Our trip to Dunquin Cottage
on the Dingle Peninsula,
Ireland, April 11-21, 2007
This trip was my 50th birthday present
BEFORE I GO ANY FURTHER, I HAVE TO SAY:
THIS WAS THE BEST VACATION KC AND I HAVE EVER HAD!
The cottage was a dream come true and each day seemed to be better than the one before.
I didn’t have a migraine for the entire time we were gone which is very unusual.
When I first created this page, it was extremely long, but some people were not able to view the whole thing so I have broken it up into 6 pages. I left the original page intact because that is the way I prefer to view it, but here are links to the shorter pages for those who need them (they are repeated at the end of each page as well). The smaller pages are the only ones with maps of the places we visited:
This is the first trip for which we kept a journal, so we wouldn’t forget anything, and I’ve included most of it here. A lot of the commentary is personal so skip it if you aren’t interested in the minutia.
When the page was ‘finished’ KC was dismayed that I hadn’t included EVERY picture we took, because so much of what we saw was spectacular, but there was too much to include it all. I may be adding pix in the future if I find that I’ve missed something special.
NOTE ABOUT MOVIE CLIPS:
Links below some of the pictures are movies taken with my small Lumix camera.
If you press the button for the clip, a new window will open.
It might take 5 MINUTES OR MORE for it to load.
They are worth watching because you hear as well as see what’s going on.
However, some of them are dark and there might be some ‘garbage’ at the end of each clip because I couldn’t figure out how to turn the recording mode ‘off’.
THE MOVIE LINKS HAVE A BIGGER FONT THAN THE OTHER LINKS.
Maps of where we were:
The cottage in relation to Dublin and Shannon:
The Dingle Peninsula where the cottage is located:
We had been to Ireland in April last year and, in love with the climate at that time (yes, we LIKE the overcast, misty weather), we wanted to return in April. The cottage is rented from Saturday to Saturday and we booked our week early to make sure we got the one we wanted.
We had planned to stay an extra couple of days at the end of the week but, when we booked our flights, we discovered that there was NO availability at that time, so we added the extra days onto the beginning of the trip. We flew into and out of Shannon, with a mandatory stopover in Dublin on the outbound leg, as that was the only route American Airlines flies. We had hoped to spend the extra two nights at Ashford Castle.
When I tried to reserve a room at the castle, they told me they were full – someone had booked the entire place for a private function – so we started looking elsewhere and found Kinnitty Castle, in County Offaly, halfway between Dublin and Shannon. Unfortunately, ownership had just changed hands and the travel agent assisting us was unable to get them to commit to a rate so we changed our plans and arranged to say in Dublin, at the hotel owned by U2’s Bono.
When I tried to change our flights to eliminate the Dublin-Shannon leg I was told I would have to rebook and, at the current fare, it would cost us an additional $1660! So, we reserved a first class train from Limerick back to Dublin, 2 hours after our arrival in Shannon. Note to self: plan the WHOLE trip before booking the airfare….
Fortunately, the trip over was uneventful (although I was unable to sleep on the plane), and we left on time, in spite of the blizzard at O’Hare. We arrived in Dublin at around 4pm.
The Clarence Hotel in Dublin, owed by U2’s Bono
Press here for link to the hotel’s website (a new window will open).
The feedback we read on the hotel was mixed, so we were a bit apprehensive, but our fears were unfounded. Although it was a bit stark compared to the opulence one usually associates with luxury hotels, the restraint was consistent with the 1930’s Arts and Crafts style of the building and it was beautiful in its own way. It was a bit worn in some places, the wood floors and some of the upholstery should be replaced, but it was immaculate and the bed was very comfortable. We had a king room with a balcony overlooking Temple Bar. Temple Bar is the main street in the ‘trendy’ area of town. The hotel is also right on the river.
The pictures below move around the room counter-clockwise.
Desk (with broadband connection in drawer):
Entry door and hallway to room:
Closets (with mini-bar and safe):
Door to bathroom:
Another view of the room:
Looking down on Temple Bar from our balcony:
Although the weather forecast was rain for the entire trip, it was bright and sunny when we arrived. We washed up, (Barb watched an episode of Poirot on the telly!), and then did some reconnoitering. We chose the Irish Restaurant for dinner since it was the only one offering fish-and-chips! KC had coddle, which was quite different from the one that we prepared from Darina Allen’s cookbook, but he inhaled it so it must have been good. My fish was delicious as were the roasted vegetables I ordered on the side. For dessert, we shared a bread and butter pudding, warm, with custard sauce. They also had Banoffee Pie but the bread pudding won out.
The Temple Bar area where we had dinner Thursday night:
We had a drink in the Temple Bar (the pub) after dinner and listened to the group of musicians playing there but were not impressed: the fiddle was too subdued for my taste and KC was fading fast so we left early. I went to bed while KC took a work-related conference call. As soon as that was over, he hit the hay as well.
Friday, April 13.
We slept late the next day and missed the hotel breakfast. It was another sunny day so we decided to walk up to the pedestrian area north of the hotel and, on the way there, stopped at a café on the river for a latte and an organic oatmeal cookie.
KC enjoying his latte:
View of Dublin from the cafe:
At the entrance to the pedestrian area there was a HUGE spire! I did some research on it and found that it’s called ‘The Dublin Spire’ and is one hundred and twenty metres tall. It is three metres wide at the base and tapers to a 15 centimentre wide beacon at the top. The top section is perforated and lit by small LEDs. It was built to provide a replacement for Nelson's Pillar which was blown up in 1966 by former members of the IRA.
Press here for link to write-up on the spire (a new window will open).
The pedestrian area was lots of fun! No pictures, however. We bought a few things and walked back to the hotel to drop off our bags.
