Goosey Island - a real gem in The Ring of Kerry

Goosey Island is delightful. A real gem in The Ring of Kerry that sparkled in the September sunshine, living up to its reputation and more. You have to go there to see for yourself.

There are places which are embedded in the folklore of Irish camping culture and road trips.

Special places, secret spots, iconic locations which have been handed down by veteran and seasoned travellers and motorhome enthusiasts.

Even without social media to propel their popularity these famed campsites or stopovers achieve a near mythical status through word of mouth and the earnest recommendation of, ‘Oh you have to go there …’

One such place is Goosey Island.

I am by nature suspect of such recommendations. Years of pushing a pen have made me cynical, doubtful, to the point of even looking for something to be wrong, like, ‘what’s the catch?’

There were a few places on my list to suss out, see for myself, what’s all the fuss about.

Goosey Island and Dick’s Field among them. I have yet to make it to Dick’s Field, but managed to get a long weekend down in Goosey Island a fortnight ago.

Goosey Island didn’t disappoint. It was delightful. A real gem in The Ring of Kerry that sparkled in the September sunshine, living up to its reputation and more. You have to go there to see for yourself.

An Aire style facility on a knot on the river in the picture postcard-like Sneem, Goosey Island is in the heart of the town and in many ways is the beating heart of this snug village.

Sneem too is charming and more than holds its own in the illustrious company it keeps on the Iveragh Peninsula.

Charming, not in a contrived cheesy hammed-up sweet-talkin’ jarvey sort of a way, but the real deal. It oozes an authentic welcome, a céad mile fáilte as warm and diverse as the colours on the walls of its streetscape.

Nothing seems odd here, no one seems out of place. It just has that lovely feel to it. Sneem is the sort of place you get away with staring at and talking to a puck goat, whose beard rivals that of its equally eccentric owner, without anyone batting an eyelid.

Sneem won the National Tidy Towns Award back in 1987 but it certainly hasn’t rested on its laurels as you can sense the pride of place and community spirit everywhere you go - the quaint shop fronts; the staffed and spotless public toilets; the vibrant family businesses, a butcher, a baker and I’m sure there is a candlestick maker in there somewhere, between the bicycle rental & repair shop; the ice-cream corner, the doughnut van, the cafés, taverns and restaurants and a tourist office that is actually open at the weekends, which doubles as a dinky craft and gift shop dispensing the most useful map detailing all there is to do locally and along the famed Ring of Kerry.

Sneem itself seems perfectly symmetrically balanced with two squares and village greens either side of the river. All you need is within touching distance including riverside walks, playground, an intriguing pyramid park, barbecue and picnic areas and monuments to the fifth President of Ireland, Cearbhall O’Dalaigh and to local Gaelic football hero, John Egan, a native son from out the road in Tahilla, who won six All Ireland titles under manager Mick O’ Dwyer.

Of course hiking and biking are all the rave around The Ring of Kerry and they are certainly the best ways to explore and go off the beaten track at your own pace. In Sneem there is the added bonus of angling and kayaking as activities right on your doorstep if you are parked up at Goosey Island. You can kayak from here right out into the mouth of Kenmare Bay. The list of places to go and things to do is endless and would require at least a dozen or more visits and sure what would be wrong with that?

And yet if you just saunter a short bit out the way, this is a place where the grass grows up the middle of the boreen; no one bothers the bursting blackberries on the bramble and you can stop to smell the wild roses while you’re out for your ramble, so plentiful that you will be greeted by their scent before you ever spot them in this place where time comes dropping slow; a place where a man and his goat on a lead doesn’t even warrant a second glance and as for rush hour, well, there is no rush hour in Sneem.

As for Goosey Island, do only good people get to go there, as in Camper Heaven? That’s how it seemed to us on our sojourn, as we had just the most splendid neighbours, including an artist from Antrim and a fisherman from Cork. As dusk approached and we had not yet returned from our kayaking expedition to Oysterbed Pier they kept a watchful and caring eye out and a welcome helping hand as we landed back at base.

The river is tidal so the water levels fluctuate considerably, so do take care and the helpful advice from the Goosey Island owner, Seán O’Sullivan, himself a rowing enthusiast with vast knowledge of the water, the weather and the vagaries which they can throw up.

Our Friday evening BBQ which sizzled to the serenading accompaniment of the river torrent across the rocks was elevated to high-cuisine with the generous gift of two freshly caught rainbow trout from fishing legend Laddie, a Goosey Island regular. This gent of a Corkman even divulged the secrets of his success…which Vanhalla will take to the grave, and boy were those trout tasty straight off the charcoals.

With the sweet surfing conditions of Inch Beach across on the Dingle Penninsula dragging us away we had to skedaddle out of Sneem and Goosey Island on Sunday morning, relishing the glorious energising days we had spent there, knowing full well we’ll have to return at the earliest opportunity, for Goosey Island has well earned its reputation in Irish camping culture.

The extra good news is that Goosey Island Motor Home Park is open all year round. An Aire style facility the cost is €10 per night plus €5 extra if you require an electrical hook up (EHU). There is a good grey and black waste disposal point and the fresh water point is at the entrance to the site, so probably best to fill up on arrival or departure if required. Each evening there is a refuse collection round with a fee of €2, €3 or €4 depending on the size of the bag you are disposing. The site is pet friendly, as are the resident dogs, Elvis and Coco.

To check-in for Goosey Island, you call in to Dan Murphy’s Bar in the village square, which, in even more good news, re-opens from this Monday, September 21. Fingers crossed it stays that way and another good reason to beat a track back to Goosey Island before too long.

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