Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ireland Day Nine -- The Dingle Peninsula

Before setting off on our trip, Luke (or should I say, Sheriff Lobo?) modeled one of his new mustaches that he picked up at the "Everything for €2" shop. Luke chose to wear "Hollywood." I have no idea who he is turning into. Magnum PI? Sam Elliott? God, help us!

Today, we devoted the entire day to touring around Dingle. We had the choice to drive a ring around Dingle or the famous Ring of Kerry. However, in the tour books, it warns that the Ring of Kerry is so heavily traveled that it loses some of its charm when you're staring at the ass-end of a tour bus at 20 km/h for ninety minutes. It's worse yet, if you see it coming at you around a one-lane mountain road with a sheer drop-off to your right.

Choosing the Dingle Peninsula was definitely the better choice. It was much less traveled, and offers stunning vistas of the mountains and the sea. Dingle is also one of the largest Gaeltacht (or Irish-speaking) areas in the Republic, though, of course, everyone spoke perfect English as well.

Our trip took us straight out to Dingle (or An Daingean in Irish) on the R561 and N86. The road was narrow and high, but never treacherous. We always had room for cars and buses to pass. And the views were simply spectacular. We were driving the Slea Head Drive which circles the outer tip of the peninsula along the coast.

Our first stop was the Dunbeg fort, a corbelled, dry-stone beehive hut. This ring of stone ruins perches high above the violent ocean below.

Driving a bit further, we reached Slea Head, under which a tiny secret beach hides between the cliffs. Finding the beach was like finding our own secret oasis, with crystal clear tide-pools, and beautiful crashing waves, and a perfectly smooth sandy beach.

Just after the beach, we reached the Blascaod (or Blasket Island) Heritage Center. This museum presents the stories of the people who lived on the now-abandoned Blasket Island, but also offers a brief education in the Gaelic language and culture. Videos, dioramas, replica cottages, and interactive displays present the history of these island inhabitants, who evacuated Blasket in the 1950s, when the island could no longer sustain them. (Unlike the super-large fish and chips, which sustained Eddie just fine.)

Onward, we stopped at the Louis Mulcahy Pottery Workshop and Studios. Becky enjoyed browsing the gorgeous (but very expensive) pottery, and was able to find a couple pieces that we could afford. (Very, very small pieces.)

The real treat of this stop was the studio where the kids could make their own bowls on the spinning wheel. The pottery lady was very nice, totally patient, and she let the boys each make two bowls. And the cost was perfect: absolutely free!

After the pottery stop, we hit the early Christian Gallarus Oratory, which is believed to be an early church, though they don't really know. The stone building resembles an up-turned boat, and viewing it was interesting, but very brief. When a large tour bus pulled up, we departed quickly. There's nothing more annoying than some of these tours: Scores of overweight senior citizens walking toward you two-abreast on a narrow stone path, expecting you to step off into the grass to let them by, or worse, following them snail's pace up to the site as they plod along.

Anyhow, it wasn't too bad on Dingle, but we did run into them once or twice.

We finished touring the circle by once again coming back to Dingle, but this time we stopped to see what was in the town. The marina was filled with real fishing boats, not gussied up tourist boats, but real dirty boats with nets and fish crates. These very boats probably brought in the cod, haddock and herring that the boys and I have been eating all week. Thanks to them!

Dingle is also known for its shopping, and we did our part to support the local economy. Becky picked up some linen stuff, the boys each got tin whistles, and we got some gifts for friends back home.

After an hour or so in Dingle, we came back to Killarney to get supper at a Tandoori restaurant downtown. It's funny that when we're in the bigger cities we eat international cuisine. Sometimes, a little variety is good.

After supper, we treated ourselves to Murphy's ice cream from Dingle. Luke had cookies and cream, and I had a scoop of raspberry sorbet, but the winning flavor of the night was the honey-lavender, which was too good for words.

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Dingle and Killarney, heading south to the seaside village of Kinsale, with a stop-over at Castle Blarney. I've been told that kissing the Blarney Stone will make me more eloquent. I don't think I need it, but I'll give it a try!

© Copyright 2005-2014, Scott E. Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Please do not reproduce or copy without the permission of the author.