KC had another conference call, earlier this time, so we went for dinner, planning to return for his call and then look for a better music venue. We chose Gogarty’s, also on Temple Bar. Oliver Joseph St John Gogarty, the guy the place was named after, was an amazingly colorful character. An accomplished throat surgeon and renowned poet, he was also a practical joker who did things like selling an inebriated friend’s body to a local medical school for ‘research’!
Press here for link Gogarty’s website (a new window will open).
KC had bacon and cabbage and learned that ‘bacon’ meant ham. Again, he inhaled it so it must have been good. My smoked salmon plate was very good. When we paid the bill, with a credit card, we were surprised to discover that they had converted the euros to dollars, at an exorbitant rate!
Halfway through dinner, KC realized his Treo had miscalculated the time of his conference call so we skipped dessert and rushed back to the hotel. Fortunately they had a broadband connection but by the time KC logged in, the conference was almost over. We were both disappointed. The speaker’s topic was alternate energy and I was interested in it as well.
There was no point crying over spilt milk so we headed back to Gogarty’s. We got there early enough to snag a seat right in front of the musicians. The music started much later then expected but it was worth the wait. They were wonderful! Guitar, banjo, and fiddle. They played several of my favorite tunes and even managed my request, Sylvest.
Here are several movie clips of that evening (need to figure out how to get this to work!)
The people in the pub:
Press here for clip of people in Gogarty’s (a new window will open).
The musicians playing “Sylvest”:
Press here for clip of Sylvest (a new window will open).
We stayed at Gogarty’s until the music stopped, around 11:30. We wanted to leave at 8am the next morning (wishful thinking) but packing and taking care of last-minute internet obligations (we were pretty sure we wouldn’t have access in the cottage) meant we didn’t get to bed until after 2am.
Saturday, April 14.
Once again, we overslept, but we did get up in time to catch the end of the hotel’s breakfast. They served it in a gorgeous room that must at one time have been a music venue probably where Bono and his pals hung out in the early 1970s. I ordered coffee with cream and sugar and learnt that, if you want cream instead of milk with your coffee, you must request it and, when it arrives, it will be full cream not half-and-half. In fact, we didn’t see half-and-half in the grocery stores either.
Press here for link to the hotel’s tea room (a new window will open).
After breakfast, we caught a cab to Dublin Airport, picked up our car, and headed down to Dunquin. The weather was beautiful, again, and the drive only took us about 5 hours, including a stop at Garvey’s supermarket in Dingle. From there we took the Slea Head drive, a narrow road winding along the edge of the peninsula with spectacular views of the cliffs. We had trouble finding the caretaker’s house because Barb didn’t read ALL the directions, but we did finally get the key and made our way to the cottage.
A view of the sunset from the car on Slea Head Drive:
Oh, my! What a wonderful place! It looked EXACTLY like the photos on the website and was immaculate. There were windows everywhere and three skylights so it was bright and cheery.
The living room:
The dining room and fireplace:
The hallway to bath and kitchen:
The kitchen was huge:
Another view of the living-dining, with stairs leading to bedroom:
The second bedroom, reached by a ladder from the kitchen, with a single bed:
Across the road from the cottage was a grazing field and, beyond that the sea and the Blasket Islands. The island in this picture is the sleeping giant.
The view from the cottage:
Press here for link to the cottage website (a new window will open).
Press here for the cottage we rented in 2008 – very different but equally nice (a new window will open).
After we unloaded the car, KC beckoned me over to the stone wall between the road and the field. I thought he wanted me to look at the view but, when I got to where he was standing and peered over the wall, I saw a bunch of sheep staring back at me! The length and thickness of their coats was amazing.
Sheep across from cottage:
Press here for clip of sheep across from cottage (a new window will open).
We didn’t feel like cooking so we drove to The Stonehouse restaurant, hoping to get a quick meal, and were dismayed to find they were completely booked! So we drove back into Dingle and had dinner at Murphy’s Pub (fish and chips for KC and baked Dingle Bay salmon for me). For dessert, we shared a sticky toffee pudding that was out of this world! It was warm, served with a caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. There was music planned for later that night but we were too tired to wait for it.
There were a lot of books in the cottage, including many on the Dingle Peninsula, so we spent the rest of the evening browsing and determining what we wanted to see and do. We read all the entries in the guest books for suggestions and advice. KC was like a sponge, soaking up every bit of available information and making mental lists of all the things he wanted to do. I’m SO glad I brought him along!
We were hoping for a real gully washer that night but it never materialized. Somehow, time slipped by, and it was after 1am by the time we hit the hay.
Barb reading in “her” chair in the living room:
Sunday, April 15.
Another late morning…but isn’t that what vacations are all about? The Blasket Island ferry had been recommended by many people but we were worried it wasn’t running yet; or, was only running on the weekend, so I called and was pleased to discover it WAS running, every day that weather permitted. I made a reservation for the 3-hour eco-tour on Monday. (If you’re planning to visit, the Ferry doesn’t start until some time in April. We were lucky – most years, we’ve heard, it starts later.)
We had oatmeal with honey and cream for breakfast and set out to explore. We started out by walking down to the marker where the Spanish Armada ships sank and taking that path along the coast, looking for a way down to the beach. We never found one, but we DID see some gorgeous scenery. And, we discovered that the ground is very spongy!
Where 2 ships from the Spanish Armada sank:
We passed the dock for the Blasket Island ferry and noticed that the house across the street had a “For Rent” sign on it so I wrote down the number, 011-353-66-9156218, intending to call them because it looked like the perfect place for a family vacation.
We had seen these little ‘things’ at the top of several of the mountains and KC really wanted to investigate so we headed for Dunmore Head, the westernmost point of Europe. We walked from the cottage all the way to the top and discovered that the ‘thing’ appeared to be a lookout post with windows on three sides and a small fireplace. A short distance away was an ancient-looking stone marker.
