Our Ireland Photo Travel Journal for 2004 Part II
Fraught with new peril, more photos, improved travel tips, additional amazing adventures, and many more cows.
Gallery 2002 | Gallery 2004 | Gallery 2005 | Gallery 2007 | Gallery 2011
If we've given a link to a B&B, we recommend it. It should be easy to spot the ones we don't recommend.
Pricing given in either US dollars or Euros depending
on our whim.
View Map of Route. Clicking on a number on the map will take you to that location in the journal. (when we get it complete)
Took our son Josh with us the trip. We flew into Dublin on June 12th and stayed for the Bloomsday Centennial on June 16th.
A more leisurely morning as we had to cook for ourselves. It was Scott's birthday and there couldn't be a better place to celebrate it! We fueled up on sausages, eggs and brown bread and washed it down with orange juice and coffee. Well fortified we loaded up the car for a day trip to the Beara Peninsula. In retrospect we were a bit overly ambitious in our plans and although Ireland is a small country and the distance wasn't to far, one needs to take into account the narrow roads, getting lost, side trips and traffic. We were not to see the cottage again that day (insert ominous music and heavy foreshadowing here).
We drove out along Slea Head to give Josh his first view of the area. We drove into Dingle and made a brief stop for supplies for the trip. Then the long drive along the bay and through the mountains out to Inch. There were several stops along the way to admire the view and wildflowers. Karen fell asleep and Scott and Josh had a nice chat with an Australian couple at one of the viewpoints. We stopped at Inch for a few photos at the viewpoint overlooking the beach. It is hard to believe you're in Ireland when looking at the beach and water. The water looks tropical because of the color and clarity. We imagine that it doesn't feel tropical, but there were a number of brave souls out anyway.
We drove from Inch to Killorglin, but didn't stop except to wave to the Puck statue as we went by. We continued on to Killarney and on towards Kenmare. There were many spectacular views as we wound our way along narrow roads. We crossed over small stone bridges, and spotted a ruined castle. It had No Trespassing signs, so of course we had to investigate. There wasn't much left except a few walls and many flowers.
Shortly after we approached Ladies View. This has to be one of the most photographed spots in Ireland and for good reason. On a clear day, you can see forever. Across a valley to lakes with mountains on either side and clouds floating above. There is a large viewpoint with good parking. There is also a large gift shop and restaurant. The gift shop is actually quite good with a variety of Irish goods that are priced reasonably and of good quality. We found some Irish lace that was very well done and made perfect gifts.
We continued on to Kenmare. We made a brief stop in Kenmare for more cash and thought we'd lost Karen as we circled through the traffic. There was a traditional music festival and the town was quite busy. We were at the gateway to the Beara peninsula and drove along the top to Ardgroom. We intended to find the Ardgroom Stone Circle. The Beara peninsula is littered with stone circles and other megalithic monuments. We drove to far, turned around and wandered around and didn't find the circle. The road was only a cow path and the bottom of the
car was scraping. We drove to Ardgroom and got directions, turned out we were in the right spot, we just needed to park and walk a little way. We returned and almost left the exhaust on the road. We found the parking and hopped over the fence and begin the trek across the field to the circle barely visible on the hill. There were some cows in the field, but they didn't seem to upset by our passage. There was a trail of stones across the field the kept you out of the worst of the muck (mud and cow stuff). We reached the hill and were treated to another wonderful view across the hills and out to the Kenmare estuary. The sun was shining brightly, but a breeze kept us cool. We took a large amount of pictures of the stone circle and countryside. Scott called his father from the circle to wish him a happy Father's day. They had taken a trip to the Oregon coast and we chatted via cell phone from the Beara peninsula to the Oregon coast. The reception was perfect, and we could have been talking across town. Isn't modern technology wonderful?!
