Our trip to Graigue / Dunquin
on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
April 11-20, 2008
Page 4: The Blasket Islands / An Droichead Beag
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Page 4: The Blasket Islands / An Droichead Beag
Tuesday, April 15
Wow! What a beautiful day! It was warm and sunny with almost no wind! The PERFECT day to go to the Blaskets! We left the cottage at 9:30 and found Sean’s workshop easily. We went inside and were treated to an amazing show of the master’s skill.
On a table were several blank glasses marked with grids in what appeared to be magic marker. Sean put on a pair of protective glasses and an apron, picked up a glass, and went over to one of the four cutting wheels that lined the inside wall. Within minutes he had cut a series of curved lines, using the grid as a guide. The lines were surprisingly deep, yet didn’t go through the thick base of the glass, and were perfectly spaced.
Sean cutting a Dingle Flame roly poly glass:
Close up shot:
The first cuts – look how deep they are –
this glass is over ½ inch deep at the base:
He then went over to another, wider, wheel and cut the flat dots that make the Dingle Flame pattern so easy for me to hold (Dingle Flame is my favorite of all Sean’s patterns). Personally, I thought the glass was perfect just as it was but Sean told us that at this point the glass would then be polished with a strong acid solution which was fairly dangerous and that he didn’t want to expose us to it (thank you, Sean).
Adding the round dot in the center:
Ta-dah! (is that how it’s spelled?)
While Sean was cutting the glass he gave us a running commentary on how Waterford was outsourcing much of their production and had let many of their master craftsmen go. Some of the blowers started their own company, in Waterford City, and produce the blanks that Sean then cuts. When we got back home I found several articles confirming what Sean had told us. While there is some doubt now that Waterford’s products are still hand cut, we know that Sean’s definitely are!
Press here for link to write-up on Waterford’s outsourcing (a new window will open).
Sean’s workshop is in this building:
Press here for link to Dingle Crystal website (a new window will open).
We drove back to the cottage to use the bathroom and then went down to the ferry dock. I had originally intended to spend the afternoon in Dingle but when Caitriona told us that there was a nice picnic spot on the path up to the Great Blasket summit I decided to go along. We’d packed a couple of sandwiches, a bottle of wine, and four small glasses.
Great Blasket Island:
Martine, our captain on last year’s trip to the Blaskets, had been given the job of manning the booth today but he remembered us from last year and told us that Pedro was still doing the “tour”. He also said that there would be more ferries running this summer and that there might even be one at night with local musicians on board! We paid our 30 Euros apiece (wow! It had gone up from last year’s 20), walked down to the pier, and got on the ferry via the dinghy. The tide was out. At the other end, we again rode the dinghy to the pier.
The ferry is diesel powered. Colleen, who is sensitive to diesel fumes and spends a lot of time on dive boats, which are also diesel powered, didn’t find the fumes to be offensive at all. I also didn’t notice them.
We didn’t see any dolphins, whales or sharks this time but there were about one hundred sea lions on the beach! Pedro cautioned us that if we went down to the beach and tried to get close to them they would disappear into the water and no one else would have the pleasure of seeing them. However, when we got into the dinghy he brought us as close to the shore as he could so that we could see the two pups.
Riding the dinghy to the island:
Sea lion pups:
Sea lion pups – notice that the one in the middle is rolling over:
Sea lion pup close up:
Rick and Colleen near the remains of the village:
KC near the remains of the village:
When Pedro dropped us off he told us that the next boat would be there at 2:00 p.m. After that, they would normally come every hour but if they had an Eco-tour they wouldn’t be back again until 5:00 p.m. It was now after noon and we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it to the summit and back by 2:00 but decided to walk until 1:00 and see how far we got. The track was not steep but it was very close to the edge and there were several wet, and therefore slippery, places which caused us to slow down. It’s a wonderful walk, though, with several gorgeous drops down to the water. We were rushing and didn’t have time to take pix but, I assure you, it is worth doing.
The track to the summit which can be seen in the distance:
KC walking as far from the edge as possible:
The reason why:
When we made it to the base of the summit, where the track we had taken met up with the track on the other side of the island (KC calls this the saddle), it was after 1:00 and we should have turned back if we wanted to make the 2:00 ferry but, we were so close to the top, that I urged Rick to go on without me (I knew I wasn’t able to race to the top) and Colleen agreed. KC was reluctant to leave me behind but I insisted.
The saddle, the base of the track up to the summit
you can see where the track we took meets the track that goes around the other side of the island:
Another view from the saddle:
Rick and Colleen on their way up the track leading to the summit
This was taken looking up at the summit from the point where the two tracks around the island converge:
When we made the decision to go for the summit, we gave up the opportunity to picnic at its base (and you can see that other people had already stopped to do so). I debated whether I should wait there – the views were gorgeous -- but decided to press on. I followed at my own pace and got to the top as they were uncovering the cache. I was so proud of myself – I’d made it! In the shot below you can see that there is another hill behind me – a goal for a future trip perhaps? We took a couple of photos and then started down, hoping we’d get back to the dock by 2:00.
