Thursday, July 11, 2013

Far & Away: Lost in the Magic of the Dingle Peninsular

Our first volunteer opportunity in Ireland did not work out but as with everything in life that does not go to plan, it has been a blessing in disguise.  It had been a chance to be spontaneous but also extend our exploration of Cork and Kinsale and now the countryside of Ireland.  This is a chance to feel her pulse, and experience the psyche of her people.  Today we find ourselves at the Kerry airport picking up a rental car after arriving here by bus from Cork City.  

The next 3 days will be spent exploring County Kerry and the road leads to the Dingle Peninsular, our first port of call in the Kingdom of
Kerry!  I hadn't even heard of Dingle till a few days ago, when my Irish girlfriend Triona, who I shared a tent with in Africa mentioned it on Facebook as a place we might check out.  I am really thankful to all the tips my friends have given me on this journey, because they are leading us to some wonderful gems!

But wait…why is this part of the world referred to as the Kingdom?  Is it the remoteness of the region, the Gaelic culture that is preserved here or was it coined as a disparaging term by those who lived elsewhere?  I get the sense it is worn as a badge of honour.  The radio operators refer to the region as such and I sense this is a part of Ireland that still preserves some of the old ways, imploring you to Taisteal go Mall (go slow), relax and forget the rest of the world exists.

Dingle is a Gaeltachts, a place where Gaelic (or Irish) is spoken.  The lilting language sounds beautiful but also generally un-pronounceable!  There seems to be three words to every English word and I marvel that anyone can actually pronounce this language!  The area has produced a number of writers and poets who are nationally renowned and it’s not hard to imagine why.  The remote beauty and solitude of this region would lend itself quite easily to inspiring a writer.   

Our first stop is the little town of Dingle where we indulge in one of the best seafood platters we’ve ever had!  The seafood is incredibly fresh and restaurants advertise they offer nothing frozen!   The glittering blue ocean just outside the window is proof enough for me! 

We fell in love with the remoteness and beauty of Dingle Peninsular.  Sheer cliffs drop down to the ocean and in the distance we can see the even more remote Blasket islands.  The islands were occupied till the 1950’s when they were evacuated due to the fact there were only 22 people left there.  Consistent emigration of its young meant the islands had to be abandoned.  We didn’t visit them but if I was back in Ireland, I would love to spend a day there…

The Dingle peninsular is dotted with a variety of archaeological monuments and we read this area was once home to various tribal cultures and monastic life for over 6000 years!  I love the little beehive houses!  They once supported religious monks looking for a bit of solitude and perhaps also had more secular uses by families in the community.   

Ireland is full of magic and tales of leprechauns, nature spirits, fairies and other worldly creatures abound.  Perhaps it is these superstitious local beliefs that we must thank for the remnants of Stone Age ring forts, referred to locally as the ‘fairy forts’!  It isn’t possible to accurately date the beehive houses as the dry stone construction was popular over a long period of time but I am interested to read they were constructed sloping outwards to prevent rain from gathering in the interior of the building!  Ancient guttering and stormwater controls! 

We take our time driving the peninsular.  We are particularly engaged by the sea gulls that are incredibly tame and curious.  While photographing the landscape I do my own little bit of bird whispering and capture some special memories of our sun kissed day in Dingle.   Later on I read that films such as Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away were shot here.  It isn’t hard to guess why.  We discover a beach and Steve decides he will go for a swim.  I walk for a bit, taking photographs of the flotsam and jetsam that the ocean has washed up, feeling compelled to record the beautiful natural abstract art.

In the afternoon we stop for afternoon tea at a little cafĂ© that overlooks the ocean.  I wonder what it must be like to live in such a remote place?  Would I be bored or would I love it?  Would we come back here one day to find out, perhaps to write that best seller?  
The Dingle Peninsular is one of those places that speaks to my soul and it is with great reluctance that I agree to head to Killarney.  It is getting rather late and its time to check in to our B&B.  We have three nights in the Kingdom of Kerry and I can’t wait to experience more. 

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude”.  Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Really enjoying reading your posts! Brings back lovely memories of my weeks holidays last year and introducing mike to the west of ireland! Catherina

  2. Thanks Catherina - that's great! Nothing like a thumbs up from a local :)! Travelbug62