We made several more stops as we drove around and across the peninsula. In one small town we didn't see a single person. There were cars out and at least 15 or more houses, but no sign of life. We made several jokes about body snatchers and pod people, but after using the public restroom there was still no sign of life. We didn't knock on any doors to see. It was approaching dinner time and we made for Castletownbere to find some food. We parked in the public square area and went in search of food. We passed McCarthy's Bar of book fame, this is the pub on the book's cover sans nuns, very funny and highly recommended. We passed it by in favor of a smaller restaurant across the street. Jack Patrick's was more restaurant than pub, but as there was a butcher shop attached, we figured they knew their food. Turned out we were right, we had a very nice dinner. We chatted with our waitress who turned out to be going to school near where we were staying. She admired Karen's Catholic School Girls Rule t-shirt. While we were waiting for dinner, Karen ran over to McCarthy's Bar and bought a t-shirt and changed in the bathroom. She gave her shirt to our waitress, who was thrilled. We've kept a correspondence with her, and will visit there again in 2005. After dinner, dessert and after dinner drinks, we got back into the car and began the long drive back. We wound back along the way we came and as we rounded a curve had to dodge a large rock in the road. Unfortunately a rock on the other side was lying in wait. It punched a hole in the tire and we coasted into a nearby driveway, thoroughly flattened. No one appeared to be at home at the house, which was also the local post office. There was still reasonable light, though the sun was sinking fast. We popped open the rear and pulled out the spare and jack. In a moment the car was up and the tire was off. The spare was brought forth and behold, it didn't fit. The lug pattern was different. On closer inspection the spare revealed itself to be for a Ford, wrong make of car. There was no way it would fit, no matter how we jiggled it around. There we were, in the middle of nowhere with a flat and no spare. Scott had a cell phone so we called the car rental headquarters, it was a Sunday evening so we didn't have much hope. We finally got a hold of someone and they said they'd work something out and call us back. We killed some time admiring the sunset. The colors were spectacular. A van load of ladies stopped to see if they could be of assistance, but there wasn't much they could offer other than sympathy. They were going the wrong way, so no rides into town would be happening. The owners of the house came home and offered more sympathy. They called a friend how came over to see what he could do. The accents were so heavy we thought they might be speaking Gaelic. Some translation and much repeating of questions ensued to no avail. We placed another phone call and were told that a man from the nearest town was on his way. We settled down to wait and after about 40 minutes he arrived. He couldn't do anything to help on the scene, so he took the tire back with him and fixed it and came back to drop it off. It took about 2-3 hours before he got back. He helped put it back on the car and then offered to guide us back and show us the quickest route back to Dingle. It was probably about midnight or later. He only charged us about 75 Euro for the whole effort. We began the long trek back. We made a late night stop in Killorglin at the Puck statue for a break. Josh and Scott took a few pictures and we were off again. We arrived back in Dingle at about 5am, and promptly went to bed.
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We awoke rather groggy and after some staggering about, we had some breakfast. Showers were taken, discussions were had and we decided on a slow day with no challenges. We got into the car at about 10am and drove towards Dingle. We took some back roads instead of the main route. We found a pseudo Irish cottage complete with a fake beehive hut and artificial dolman All abandoned, perhaps someone had illusions of a tourist trap. They would be advised to put it on a road that tourists were likely to travel on. The view was spectacular, perhaps we could get it cheap! We parked in the car park in front of Dingle harbor. The large tour buses reminded us of some kind of a class of insect. Maybe the ants or grasshoppers in a Disney movie? We did some walking around the town to stretch out the stiff bits from all the sitting from the day past us. The sky was a bit overcast, but we never saw anything but some light sprinkles. We took a swing through a churchyard and observed the interesting sheep sculpture. We're not sure what it was for, perhaps sheep saved the town at some point in history. The walls of the houses in Dingle are painted brightly and provide interesting contrasts to the flowers and other objects around. We went into numerous small shop and made a few purchases. There are some wonderful craft shops and good deals can be had with some shopping. We passed Lord Baker's where we had the plumbing pudding incident on our last trip, an excellent restaurant, just to many prunes in the pudding (enough said). We dropped into An Droichead Beag (the small bridge bar) for some rest and sustenance. In short order the Guinness was poured and we relaxed in the cool darkness. We had a bad experience in this pub with some surly German youth, but nothing compared to what awaited Josh and Scott on the Great Blasket. Well fortified we ventured out into the street again for further adventures. A stop in the grocery store exposed Josh to a variety of Irish treats. He was particularly taken with the Spotted Dick and felt it necessary to take some pictures of the the unlikely dessert tin. Maybe we'll buy him a tin on our next excursion.
We wandered back to the car park and took the long route back to the cottage. There was a large three-masted ship in the Ventry harbor. We're not sure what it was there for, but we watched it for awhile. Fair warning, the public restroom at the beach in Ventry should be condemned. It was swimming in several inches of water and the place was pretty battered. We stopped along Slea Head to climb down an interesting looking spot. Several seagulls were hanging out as if expecting a handout. We climbed down to a rock outcrop hanging over the water. The sun was low in the sky and several fishing boats were returning, silhouetted against the sun. We wandered along Slea Head and took many pictures of the Dunquin dock and surrounding area. The Great Blasket island was clearly visible across the water.
We returned to the cottage and had dinner. The sun was setting and it looked to be a good sunset. Josh and Scott packed up their camera gear and headed out across the field in front of the cottage. Karen stayed behind to do a bit of laundry in the laundry room behind the cottages. Turned out the washer worked well, but the drier left a lot to be desired. After several attempts, Karen gave up and hung the laundry up on the clothes line outside our cottage.
A side road took us most of the way out to the water. The road ended about 200 yards short of where we wanted to be. Josh set up his video camera to tape the sunset and Scott ventured further out towards the edge of the visible land. Abruptly a large hole appeared about four feet in diameter. It dropped down about 30 feet into water below. Evidently the sea had eroded the rock and penetrated about 50 feet inland. If one had gone down the hole, there would be little chance of surviving the fall let alone the watery end awaiting. Somewhat more cautiously the edge was reached and many pictures were taken as the sun set.
