We all have those moments. Those moments when we can’t believe we are experiencing something because it seems so surreal. These moments can be incredible, or they can be devastating. The things is…whether they are good or bad, they have a way of changing you. No matter what…they change you.
I remember laying in bed on nights that I had a long day at work and dreaming of Ireland. I can remember telling my husband, Jacob, how we’d hike mountains and see green for miles. I can remember feeling like I would walk out of the airport and be consumed with the fresh, cool, Irish air. All of those things I day dreamed about were real and they actually happened…..to me.
For me, the time spent waiting for a vacation to come is almost just as fun as the trip. I’m one of those people who reads blog after blog, review after review, and comment sections galore before making a decision on purchases, but especially on travel options (that’s where the Type A Traveler comes in). The second we book, I’m on it. It drives my husband absolutely crazy, so he just let’s me take over and plan everything. Sure, some days….well, most days actually…I get antsy and time feels like it takes forever, but I get to consume my thoughts with what I’ll pack, or where we will go, what we’ll do, and all the little spots we’ll enjoy a local beer, or a cup of coffee. I’ll make lists and lay things out, but most of all..I’ll day dream incessantly about those surreal feelings I’ll have and all the new experiences I will be able to call memories.
I can remember it so perfectly….my first daydream come true…the smell of the fresh, Irish air. We woke up just in time to have breakfast on flight and when I saw we’d be landing in about an hour, I could feel the excitement swelling up inside me quickly. As soon I could see exit doors at Shannon Airport, I left my luggage with Jacob and had to walk outside. I was right. I felt like I had been transported. Transported to a place that was beautiful even on a cloudy, dreary day. That was Ireland. Grey skies, cool fresh air, and the slightest smell of moisture in the air.
So, you’re probably wondering why this post is called “The Windy Gap” when I’m over here gushing over feelings, and daydreams, and all that mushy travel stuff you see in the movies. Well…this is why…
The second day we were in Ireland is that day that changed me. The day that felt like a dream. The day that lit a flame inside me that still burns and burns and burns. It was this day that I realized I could travel wherever I wanted to go. I could stop day dreaming about it and actually start doing it.
It was this day
6. 9. 16
We woke up at our bed and breakfast, Carrigane House, in Limerick. We were treated to a full Irish breakfast complete with french press coffee, black pudding, bacon, eggs, and Irish brown bread all made from scratch by the owner, Maura. Before we left, I had been researching trails in Ireland that were somewhere along our planned route and I stumbled upon one that looked absolutely breathtaking. It was a bit out of our way and not in our itinerary (SO not like me), but we had to hike it. We changed plans last-minute after breakfast and headed towards Glenbeigh. Just like the day before, we were stunned by Ireland’s beauty. Just driving through small towns, along the coast, past farms, and down tiny roads is enough to make you wonder if anything in this world is as beautiful.
When we arrived in Glenbeigh (from N70), we parked across the street from the gas station in the centre of town and loaded up our packs. Note: you can park in the parking lot across from the gas station, next to the Towers Hotel, or you can take the risk and drive up to the trailhead where there are two parking spots. If they are taken, there’s really nowhere else to park once you are up there. I would recommend parking in town because the road up to the trailhead is quite lovely and it eliminates the risk of not having a place to park (type a people like me always think it’s better safe than sorry). Also, looking back, I feel our car was safer parked in town and the trail doesn’t end at the trailhead anyway. So, you either have to park two cars (not typically an option for most people) or park in town and just walk back through town on N70 to your car.
On the way up ↓↓↓
Once we got to the trailhead, we realized we had our work cut out for us. The first leg is a fairly steep incline up to the actual windy gap. I’m not going to lie…we were out of breath. We had a tough time getting up that hill to the gap after hiking up the road. If you can bring trekking poles, DO IT! Looking back, they would have been really helpful for all of our hiking in Ireland. Take your time on this hike. It is considered moderate grade and is 6 miles long round trip. It is recommended to allot 3 hours for this 6 mile hike, but I would give yourself more time to take pictures and just sit and enjoy the views. It might take up most of your day, but let it. Take it in, breathe it in, soak it up. Trust me. I would give anything to be in this moment again. We couldn’t help but to stop multiple times along the way and just smile at each other with exuding happiness. We kept saying to each other over and over again, “Babe, can you believe this? We are here. We are actually here. We made it.” Everything we had ever imagined about Ireland was real and happening…to us.
My second daydream come true…seeing green for miles. ↓↓↓
When we finally arrived at the top of the windy gap, I felt completely surrounded by beauty. The bay’s calm waters resting under a light blanket of fog, the small cottages amidst the sloping farmland, the mountain sheep scattered across the hills, and the rush of wind consuming every part of me that still needed to just let go. I thought of one of my favorite books and said to myself…
“And in that moment i swear we were infinite”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, pg. 39, Stephen Chbosky
Ireland changed me. The decision to do this hike changed me. This moment changed me.
Travel is not a just a luxury for those who can afford it. Travel is for the ones who daydream incessantly of places that seem too beautiful in their imagination to actually exist. It is for the ones who want to feel as though nothing else in the world is happening except what is before their eyes in a single moment. It is for the small town girls who know they are meant to experience something greater in this life. It is for all of the people out there that fill their head with excuses about why they can’t go. It doesn’t have to be 3,000 miles away. Get in the car for a drive on a Saturday, take a weekend trip with your best friend, find a small town and go to antique shops, go for a bike ride, find a local brewery/winery, go for a day hike.
What to bring:
- Hiking Boots
- Trekking Poles(optional, but recommended)
- Raincoat (this is just a must for Ireland.Period.No matter what you are doing)
- Small hiking backpack for snacks and water (5L with hydration bladder is perfect )
- Camera(all of these photos were taken with my iPhone)
Way to go:
MAP: OS of Ireland 1:50,000 Discovery 78; downloadable map/instructions at http://tcs.ireland.ie/ dataland/TCSAttachments/ 341_TheKerryWay.pdf
TRAVEL: N70 from Tralee or N72 from Killarney to Killorglin; N70 to Glenbeigh. For two-car walkers, park one car neatly up side road off N70, a quarter mile west of Caragh Bridge, and drive other car on for three-quarters of a mile into Glenbeigh. Park near Towers Hotel in Main Street.
WALK DIRECTIONS: By Towers Hotel turn up road past church (Kerry Way/KW ‘walking man’ waymark post). In one third of a mile take first lane on left (KW). Follow KW to end of tarmac, then up track to cross Windy Gap and descend to 3-way fingerpost. Keep ahead (‘Scenic Route’) to reach road and follow it down to N70 and return car near Caragh Bridge.
LENGTH: 6 miles: allow 3 hours
CONDITIONS: Good tracks and country roads