small bridge with a stream babbling between banks of montbretia. and start down towards the sea. The track is rough, but fine for walking.

Where the track ends, we are immediately on a green path, going right, on the Kerry Way. This is a beautiful section of the walk and a lovely spot for a picnic. A waymark post directs us left. The Blaskets are on our left, low on the sea. The stream on our right flows across a small beach, with a black rock, Charrig Dubh just offshore.

Across the stream, we ascend to a broken road and then reach the tarred road proper. Shortly, we find ourselves back at the Blasket Visitor Centre where we began.

Start point: From Dingle take the R559 west passing through Ventry following the shoreline around the headland. Just after Ballintemple village we take a left, signposted Blasket Visitor Centre. After visiting the centre, our walk offers first-hand views and a taste of the salt air of the islands.

Distance/time: 6km; 1.5hrs.

Difficulty: Mostly small roads but including a grassy path. One section requires a short scramble.

Map: OS Discovery 70

* For maps and information on Ordnance Survey products visit: www.osi.ie

HILLWALKERS CLUB, DUBLIN

(hillwalkersclub.com)

Dec 1: Oasis to Glenmacnass Waterfall, 16km, ascent 650m, meet Burgh Quay, 10am.

GALTEE WALKING CLUB (galteewalkingclub.ie)

Dec 1: Joint walk on the Galtees with Ballyhoura Bears, grade A, 5hrs, meet Galtee Castle carpark, 10am.

Dec 1: Glenary Loop, grade C, 10km, 3hrs, meet Woodie’s carpark, Clonmel, 11am.

BLACKROCK HILLWALKING CLUB (blackrockhillwalkingclub.com)

Dec 1: Carrauntoohil’s Curved Gully, grade A, bring helmet, meet Texaco, Killarney, 9.30am.

Dec 1: Crotty’s Rock walk, grade B, 4 to 5hrs, easy pace, meet Campus Service Station, Dungarvan, 10am.

CORK HILLWALKERS (corkhillwalkers.com)

Dec 1: Introductory/ guest walk, Galtee Mountains, grade D+, meet Parnell Place, (outside the old TSB bank building), 8.45am. Sign in for walk available online.

BANDON WALKING CLUB (bandonwalkingclub.com)

Dec 1: Caher/Peakeen Ridge, Sheep’s Head, C, 4hrs, 16.5km, meet Ash Tree Pub, Old Chapel, 8am.


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