Annascaul or Abha na Scáil is a village straggling along the main road up the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. It's a stopping point on the Dingle Way hiking trail, and Inch Beach 5 km east is a centre for surfing.
Annascaul had a population of 299 in 2011. Its Irish name may refer to a crossing on the river, or the burial place of a hero - it's yet another spot where the legendary Cuchulainn is said to be buried. But one legendary hero was indeed born and buried here, the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean (1877-1938). It was also the birthplace of sculptor Jerome Connor (1874-1943), who mostly lived and worked in the United States.
Tom Crean was born in 1877 on a farm near Annascaul and joined the Royal Navy. In 1901 his ship was in New Zealand accompanying Captain Scott's Discovery when a seaman was dismissed from the expedition. Crean volunteered as replacement so this became his first voyage to Antarctica. They overwintered as planned in McMurdo Sound but come summer were unable to break free of the ice, so they spent a second winter. Next summer they remained stuck, and were about to abandon ship when the ice broke. Discovery is on display in Dundee.
Crean was a sure pick for Scott's next venture, the Terra Nova attempt to reach the South Pole. In 1911 a large group set out from McMurdo Sound, with support parties progressively dropping off to return to base, and Crean was with the eight who got to within 270 km of the pole at 87°32'S. Then Scott picked four companions for the final stretch, and Crean, Lashly and Edgar Evans were those bitterly disappointed at having to turn back. The trio got into terrible difficulties descending Beardmore Glacier, but Crean made a heroic solo journey to fetch help. Later he was among the party that found the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers.
Already famous, Crean was to astound the world with his exploits with Shackleton on Endurance. They set out in 1914 intending to traverse Antarctica but never reached it. The ship became crushed by ice, and the crew slogged over ice and open sea to reach Elephant Island, where there was scant food and no prospect of being found. So they reinforced one of their small boats, and Shackleton, Crean, Worsley, Vincent, McCarthy and McNish set sail in James Caird to bring help to the others. They accomplished a journey of 1300 km over a roaring Southern Ocean to land on the dangerous south coast of South Georgia. Neither boat nor two of the men could go further, but Shackleton, Crean and Worsley somehow crossed the island's uncharted mountains and glaciers to Stromness whaling station to bring rescue.
Crean continued to serve in the navy but married and started a business and family, so he declined Shackleton's 1921 expedition. He was also injured in a fall, and had to retire from the navy, so he opened The South Pole Inn in Annascaul. He died in 1938 from ruptured appendicitis and is buried nearby in Ballynacourty.
For inter-city routes travel via Tralee, which has buses and trains from Dublin, Limerick and elsewhere.
By road from Dublin follow M7 / M20 past Limerick then N21 via Adare and Castleisland to Tralee, then N86 along the coast to Camp and over the hill to Annascaul. Fill your tank / re-charge at Tralee for supermarket prices. Annascaul doesn't have a filling station, the nearest are in Dingle, Camp or between Inch and Castlemaine.
You need your own wheels. There's car hire in Kerry Airport, Tralee and Killarney, and bike hire in Dingle.
As well as Bus 275, Local Link Bus R74 runs twice M and W between Dingle, Lispole and Annascaul.
- The South Pole Inn remains in business, see below, and is full of Antarctic memorabilia. It was also intended to create an exhibition space for the sculpture of Jerome Connor, but as of 2021 nothing's come of that.
- 1 Inch Beach is a 5 km peninsula jutting into Dingle Bay. It has a sandy beach popular for surfing and shore-fishing (see below). The village has accommodation and bar / restaurants. Use the big parking lot: lots of people drive onto the beach, but they don't always manage to drive off again.
- 2 Lough Anscaul or Annascaul Lake is set in a steep-sided U-shaped valley. It's a simple hike from the village, with two trails so you can make a loop of 12 km. An extension north leads onto the ridge. Midway along the west trail, a short detour takes in Ballynacourty old cemetery, where Tom Crean is buried.
- 3 Minard Castle is a medieval tower house battered to bits by Oliver Cromwell. Nothing remains of the earlier ringfort as the Council took its stone for road-building. The shore of the bay is heaped with boulders and cobbles smoothed by wave action, handy for monuments, and several Ogham stones have been traced to here.
- Kingdom Waves, Inch Beach, ☏ . Daily 10:00-18:00. Surf school and equipment hire. They also have a shack on Banna Beach near Tralee.
- Offshore Surf School, Inch Beach, ☏ . Daily 09:00-18:00. They offer surf lessons and kit hire. They too have another shack on Banna Beach near Tralee.
- Dingle Way is a 176 km hiking trail that begins in Tralee, circles the Dingle peninsula and returns. The whole circuit takes 8 days but you can easily do short sections. Day One is from Tralee to Camp. Day Two crosses the ridge of Slieve Mish then follows mostly lowland tracks and green lanes to Inch, and onward west to Annascaul, 17 km and maybe 5 hours. Day Three is from Annascaul to Minard Castle on the coast before swinging inland through Lispole to come onto the ridge above Dingle then into town, 23 km and 6 hours.
