posted by Conor
Thu, 8 Jun 2017
Round Trip To Annascaul Lake
No stay at The Dingle Gate Hostel would be complete without an excursion to the nearby wonder that is Annascaul Lake. For so many visitors, travelling to Dingle means making a beeline to the peninsula’s eponymous main town. But, as stunningly charming as Dingle Town obviously is, the journey there should be half the adventure. It’s a lucky few that find themselves on a tour bus that drifts off the beaten track or, at the very least, slows down at the South Pole Inn for a quick tip of the cap to Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean ... before beelining again of course! For, only the truly privileged discover that Dingle is first and foremost a peninsula of diverse spectacle; wild, wonderful and pretty much everything but town. Annascaul Lake is perhaps its most hidden gem of all, so it's such a shame that it's so often by-passed. Then again, let’s keep it our little secret. Shush! Don’t share this article too much on social media.
The dg lies just 5.5km - just over 3 miles - southeast of Annascaul Lake. It’s possible to drive there, but for those who are unfamiliar with the botharíns (very narrow Irish country roads) of Dingle, it may be more comfortable to take the longer but more car-friendly route through Annascaul both there and back. On your outbound spin, simply turn right on crossing the river at the far side of the village and you can’t really go awry. There’s a small – usually vacant – car park right by the lake, but you should definitely stretch the legs a little and explore for a distance beyond.
For those starting out at the dg on two wheels or none at all, there’s a more direct departing route, which, when combined with the extended detour on the return leg, creates a beautiful 12km looped excursion. With a bit of preparation and a packed thermos flask, you’ll be able to dissect the walk or cycle with a lengthy pause for picnic. That way you can set out knowing you'll soon be sipping tea or coffee with the tranquillity of the lake as a soothing backdrop. Water? Check! All set then? Let’s go!
Turn left when exiting the hostel and continue along the walk/cycle lane of the main Tralee-Dingle N86 road for about five minutes. Cross over when it’s safe as you’ll be taking the second right towards Derrygorman. This is a very quiet road and it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter more than four or five local resident vehicles from this point onwards. There are a few off-road trails, but these mostly just lead to farm fields and yards. So, stay on the road and when in doubt, look out for the red guiding arrows marked on the wooden posts along the way.
Eventually, this road will merge with another and veer right. From here on, the lake should be within view, so just keep heading towards it. There’s a gate as you approach the car park which you are free to open. But, remember there are sheep in this area, so close it behind you. Once at the Lake, you can rest your feet for as long as needs be. Kick your boots off, sit on the wall or on the grass if it’s not wet and enjoy that packed sandwich and those drinks, both hot and cold. You should notice a trail to the left of the car park. If you’re up for it and feeling refreshed, follow it into the valley for a kilometre or two and enjoy the sights and sounds of the rippling streams and flowing waterfalls. Ann @ the dg has posted this nice photo gallery to give you an idea of what to expect – but seeing is believing, so just go!
When, alas, the time comes to lace up again or get back in the saddle, follow the route back, closing the gate behind you once more. When you come to a fork in the road, take a right towards Annascaul to ensure you return by a different course; the left road is the one you came up earlier. This gives you the option of dropping by the great Tom Crean’s grave at Ballynacourty Cemetary. You might also meet a few of the hairier locals along this way - as I did in September. The beauty of taking this western route back is that you’ll arrive in the heart of the village where a number of enticing waterholes await. The only snag is having to decide where to enjoy that well-deserved first cold beer.
The picnic from earlier should now also be a distant memory and you should have worked up a right hunger on the road back. If you’re lucky enough to do the trek on a scorching summer’s day, an al fresco meal where the rivers meet outside the South Pole will be the perfect tonic. Should the elements be less kind, just add another few paces to your voyage and snuggle up by the fire with Patcheen’s perfect fish and chips. It's so cosy the descent of darkness could sneak up on you, as it did me. But, you're smarter than that. This is Ireland in mid-June; sure it'll be light 'til last orders!