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The South-West

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Fairwinds Round Ireland - The South-West
Dingle to Smerwick Harbour

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Dingle - Smerwick
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Weds 21st July - Fri 23rd July Dingle to Smerwick Haarbour

Saturday 17th July Wednesday 21st July Dingle

Blowing SW 15 20 knots all day, which would make for a lumpy and uncomfortable beat down to Slea Head to go through Blaskett Sound, so had a wander round Dingle, did some shopping and had a delicious bowl of seafood chowder for lunch. Got the bedding and bunk cushions dried (again!). Went aboard Jonika, a Moody Eclipse from Lancashire, for a couple of beers, then fell asleep immediately after supper, waking up only to crawl into bed.

Dingle street scene

Thursday 22nd July Dingle

SW winds still blowing the top of a five in the marina, with the forecast predicting stronger winds just to the North of us, so stayed put and had a look round the area. Hitched a lift up to the top of Connor Pass, the highest road pass in Ireland, where we went for a short walk but the wind was really howling up there, and we hadn't taken enough clothes with us. Beautiful views over the hills and down to Brandon Bay on one side and Dingle on the other.

Dingle from Connor Pass

Walking back down towards Dingle we hitched a ride with a couple from Dublin who were on holiday and out for a drive round the peninsula. We enjoyed their company as Slea Head , where we disembarked at a small cafe for coffee and cream scones overlooking wonderful views of Blasket Sound and the Blasket Islands. This far Western corner of Europe really has an 'on the edge' feeling to it. Suitably refreshed, we walked along to Dunquin Village, the most Westerly village in Europe.

Blasket Sound

We didn't have time to take the ferry from Dunquin across to Great Blaskett, so instead visited the Blasket Heritage Centre, an institution dedicated to preserving the memories and culture of Great Blasket Island. This rugged and materially primitive island culture gave birth to some excellent writers and works of literature before it was evacuated in 1953. The centre is well worth a visit, with its interesting architecture framing the Blaskets and setting off the superb displays and presentations.

Great Blasket from Dunquin

We completed our budget tour of the Dingle Peninsula by catching a bus back to Dingle which took a different route to that we had come by. A wonderful day, and nice to know that hitch-hiking is still possible - in Ireland at least. This was the first time we had hitched for maybe twenty-five years.

Friday 23rd July Dingle Smerwick Harbour

We had originally intended to go to Fenit, but on the way down to Blasket Sound we decided to go to Smerwick Harbour then head straight for Inishmore in the Aran Islands the next day. Fenit would have been nice from the point of viwew of getting a landline to do some work, but it was nearly 20 miles off our direct route.

We left Dingle dodging the launches landing fat Americans from a cruise ship, the Black Prince, then beat down the coast to Blasket Sound in a swell that was, mercifully, a lot lower than it had been on Tuesday. On the way down we picked up a Mayday Relay from Valentia - a motor cruiser was stuck ina net and drifting in the entrance to Smerwick Harbour. As we entered Blasket Sound we were passed by Valentia lifeboat towing the casualty, presumably heading for Valentia.

Cruise ship outside the entrance to Dingle Harbour

Once in the sound things started pleasantly enough and we had a good view of the village on Great Blasket Island, but we were soon headed as the wind mysteriously went NW. Kathy caught three mackerel at this point, so at least we had some protein for tea. Opposite Clogher Head we began to encounter huge swells rolling in from the N, and once we had rounded Sybil Point a direct course for Smerwick was impossible as the wind dropped and kept getting rolled out of the sails.

The village on Great Blasket

We headed offshore a bit then tried to run in, but had to drop the main (not an easy job in those seas) and motor in. Jonika called us on the VHF to say they were in Smerwick and that there was a spare visitors' mooring. Right at the entrance by the cliffs we almost ran into a net right across our path and had to motor back out about a mile to go round the end of it. This would appear to have been the same net that had caused the earlier Mayday.

Eventually we picked up a mooring opposite Jonika. We had done 30 miles, while the pilot claims the direct distance is 20 miles - the extra ten miles being a mixture of tacking, sightseeing, net avoidance and leeway. We were not in the mood to go ashore, although Jonika reported the village and pub as being well worth a visit. Instead we cooked mackerel and we watched local lads and lasses rowing furiously round in Curraghs training for local races. A very rolly anchorage.

Ladies curragh rowing team training in Smerwick Harbour
From Kilmore Quay Ballycotton Kinsale Glandore Baltimore Schull Crookhaven Lawrence Cove Dingle Smerwick Harbour