Before it got to dark, we returned to the cottage, tired a bit chilled and to an Irish whiskey and an early bed. We were awakened during the night by the sound of rain. Not a gentle rain, but a vigorous downpour. This didn't concern us to much until Karen remembered the clothes hanging on the line. We jumped out of bed and put on whatever clothes were at hand. A quick dash out the door to the line revealed a thoroughly soaked batch of clothes. We loaded up the drier with coins and put in what we'd need for the next day. The rest we brought in and wrung out as much as possible. We spread them around the cottage on chair backs and any other good location to dry. We turned up the heat to speed the process and returned to bed. Karen got up a few more times to feed the dryer and check the progress. It was going slowly.
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We woke up this morning feeling a bit more human and rested except for the laundry episode which Josh slept through. We redistributed the clothes and utilized Josh’s room for more drying space. The wind had picked up and the rain was lighter, but still coming down. We had a quick breakfast and decided to process with our plan to head inland to Cashel. We hoped the weather would improve as we headed East. We also needed to exchange our useless spare for something that actually worked.
Our first destination was the Kerry Airport near Killarney. The
car rental had an office there and we hoped a replacement spare. We found the rental desk in the small terminal. We were instructed to go back out to the rental office in the lot. After some searching they determined that a spare was not available. We were told to drive to a dealer in Tralee who would provide us with a spare. We were not very certain about the efficiency of this procedure, but directions in hand we were off to Tralee . We are happy to report that the wipers on the
car worked well as they were in constant operation throughout the day. We passed several bedraggled cyclists and on more than one occasion, watched them get drenched by passing trucks. Not a good way to tour
We consulted the map and picked a direct route to Cashel that involved smaller, less traveled roads. The rain continued without signs of abating, but we had come this far so we forged onward. Numerous small towns flashed by, but there wasn’t anything that inspired us to brave the rain to take a closer look.
We reached Kilmallock at about noon, about halfway to Cashel. The town looked interesting and the rain had let up a bit. There was a nice, large church as we entered the town and we pulled up in front and Scott braved the rain for a few quick photos. There is some very nice stonework on the face of the church. We noticed a large ruined abbey as we drove on, and made a stop to stretch our legs. There was a car park right across the street from the abbey and we grabbed some camera gear and crossed the street. A short walkway led down to the abbey. Apparently some restoration work was going on because signs and barriers were strewn about. We didn’t see any workman though. About the time we reached the entrance, the rain started again. Not a downpour, but enough to keep things damp. The restoration had not included a roof. Very few ruins have roofs as they were either burned or have fallen in. A sign in front told us this was Kilmallock Dominican Friary. It would have been more enjoyable in good weather. We did a quick dash through and took a few pictures. We spent more time wiping raindrops of lenses and trying to keep the equipment dry and eventually gave up. We stowed the gear back in the car and went looking for some lunch. We didn’t find anything open that looked good, so we bought some bread, meat and cheese.
We passed through Tipperary and after a short drive entered Cashel. We parked in the same car park we’d used in 2002. Karen made little sandwiches, and we ate lunch in the car and watched the raindrops on the window. We finally summoned up enough courage to get out and brave the rain. In hindsight we should have tried to get closer to the site. It was a longer distance than we recalled, probably the rain and wind added to the discomfort. We passed quite a few empty parking places and found we could have parked almost at the foot of the rock. The rain and blustery wind continued as we hiked up the hill to the entrance of the Rock of Cashel. We used our Duchas Heritage site pass to get in and finally were inside out of the rain. We tried to shake off the moisture discreetly and joined the tour that was just starting. The first stop was in the next room where the original St. Patrick’s Cross was located as well as other stone details salvaged from the ruins. The presentation is good. Karen and Scott had heard it before and Josh wasn’t very interested. We broke off from the group and prepared to head back out into the weather. We were again grateful for our Columbia Sportswear waterproof jackets. They keep you dry, but it gets a bit humid inside them and our clothes were damp from generated body heat. Zipped and hooded we ventured back out into the rain and walked across the yard to the main ruins. The archways provided some cover from the rain, but a much of the roof was missing, a lot still came in driven by the wind. Karen went off to photograph details of the columns and doorways. Scott and Josh braved the main area and managed to get a few pictures. The clouds and rain made for poor lighting and low shutter speeds. Many of the pictures did not come out well and if we’d had the patience we should have used a tripod.
Some renovation work was going on and it seemed to involve a little digging and much smoking and discussion of the work. It was impossible to take pictures outside as the camera lens almost always had raindrops on them. Josh and Scott went back into the covered portion to dry off their cameras. Josh stowed his in disgust. We found Karen and decided to give it up and head back to the car. We looked sadly down the hill at Hore Abbey where we’d had so many good photo opportunities in 2002. It was a long walk through a field of mud and cow poo last time. It was impossible to navigate in the rain and wind and wouldn’t be any better than Cashel.
