The Dingle Way

There is a comprehensive and highly factual write-up of David Lean’s film “Ryan’s Daughter” in Wikipedia. Please read this in full before continuing my piece that pales in comparison.

Ever since seeing the film I have yearned to visit at least one of the locations on the Dingle Peninsula in SW Ireland. Between 1st and 8th September 2012, and at last, that desire has been assuaged. Together with my son Craig and a friend who came all the way from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia especially to accompany us (coincidentally Prince William and Catherine are in that wonderful city today), a journey via Holyhead in Anglesey on the Swift Catamaran to Dublin and then 200 miles across Ireland, took us to Tralee as a base for the Dingle.

Tralee is probably the only practical base for the circular walk since the towering Brandon Mountain at 950 metres at the extreme South West has no through road. Were this not the case, the vibrant town of Dingle would be, strategically, the place to hole-out.

For long-distance walkers, this 30 mile finger of land and rock jutting into the Atlantic is cautioned by the prospect of rain but we were lucky in that for all but one day the skies were clear and visibility was good. In such conditions, the vistas are spectacular in the extreme. Towering peaks, long sandy beaches and haunting peat bogs.

As a long-distance trail, The Dingle Way is disappointing and falls far short of the prepared and managed walks prevalent in the rest of the UK. This is a terrible shame since (having had the boost of the film making and its subsequent reputation) the innumerable coach tours could be complemented by long-distance walkers. Alas, it will not happen whilst most of the Way is routed on roads and across bogs. The content of my email to the owner of the website that sells the best book of the walk, is given below. Were the recommendations to be implemented, The Dingle Way would feature amongst the likes of the South West Coast Path and The West Highland Way as paramount amongst long-distance trails. Local Guinness in local pubs could give it the edge.

“Last March I ordered from you The Dingle Way book (Rucksack Readers) and the two relevant OS maps. Having just returned from walking the trail with two colleagues and been lucky enough to get good weather, I thought maybe you might like to contact the County Kerry authorities with a view from experienced long-distance walkers that whilst the Way rivals anything available in the UK for scenery, it falls far short of what is needed to add a boost to the economy such as e.g. Devon & Cornwall experience with the broadly similar South West Coast Path (the “org” website is worth studying). The fundamental criticism is that it is not a Way for walkers but a linking of roads that are dangerous for walkers. Where off-road is available the path is not maintained and equally dangerous with severe bogs forcing escapes by wall-walking and the like. Secondly, the literature does not explain that the fantastic Brandon Mountain is a blockage point unless staying B&B or camping and for the same reason Dingle is not a good base: only Tralee facilitates traversing the South and North side of the peninsula. All this is a great shame since the Irish welcome everywhere was wonderful and it is obvious that businesses need the boost to complement the coach travellers. If the following were put in place and the Way marketed properly to the UK walking fraternity, Kerry can only benefit –
• An umbrella organisation needs putting in place (no pun intended) – see Southwestcoastpath.org.uk – to supervise organisations made responsible for parts of the path
• An actual pathway needs forming off-road
• Regular maintenance is needed and descriptions checked and re-checked (e.g. the third bullet point on page 49 is incorrect and sends the walkers miles off-course).
• An official guide needs to include recommended lodging places en-route and gradings of sections and list baggage carriers
• The stages should be sensible and follow other trail experiences e.g. the 17 and 18 mile sections are unnecessarily too long

Maybe you could pass these thoughts on to the appropriate people.”

Jgs 12 September 2012