Dingle Penninsula Loop

Trip Start May 21, 2007
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Trip End Jun 01, 2007


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Friday, May 25, 2007

We woke up to an absolutely gorgeous day, with a bright blue sky and fluffy clouds that looked painted over this small town.  After breakfast (traditional Irish without the meat-- people here have a way with scrambled eggs!) we walked about town to snap pictures.  The town has a little dog that runs all over, following people on walks, jetting through the SuperValue, joining a crowd wherever.  When Josh took his picture, Dingle Dog threw up.

The town has a mascot, Fungie (FOON-ghee, with a hard g).  He moved into the harbor in 1983, and loves to swim alongside tour boats.  When you do the boat tour you don't have to pay unless he shows up!  You can also rent wetsuits and swim with him.  As we did none of this, we visited his sculpture at the harbor.

Then came the best part of the vacation-- our self-guided tour of the Dingle Peninsula Loop.  We missed a couple points in the beginning, such as Lord Ventry's Manor, due to confusion over how long it takes to drive one kilometer.  Honestly, Elisa would have turned around had she had her way, but the rest of the tour made up for it!  We got a look at the foggy Skellig Michael and Little Skellig... awesome.  Drove past the pub owned by Irish Football legend Paidi O Se (Paddy O'Shea).  Missed the blue cottage Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise lived in during the filming of Far and Away. We figured out where we were on the route when we came upon the beehive huts. These are like little stone igloos, tiny pyramids of Ireland.  Across the road from the second group of these huts was the hillside on which Tom Cruise's character's hut was torched in Far and Away. On this land was a two-headed lamb.   Okay, it's two babies, but it looks like one!  This is the land which used to be pretty much worthless for growing anything.  All rock.  Poor tenant farmers made fences out of the stones, then hauled seaweed up the hillside and layed it out to make soil.  As Rick Steves' book says, "Seaweed is a natural source of potash-- organic farming before it was trendy."  This is astounding when you see the steepness of the land and consider the fact that all they had to haul with was a basket and maybe a donkey.

We got a great view of the Blasket Islands at Ceann Sleibhe (Slea Head).  There's a big old crucifix at this curve of the road.    Our pictures don't do the clear perfection of this day justice!

This is the area in which Ryan's Daughter was filmed, making the peninsula a tourist attraction and boosting Dingle's economy.  On the road in this area is a plaque commemorating the 30th anniversary of this film.  We then came across the area of road which collapsed into the sea a couple months back.  Scary! They've made a new road, but past the barriers you can see road with missing chunks.  As Elisa already has recurring nightmares about Josh accidentally driving the two of them off a steep mountainside, this was less-than-comforting to see.

But then we came upon a burial ground belonging to the residents of the Blasket Islands, as they didn't have one-- or a church-- on the islands themselves.  The simple lives of the people of the islands is fascinating.  On a calm day it could take island farmers a half-hour to row across the harbor to the mainland of the peninsula, at which point they would dock, then haul their goods 12 miles into town.

We had picked up a picnic at SuperValue in town, and decided to find the amazing little beach we spotted from the road to eat it. Here we dined in the sun on an assortment of rolls, cheese, spicy English mustard in a kick-ass metal tube, and more smoked salmon.  And of course, some tasty hard cider.


Back on the road we got a view of the island called the "Sleeping Giant," named for the shape resembling just that-- complete with a hand resting on a massive beer belly.

At a viewpoint along the way we were able to look up the hillside, the tops of which have remained untouched since the planting of 1845, which lead to the infamous famine that erased 3/4 of the population between starvation and emigration.  There are faint vertical ridges of the mounds.  Chilling.

Driving through Ballyferriter we saw a very real-looking "stone" cross, actually a fiberglass prop from Ryan's Daughter.

The scant remains of  Mainistir Riaise (Reasc Monastery) are incredible.  There is tar paper visible in the inner walls dividing the original stone (buried until 1975) from the excavators' reconstruction. These walls divided the monastery into areas for worship, business and dwelling.  There's a kiln they used for cooking and drying grain, which they also allowed the locals to use in exchange for a "cut."  The highlight is a Celtic stone pillar (c. 500 B.C.), carved over with a Maltese-type cross by Christians upon their arrival in the 5th century.

Next was Cill Mhaoilcheadair (the church of Kilmalkedar), which was the Norman center of worship. It has a graveyard, which over the years has risen above the adjacent fields, as well as a partially buried early-Christian cross, and an ogham stone which had been on the grounds for 900 years before the church was built. This stone is another interesting bit of history.  It is covered with Morse-code type ogham script, which was used between the third and seventh centuries.  There is a hole drilled through the top. People would touch thumbs through this hole, standing before God and on the graves of their ancestors, to "seal deals."  It is also used to renew marriage vows (pictured, hehe).

We passed through  rusted "kissing gate" and walked about an old "fairy fort." Found this bit online: "A Fairy Fort, also known as raths, are the ruins of old houses where the ancient Celts lived. It is believed that the Druids' magic surroundings these raths. Although a superstition, many Irish believe that misfortune will come to anyone who disturbs these raths. These raths are located throughout Ireland."

There is a battle going on in Dingle right now, over it's name of all things.  The region is a Gaeltacht, meaning they recieve government subsidy to preserve Irish culture.  Part of this culture is of course the Gaelic language, and a condition of this financial support is that all English names have been erased off of road signs, and it can be confusing driving toward Dingle if you don't know the signs will only say An Daingean (on DANG-un).  The locals are none-too-happy about this, and you will often see "Dingle" stenciled onto the signs.  Mischievous residents, we applaud you!

I bring this up now because heading back into town there is a sign that reads "Tog Bog E," meaning "take it easy."  Josh had a ball with that one for a long fifteen minutes.  Then we were back in Dingle.

The couple at the B&B helped Josh make difficult dinner reservations (at first the restaurant said no, but then squeezed us in), then we headed to McCarthy's Pub for an appetizer of Guinness. The publican was a cool younger guy who chatted with us about the results of the prior day's election results.

And then it was off to the best part of our entire vacation: dinner at Out Of The Blue.  We almost missed our reservation by taking the longest possible route there, practically walking out of town in the loop we took.  But we made it.  And thank God we did!  It is literally across the street from the harbor, where the fishing boats dock and drop off their goods every day.  The restaurant doesn't have a printed menu, they have a chalkboard; this is due to the fact that the menu changes daily depending on what the boats have brought in.  If there's a storm and the ships don't go out, OOTB doesn't open.  No chips, nothing fried.  A sign inside tells you that whatever you order is either fresh or alive.  We had incredible mussels, which Elisa has been craving since we visited Tim in Philly a few years back. The sea bass was served whole with everything but the brain, and the scallops included their feet, which we'd never had.  Presentation and sides, perfect. Plus we had a bottle of wonderful wine, which hit the spot as we haven't had it for awhile.  Best meal EVER!  If you're thinking that this is a ridiculously long paragraph about dinner, keep in mind that it is written by Elisa, who is a big fatty fat fat.  And the food really was that amazing.

After dinner We went to O'Flaherty's, where Elisa had one of their famous Irish Coffees. The owner is known for joining in on the nightly trad music sessions, which tonight was performed by a very large group of rotating musicians.

Then we hit the Dingle Pub, with live shanty music!  It was so great! Unfortunately bars close early here so we only heard a handful of songs before finding our way back to our room.  Through the open windows we heard the locals singing themselves home.
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Comments

dorota
dorota on

Thank you!
I love Ireland,too!
thank you for your blog.I used them in my sharing class. thank you very much!

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