The road to Dunmore Head:
The wall KC had to hoist Barb over to get to the path (on far left):
Press here for clip of waves crashing against cliff (a new window will open).
View from the top:
While we were walking, the weather had started to change and clouds were moving in. By the time we got to the top, the clouds were hovering just above the hill and it was starting to rain. We were worried that the mist would obscure the way down so we made our way back. My feet were starting to hurt, too, even though my Wellies were the most comfortable boots I had with me. We were starving when we got back and tore into some bread and cheese while we cooked dinner. I roasted some potatoes and then KC sliced them up and sautéed them with some onions and spices. I fried up some sausages, and scrambled a few eggs. The meal was delicious, eaten in front of a peat fire, but neither of us was looking forward to doing the dishes….
After dinner, KC heard some commotion at the barn up the road and noticed that the farmer was herding his cows in and out of the barn. They eventually made their way down the road and passed the cottage! One was obviously a mother with a HUGE udder – I don’t know how she could walk….
Cows on the road:
Press here for clip of cows in road (a new window will open).
Earlier in the day, I had called the local pubs to determine which had music and when it started. Krueger’s Pub, the closest one, was closed for renovations. An Droichead Beag (The Small Bridge) in Dingle, had music every night and recommended Thursday as the ‘best’ day that week. That night, Sunday, there would be a bodhran (pronounced bohrran – a drum) player, which I was VERY interested in. O’Flaherty’s didn’t have music on Sunday.
KC REALLY didn’t want to drive into Dingle but I REALLY wanted to hear the bodhran so I offered to do the dishes if he’d indulge me. After promising that I wouldn’t be dragging him to a pub EVERY night he agreed. We left at 8pm to insure we’d have a good seat. Sure enough, when we got there, the place was almost empty and we got the table right in front. As it got closer to 9:30 the room filled up and a local woman asked if she could sit at our table. Her name was Clare Horgan and, it turns out, she had a beautiful voice and was invited to sing with the musicians. I was preoccupied with the music but KC chatted with Clare and her companion and we bought her CD.
The music finally started at around 9:45 (we were warned it rarely started on time). Michael Herlihy on accordion, John Brown on guitar, and Eric Marini on bodhran. They were joined by a father-son duo on another accordion and a squeeze box respectively. The music was lively and John had a nice voice but the amplification favored the other instruments and I could barely hear the bodhran even though I was right in front of it!
There was also this hippy-type person who horned in on the band, playing things like shells and spoons. Although the array of tones he produced by rubbing two shells together was amazing, and KC thought it added a zydeco flair to the music, I found it to be very inauthentic and bothersome. Clare told us later that he was a local.
Left to right at An Droichead Beag: Eric, Michael, John:
Press here for clip of music in An Droichead Beag (a new window will open).
Press here for link to Clare’s website (a new window will open).
Press here for link to write-up on An Droichead Beag (a new window will open).
When the music stopped, Michael came over and gave us his card. He owned the music store up the street and asked us to stop by. Clare introduced us to a man she described as the local champion oarsman (I wish we’d gotten his name) who crewed the black-bottomed "naomhóg", or canoe, used by the Blasket Islanders. We pumped him for info on the islands and he recommended camping on them! Maybe next year. He confirmed that the lookout post on Dunmore Head was WWII era and that they had been built on several mountains along the coast. The ancient-looking stones were a pre-Christian boundary marker.
The musicians left and invited us to join them at a wine bar up the street but we were tired and begged off.
When we got home, KC noticed that there was a hole in the clouds through which we could see the sky, brilliant with stars. He suggested we take a walk and grabbed the flashlight. There were NO lights, of course, and no moon either, so it was pitch black and I couldn’t see my feet in front of me! We had to use the flashlight to see where the road went and I didn’t see any point in continuing so we went back.
Even though KC admitted that he’d had a good time once the music started, as promised, I did the dishes when we got home. All in all, it was a wonderful day.
Monday, April 16.
The Great Blasket Island:
Another sunny day. What happened to all the rain that was forecast?
After another delicious oatmeal breakfast, we drove into Dingle to buy a knapsack and walking stick, having established a need for them on our trip to Dunmore Head. We also needed more peat for the fire and anti-motion pills for the ferry ride that afternoon. On our way back, we stopped at The Stonehouse and had a quick but delicious lunch – roasted tomato and red pepper soup for me and beef stew for KC. We got home in plenty of time to pack up for our trip to the Blaskets. I took two motion sickness pills and we walked to the pier. It was a short walk, just up the road from the cottage.
Stones holding down the ferry shacks, so they didn’t blow away:
Hmmmm….. when we got to the pier, there were very few people there. It was 2:30, our tour was supposed to leave at 3:00, and we were told that it wouldn’t be running that day because the weather was too rough. Rough? It was another sunny day with very little wind. We suspected the problem was lack of people but weren’t really in a position to argue. They told us to come back tomorrow but, since the ferry was still running to the island and back, suggested that we spend an hour walking around on the island today (which was part of the eco-tour package) and do the eco-tour (a three hour excursion) later in the week. Since I was already pumped full of anti-motion medication, we agreed, and it turned out to be the perfect way to see the islands – on them the first day, and around them the next.
Steep path down to ferry dock:
We were the only two people on the ferry, excluding the captain, Martine, and first mate, Pedro. Pedro gave us his standard ‘spiel’ which was very informative, as the ferry made the 10-minute trip across. We boarded the ferry directly from the dock on the peninsula but had to take a motorized dinghy from the ferry to the island pier. Not my favorite part of the trip, but KC enjoyed it. There weren’t any seals on the beach when we arrived but the sea round the rocks was teaming with them, sticking their cute little heads out of the water. They seemed to be as interested in us as we were in them.
