Less touristy and just as beautiful as the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula is the Ireland of 'Ryan's Daughter', with an extraordinary number of ring forts, high crosses and other ancient monuments. Dingle is the main town.
An attractive little port home to Funghi the dolphin = it makes a good base for exploration of the Dingle Peninsula. (saw Funghi on Thursday after taking a boat onto the bay and took some great photos of him)
Dingle Bay from the dining room at Hotel Skelligs (24Kb JPEG)
Dingle Skellig Hotel= luxury hotel on the bay of Dingle famous for its many rooms and the size which necessitates the use of signposts within the hotel to point you to the restaurant, bar, bedrooms and recreation facilities. Most evenings you could enjoy typical Irish entertainment in the bar
and if this wasn't to your fancy you could go for a quiet swim or private game of snooker.
(This luxury hotel was the start of Mr and Mrs Michael Chappell's wedded life!)
This Pass, sometimes spelt with a single 'n' is the highest in Ireland at 456 Metres which is 1,496 feet and has impressive views of Dingle Harbour and Mount Brandon to the north. This is where Marina and Michael decided to take their little Nova on its first day out and ,yes, there are impressive views - the guide book just fails to mention the high winds!
The view looking down into Brandon Creek inlet (35Kb JPEG)
Brandon Creek - St. Brendan set off from this inlet in the 5th Century and sailed to America, according to the information board. As Tim Severin proved, voyagers could indeed have done this journey hundreds of years before Columbus. The fishing boats add to the creek's atmosphere, and on a warm day the water is inviting. Further along, we stopped at a quaint pub in a tiny seaside village and chatted to the charming innkeeper and played with his new puppy.
A really beautiful sunny day;we were very warm in short-sleeves which was lovely as this was the 17th September.
Difficult to miss is the largest working mill or Britain. It was built around 1800 by the local landlord, and fell into disuse by 1880, before restored to its present grandeur. A short video tells the story of its history and there are guided tours as well as an exhibition about the thousands of emigrants who boarded the coffin ships for a new life in the USA. There are craft shops and a cafeteria. Visitors are able to go to the top of the working mill - make sure it's not too windy when you do, as when you reach the top,it feels even windier.
One of Ireland's more recent tourist attractions, the caves were discovered in 1983 when problems with water pollution led to a search for the source of the local river. The entrance to the caves had been known for years but they had never been explored. You can have guided tours here and also you will find an extensive gift shop and there is a small coffee bar.
The town has some tourist attractions but does not detain you for long. The Dingle Peninsula is the major reason for coming here. In fact, our reason for visiting Tralee was indeed to stop off for dinner on our way back to Dingle! Tralee is on the main route in and out of the Peninsula.
The first town on the ring, travelling anti-clockwise from Killarney is Killorglin famed for its annual Puck Fair Festival.
Continuing west from Killorglin brings a small town of Glenbeigh into view. Nestled at the floor of the Seefin Mountain, this small town has the attraction of the Kerry Bog Village Museum.
Kerry Bog Village:
This attraction, next to the Red Fox Inn (which was packed when we went!) recreates an early 19th Century Kerry Village through a serious of replica houses: turfcutter, blacksmith, dairy, henhouse, labourer's cottage and a thatcher.
As late as 1815 there were only five houses here. Daniel O'Connell whose name is indissolubly linked with the early 19th Century campaign for the Catholic's right to vote, came from near here.
Valentia is 11km long and 3km wide but it doesn't feel like an island, especially if you come by road. In the Summer it is a popular resort and scuba diving centre. Most visitors reach the island by the long bridge from Portmagee, turning right at the other end for the road to Chapeltown and Knightstown. As soon as you cross the bridge you come to the Skellig Experience Centre.
Skellig Experience Centre:
This Centre is well worth a visit and has interesting exhibitions about the Skelligs and especially the wildlife. From here they also arrange trips to the Skellig Islands = however, we advise that you ring first as the day we wanted to go.... the sea was far too rough even though it looked calm from Valentia = in fact, we even tried to convince some local fishermen to take us out to the Skelligs but they just looked at us as if we were crazy English folk!
If you are able to go on a boat trip, it doesn't actually land on Skellig Michael but it does get close enough for good photo opportunities when you will no doubt catch a glimpse of Kittiwakes, puffins, petrels and other seabirds and if you are lucky, basking seals.
We obviously will (fingers crossed) at some stage later in our life go back and visit the Skellig Islands as we would love to see such creatures in their natural habitat at close range. Is it any wonder, we really pestered the boatmen to take us out to the Islands?! Apparently, on Small Skellig there are rumoured to be at least 20,000 pairs of gannets breeding.
This popular resort is situated on a narrow bit of land between Ballinskelligs Bay and Loughcurrane. Charlie Chaplin was probably the town's most famous visitor, and photographs of him here can be seen in The Butler Arms Pub.
Staigue Stone Fort:
This 2,000 year old Fort is one of the finest dry stone buildings in Ireland, the five metre circular wall is up to 4 metre thick and surrounded by a large bank and ditch. The exact age of the fort is not known but it probably dates from the 3rd or 4th Century AD. It cannot be seen from the sea although it has sweeping views down to the coast. It may have been a communal place of refuge or a Royal residence as the sophisticated staircases into the walls suggest. The answer is lost in time but the Fort remains an astonishing testimony to the skill of its builders. It's about 3km off the main road,. reached by a country lane which narrows as it climbs to the site. There is a small car-park area and although there is no-one there to collect an entrance fee, there is an honesty box by the gate asking for 50p adults and children go free (@1996) = rest assured, we were honest! The views sweeping down to the coast are breathtaking and it is quite amazing to think that the Fort can't be seen until you are almost right on top of it!
