The first three days/roughly 70km of the Dingle Way is also known as the Kerry Camino. The story goes that Saint Brendan (born along the North Kerry Way) travelled from Dingle and across the seas to spread Christianity, eventually reaching North America. Pilgrims in the past would also sail from Dingle to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, so Dingle is a fitting place for the Kerry Camino.
What was most noticeable from the very start of the walk, was that the Kerry Camino has added extra infrastructure to the trail in the forms of extra signage, benches, and generally a wider knowledge of walking in the area. Just like the Camino de Santiago, you collect stamps while walking the route, and you need a minimum of 8 stamps to get a certificate at the end.
The Kerry Camino Video.
This is probably one of our most relaxed walks so far. I'm not sure what it was. Possibly it was because there are defined stages to the walk, which are all around the 20km mark - so shorter than what we'd been walking recently, and it's so relaxing to know that there are campsites and hostels at the end of each day. When we'd arrive to the hostel or campsite it might still be late afternoon, but we were able to put down our bags and wander around freely. This also made it a lot easier to not feel guilty for taking an evening off - normally, we would just keep walking until dusk, saying we'll just go around one more corner to see what's ahead ..
On our first day we set off in perfect sunshine. The stage for the day was Tralee to Camp. The walk out of Tralee was along the same canal bank as the North Kerry Way, but we swung a right into Blennerville instead of continuing along the coast northwards. After a small climb along country roads, we bumped into a group of kids out on a riding lesson, and we walked the same mountain tracks for a short while.
This is probably the best easy day of the walk, and what I would recommend to people who are looking for a one day outdoor adventure in the area - especially because there is public transport at either end of the section. The trail is lovely and "trail-ish" with roots and rocks everywhere, but in practice, is really easy to walk along. We soaked up the sun and stopped often to just be happy in the mountains.
Camp doesn't have any official campsite, but if you talk to the pubs they do have small areas where they sometimes let people pitch up. Your other options are to stay at a B&B, or take the bus back into Tralee and camp at the campsite there, and take the bus back out the next morning.
Day two couldn't have been more different. From Camp the Way crossed down through the mountains to the southern shore of the peninsula. For our crossing we wandered through heavy clouds that left us dripping wet - my fingers went wrinkly from just how saturated with water the air was. The terrain also changed, and we were back on small country roads, the kind that are only used as access roads to farmland, and I think in that whole day only one person drove past.
It was probably because we had had such an amazing day the day before that we were able to put up with the rain so easily. On a clearer day I'm sure the crossing holds amazing views. All we saw were the rain drops hanging off our hoods and eyelashes. I think we both listened to a number of podcasts that day.
We ended day two in Annascaul, a tiny village on a valley floor, and the hometown of Tom Crean the arctic explorer. The pub that Crean opened in his later years is still there, and still serving. I'd recommend calling in, the maps, books, and photographs that cover the walls are amazing. I say that I want to go back there to explore all the stuff they have on display (and I do!), but I also want to buy one of their cheesy t-shirts.
For accommodation we stayed in "Paddy's Palace", a small hostel at the edge of town. I will admit, the name .... could be anything else. Anything. But it was actually perfectly fine - €10 per person for a bed in a small mixed dorm. It's not luxurious, but I liked it. It had a nice living room space. And realistically, whatever reason it was that had brought you to Annascaul, it was not for crazy partying. So everyone went to bed at acceptable times.
Day 3, Annascaul - Dingle. The last day of the Kerry Camino.
It was nice to be back below the cloud line, and while a little blustery on the coast, the sun was shining and we were on the move again. As we were leaving Annascaul, a man who had stayed in the Palace with us pulled up and offered us a lift to Dingle. It's always nice to be offered, even though we don't take the lifts - it gives me the peace of mind that if we did end up needing to hitch there'd be a chance of us getting somewhere.
The trail wove through a mix of farmland and backroads to start, slowly gaining height again as the day went on. We had breakfast beside a castle on the beach. Just as we were moving on, we met a number of American's who had made rain covers for their backpacks out of bin bags - it looked surprisingly waterproof. One guy showed us his waterlogged passport; visa's, names, and photos were all blurred into one inky mess.
Oh, I forgot to mention - Kerry is full of Fuschia bushes. Everywhere.
We left the active farmland behind us as we gained more height, followed the curves of many foothills, and crossed small streams. There were a couple more stamping stations dotted along this section - they're normally located on the trail sections, away from the general public, just to stop people from tampering with them. Most (if not all) of the stations had a bench too, and they were often at the top of a hill, where the view was nice, but also exactly where it would be great to take a break.
All of the winding and climbing eventually brought us up to a low pass. Without a doubt, the pass must have been chosen just for the amazing view, because as we crested it and looked ahead we could se Dingle nestled in in the bay, the end point to this section just sitting there waiting for us. It was only as we arrived into Dingle that the heavens opened. What more of an Irish welcome could we have received?
We slowly made our way through the town, stopping in doorways to avoid the heavy showers, and made it out to the Rainbow Hostel. I think this is one of our favourite places that we've stayed - actually, I don't 'think', I know this is one of our favourite. The hostel is also a campsite, their large garden a funny patchwork of tarps and tents. Inside there is an amazing kitchen area filled with a couple of long tables and plenty of corners to curl up in with a warm drink, and talk to the amazing mixture of people that passed through.
I've forgotten the prices for staying indoors, but I remember them being reasonable - especially the price of the private rooms.
Having finished the Kerry Camino section we decided to take the next day off, and spent it wandering around Dingle, editing video, and washing clothes.
For more information on the Kerry Camino visit their website!