We trudged back down the hill and the rain and wind increased. We saw a small pub and dove through the door to get out of the elements until they subsided. It was a fortuitous stop as we learned about hot whiskey! There were two men at the bar and a woman bar tender. The place was small and a bit seedy. The bathrooms were leaking from the rain and adequate, but not overly clean. Karen had a hot tea and Scott asked about something more bracing and substantial. Hot whiskey with lemon, sugar and hot water sounded just right so he and Josh ordered one each. We spread out our coats to (still waterproof but well covered with water) to drip dry on the stone floor. The hot whiskey warmed you up quickly and was very tasty. We resisted the urge to have another and as the rain had slowed, struggled back into the coats and headed back into the storm. We made quick progress back to the car before the next downpour. We unloaded the camera gear and piled in the car for the long ride back to Ballyferriter.
We traveled much the same route as we came, trying to take the direct path. We varied at one point from our original route and the road grew smaller and rougher. According to the map and the occasional sign we were going to arrive in the correct place. The road wound around erratically and we found ourselves going in another direction at some points. We were also concerned that the road would dwindle to nothing and end. Our fears proved unsubstantiated and we met a main road and shortly were in the town we were looking for. Along the way we passed a horrible house. It was pained in bright colors and looked like it had been invaded by a colony of yard gnomes. We had to stop, back up and brave traffic to take a few pictures.
Venturing onward and hungry, we found a restaurant that looked like a small castle. We pulled in and parked and immediately a tour bus pulled up. We made a mad dash to get in before the hordes and managed to secure seating. The lunch area was small but cozy. We ordered soup and sandwiches and hot tea. The soup was very good, the sandwiches were typical, thin but tasty. The hot tea was very welcome. Somewhat refreshed and dried, we got back in the car to get home. The weather was improving with breaks in the clouds, but the wind and rain were still fierce as we arrived back at the cottage. As we got out of the car, we had to hold tightly to the door to keep the wind from blowing them open. It probably would have broken or bent the door had we let them fly open. No pictures of sunsets tonight, so we built a peat fire and read, charged batteries and cleaned up the cameras. The cottage had an interesting selection of books, from best sellers to obscure foreign works. Evidently people left books or exchanged them. There was a good deal of printed information about the area and we found a few recommendations for other areas of interest on the peninsula. Then another early night to bed to be ready for whatever adventures faced us tomorrow.
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A more leisurely morning as we’ve decided that we’d stay in the Dingle area. Scott had enough of long drives after the prior days adventures. Driving on narrow roads in the rain is not conducive to lowering stress. We had another home cooked Irish breakfast. The sun was breaking through the clouds and the day promised to be sunny with clouds. Perfect for picture taking. After breakfast and some cleanup, we entered the now familiar confines of the car to amble around the area.
Our first stop was just up the road at the Louis Mulcahy Pottery studio. Josh took pottery in high school and college and owns a pottery wheel. The studio has a full showroom as well as opportunities to throw pots and talk to the potters. Josh was able to get his hands dirty and threw a couple of pots. He didn’t want to come back to fire and glaze it, so we just chatted with the potter. We also picked up some good tips for food and music in the area. We walked across the yard to the main showroom. The work is very well done and the showroom extensive. Prices are high, but not for the quality of work. They ship anywhere in the world, so you can buy without worrying about how to carry it. We made a couple of small purchases for family and admired the rest.
We continued on down the road a ways to the Blasket Centre. This is a must visit spot on the Dingle peninsula. Karen and Scott and visited in 2002, but it is well worth a second look. In preparation for an excursion to the Great Blasket Island, the Centre gives you a better appreciation for the history. The Centre is a modern building with a large
car park that accommodates tour buses. It is a much more pleasant visit if they are not about. There is a small charge to tour the Centre, but it is covered by the Duchus pass. There is a short video presentation that gives the history of the Blaskets and the current story. Don’t miss it. It is offered in several languages. The rest of the center is laid out in several rooms off a main corridor. Each room portrays a different aspect of life on the islands. Pay particular attention to the large 3-D map of the Great Blasket if you intend to visit. It shows the houses and who lived there. Part of the display is dedicated to the Irish language and has some interactive learning. We did better as the words than the first time, but should be more proficient by now. More practice! All along the left wall is information about the writers that the island produced, very impressive considering its size. The books are well worth reading. A recommended selection is below. At the end of the walkway there are large glass windows that look out onto the islands. You can walk around the building or exit through one of the doors in the café to walk out as far as possible. There is a well done sculpture along the building of the Islandman that is also visible through the windows as you walk by. It is much more striking on the outside. Josh and Scott encountered a sheep with it’s head stuck through the fence to reach the grass on the other side. There was nothing wrong with the grass on it’s side, it must have looked greener. The result was that it’s horns became stuck in the fence and it was bleating pretty pitifully as we approached. We took a couple of pictures and then moved forward to assist it. This concerned it to the extent that it managed to pull through and ran off. No one has ever accused sheep of being bright. We went back inside to find Karen.
