Thursday, January 29, 2015

The good craic: Part 3

Sorry, got distracted by the holidays and a conference trip to Palo Alto, which is like Beverly Hills for techies. Wait, different story. Now where was I? Oh, right. We had just left Ballybunion.

The Dingle peninsula was our final destination in Ireland, other than the lovely airport Radisson in Shannon. Normally, by the time vacations are winding down I am ready to get home. I could easily have stayed in Ireland another month, so Dingle had that feeling of last call at a bar that closes much too early.

The drive from Ballybunion to Dingle was predictably lovely, though it did necessitate another trip to Shannon. I was getting the hang of this driving on the left, and Biscuit was getting used to riding a few inches from brush-clad stone walls, so the stress level was down considerably. We wheeled into roundabouts with nary a hesitation. Wheeling out was a bit more of a crap shoot, and we got lost a couple of times, making for some snippy exchanges in the car, but for the most part we had a relaxed trip.

There is a lay-by about halfway up the Connor Pass where one can stop, get some pictures, and change pants, if necessary. The yellow line in the picture marks the edge of the road, not the center.

Which was good, because we had decided to take the Connor Pass into Dingle town. I'm not sure why anyone ever chose to put a road through this thing. It's tall and steep and cold and wet and terrifying. And beautiful. Not to be missed if you are in the neighborhood. I don't know what you're going to do if you meet another car on one of the long single lane (even by Irish standards) stretches, but I'm sure you will figure something out.

Given the rapid decline in tour buses since we arrived in Ireland, we were a bit surprised to find Dingle town packed with people. And I mean Disney World, Jersey shore in the summer packed. It turns out we had arrived on the final day of the big Dingle Food Festival. Every building with a kitchen had a table set up where one could line up to buy sample portions of whatever they were featuring that day. We had some pork sliders and Guinness, a few other tidbits and a pint of Murphy's, and eventually a handful of Tums with a pint of Beamish. It was great fun, but four hours was about all I needed of 75,000 people crammed into a town built for 2000, so we were not disappointed that the festival was drawing to a close.

When we got to Dingle Town, this street and sidewalk were bumper to bumper and elbow to elbow, respectively. By the following morning, things had calmed down considerably.

We spent the next morning driving the Dingle peninsula. I can't begin to describe the beauty and history of this place, and there are WAY too many pictures to include here. I will have to let a couple of representative shots be sufficient.

Thatch is a fairly new innovation on the Irish timeline, and the trees have been gone for much longer. Many of the old structures are made entirely of stone, of which there is plenty.

One of the nicer roads in the Irish countryside. Most were narrower, and lacked the generous hard shoulder pictured here. The road up Conner pass was about 3/4 as wide, with a sheer wall of rock on one side and nothing but air on the other. Meeting a tour bus coming around one of these curves was quite a thrill.

The Gallarus Oratory. It is believed to be a chapel built somewhere around 900 CE, give or take 300 years. They say it is still keeps out the rain, at least as well as it ever has.

The small peaks on the horizon are the Blasket Islands. The island population declined through emigration during the 20th century, until last residents were evacuated in 1953. The Blasket Centre was an unexpected high point of the day's tour. Also, it's fun to say "blasket" after a while.

Dinner on our last night was at the Dingle Pub. Good traditional Irish food and drink. I think the staff were a bit burnt out from the food festival, but they were efficient and friendly, which is all you can ask. 

The trip home was blessedly uneventful. I was greatly relieved to turn in the Skoda with no new dents or scratches, and the flights were relatively on time and drama free. We definitely hope to go back to do the east and north of the island someday.

Thanks for coming along. Sláinte!

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