View of Sneem river from the town bridge (36Kb JPEG)
Visitors have differing reactions to the oddly named town of Sneem (pronounced Shneem) derived from the Irish snaidhm meaning knot or twist from the snaky river. It's quaint to some whilst to others who never see the place in Winter, it seems to have sold out completely to tourism. We were obviously fortunate as the afternoon we were there, it was fairly quiet and not many tourists about but plenty of evidence of gift shops and the like.
This little town has every house and shop painted in their own different pastel shade. This has to be seen to be fully appreciated. It's touristy but not as big as Killarney, we visited Cuills Woollen Market Store which was in the centre of town. Henry Street is dedicated to tourism with every place either a pub, a restaurant or a Bed and Breakfast.
Killarney National Park:
We drove through Killarney National Park. This is an adventurous 30km ride that covers a wide variety of terrains: smoothly surfaced roads, small country lanes, rough tracks, bogland, wood, uphill and down through the dramatic ice-carved Gap of Dunloe.
One of Marina's work contacts had suggested that we call in at Dick Macks; after enthusing about the place. After visiting it, we are still not sure whether he was being sarcastic or serious as the gentleman in question is hardly ever in contact with Dalau (where Marina works!) to be grilled on this matter!! The guidebook lists it as such = In Green Street Dick Macks is an old style pub with the shop counter on one side and the drinking counter opposite. In reality = it was like drinking in a very crowded cobblers shop (Michael's impression!) and we do admit it was an 'experience' so on this subject, we will leave it up to you.........
Funghi chasing the boats (32Kb JPEG)
Dolphins are not usually a common site in Dingle Bay, but in the Winter of 1983 the crews of
fishing boats began to notice a solitary bottle-nosed dolphin that followed their vessels, jumping
about in the water and on more than one occasion leapt over their boats. He came to be known
as Funghi, the nickname of a local fisherman, and is now an International celebrity.
During the Summer, boats leave the Pier regularly, as we did, for a one-hour trip that takes you
out to the Dolphin. The cost is refunded if the dolphin isn't around so the regulars know that he
usually turns up! A boat also leaves each morning at 8:00am for those who want to swim with
Funghi; unfortunately Marina was not well enough (according to Michael!) to indulge herself with
this activity but looking back she does admit that the water in Dingle Bay is probably rather cold in September, especially at 8:00am. So one day, we shall return and Marina will fulfil her dream
to swim with Funghi!
Marina outside the Gallarus Oratory (29Kb JPEG)
Simple but stunning, this superb dry-stone oratory is reason enough for visiting the Dingle
Peninsula. It is in perfect condition, apart from a slight sagging in the roof, and has withstood
the assault of the elements for some 1,200 years! The interior and exterior walls may have
been plastered, as some sign of mortar remains. Shaped like an upturned boat, it has a
doorway on the west side and a small round-headed window on the east side. Inside the
doorway are two projecting stones with holes which once supported the door.
This 12th Century Romanesque Church was once part of a complex of religious buildings. The characteristic Romanesque doorway has a tympanum with a head on one side and a mythical beast on the other. The Church has an Ogham stone and an alphabet stone.
Riascs Monastic Settlement
The remains of this 5th or 6th Century Monastic Settlement are impressive. Excavations have revealed, amongst other finds, the foundations of an oratory first built with wood and later stone, a kiln for drying corn and a cemetery. Most interesting is a pillar with beautiful Celtic designs.
Ballyferriter (pub prawns!!)
This small village is named after Piaras Ferriter, a poet and soldier who emerged as a local leader in the 1641 Rebellion and was the last Kerry Commander to submit to Cromwell's Army. However, we remember this 'tiny' village for our first taste of Dingle Bay prawns; we stopped at The Teach Pheig Pub and indulged in this delightful delicacy.
Mallow (for lunch)
We were now on our journey home as an 'old-married-couple'! Here we spent a few moments eating lunch in the car and watching the world go by! However, if you do venture to stop here; it is a prosperous town in the Blackwater Valley that caters for fishing, golfing and horse-racing. It's well provided with restaurants and pubs as well as plenty of shops and banks.
Blarney Castle + Blarney Stone
Even the most untouristy visitor will probably feel compelled to kiss the Blarney Stone and get the gift of the gab or, as an 18th Century French Consul put it, "Gain the privilege of telling lies for 7 years ". However, only Marina was brave enough to partake in this challenge (we even have the certificate to prove it) as Michael hadn't realised that to kiss the stone meant one had to lean out backwards over a parapet, at least a hundred feet up and therefore required a head for heights. (So, if you could e-mail Marina and ask her what lies she is going to tell me in the next 7 years, I'd be grateful!)
Blarney Woollen Mills
A giant tourist shop in Blarney Village selling everything from quality garments to tacky green telephones in the shape of Ireland, accompanied by a 'No-Blarney' guarantee. This was where Michael and Marina's honeymoon finished before departing on their way to Cork Airport for their journey back home to Essex - but not before Michael had shown his love by betrothing Marina with a beautiful Claddagh (the clasped hands) necklace which expresses the great Claddagh idea - The heart for love, the hands for friendship and the crown for loyalty. = obviously, from the Blarney Woollen Mills quality selection of merchandise!
The end = or is it just the beginning........