Great Blasket landing:
The island was FASCINATING! It’s mind boggling to think that people actually lived there. Everything is just how the inhabitants left it, in 1954 when they agreed to leave. There is talk of the Irish government taking over the island and installing ‘safety’ measures like stairs and railings but that would adversely affect the impact that the island makes on you. If you’re thinking of visiting, go now, before they ruin it!
The islanders are responsible for protecting the Irish language during the British occupation (they spoke only Irish) and their small community produced over 40 important literary works which have been translated into many languages. The link below is a condensed write-up which is easy to read and very informative.
Press here for link to the Blasket Islands website (a new window will open).
Great Blasket Island:
Quoted from the link above: All the houses had a large kitchen, with enough room to dance a set or to wake a corpse, an adjoining "lower room", and in some cases an "upper room" behind the hearth wall. The kitchen had to be large enough to accommodate animals at night or during bad weather. There was a loft above the lower room – in some houses a makeshift bed was placed there – and a narrow loft above the fire for storing nets, fishing lines, trawl lines and other goods.
The king’s house:
We might have tried to walk around the island if we’d had time, as there is a path. Instead, we fed the donkeys, small shaggy beasts with long curved hooves. When we asked why their hooves looked so weird, we were told it was due to the fact that they’re wild and their hooves aren’t groomed, or worn down by rocks. One hour was just enough time to see most of what was there.
Donkeys on the island:
The ferry collected us on schedule and we were back on the peninsula around 5. On our way in, we watched Pedro clean the fish he’d caught on the way out, 3 mackerel and 2 pollock. They had offered them to us and, in retrospect, we should have taken them. Martine and Pedro persuaded us to take the eco-tour on Wednesday as they would not be working on Tuesday.
Since the Blasket Center was close to the cottage, and it was earlier than we’d expected, we decided to take the back road (path through the fields) and see what it had to offer. On the way, we discovered the way down to the water! It was very rocky and I had trouble crossing the small stream the fed into the sea (slippery rocks and poor balance) but the colors of the stones were so beautiful – turquoise, lavender and gold – that I HAD to take some home with me!
Colorful rocks on trail to Blasket Center:
Barb trying to cross over slippery rocks:
What is this HUGE plant?
We got to the Blasket Center at 5:30 in time to spend 30 minutes before they closed. The movie, with interviews with the last residents, was fascinating, and the rest of the information was very interesting. There was even a recipe for rabbit, cooked over a fire. We were sorry we didn’t have more time and hoped we’d be able to return.
The sun was going down now and KC took some gorgeous pictures. Which of these two do you prefer?
When we got back to the cottage, at 6:30, I was exhausted and fell asleep in the chair! When I woke up, I made spaghetti with cauliflower in a cream sauce for dinner, with tomato salad and Rueda wine on the side, and then fell asleep on the sofa. I’m sure it was the anti-motion medication making me so tired. KC did 2 loads of laundry while I slept, and the dishes. When I woke up from my nap on the sofa, I went up to bed and slept through the night. As I promised KC, there was no music tonight.
Tuesday, April 17.
I woke up early today but felt a bit dizzy, the remnants of the anti-motion medication, I’m sure. I sucked down an instant coffee (press-pot is too much trouble to clean) and toast. The oat bran and linseed bread from Garvey’s is sooo good I’m going to bring some back with me! I read until KC got up at 11:30 and then we both read until 1:30 when I made a quick lunch from the leftover potatoes. I fried some eggs in the middle of them and a few more sausages.
We stayed in most of the day, reading, and then took our first shower. We had some trouble getting the water to come out – everything has two switches, one to get the juice flowing (electricity, water, etc…) and the other to turn on the appliance. The water pressure was good and the bathroom was warm so it was a pleasant experience. We walked back down the back road to the water to pick up a few more colorful stones. KC found some that were shaped like ogs and suggested that I inscribe them with runes and use them as accessories for my dolls which I thought was a great idea.
We built another fire and read for the rest of the day. We found a great radio station, 93.9, which was totally Irish (Gaelic). It was hard to figure out who the artist was when we liked something but the music was wonderful. Dinner was self serve sandwiches and cider. I REALLY like the cider. We were surprised to discover it was higher in alcohol than the beer KC had been drinking. KC thinks the cider is “why Barb naps so much” but I’m sure it’s the anti-motion meds. My dizziness finally subsided at the end of the day. I checked the package and, sure enough, the pills work for 24 hours.
Although holing up in the cottage was something we’d planned to do with the wind howling and rain pelting down, the weather was still clear and sunny. Everyone else loved it but we’re a bit disappointed. We LIKE misty overcast weather.
Wednesday, April 18.
Finally! Woke up early today, 7:30, and brewed coffee to coax KC up, too. We left the cottage at 9am and drove up through Ballyferriter and passed the three sisters to Smerwick beach. There was another woman on the beach (we rarely see anyone) with 3 insanely happy dogs running circles in the sand and chasing a stick into the water. We walked over to Dun an Oir fort at the edge of the clif but there wasn’t much too see. 600 odd people were beheaded there, after being tricked into surrendering, so there is a stone monument honoring them.
The Three Sisters:
There were scores of odd looking ‘worms’ on the sand which, when you disturbed them, turned out to be sand. We found out later they ARE piles of sand, pushed out by digger worms that burrow 1-2 feet into the sand and excrete it out behind them. Worm poop.
We drove back into Ballyferriter for lunch but nothing was open yet (11:30) so we had a coffee and pastry in the café. We were too full to eat after that and drove back to the cottage, stopping at Louis Mulcahy’s pottery on the way. His work is renowned but we couldn’t decide what to get so we decided to mull it over.
