Driving the Dingle

Trip Start Sep 10, 2009
Trip End Oct 10, 2009

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Flag of Ireland  , County Kerry,
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We woke up to the sounds of wind and rain, and one glance out the window showed low clouds and rain on the cars. Undaunted, we dressed and went down for breakfast. Angela offers a nice breakfast menu with egg dishes, fruit, and banana-filled pancakes. We were convinced to order the pancakes by the other guests there, and they were quite good.

We talked to the couples we had met last night, then we were joined by a young couple from Washington, D.C. They’re here to attend a family wedding in Westport on Thursday. Everyone was leaving for the Cliffs of Moher and Galway after breakfast, so we wished them all safe journey. We had planned to drive Connor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland, today, but it’s not the best plan for a rainy day. Instead, we set out on the Slea Head Drive which encompasses the far western edge of the peninsula.

We drove this route five years ago, but there were some stops we didn’t make then, and others that we wanted to see again. As we went around one curve, we had water rushing across the road from the mountain above. The water went through two passages in the brick wall and tumbled down the cliff to the ocean below.

The rain and fog let up enough for us to drive down a very steep path to a beach while the drivers of two other cars decided not to chance it. The beach was a favorite memory, and the last time we were here, we also had it to ourselves. Part of the movie “Ryan’s Daughter” was filmed there and it has a rugged beauty that touches the soul. While John stayed near the car, I went down and walked to the edge of the surf. By the time I got back to the car I was pretty wet, but I have another memory.

We found the ruins of Reask monastic settlement, which were not much more than rock foundations, but we gave them a little time anyway. We stopped at the pottery studio of Louis Mulcahy and looked around. His pieces are lovely, but not my style.

The drive continued through small towns, stopping at other beaches, braving the wind and rain to look at a lovely sculpture at Brandon Creek, and a futile search for a fort John wanted to see. Our car was also attacked by a dog, and that was interesting! It was close to noon when we drove back down into Dingle for lunch.

Six tour buses sat in the car park, and their occupants were out searching for lunch and souvenirs. We went into Murphy’s and found a table in the nearly full bar. At the table near us were Americans from upper New York State. They were on a pilgrimage with their priest, and they were having a wonderful time. We had a nice chat with them before we left.

We walked about the harbor area for a while, stepping into and out of shops before going back to the b&b for a while. We took a little nap and woke to clear skies, so the exploration of Dingle continued.

We drove to the ruins of the 12th century Kilmalkedar Church which has an ogham stone (an obelisk with symbols) and a mysterious sundial. It had some remarkably intact carvings and very old as well as recent graves in the churchyard.

A stone ring fort was supposed to be nearby, and we drove up and down the same road twice before I spotted the name of the fort on a stone by the road. The fort itself was over a rock wall, so I waited while John explored a bit. We find the signage here to be somewhat of a challenge. When the sign (if there is one) has an arrow, the turn is immediate. Then one can drive for miles without anymore direction. To add to the confusion, we’re in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) where most of the road signs are in Gaelic. It all just adds to the adventure.

After driving to the Wine Strand (how could we not?), taking a picture of Rahinnane Castle, and stopping at Ventry Strand we drove back to the b&b. I made tea in our room--they have the neatest electric teapots here--and we had tea and cookies in the lounge while we read.

Dinner was again at Murphy’s, and then we drove through the quiet streets back to the b&b. John took a shower and we went back to the Marina Bar for coffee, dessert and trad music. The season is winding down, and even with a tour bus in town, there weren’t many of us in the bar. We stayed for over an hour and came back so the kids could skype us.

The moon is still mostly full and with its light shining brightly, we have the promise of a beautiful day tomorrow.
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