We drove back to Ballyferriter and stopped in our favorite pub Tig ui Murcu for a rest. We had a quick pint at the bar to cool down as the day had grown much warmer. Hard to believe we were dodging raindrops yesterday! We stopped for further fortification at An Cat Dub síopa (the black cat shop) for ice cream cones.
Our next point of interest was the Gallarus Oratory. We made a perfunctory effort to find it in 2002, but probably took a wrong road. The roads on the peninsula wind around and are not well signed. You can’t really get lost, just displaced until you get back to a main road. It is well worth picking up a free map at a local shop or tourist site that gives you a rough idea of the location of different sites. There is a good map available for a small cost that shows roads and sites that will get you where you need to be. The best solution is usually just to keep driving, distances are deceiving. You will either end up where you want to be and realize that the distance on the map is nothing like reality, or you’ll end up somewhere else that could be more interesting, or you’ll go back and start over. Any way you do it, approach it as an adventure and you’ll lower the stress level. We did find the Gallarus Oratory after some wrong turns. We also found some other sites that we stopped at on the return trip. There is a visitor centre and we were fortunate that there were no tour buses. This is a regular stop for buses, be forewarned. We viewed a short presentation at the centre that was instructive and well done. It runs continuously, so you can pop in and out when you get back to where you started. The visitor centre is not on the Duchas system and has a moderate charge. You must walk through the gift shop (the usual stuff) to get to the back door and to the bathrooms and path to the Oratory. It is a little stretch of the legs to the actual site and would be unpleasant in bad weather. Fortunately the sun was slipping in and out of the clouds and the effect was quite pleasant. There are good views along the path to the hills and harbor and well framed between fuchsia bushes and stone walls. The actual site is a bit sterile and manicured. The Oratory is clean of any vines and sits in a gravel area. It is impressive for its structure and construction. You can go into the building and examine the interior construction as well as possible in the minimal light. It is quite small but in amazing condition. There are some other items of interest on the site, but overall a bit anti-climatic.
We drove further up the road to Kilmalkedar. This site is fairly easy to find and well signed. On the way we passed a ring fort and several beehive huts up on the hillside. We were able to park and walk around the ring fort, but the beehive huts would have required some serious climbing and fence hopping. The ring fort had a incredible view across the valley and harbor. It would have been a formidable fortress and been difficult to attack. We also passed an old building that was either a small stone church or house that was locked up, but had smoke coming out of the chimney. It was covered in ivy and would have made an interesting stop. Maybe next time.
Kilmalkedar has a drive up past a sheep pasture and minimal parking along the dirt road. There are several signs telling about the site and history. The site contains a nice church with many nice carvings and stonework. The church is surrounded by a graveyard that is fairly overgrown with weeds. The wind blowing over the tall grass created visible clouds of pollen the just about killed Scott. It is hard to focus a camera with cloudy vision. In spite of the allergy attacks we walked around the graveyard and viewed the alphabet stone and sundial, stone cross and ogham stone on the grounds. These are quite old and unique. The site was a real contrast with the overly pristine Gallarus Oratory. We preferred the wild look.
Traveling further down the road we encountered another flock of sheep in the road. We pulled over and waited for the small black and white dog to drive them past us. The car behind us seemed to be quite impatient and upset by the wasted time. Some tourists…
We returned to the Reask Monastic site we’d passed on the way to the Oratory. A short drive down a very residential dirt road led us to the site eventually. There is actually not much to see except the foundations, and an ogham stone. It does give you a good feel of the layout of the site and how the community functioned. It is fairly well signed in the manner of most sites. There is no charge.
We wandered around some back roads near Smerwick Harbor and Ballydavid. There isn’t much out there except some houses, a radio station and a few pubs and restaurants. We found the restaurant prices to be a bit high compared to what we were used to. You’d probably be paying for the view and ambiance which was good. We made our way back to Tig ui Murcu for dinner. Josh avoided the Irish stew and we settled on the special which was steak with a blue cheese sauce and vegetables. The steak came on one plate (and covered most of the plate and was about two inches thick) and the vegetables on another plate. Vegetables were the inevitable potatoes with carrots and turnips. All were very good but overshadowed by the excellent steak. Cooked just right (medium rare), it was a little wild and very fresh. We plowed through as much of it as we could hold and took some home for lunch or snacks. We ran into our British friends again and we chatted with them during dinner. A couple of pints relaxed us and washed down the beef.