Press here for link to Louis Mulcahy website (a new window will open).
Back at the cottage we grabbed a quick sandwich and set off, once again, for the ferry. Half way there, I realized I’d forgotten my glasses so KC ran back to get them (his legs are longer and he moves much faster when I’m not along) while I went on ahead to make sure they didn’t leave without us. Today, there were dozens of people there and, sure enough, the eco-tour did go. While I was waiting for KC to get back, I struck up a conversation with a couple who turned out to be from Chicago, Carla and Allan Price. They were very interesting and I’m sure we’ll see them again when we get home.
I didn’t want to suffer through another 24 hours of anti-motion medication stupor and thought I’d be OK given that the ferry was open but didn’t take any chances and hung near the edge of the boat the entire time. It paid off; I didn’t have even a twinge of nausea. Because this was our second trip to the Islands, Pedro’s spiel was old hat and we were able to concentrate on taking pictures. I was glad we’d spread the ‘trip’ over two days and would recommend doing that if you have time as the price is the same, 40 euro apiece.
Some pictures the Price’s took on the ferry:
Barb and Allan with the captain, Martine, at left and the sleeping giant in the background:
As we approached the main island, Pedro said we were going to investigate what appeared to be a fin sticking out of the water near the shore. When I saw it, I shrieked with excitement which was the WRONG thing to do. All of a sudden, everyone else in the boat was crowding in front of me and I couldn’t see a thing! As the boat edged closer, whatever it was turned towards us and swam along side; MY side, fortunately, and I was able to get a movie of it. Whatever it was, it was huge! The fin was black and the body was grey with speckles. The crew thought it was a small whale but KC said it had the wrong type of fin…he thought it was a shark. Apparently, the crew didn’t want their passengers, of which some were about to get into a small dinghy, to know there was a shark in the water. It was a Basking Shark though, which feeds on plankton. Nevertheless, I was glad *I* wasn’t getting off on the island today!
Press here for clip of basking shark (a new window will open).
The trip around the islands wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped it would be. The woman doing the commentary, Ruth?, who lives on the island when the ferry is running, spinning and weaving, was willing and able to answer questions but didn’t really provide a running commentary like Pedro did. In her defense, it was very noisy and her voice didn’t carry so she had ‘private’ conversations with whoever approached her. The fact that she actually lives on the island, in a house owned by the Stagles, the authors of The Blasket Islands: Next Parish America, one of the best books about the islands, is pretty amazing, and many of our questions were about her life which she didn’t appear to think was that unusual. At the end of the trip, she served us home-made scones and apple cake!
We did see the puffins they’d promised us but they were so far away it was hard to see them. The best parts of the trip, therefore, were the cathedral rocks and the ladder (and the shark, above).
The lighthouse island is also interesting although we didn’t go around it. It’s supposedly the smallest island in the world and has the world’s smallest railroad as well, built to service the lighthouse. Although the lighthouse is still working, it is controlled remotely and no longer manned.
Lighthouse Island (pointed island behind cathedral rocks):
When we got back to the cottage KC, once again, didn’t want to go into the city for music, but I thought we should check out at least one other pub so I dragged him down to O’Flaherty’s. On our way there, over the mountain pass, we got stuck behind a van that we couldn’t see around (it is a one lane road – that is, exactly ONE lane for both directions -- if there are cars traveling in both directions, one of them has to pull over so the other can pass). The van suddenly pulled over but, instead of an oncoming car, the usual reason one pulls over, we saw a herd of sheep heading towards us!
I sprang out of the car and pulled out my camera. I filmed them as they passed me, bleating continuously. They were followed by the farmer, in his car, and were kept in line by his dog, which I didn’t see until the last minute. What a thrill! (If I can get the movie to load, you will hear the excitement in my voice.)
Sheep in the road:
Press here for clip of sheep in road (a new window will open).
When we got to Dingle, everything was closed! So, we nipped into Garvey’s to restock our coffee, eggs, and cider and then went over to The Old Smokehouse for dinner. KC had a t-bone and I had their peppered salmon. I have never had such good salmon! It was perfectly cooked and served on colcannon with a lemon cream sauce. KC’s steak was good but, as he put it, dairy beef is not the same as cattle. With dinner we had a bottle of 2004 Bodegas Eschorihuela High Altitude cabernet tempranillo from Mendoza, Argentina which was so good we’re going to see if we can find it here. For dessert, we shared a sticky toffee pudding. It wasn’t out-of-this world like the one at Murphy’s Pub but it was still very good. The difference, I think, was the caramel sauce and ice cream; this one was also served warm but with whipped cream on the side. We’d forgotten the lesson we learned at Gogarty’s and got burned again when we paid with a credit card.
We walked from the restaurant to O’Flaherty’s. It was deserted but, once again, I staked out a seat right by the music and waited. KC played solitaire on his Treo and then went outside to take a call. This time, we had a lute, played by a guy from Massachusetts, and the pub’s owner, Fergus O’Flaherty, playing every instrument in an Irish band – accordion, banjo, guitar, and whistle. All of a sudden, Eric appeared! Bodhran again! And, I had a prime seat with a direct view of both sides of the drum! In addition, none of the instruments were amplified so you could actually hear the bodhran. I was in heaven!
Music at O’Flaherty’s:
Press here for clip of music in O’Flahertys (a new window will open).
Press here for link to write-up on O’Flaherty’s (a new window will open).
Halfway through the set, who should walk in but the Prices, the folks we met on the ferry earlier today. KC noticed them – I was too preoccupied with the music. When the music stopped, KC moved to their table and I cornered Eric. Although he’s from Lyon, France, he’s been in Dingle for years and is their most prominent bodhran player. He recommended several CD’s with heavy bodhran. Once I’d picked his brain, I joined KC and the Prices and we discussed our past and future vacations until they had to leave. We chatted a bit with Fergus (he says he loves Americans!) and then went home ourselves.
