I have realized that this has been the most civilized method of backpacking I had ever engaged in. It was still a true outdoor adventure; I covered 41 miles of the County Kerry’s Dingle Way on foot over the course of three days, from Dingle town to Cloghane, over hills, across fields, along beaches, and between brambly hedgerows, in fair weather and foul. On my first day I was completely soaked by a downpour, trudging through muddy bogs that, more than once, almost stole a boot from me.
I’ve done a bit of hiking, backpacking, and camping around the States, and, after this trip, I have realized what all of my previous expeditions were lacking: Pubs. Unlike in the wild backcountry that’s on the doorstep of so many major American cities, in Ireland, you’re rarely ever more than a day’s walk from a village with a public house in it, and in that pub you’ll find a hot meal and a cold pint of Guinness – something that’s hard to come by on the Pacific Crest Trail. The village will also provide a real bed and a warm stove to dry your soggy boots by.
I also want to make a brief mention of the great value on such a hike of a small flask of fortifying spirits. I brought with me a flask of Powers Irish Whiskey, and I have to say that it proved invaluable when the weather was cold, damp, and blustery, and I still had six miles to go. A sip or two is all that’s necessary – probably not even a full shot’s worth, certainly not enough to feel the slightest intoxication. But a small drop of the pure (The Rocky Road To Dublin, q.v.) is just the thing to warm you up a bit, make your feet hurt a little less, and make whatever endeavor you’re about to undertake seem like just a little bit better of an idea.