We headed back to the cottage as the sun was just beginning to set. The sky looked a bit threatening, but had some dramatic clouds. Scott and Josh threw the camera gear into the car and headed up the road to the nearby Clougher Head they’d been looking forward to climbing. There is plenty of parking space, but no one else was out this time of evening. We took several cameras and begin the walk towards where the rocks began to rise. The wind was blowing fiercely and the clouds ahead were threatening. We could see the rain falling beneath the clouds out to sea. The sun shown through the clouds and falling rain. We begin a quick climb over the boulders out to the furthest point. We were almost there when the first drops began to fall. We took out the cameras and took as many pictures as possible of the advancing storm. To the West, the Great Blasket was clearly visible against a fairly clear sky. Above the moon was visible. We had to beat a hasty retreat when the storm hit. We should have stayed and waited it out as it blew over in minutes and we didn’t stay any drier. We took more pictures of the sunset and then retreated to the car and back to the cottage to dry out by the peat fire.
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Awoke to another bright, sunny morning and some loud mooing. Looking out the front window, we saw a large quantity of cows walking down the road in front of the cottage. They began pouring into the field next door and quickly quieted down. That excitement over we started our morning preparations for a busy day. We packed away another home cooked full Irish breakfast. We’d need the energy today! Scott and Josh were off to the Great Blasket Island. Karen doesn’t do small boats, so she was on her own for the morning. We packed up the camera gear and stocked up with some power bars and bottles of water as there are little or no amenities on the island. We drove to the Dunquin harbor, and parked in the car park.
There is a small hut at the top of the long ramp down to the water. We paid our fare for the boat ride across and bid Karen farewell and started the walk down the ramp. It winds down a good distance to the water. We reached the bottom and joined a few others waiting. The boat only holds 12 and turned out to be an old fishing boat. The tide was up so the boat was able to come alongside the concrete dock. We had a full load over and we sat in the back of the boat with no cover. The ride was a bit bumpy, but the sea was fairly calm. Many days in the year the passage is impossible, even in good weather. We were fortunate as only a couple of days later the tours were canceled. The ride across takes about 15-20 minutes. Not a lot of picture taking opportunities because of the boat motion, but it is a beautiful view during the crossing. When you arrive at the island, you need to get out of the small boat and into a smaller six person rubber raft. You’re taken into the sheltered harbor area and offloaded on to the rocky ramp. It is a bit precarious, especially if you’re carrying camera equipment. We disembarked without incident other than damp shoes. A steep climb up to the area where the houses are takes a bit off effort. Get used to it because the whole island is on about a 40+ degree slope. You’re either going up the hill or down. There are not a lot of level areas. This would prove to be a physically tiring excursion. It gives one a greater appreciation for what the islanders went through on a daily basis to gather food, turf and tend to sheep and other chores. We wandered about the houses briefly. One house is intact/restored and acts as a small café and gift shop. We stuck our head in, but it was crowded and dark. In one of the remains of a house (four partial walls, no roof) there were several donkeys. They seemed to be interested in what we were doing and although a little shy, permitted their noses to be petted. They ranged in color and fur length, one was quite shaggy and another quite pregnant. They milled around for awhile before dispersing. They must have had something more important to do than entertaining us. We walked south to the edge of the island where several sheep were lying at the cliff edge. There are no gentle slopes out to the sea on the island, everything ends with a drop off into the water or rocks. During the winter the winds can become so fierce that sheep are blown off the edge into the ocean. No Jimmy, those are not marshmallows floating in the ocean.
The houses have stout doors that are usually face away from the wind. One door had two holes drilled through and rope strung through and around a 4x4 post braced against the door frame. One turned the post around and twisted the rope to draw the door tight in the frame. One would assume that the door would blow open otherwise. All doors opened inward because you might not be able to open out into the wind. We also observed deep channels dug from the houses down to the shore that would enable people to walk in them and stay out of the wind. There were many of these along the east side of the island. They were deep and wide enough for several people to carry a naomhóg (canoe) down to the shore. We found ourselves jumping over these on several occasions.
We began walking West and up. The ground is springy and covered with dense low ground cover. Rabbits are everywhere on the island, but we never saw one. The holes are everywhere and you have to watch your step. We saw many rabbit droppings and fairly frequent skeletons. They must be very shy or don’t come out much in the day. Sheep were very plentiful as were they’re byproduct. Running around barefoot must have been a messy activity. We followed a path along the island edge for a few hundred yards and then followed a steep path upward to the top of the rise above the houses. The incline was at least 45 degrees and we had to stop several times for a rest. The view gave a good excuse for frequent stops. Once we caught our breath we could shoot a few pictures and resume the climb. We finally reached the crest and the wind hit us. It was probably blowing steadily at about 35mph with some harder gusts. Not enough to knock you over, but enough to constantly brace yourself against it. The tripod was definitely in order for any picture taking. The sun was bright which allowed a faster shutter speed, but the gusts could easily cause motion blur. We had an incredible almost 360 degree view. Slea Head lay directly ahead of us and looked much more formidable from our vantage. Some sail boats were coming up from Dingle and were moving towards Slea Head.