Thursday, April 19.
Today is the day KC promised we’d spend some time in Dingle looking for a souvenir but, once again, we slept late and weren’t on the road until after noon. We drove north again today, through Ballyferriter and on to Gallarus to see the oratory and the castle. The oratory was built in the 8th century completely of stone and without mortar. Amazingly, it’s totally waterproof! It’s a wonder it’s still standing but it is, and is intact although it’s sagging a bit at the top.
Unfortunately, the castle was closed – not enough visitors at this time of year to justify keeping it open – so we’ll have to save that for our next trip.
We finally made our way back to Dingle with enough time to hit a few of the stores. The first one, of course, was the music store. Caitriona Nolan, Michael’s partner, was amazingly helpful and suggested several CDs once she had determined what our taste was. In addition to the three that Eric had recommended, we came out with about seven more, everything from harp and pipes to fusion and rock. Caitriona offered KC a shot of Jameson’s which made it easier for him to accept the number of CDs we bought!
I contemplated buying a bodhran, one with our crest painted on the front. I really wanted a set of Uilleann pipes but KC put the kibosh on them. Caitriona asked us where we’d been on the peninsula and recommended Anascaul Lake as a ‘hidden treasure’. Most people, she said, went west to the coast, but east of Dingle was just as nice and less populated. We decided to go there the next day.
The music store, Siopa Ceoil an Daingin, on lower Main Street:
Press here for link to Siopa Ceoil website (a new window will open).
From the music store we went to Herrington’s, a fast food fish place recommended by Caitriona (the cod WAS delicious), stopping in an art store on the way, still looking for the perfect souvenir. From Herrington’s we went to Louis Mulcahy where I bought a sweater and a small journal to keep our trip notes in, and from there to the post office where I stamped and mailed the 4 post cards I’d been carrying around for days. We decided that the bodhran would be the most relevant thing we could bring back, given our love of the music, and made our way back to order it. We stopped in the antique store across the street where KC found a brass surveyor’s compass and then crossed over.
Press here for link to Irish Knitwear website (a new window will open).
Suddenly, I realized that I no longer had the bag with all our CDs in it! In a panic, KC retraced our steps, while I prayed they hadn’t been stolen. I stumbled into the music store, almost in tears, and explained what had happened. Michael was there and started calling the places we’d been to, while I racked my brain trying to remember the last place I’d had them. The post office! That’s where I’d put the bag down, when I stamped my post cards! Michael ran down there (it was about a block away) and came back with the clerk in tow, assuring me that my CDs were safe. Where were they then? I didn’t see the bag in anyone’s hands! Not to worry, the post office had closed and they were locked inside. The security system wouldn’t allow the doors to open until the next day but the clerk knew they were mine and would bring them to the music store in the morning.
Although I was immensely relieved, I now worried about letting KC know so that he wouldn’t continue to look for them. His phone worked in Dingle but it would be a long distance call for anyone but me and my phone didn’t work at all. We just had to wait. I was so sure he’d be furious when he got back, and I think Michael saw the fear in my face, because he met KC at the door and delivered the good news. KC was so relived he forgot to be mad! I guess he’s getting used to chasing after things I’ve forgotten. That’s not like me, though, I’m usually the one who remembers….
Eric was in the store now, too, and when we told them we wanted to buy a bodhran he offered to test it for us. Although we had no intention of playing it, he gave me a mini-lesson anyway so I’d understand how it should be played in case I wanted to try it. We bought a 16” drum with a tooled leather strap and the Healy crest in the middle. Over the crest will be the name Healy, and under it Dingle, both in Irish (Gaelic). The artwork is custom and the drum will be shipped to us once it is complete.
Eric testing our bodhran (without the custom artwork):
Press here for clip of music in O’Flaherty’s (a new window will open).
Our new bodhran hanging in our foyer:
I had contemplated giving tonight’s music a miss, on KC’s account, but when Caitriona told us that it would be a well-known local Uilleann pipe player who had been out of town and had just returned, we decided to check it out. KC refused to arrive at 8:30 this time though so we got there a little after 9:00 and I still got my front row seat!
The Uilleann pipes are an amazing instrument, similar to bagpipes but instead of filling the bag with your lungs, there is a small bellows which is strapped around your waist and to your other arm and with which you fill the bag that powers the pipes and drones. It’s very difficult to learn and the pipes themselves are hard to find as very few people make them anymore. A starter set, one drone and one pipe, costs $2400! The only local artist who makes these pipes has a 12-YEAR backlog!
John Brown was there again, on the guitar, and told us that Chicago was partially responsible for preventing Irish music from dying out because the chief of police, O’Reilly, not only gave any Irish musician a job but also compiled O’Reilly’s Book of 100 Irish Tunes. I meant to look for it but forgot. Tonight was the first time the music started at 9:30 and when they took a break an hour later, we bought both of Eoin’s CD’s. They are phenomenal! (Eoin is pronounced ‘Owen’).
Eoin Duignan on the pipes at An Droichead Beag:
The clip below is interesting because you can see how this unusual instrument is played.
Press here for clip of Eoin Duignan (a new window will open).
Press here for link to Eoin’s website (a new window will open).
KC usually started out drinking Guiness and then switched to Smithick’s, which is lighter, while I drank cider. When the music stopped, just as we were about to leave, two glasses appeared on our table. When we asked the waitress who sent them, she said Michael, but we didn’t see him anywhere! She said he was in the back room so we picked up our drinks and chased him down.