Barb at the summit:
Barb at the highest point of the summit (there is a precipitous drop behind me):
Rick and Colleen, triumphant, at the cache:
Looking back at the route we’d taken, it really is beautiful up here:
KC at the summit:
Taken on the way down:
When we got back to the saddle we decided to take the track on the other side of the island back to the dock. Not only did it look shorter, it would give us a different perspective. In retrospect, it seemed to me that I spent more time walking uphill on this track, even though were theoretically going “down”, than I did walking downhill. I was walking as fast as I could but didn’t appear to making much progress. It was also a much less exciting route.
Barb on the track back to the dock:
When we rounded the corner to the ruins, the sea lions were still on the beach! You can see the beach at the far left of the photo, and another perspective of the area with Sybil Head and The Three Sisters in the distance.
Sea lions on the beach (far left of photo):
Close up of seals on the beach and, in lower right corner, two inconsiderate jerks about to scare them into the water:
It was almost 2:30 when we got back to the dock and we were afraid we’d be stuck there until 5:00 but some of the other climbers told us that there was a ferry on its way that should be there at 2:30 so we sat down and ate our picnic lunch while we waited. There was a lot of sheep poop around the village so the area near the summit would have been a better place to picnic. If you remember the photos of the summit, there was next to no grass up there and, consequently, no sheep or donkeys.
Waiting for the ferry to pick us up in the area just above the dock:
The dock on the Great Blasket is in a gorgeous peaceful cove:
When we saw the ferry approaching we all went down to the dock, all thirty-some of us. We knew the dinghy would have to make several trips but also knew the ferry was big enough for all of us. However, when the dinghy pulled up it was not driven by Pedro and, whoever it was, he refused to take us back! He told us that another boat would be along to get us but we were again afraid we’d be stuck there until 5:00. While we waited we talked to some of the other people on the dock and discovered that one of them lived in Graigue and knew Phil! Suddenly, someone saw another ferry leave the dock at Dunquin! It took 20 minutes for it to reach us but, thank goodness, it was Pedro and we were going home!
It was now almost 3:30 and, in retrospect, we should have originally made the decision to shoot for the 5:00 ferry and taken our time, stopping to eat at the ‘crossroads’ and enjoying the scenery rather than rushing to make the 2:00. The walk is gorgeous and not strenuous at all. If I can do it, anyone can!
On the ferry back to Dunquin:
Halfway to Dunquin, Pedro opened a tin of scones baked by Sue, the woman who lives on the island during the summer, and some raspberry jam. The scones were delicious and Colleen liked the jam so much she picked some up at the gas station on our way home from Cork the next day.
Scones (baked by Sue who lives on the island in the summer) and jam:
The walk from the dock up to the car was as bad this year as it was last year but I did make it. At the top we talked to Sue for a little bit and then went back to the cottage. Fortunately, none of us had felt any motion sickness.
On the way home we passed the ruins of Rathanane Castle at the end of a line of flowering gorse so I snapped a picture. The gorse is so pretty with its bright yellow flowers against the brown branches. It’s too bad it’s covered with thorns. We wondered if the flowers could be used for anything – perfume or paint – there was so much of it.
Gorse and Rathanane Castle:
When we got back to the cottage KC lay down on the sofa and was asleep in 2 minutes. I updated my journal. We let KC nap (at least, I think we did). We’d decided to drive into Dingle for dinner before meeting Sean at An Droichead Beag and figured we needed to be there at 7:30 so we wouldn’t have to rush. KC chose The Old Smokehouse, across from the pub, the place where last year I’d had the “best salmon ever”.
We left the cottage at 7:00 and got a parking spot right in front of the pub. For dinner, Collen and I had the salmon, KC had cod, and Rick had a chicken breast. I don’t think KC liked his fish although he ate most of it. It looked perfectly cooked to me (and tasted delicious) but KC likes his fish dry and this was moist and juicy. My salmon was good but not as good as the one I’d had last year. Colleen liked her salmon but thought that Rick’s chicken, in some kind of cream sauce, was better. With dinner we shared a delicious Spanish rose.
At 9:00 I ran over to the pub and got a table, the last one, right in front of the music. I suspected the others would have preferred a table against a wall, with a back that you could lean on, but they were all taken. Rick, Colleen and KC finally came in at 9:20 and the music started at 9:30. It was, again, John Brown, Michael, Eric and the ukulele.
Michael, John, ukulele:
While the musicians were setting up I asked John if he knew the song “Dingle Bay”. He did. Colleen asked for Wild Rover. They played them both, and Black Velvet Band, and lots of polkas which are my favorites. Sean came in around 10:00 p.m. and talked to Rick, Colleen and KC (I was engrossed in the music) for about an hour. On one of the band’s breaks I asked Eric if he had a CD. He did and thought that Murphy’s Pub would have it for sale. When the music ended at 11:30 Michael came over and recommended we visit Skellig Island. He said the best way to get there was by ferry but didn’t think the weather for the rest of the week would cooperate. I was disappointed – it sounded like a wonderful place. But what did he mean about the weather? It had been beautiful until now….
When we got back to the cottage KC had a sandwich while I updated my journal and we went to bed. Tomorrow would be an early day.
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