Day 5 – 7.5 hours in the saddle, utter tranquility along the Wild Atlantic & Dingle Peninsula Way

The view from my window this morning was breath-taking. The sea was a blanket of tranquillity, calm and smooth, the Maharees Islands (Seven Hogs) emerging craggy and proud from the serenity, creases in an otherwise untarnished canvas. The Islands themselves are now uninhabited, the ruins of a monastic site located on Oileán tSeanaigh the only remnants of human life, now the islands are used as summer grazing for local farmers livestock. At low tide cattle and sheep would swim across to the islands with farmers rowing alongside them in Currachs, but those days are gone, motorised boats and floatation devices now make the journey far less treacherous and arduous on the animals and their owners. Here at the head of the Maharees isthmus it feels like you are poised on the edge of the World, a harmonious balance between past and present.The tide dictates life on the coast and it is the ocean that decides when we ride. The sea is an enchanting mistress, allowing us time to gallop and luxuriate along her endless strand, but she decides when and for how long. The sea and tide must always be respected, for she can become vengeful if not. We had a leisurely morning, walking and exploring the craggy headlands and waiting patiently for the tide to retreat, waiting for golden slivers of sand to be revealed, fresh and untouched and soon to be indented with hoof prints.Despite the distances (averaging 37kms daily), our horses were fresh, jogging and prancing, invigorated by the scent of the sea air and the fresh virgin sand underfoot. There was no sound only the dull echo of hooves on soft ground as we meandered along the coast, this side of the Maharees tombola exhibiting a distinctly more volcanic flavour, rocks akin to molten lava dotting the strand. We galloped and walked, at times it felt like my horse Lady was floating through the air, she moved so flawlessly smooth across the sand. We waded into the surf, the salt water and current massaging our horses’ legs, revitalising them for the climb ahead.At Camp village we stopped for lunch, but alas the pub was not serving food until 5pm, a casualty of Covid. Where once they served food all day every day, now it was limited due to unavailability of staffing post covid and various other factors. Unfortunately, it was too late for us to wait, we had a mountain to climb, but we tied our horses up, let them have a rest and a nibble of grass whilst we enjoyed a traditional Irish lunch….an alcoholic beverage with a side order of peanuts and Tayto crisps!! Tip……always, always, always eat a big breakfast. You can never predict what may happen on the trail, as much as you plan and prepare, you are at the mercy of nature (and in these times Covid!).Leaving the beach behind we began our climb towards the ancient Cathair Con Rí, 2nd highest mountain in the Slieve Mish Range. The name of the mountain derives from Cú Roí mac Daire, the legendary king of Munster who features in many Irish folklore tales including those concerning Cú Chulainn. Riding through the stark and unique beauty of the ancient boglands adds a certain atmosphere of myth and lore, particularly as dusk set in, eerie light across cloudy skies. On we rode until once again the coast came into view, we had arrived to the infamous Inch beach. Perched high up on the back roads and boreens we could see the dunes, the wetlands and the never-ending strand, our playground for tomorrow.As we settled our horses in their paddock for the night, the sun began to dip behind the mountains, showering the sky in brilliant rich reds………” Red sky at night, shepherds delight.” 7.5 hours in the saddle, exhausted but deeply satisfied and in slight disbelief that this was the penultimate day with Dingle Horseriding.