Today we are at one of the bottom tips of Ireland, the Dingle Peninsula. If you’ve never heard of it, perhaps you’ve heard of it’s more popular neighbor, the Ring of Kerry. We’re at the Dingle Peninsula because it’s just as scenic, a bit shorter drive (only 47km around) and has a nifty little town (Dingle) with good music and a pretty harbor. After being on the road all day yesterday, I am looking forward to a shorter and easier driving day today. We make a plan to take the drive at 11am. In the meantime, I’m visiting the store and printing the Ryanair boarding passes for tomorrow. I charge the kids with buying stuff for lunch.
We’re staying at the Dingle Marina Lodge and I meet Dawn, the owner (again, found through Airbnb) who gives me some ideas of where to get good music and where to eat tonight. Oh, and by the way, she’s going sea kayaking tonight – I should think about joining her and her visiting guests on this excursion. Well, that’s a thought.
Around 11am, we packed the car with provisions for lunch and started around the peninsula. This should be easier driving. Although it’s a two lane road, (albeit wide enough in some places for 1 1/2 cars) most people tour clockwise (the way we’re going). It’s a beautiful drive along the coast, reminiscent of Maui’s Hana Highway with great views around every corner. We drive by and sometimes stop to look at beaches and cemeteries, ancient ring forts, abandoned houses, and the remnants of the strange stone igloos that are found only here. This was where the film Ryan’s Daughter (the first R-rated film I ever saw!) was filmed, as well as Far and Away.
We stop at a few roadside pullovers looking for the perfect picnic spot and Morgan finally finds one – 200 feet below the road. We grab our goodies and scramble down to a small, flat, grassy spot and lay out our picnic. Seagulls fly by to check us out and we can’t hear the cars going by above us. We can see the Blasket Islands on the right and the Ring of Kerry on the left. It’s sunny and warm. There’s a hunk of rock below that’s just calling out to be climbed. What more do you need?
Back on the road, we find a wee traffic jam. Cars are stopped in front of us where the road is cut out of a rocky part of the hill. There’s a motorhome going toward us (the wrong way!!!) and there are just millimeters between the side of that thing and the cliff on one side and the cars on the other. People are getting out of their cars to provide direction. And I have to get through there. Millimeters, and I’m scared. I inch toward the behemoth in the road, terrified that I’m going to scratch this car and really regretting not buying the insurance. Morgan is telling me that I’m almost too close to the rocks on the left, where I can’t really see. I pull in the side view mirror, but I just can’t see this happening. Suddenly, an Irish knight in shining armor appears (actually, it’s a taxi-tour driver) and offers to drive the Micra through this impossible space. I hop out, hoping for the best, and let him do it. I walk behind the car as it inches past and then makes it through. I thank my knight profusely (he said that I could have done it) and continue down the road. There must be a caravan of French motorhomes doing this tour, because there are more behind the stuck one. The road is wider here, so it’s not a problem, but I pity everyone else in that narrow spot I just left.
We continue to the Gallarus Oratory, one of Ireland’s best preserved early Christian churches, built about 1300 years ago. There’s no mortar between the stones, yet it stays dry inside. We chat with the guy who mans the gate and he shares with us the history of the place and how, if you spoke Gaelic, you could really understand the origin of many of the places in the area.
We’re tired, though, and drive back to the apartment. I bought pasta sauce, chicken breasts, and pasta (some gluten free) for dinner, but as I’m walking into town, I think more and more about that sea kayaking. I stop at the sports center and book myself a ticket. On the way back, I see Anna and Morgan and tell them that they are on their own for dinner and I’ll catch up with them around 930pm and we’ll go out to find some music. Morgan wants to go sea kayaking too, but it turns out I took the last spot.
I grab a quick bite of something and cross the street to the marina and meet the gang. Dawn, the lodge owner, has friends in from Dublin and there are some other folks from that area as well. We suit up, unload the kayaks, and after a quick lesson (refresher for me – I’ve kayaked with my friend Michelle on the Poquoson River) we are off. This is the perfect antidote for the crazy, terrifying driving and the extra alertness required when traveling with others. First we find Fungie, Dingle’s bottlenose dolphin who has been living in Dingle Harbor since 1983. He’s quite well known nationally and likes to play with the boats in the harbor. We see Fungie’s Folly, raft manned by a couple who come out every evening to play with the dolphin. Nobody feeds him yet he still sticks around, enjoying the company of anyone who ventures out on the water.
Refreshed after the kayak tour, I cross the street back to the apartment, cook the last chicken breast and have a bit of leftover pasta, then go out with Anna and Morgan in search of some music. The first place is crowded and there’s no music yet, so we venture on. The second place has a guitar player singing American pop tunes, and we move on. The third place has traditional Irish music, but it’s a woman singing a sad, slow song, so we continue. Finally we find the Courthouse Bar and hit the jackpot. It’s packed, has great beer, and the music is fabulous. We stay til midnight when the place closes.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to Ireland and fly to England.