Michael introduced us to three of his friends, Sean Daly, a former master craftsman from Waterford Crystal who now has his own store, Dingle Crystal on Green Street; and two other people whose names we didn’t get. We had a lively and enlightening conversation with them on the latest debacle at Virginia Tech and the competency of our G.W.Bush. Unfortunately, the pub closed and we had to leave. Before we left, Michael invited KC and I out on his boat the following day, an 18-footer, and we accepted, hoping to be back from Anascaul in time.
KC came home with a bad case of heartburn, probably from drinking his dinner, so he took a couple of Imodium and I made him a sandwich. When he finally came to bed, he said he felt better. It was quite late, though, and I was sure he’d sleep in tomorrow.
Friday, April 20.
I woke up early, at 7:45, and it was raining! Hallelujah! I used coffee to coax KC out of bed again but we still didn’t get on the road until after 10 so I suspected we’d miss our date with Michael. On our way into Dingle, we passed a hitchhiker on his way into Ventry, a man who looked like he was in his mid-twenties, and picked him up. Fortunately, he spoke English (many people in the area only speak Irish) and told us he lived in Dunquin. We discussed the vegetation on the side of the road and how it was cut back. He mentioned that the road to Ballyferriter was so overgrown it was impossible to walk it for, if a car passed, the thorns in the gorse (the yellow-flowered bushes we saw everywhere) would rip your clothes to shreds.
We dropped him off and went on to Dingle to pick up my CDs. Thankfully, Caitriona had them for me, but the street was so parked up KC was circling the block and I couldn’t stay and chat. She expressed dismay over the weather but mentioned that the castle was beautiful in the mist. What castle? I didn’t have time to ask.
In spite of the weather, our first view of Anascaul Lake was breathtaking! It’s nestled between two huge mountains and is fed by a long, long waterfall. When we got there, KC discovered that the big camera’s battery had died so all we had was my little one. The pictures are OK, not as good as the EOS would have been. Regardless, we started up the path, not knowing where it would lead us. At least *I* didn’t know. KC was hoping it would take us to the top.
In fact, he INTENDED to walk to the top. His problem was getting me to go along. He managed to do this by coaxing me along, one bend-in-the-road at a time. At every weigh-point, when I wanted to start back, he would urge me to go ‘only to the next curve’ to see what was there and, all of a sudden, we WERE at the top, much to my surprise and his delight. I must admit that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and we did see some incredible scenery. Yes, it was worth the climb, and I’m glad he made me do it.
Start of the climb at Anascaul Lake:
The end of the rivulet which runs into the lake:
At the end of this stretch, I was ready to stop because the road became very rocky and I wasn’t sure I could get across it; or, if I managed to, whether I could get down. KC persuaded me to continue by climbing over the rocks and assuring me that the rest of the path was grassy.
It WAS grassy, but also very soggy as there were at least 3 waterfalls feeding the lake. My wellies enabled me to handle the wet grass but they were very slippery on wet rocks and I was still worried I wouldn’t make it down. KC’s hiking boots were not waterproof but had a lug sole so he favored the rocky parts.
Looking back on the lake, it was worth traversing the rocks:
Looking back on the lake from further down the path:
We’ve come quite a distance now and I’m again ready to start back but KC wants to press on. Every time the path turned, he coaxed me forward by wondering what we’d see around the next bend and, every time, he then exclaimed how beautiful this “new” view was. Little by little, he drug me further and further up, as the weather got worse and worse. I was expecting the clouds to break any minute but they never did.
At a junction where a second waterfall joined the first:
At this point, the path had wound around so that the lake was no longer visible.
The widest part of the waterfall…was that a pool it was forming?
Looking down on the lake from even further up (yes, it was a pool):
We’ve now crossed back over and can see the lake again.
The first of three bridges:
The terrain is less steep here and KC uses that to urge me forward. We did eventually reach a point where we could see the top of the first ridge. The clouds had descended to the top of it though, and the wind was blowing pretty hard, so I waited while KC sprinted up to the top.
A view of the top:
You can see that the view is now totally obscured by the clouds.
Finally, a view from the top. It took us 1.5 hours to get here:
Starting our descent:
Somewhere between here and the next picture, I stepped on some ‘wet’ grass and my right foot sank in over my ankle. I tried to shift my weight back to my left foot but I was off balance and my right foot went even further into the water, halfway up my boot. I panicked, thinking I was sinking into quicksand, shrieked, and started flailing in an attempt to get back onto solid ground.
Fortunately, KC was right behind me and pulled me out by the scruff of my neck telling me to relax. Although I was ‘safe’ now the stress had been too much for me and my bladder was about to burst. With no other choice, I announced that I was going to drop my drawers. “Here?!!!!” KC asked, incredulously. Yes, here. Fortunately, we had not seen a soul all day, but KC still laughed all the way down.
He claims that every time I tell the story I downplay the amount of shrieking and arm waving that went on. I keep reminding him that he was lucky it was ME who sank into the water since his boots were canvas and I could NOT have pulled him out by the scruff of his neck…. Regardless, we both were more cautious the rest of the way and, although it was downhill, it took us an hour.
View of the lake from our descent:
Our last shot at the lake:
At the bottom, just before we reached the car, the wind picked up again so I wrapped my scarf around my face but I didn’t tie it, I just tucked into my hood. The scarf is Tibetan lamb and very fluffy. All of a sudden, the wind whipped the scarf from around my neck, it caught on my glasses and ripped them off my face! Once again, I shrieked (I did a lot of that on this trip) and started frantically looking for them. KC, bewildered by all the noise I was making (as in, “What now?”), turned around and calmly picked my glasses up off the ground. He’s gotten me out of four ‘messes’ so far. I wonder what will be next.
