Fairy Forts and Bagpipes
Trip Start Jun 24, 2012
11Trip End Jul 07, 2012
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We started our day at 8:30 with a full Irish breakfast (Rich), smoked mackerel (Den and Michael) and smoked salmon (me). There's wonderful seafood in Ireland and we’ve sampled lots and lots of it! Den and I gathered up all our dirty clothes to take to a local laundry while Michael and Rich checked email. The laundry was on Green Street and was manned by a nice attendant who said it would be done in a few hours and that they’d close at 4:00 sharp and not open again until Monday. That put some boundaries on our trip around the Dingle Peninsula since we weren’t keen on having to drive back two hours to Dingle on Monday morning from Kenmare, our next stop. On the way back, we stopped by the Centra grocery store and selected salad plates to take for a picnic lunch.
We got on the road around 11:00 in a rather misty morning but with high hopes for some sun along the way
Our first real stop was at Dunbeg Fort, a series of grassy ditches and stone walls and structures clinging right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the crashing sea. The fort dates back to the Iron Age (500 B.C. to A.D. 500) and was occupied during Medieval times as well. There was a short film to describe what is known about the forts (not much). One of the reasons so many of these structures survived was because the local people called them "fairy forts" and thought it would be bad luck to disturb them—lucky for us.
We stopped along the road at a beautiful overlook and pulled out our salad plates. It was so cold and windy that we decided to have our picnic lunch in the car, but it was no hardship with that kind of view
The highlight of the loop trail for us was the Great Blasket Centre, which details the lives and writings of the inhabitants of the Blasket Islands, visible from the Centre. The Centre itself is a masterpiece of architecture (making us think of Rich's brother Paul) and perfectly depicts the way of life on the island. It’s filled with stained glass, art, photos, quotes from writings, and even recordings of Blasket Island inhabitants telling stories in Gaelic. The last resident was moved off the island in the early 1950’s. We were a little rushed in the Centre since we were keeping an eye on time to get back for the laundry. I think you could spend several hours there to see everything.
Once back on the road, we reached the halfway point in the drive and began to see another whole set of sweeping vistas. The sun peeked in and out and we’d leap out of the car to grab a photo whenever we could. At one particularly memorable overlook a lovely little Irish lady was set up with her bagpipe and a dog at her feet. She said it was just a “gentle wind” and then began to play a beautiful tune. I’m not generally a fan of bagpipes but somehow looking out at the sea and the wild Irish landscape, it just seemed right.
Another stop on the loop was the Reasc Monastery ruins dating from the 6th to 12th centuries. The sun was shining brightly so everything took on an amazing beauty. I was especially taken with the stone Celtic pillar dating from 500 B.C. with interesting carvings. Our final stop was the ruined church of Kilmalkedar, the Norman center of worship for this part of the peninsula. By that time, we had almost lost the sun entirely as we made our way back to Dingle in plenty of time to collect our laundry.
We relaxed the rest of the afternoon at the B&B reading our email and catching up on our blog posts. At about 6:00, Den and I went up to a beautiful woolen shop we had passed on our morning errands. She and I each “oohed” and “aahed” over some brightly colored shawls that were as light at feathers. We both ended up buying one and I added a few other little gifts. Let’s hope I can fit everything into our already stuffed suitcases!
Dinner was at The Half Door, a fantastic seafood restaurant where we got early bird menus virtually guaranteeing we’d all eat too much. I had gratineed mushrooms that were creamy and divine and a baked salmon in buerre blanc
After dinner we decided to go for a walk since it was such a pretty evening. About five minutes into the walk, the heavens opened up. Luckily we had our raincoats, but unfortunately we didn’t have umbrellas. Michael, Den and Rich went into a pub near our B&B for some live Irish music. I decided to take some down time for myself and arrived at the B&B soaked to the skin. When Rich got home a little after 10:30, he reported great music and had a CD of the performers in hand to prove it.