- Annascaul Walks! meet on Sundays at Hanafin's Bar for organised hikes.
- O'Donnell's is the village store in Annascaul, open M-Sa 08:00-21:30, Su 09:00-14:00.
- Black puddings: you can never have enough. Ashe's Black Pudding Co on Main St makes them in a traditional local style (though this is not the protected-name version made in Sneem). Check your own country's import regulations if you intend to take them home - EU and United Kingdom should be alright, but others may prohibit meat imports.
- There is no ATM or bank in Annascaul or Inch. Most businesses accept card payments but not all.
- Foleys Bar & Restaurant, Inch East V92 FY51 (1 km east of beach), ☏ . Daily 12:00-22:00. Good reliable eating place and bar, also has rooms. B&B double €90.
- Sammy's, Inch Beach V92 F348, ☏ . F-M 12:00-20:00. Good dining right on the beach, great views.
- South Pole Inn, Main St, Annascaul, ☏ . Th-M 12:00-21:00. The pub that Tom Crean opened when he retired from the navy, named for the place he never reached. Lots of Antarctic memorabilia. It doesn't have accommodation so you can't over-winter if you're iced in.
- Hanafin's, Main St, Annascaul. Cosy trad pub in village centre, sometimes has live music.
- Randy Leprechaun, Main St, Annascaul. Non-residents can drink here but it's primarily a hostel for groups on Paddywagon package tours, and only as clean as their last raucous busload. It wasn't open in early 2021.
- Brosnan's is within Teac Seáin, see Sleep.
- Dan Foley's in Annascaul closed in the 1990s when Dan the owner died; he was a well-known stage magician. The pub facade remains as a village landmark, not least because it's the bus stop. Don't confuse it with Foley's Bar & Restaurant in Inch.
- Tom Crean Brewery was founded by Crean's granddaughter Alison. It's in Kenmare but you'll probably find their range of beers in Annascaul.
- 1 Dingle Gate Hostel, The Mall, Annascaul V92 TR83 (on main road 2 km east of village), ☏ . Open Apr-Oct with 12 bedrooms, 8 en suite, with laundry, common room and games room. You can also camp here and use the facilities. Dorm €20 ppn.
- Paddy's Palace, Main St, Annascaul. This hostel wasn't open in 2020 or early 2021.
- Annascaul House, Main St, Annascaul V92 PR23 (the blue one, formerly the terracotta red one), ☏ . Cosy B&B with four rooms en suite. B&B double €70.
- Inspiration Lodge, Main St, Annascaul V92 R623, ☏ . Tranquil B&B in village centre. B&B double €70.
- Ardrinane House, Main St, Annascaul V92 F792, ☏ . Modern B&B opposite South Pole Inn. B&B double €90.
- Shadow River Farm on Ardrinane Rd 200 m south of village has B&B.
- Four Winds, Ballinacourty, Annascaul V92 E778 (500 m west of village), ☏ . Decent B&B on the old Dingle road, north of the modern N86.
- Old Anchor Inn, Main St, Annascaul V92 KT5E, ☏ . It's no longer a pub, but a clean friendly B&B, all rooms en suite. B&B double €90.
- Teac Seáin, Main St, Annascaul V92 TR53, ☏ . Comfy immaculate B&B open Mar-Nov. B&B double €90.
- Seafront Inn (formerly The Strand), Inch Beach V92 V128, ☏ . This has dorm, hotel rooms, restaurant and bar. Dog-friendly and they can fix you up for surfing. Dorm €30 ppn, B&B double €150.
- Inch Beach B&B, Inch Beach V92 YD27, ☏ . Clean comfy B&B with 11 rooms, right by the beach. They also have a camping and caravan site, and self-catering cottages. Plus a country house but that's over 15 km away. B&B double €90.
As of May 2021 there is mobile coverage, and maybe 4G, from all Irish carriers in Annascaul and along N86. There are dead spots along R561 towards Inch. 5G has not reached this area.
- Dingle is the only sizeable town on the peninsula. Go that way for Atlantic views, prehistoric dwellings, and boats to the Blasket Islands.
- You can reach the north coast either via Dingle and Conor Pass (light vehicles only) to Cloghane, or via the main road to Camp and Tralee.
- R561 east leads to N70, the main road round the Ring of Kerry, starting the circuit at Killorglin.
- Antarctica: would Crean, Shackleton and Scott laugh, cry or be impressed at what's become of their old neighbourhood? Probably all of those simultaneously. McMurdo Station in the Ross Sea is reached on cruises from Australia / NZ and is the main staging post for trips to the Pole, as it was for them. The Antarctic Peninsula and islands are the destination for cruises from South America. Some of these take in South Georgia Island, where hardy souls can recreate the famous mountain trek from the south coast to Stromness harbour.