After about 20 minutes of pictures we began to walk North and down towards the other side of the island. The island extends quite a distance East to West and much less North to South. The hill was steep and no real trail existed. We walked through taller undergrowth, much of it with white tops that looked like cotton. We reached the bottom and walked along a road towards the South. We encountered one of the donkeys again, we suspect he was looking for something to eat. There are several small huts on the island that one can stay in overnight. No electricity, water or facilities, just a roof and four walls. We walked through the area and took another path back North. We walked through a larger area that was more fenced on either side with quite a number of sheep. They were a bit more nervous that other sheep we had encountered, perhaps they thought we were hungry. There were little tufts of wool all over the island that had snagged on weeds or rocks. One could easily gather a good amount in a short period of time. More dead bunnies as well.
We reached the far side where another small island lay about 200 yards off shore. This island was quite small and covered in sea birds. We could clearly hear them and see them landing and taking off. Further beyond was a large island, but not as big as the Great Blasket. We walked East and around to the front towards the White Strand. The rocks were very black and rough and the water had carved out numerous gashes creating little inlets that the sea crashed into and sprayed upwards. We continued on to the White Strand where a large white beach lay below. The water was clear and blue and the effect was very tropical in appearance. Checking our watches we noticed we were nearing our four hour time to catch the boat back. We hopped more trenches on our way back to the houses and boat landing.
The boat wasn’t at the landing yet and we could not see it headed our way. We killed time wandering among the houses, taking pictures and looking at the way they were constructed. They were primarily stone with some wood in the window and door frames. The houses were quite small, usually about 15 feet by 30 feet. There were no roofs and the stone was weathered to the point where the walls were crumbling. The view may have made up for the hardships they had to endure, but it must have been a very simple and rough life. Eventually we saw the boat chugging our way so we made our way down to the pier. Several people were waiting and shortly more came behind us. More people that could fit on the boat. There were about four people in front of us and about ten behind. People fell into a rough line as the rubber raft approached. As it pulled close, several people behind us pushed forward and jumped in front and into the raft and yelling in German and English. As near as we could understand they were saying, “no queue culture”. We were not sure if this was in reference to their culture or the Irish culture. Either way it was pretty rude and certainly not Irish. The Irish line up politely for bus or other queues in our experience. Not having been to Germany, we can’t comment on their queue habits. A few of the Germans didn’t make it past us and were trying to push through. Only two of the people in front of us were able to get in. The rubber raft was full and took off to offload and return for the final six. We were younger than the people behind us by at least 20 years if not more and we stood just far enough apart to take up room and held our packs out to discourage anyone from trying to run around us. We told the people ahead of us to get in first and we’d hold back the rabid Germans. Two of them would make it on, but no more. They started shoving and jostling behind us, but we didn’t let them through and managed to get into the raft without being pushed over or into the water. We managed to get back to the boat and in without further incident, but it was difficult to stand in the raft and climb into the boat with a pack on. Some glaring at the Germans ensued on the return trip and we briefly considered doing what the Blasket Islanders did with tax collectors. Pitch them overboard halfway across. We considered the international ramifications and restrained our impulses to see if they could swim. The ride back was not any more choppy than the ride over and we were soon back to the mainland. The tide was out so we had to get back into the raft to get to the pier. The Germans again lunged for the raft and we let them go. Maybe they had to use the facilities. Once off the boat, we began the lock hike back up the road to the cliff top. It is much harder going up than down and our legs were already tired from all the walking and climbing. Karen met us at the top and we turned for a final view of the steep road down.
We drove out of Dunquin while Karen filled us in on her adventures. She had spent some time in a café chatting with the owner about the area and history over hot chocolate. She’d also done some exploring on her own, looking for the graveyard and other interesting sites. We headed back over some of the ground she covered while looking for Rahinnane castle. We found it down a road and on the other side of a large fenced field. We parked in the drive of the house next door and enquired about access. The fence hopping didn’t seem appropriate as the field was well kept and possibly contained an unseen bull or other unfriendly animal. We were told there was a small fee (2 Euro each or so) and paid up and were shown to the back gate. A small puppy took charge of us and followed us out to the castle. Rahinnane castle is built on top of an older ringfort and evidently contains passageways and tunnels underneath. The ringfort is quite overgrown, but the outline and structure are visible. The castle is in very poor condition with only partial walls standing. You can climb over and around it easily and seemed fairly stable. The puppy declined the climb up and waited for us at the base of the ringfort. There was a good view across the countryside from the castle. One could see it being a good fortified position. The hill behind rose very steeply and would have been difficult to climb in either direction. As usual, Cromwell attacked and destroyed the castle during his activity in the area. We drove into Dingle to look through some shops and walk along the pier. The fishing boats had all come in and the nets and chain were piled on the quay side. Strong fishy smells aplenty!
