May 28th, 2014


London and Ireland Trip, October 4: Dingle and Slea Head

This was one of the most picture-heavy days of our trip.

Friday morning, I had the bagel with bacon and egg because it had looked so good when Lori got it by accident, and Lori got the porridge on the first try.
Bagel with Bacon and Eggs Porridge

We did our best to hustle to Dingle, a town of about 2000 people on a peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. We were carefully planning to be in Dingle for the weekend of the Dingle Food Festival, but I wanted to see the sights of the Dingle peninsula on Friday to leave us plenty of time for the festival on the weekend.

It rained in the morning but cleared up as we drove. We saw three rainbows on our route - but none with an opportunity to stop for a picture.

We noticed that the town of Castlemaine has a plaque proclaiming itself the origin of the Wild Colonial Boy (as commemorated in the song of that name).

The Dingle peninsula looks very much like my stereotype of Irish scenery. Some miscellaneous pictures from the eastern part of the Dingle peninsula, near Inch and Anascaul:
Dingle Peninsula Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

A panoramic view of green hills and hedgerows:
Dingle Peninsula Panorama

We got into Dingle about 1, and stopped for lunch at the first spot we saw, a family restaurant named Harrison’s. It was adequate but not delightful; Lori’s plaice and chips was a bit greasy, though my smoked haddock and chips had a nice smoke flavor.
Fish and Chips at Harrington's Smoked haddock and chips

We checked in at the Milestone Bed and Breakfast just east of town. (A pleasant place, but one of the tiniest bathrooms we’ve encountered. I had to turn sideways to get past the sink to the shower.) The Milestone B&B is so named because of the standing stone in the front yard, dating back to 2000-1400 BC.
Milestone at Milestone Inn

Barbara, the innkeeper, gave us a photocopied hand-drawn map of the Slea Head Loop to guide our drive and an oral commentary on the various sights. It was helpful advice; for example, we passed by beehive huts from the 8th century, because Barbara said there was no explanation, just a chance to pay a few Euros to an old woman to see the ancient huts in her garden. (Again, it’s wacky to me that such old structures are just lying around.)

I did want to stop at Dunbeg Fort, because of its longer heritage. It’s a cliff fort (or something; archaeology has apparently not been clear about its purpose) that might date back as far as the fifth century BC. It too is very low-key; the “visitor’s centre” is the pub across the road. We didn’t see any signs or explanations, so we are left guessing with everyone else about the purpose of these ditches and walls.
Dunguaire Fort Dunbeg Fort
Dunguaire Fort

More scenery pictures from near Dunbeg Fort:
Slea Head Loop Dunguaire Fort
From Dunguaire Fort

In my collection of pictures, I find an occasion for another rant about the narrow Irish roads. I did not feel that this was wide enough for our car and the dog-walker, much less an oncoming car.
Dog Walker on Slea Head Loop

We stopped at a turnout at the western end of the peninsula to see the Blasket Islands. There was a piper playing there at the turnout at the far western edge of Ireland. We bought one of his CDs.
Blasket Islands

More views of the hillsides of the Dingle peninsula.
Slea Head Loop Slea Head Loop
Slea Head Loop

This island of the Blaskets is nicknamed the Sleeping Giant because of its silhouette.
The Sleeping Giant

The Blasket Islands are a group of three medium-small islands off the coast of the Dingle peninsula. A small community of subsistence farmers eked out a living there until the last few residents were moved off the island in the 1950s. We didn’t visit the Blaskets, but we did visit the Blasket Islands Centre on the mainland. It was a good museum of the people of the Blaskets, and it inspired us to buy two books of stories of the residents in the early nineteenth century. Things I particularly recall from the museum:
- There were no harbors on the islands, so the boats that were used were curraghts, large canvas-covered canoes. This made it a big challenge to get a cow to the mainland to be inseminated; there were pictures of the cow in the curraght upside down with all four legs tied together.
- What happened to the Blasket Islands community was an influx of money. Typically the eldest daughter of a family would go to Dingle and work as a domestic servant until she had put together a little money, and then go off to America. Then she would send money back to help another member of the family make the passage, and so forth until all the young people were gone. This evaporation of young people to better opportunities eventually made the community unsustainable, so there were only a handful of old folks when the government finally moved everyone to the mainland.
Blasket Islands Centre

We would have had better light for photography earlier in the day. But the down side of being on the west coast on a fine sunny day is that the sun was very bright on the water.
The Sleeping Giant

Slea Head Loop Slea Head Loop
Gallarus Oratory Untitled

We had time for one last stop before heading back to Dingle, so stopped at Gallarus Oratory. This is a small building built of carefully fitted stone without any mortar. It’s presumed that this was a Christian church from about the 8th century, but there’s no clear evidence.
Gallarus Oratory

Gallarus Oratory

Wikipedia claims that there’s a local legend that if you exit the oratory by climbing out of the window, your soul will be cleansed. But I fear that if I tried, the effect would be more like that of Winnie the Pooh climbing out of Rabbit’s burrow.
Gallarus Oratory

We got back to Dingle to attend a concert at St. James’ Church. We were again seeking music that met our stereotype of Irish music, and again we didn’t quite get that. It would be presumptuous for me to claim that this was not Irish music - it was performed by Irish performers and the words were in Gaelic. But the sound of the performers was more like what I would call “singer-songwriter” than “Irish”. And the pews we were sitting at were hard and uncomfortable, and we hadn’t eaten dinner. We decided not to return after intermission in order to get dinner before restaurants closed.

We had a nice meal at the Old Smokehouse. We started with crab au gratin:
Crab au Gratin at the Old Smokehouse

I had the salmon en croute (made with local salmon). It was tasty and well prepared, but again I was growing tired of seafood.
Salmon en croute at the Old Smokehouse

Lori won dinner with her chicken with ham, ricotta, and apricot. Very tasty.
Chicken with ham, ricotta, and apricot at the Old Smokehouse

For dinner, we shared a very nice peach and strawberry crumble, accompanied by a pitcher of custard.
Peach and Strawberry Crumble with custard

Dingle has a reputation as a great music town, so we went out to seek Irish music once more. At the Mighty Session bar, we found a duo playing with accordion and flute, and had a good time listening to them for an hour or so.