When we got back in the car, we knew it was too late to go sailing so we called Michael and let him know. We then drove into Anascaul and had lunch at The South Pole Inn, former home of Tom Crean the renowned explorer. It was good, I had tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, KC had a burger with ham and pineapple, and we bought the book, The Unsung Hero on our way out. We asked the proprietor if there was a castle nearby and he said, yes, Minard. We found it on our map and piled back in the car.
Press here for link to Thomas Crean’s website (a new window will open).
Press here for link to The Unsung Hero on Amazon (a new window will open).
The water closet (this chamber opened out at the bottom):
When we got back into Dingle we stopped at Sean’s store and bought a carafe and two glasses in the Celtic Flame pattern. It is without a doubt the heaviest crystal I have ever felt! He showed us the bowl he had to make to qualify as a master craftsman – very impressive! Sean is a really interesting guy: he rides a Harley Davidson and many of his promo pix feature him on his bike, holding a piece of his crystal, which creates an unusual dichotomy.
While we were in Sean’s store, Clare came in looking for her cell phone (we didn’t have it or know where it was) and then we ran into her again on the street – it sure is a small world! But then Dingle is a small place….
Press here for link to Dingle Crystal website (a new window will open).
We then went back to the music store to file a report on the day’s activities. We had hoped to thank Caitriona for her recommendation, but she wasn’t there. Michael was, and told us that he hadn’t taken his boat out as he’d had no one to go with him. We felt really bad but wouldn’t have missed Anascaul for anything so we asked for a rain check. We then asked him what times of year were best for the area.
He recommended Dingle in September or October, so we may come back then, just to see what the country is like in autumn. Michael plied KC with more Jameson’s (do those glasses ever get washed?) and recommended a new Portugese singer, Mariza Reis Nunes . She WAS phenomenal, I’ll have to track down a CD…. We reluctantly said goodbye because we had lots of packing to do. I secretly hoped we’d be able to pack quickly and have one last night in town.
Press here for link to Mariza’s website (a new window will open).
Packing was difficult because we had so many oddly shaped things, like the walking stick and my new boots, and heavy things like the surveyor’s compass and river stones. We were also concerned about bringing back potentially hazardous things from the soil so we washed our boots and the rocks before packing them! Amazingly we got everything into our three small bags with room to spare and none were overweight. Taking two smaller bags each, rather than one big one, was definitely an advantage.
I had hoped we’d be able to return to Dingle for one last music session (KC did not know this and, I’m sure, would have resisted) but it took a LONG time to pack and it was after 1pm when I was done. I hadn’t made an entry in the guest book yet but I was too tired and left that for the next morning. Even then, I didn’t have time to write all I’d wanted to so I limited my comments to helpful advice, rather than praise, because anyone visiting the cottage could see how wonderful it was and didn’t need me to reiterate that! KC was so caught up in his new book, The Unsung Hero, that he refused to come to bed and I have no idea how LITTLE sleep he got!
Satruday, April 21.
We were up at 6:00am on Saturday so we’d be in Shannon by 10 and, miraculously, we made it, although we didn’t leave the cottage until 7:20. There was very little traffic on the road but, what there was, was huge! I think we passed 5 of those yellow quarry trucks with wheels as big as our car. We passed another hitchhiker, a middle aged woman, but we didn’t pick her up as we were afraid we’d be late. When we got to the airport, we missed the drop-off point for the car and had to drive around twice.
Once inside, though, the check-in line moved swiftly, as did the one for immigration. We barely had time to pick up some Lily O’Brien chocolate in the duty free shop (I’d remembered them from last year). There was also no time to check out the AA lounge as the flight was boarding when we got through immigration.
The plane was a new configuration with an infinitely adjustable seat that KC played with for most of the flight! The food was edible but, after finishing the salad, which had ranch dressing on it, I started to get a migraine. I took the medication, which aborted it, but I spent the remainder of the flight running to the restroom every 15 minutes.
Since I didn’t have even one migraine the entire time we were gone, and got one from almost my first bite of ‘American’ food, I’m convinced that MSG is the culprit. I know ranch dressing has MSG in it and should have known better than to eat it. I felt so good, though, that I didn’t think it would bother me. Next time, I’ll know better. And, from now on, I’m going to be more diligent about avoiding ALL foods with even a trace of MSG.
Although you might think it’s weird to end this page on a negative note, that is how the vacation ended for me, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it.
On a positive note, the flight arrived early, we breezed though immigration (because we’d been pre-cleared) and our three bags were among the first six on the carrousel. We were so early that the car picking us up was still in transit. KC read his new book while we waited and was almost done with it by the time we got home. He’s STILL talking about the things that expedition went through!
At this point, KC’s lucky streak ran out: he realized he’d forgotten our duty free bag on the plane so we now have no gifts for anyone. I contacted the airline and they have alerted the lost and found but I doubt we’ll get it back. Sorry!
I started this page shortly after we got home as I wanted to get it off my plate ASAP. I forced myself to stay awake until 11 and picked it up again when I got up on Sunday. At 3:00 am I was finally done. Or so I thought. I made a few changes Monday morning and I’m sure I will tweak it again as people point out my mistakes. And, if KC thinks it’s necessary, I’ll add those things I didn’t think were relevant. It’s so long already though I’m reluctant to make it longer.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to send me your comments, corrections, and suggestions. You can email me by pressing the button at the bottom of this page.
We enjoyed this trip so much we decided to return in 2008 for KC’s 50th birthday!
Press here for 2008 travelogue
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Note to self: bring the following next time: scissors, paring knife, Melitta cone and filters (press-pot is too hard to clean), and costco plastic wrap.
OOAKFolk, Inc., and artist Barbara Healy are not affiliated in any way with the original manufacturers of
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Last Revised: April 28, 2007
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