We drove back the long way to Dunquin and stopped at Slea Head turnout for some pictures. We drove down to Ryan’s Daughter beach where the storm scene was filmed. We were the only ones there and were hoping the
car would make it back up. The road is very steep and rough. The tide was out and we walked around the beach and had a great view back up the cliffs to the hills above. The lighting was dramatic as the sun started to set. The
car did make it up the hill and we drove into Dunquin for a few more pictures and a stop at Kruger's pub. There were about ten men inside, all locals, most were at the bar. We sat at a table and ordered a pint at the bar. Ordering at the bar will get you faster service or most likely service period. Waiters are not common in pubs. Most of the talking was in Irish and we could pick up almost nothing. At one point an older gentleman broke into a song. It only lasted a moment and was in Irish. Everyone stopped talking and waited until he was done and then talk resumed. We decided to call it a day and returned to the cottage to contemplate dinner and a rest. The sunset was very nice but we only had enthusiasm to take a couple of pictures from the front door and watch the rest.
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We got up late and ate a leisurely breakfast. Drove into Dingle for some general shopping and relaxing. We’re trying to get some basic gift buying done for friends and family. Visited a craft village on the North side of Dingle, not a lot of interesting stuff and the prices are high. We went into the city center and wandered around. Took pictures of people and buildings. There are many nice shops in Dingle with a variety of unique handcrafted items. Had some good seafood soup in one of the small restaurants.
We left Dingle and took the back roads, looking for interesting trails or sights. We found some signs indicating an interesting site a short distance down a road. We parked and started walking, and walking and walking. We had gone a good distance with nothing other than cows and fuchsia bushes, so we turned around as there didn’t seem to be an end in sight.
Back in the car and we drove out to Smerwick harbor and up and down small roads until we found Dún an Óir, the fort of gold. A massacre took place here in 1580 when the Irish backed by Spanish soldiers were defeated by the English under Lord Grey. There isn’t a lot to see, but a marker. The view is very nice and the weather was breezy but sunny. Karen and Josh didn’t hop the fence and walk out all the way. Scott did and took a few pictures before heading back to the car.
More leisurely wandering ensued with nothing really exciting other than the usual great scenery and winding roads. We went back to the cottage for a rest as we intended to stay up later this evening.
We wanted to try something different for dinner so we went further past Ballyferriter to Tig Bhric, a small B&B/restaurant/gas station/store where we’d bought gas, a Irish language newspaper, and snacks. It is at the Y in the road coming out of Ballyferriter, the left goes to Ballydavid and the right to the Gallarus Oratory. Take the right road and it is just about 10 yards down the road. Another point of reference is the road to Reask monastic site just beyond. The building was attractive and the menu looked good. Prices were a little higher than we were used to, but not unreasonable. We had been told there was traditional music there in the evenings. We had not found any traditional music (not that we’d tried). The music starts later in the evening and we were usually tired after a day of adventures. Late means 9:30pm or later. We drove to the restaurant and went in. It was moderately crowded at about 7pm. They were just shutting down dinner service, but we managed to get an order in. We had a table across the room from a large fireplace. Pints were ordered and the food arrived. It was pretty much the same pub type food we had elsewhere. About an hour later more people began coming in and eventually musicians. A lot of tuning took place as the musicians gathered around a table in front of the fire. Once everyone was tuned and pints were placed in front of them, they launched off into the first of many tunes. By this time the place was packed with people. The music was good, but not exceptional. It was pretty much a local jam session. We stayed until the Guinness and long day caught up with us. People moved in on our table as soon as we stood. We headed out into the night and back to the cottage.
Off again today. Farewell to Suantra Cottages, time to pack, clean and leave the place in better shape than we found it. We decided to take the long way back around to Slea Head. The weather was stormy and we stopped at the turnout for a few more pictures before heading towards Dingle.
A quick stop in Dingle for snacks and drinks and we were on our way out of town, past the Small Bridge Bar, and up towards Connor Pass. The top proved as windy and wild as ever and after a few pictures we headed down the other side.
Found Askeaton Friary near Limerick. Easy to see from the road and we found the next off ramp and paid a visit. Nice ruined friary in decent condition. The day was nice and found some good photo opportunities.
Went into the town of Askeaton and tried to get access to Askeaton castle. No one to be found to let us in. The tour is free, that might have something to do with the lack of assistance. Karen killed some time in Colman's pub as Josh and Scott tried to get into the castle. A nice small town place that pours a good pint.
After several false starts we found a B&B that wasn't booked and all crowded into one room for the night. The B&B had a small miniature golf course and we hit a few balls while ducking incoming jets. A beautiful sunset on our last night finished it off and we called it a night.
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Packed up early and headed for Shannon airport. A long and uneventful flight put us into Atlanta. There we encountered surly staff and a lost coat on the plane. Took off from Atlanta, less one coat and glad to go.
Back in Portland at a decent hour and ready to go again.
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Last Updated on June 28, 2010