Prerecorded in Ireland: Day 4, Dingle

20 Sep

Location: Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland
Population: 1,920
Accommodation: Pax Guest House, Dingle

We woke up on Day 4 of our trip and the weather outside was not looking too friendly but it wasn’t bad enough crush all of our plans.

We started our day out right with another wonderful Irish breakfast. A “full Irish,” as they call it, is a traditional Irish breakfast. Not to say it what Irish everywhere are eating for breakfast every morning but think of it as the Irish equivalent of a Denny’s Grand Slam. It consists of Irish bacon (like a hybrid of our bacon and breakfast ham but way better than either), sausage links, black and white pudding (blood sausage), fried eggs, fried tomato and mushrooms and toast. It is fantastic. And the perfect cure for a hang over. Which we always had.

(Sorry. I ate a sausage and half the bacon before I remembered to photograph it.)

At Pax House, breakfast was a real affair. White linen table cloths, beautiful little china plates and tea cups, no detail overlooked. There was even a nice menu to order from including not just the full Irish but omelets, salmon dishes, pancakes…a whole assortment…plus a buffet of fruits and yogurts. If you’re Ireland bound, we recommend Pax 110 percent. This was a great way to start the morning.

After breakfast, we set off on the Slea  Head loop drive. Slea Head is the peninsula where Dingle is located and the drive is a scenic loop drive that traces the perimeter and offers the obvious beautiful scenery as well as lots of historical spots to stop and explore.

One of our first stops was a long stretch of beach with pretty views and plenty of sea shells to pick at. The weather wasn’t at its best but we were comfortable in fleece and jackets and went for a nice walk along the shore before heading off again.

These next two are probably 2 of my favorite shots from the whole trip. I love moody beaches in the morning. One of these is destined for canvas…

We then came to Dunbeg Fort, which is a promontory ring fort built during the Iron Age (500 BC-500 AD), which makes it crazy old. It’s built right on the edge of the sea cliffs and the views down the rock cliffs to the sea were amazing. I could have spent the rest of the day sitting in the grass watching the waves break against the cliffs.

We poked about the fort, exploring the small passages and rooms built into it. The information said it was likely used for defensive or ritualistic purposed. Hmm. The neatest part of a lot of these structures is that they are built of dry stone – meaning no mortar of any kind binds the stones. They are simply stacked up. But they are stacked up perfectly to resist the weather and are actually water tight. Quite amazing after thousands of years of wear.

We then frolicked in the grass knoll beside the fort. Mostly just because it was really green and really pretty and I’ve always wanted to say that I’ve frolicked in a grass knoll. No one else was around, so why not act a fool, right?

hehehe. I’m frolicking. Zac is fighting invisible hill ninjas.

Moving on we visited a cluster of bee hive huts surrounded by a stone wall. Bee Hive huts date back well over 2,000 years and were likely dwellings for monks. They are small and round and like the fort they are done in dry stone.

It’s amazing to stand among these ruins and consider what time and labor must have gone into creating this. Especially considering the perfection with which they are made – perfectly symmetrical, perfectly water tight.

After a bit of climbing around and exploring we headed back to the Slea Head Drive where we perfected our skills in not wrecking our rental car.

The road is approximately 3/4 of a lane wide, with the edge of a sheer cliff down to the sea just to the left. And there are buses. Big tour buses. Big tour buses that come barreling down the road. It’s very pleasant.

Oh that’s narrow…

Holy Mary…

As we drove we saw all sorts of great views across the sea to the nearby Blasket islands and stopped often to just take in the view and snap pictures.

We also saw the first of what would be an overwhelming amount of roadside Jesus in Ireland. It became some sort of car game, one of us yelling “Roadside Jesus!” each time we spotted the Lord just up the road. At first I wondered exactly what Jesus was doing spread out all over the Irish countryside in locations where maybe a dozen cars pass in a day. But I figure its there for all the lost souls who are braving their first day of Irish driving.

The above shot is of an island referred to as The Sleeping Giant. I think you can see why…

And in the next photo…your typical Irish roadway : )

We also saw oodles of sheep.

Eventually we spotted a beach. It turned out to be the one used in the movie Ryan’s Daughter. After looking at it from above, we grabbed some cake and a mini bottle of wine from a nearby shop and headed down to the beach. (Don’t judge, the only thing they sold was cake and alcohol!)

We sat under the towering rock cliffs and enjoyed the sea rolling in. I’ll take a beach anyway I can get it and sitting in the sand in Ireland, cold waves pounding the shore and a light mist falling was as fabulous of a beach as I’ve ever seen.

After our snack we busted out the camera and played around in the waves, climbed around on the sharp, slippery black rocks and labeled the beach, just in case the beach forgot where it was…

Had to black bar certain things hehe : )

These next photos are great. The giant waves crashing over sharp rocks and us standing in the middle really accentuates our intelligence.

Hi, we’re Maggie and Zac. We make poor choices.

Zac!! The ocean!! It’s right behind you!!

HAHA! Notice is right foot sinking by the way.

Then Zac said, “Maggie, stand in that little cave looking area and I’ll take your picture!”

“The tides coming in fast though,” I said.

“You’ll be fine, just hurry up,” he says.  So I hurry over and climb into this cave-like area and he starts fiddling with the camera. And the waves are getting closer until they are washing over the tops of my shoes, which is cool cus I’m rocking water proof tennis shoes.

Then comes a very, very large wave. Followed by my screaming “it’s going to fill with water!! It’s going to fill with water!!” Which is followed by Zac yelling ‘Runnnnn!!”

So I run. Straight into the wave. Fully clothed. Which was the better alternative to getting slammed into the rock wall and drug out to sea.

I was wet. Very, very wet. And let me tell you, when the water comes up to your knees and enters your shoes from the top down….doesn’t really matter if they’re water proof.

There are no photos. He never get time to snap the shot. ha!

So we had a good laugh and then hiked back up the massive hill to our car with the lovely slooosh slaaaash of my wet shoes marking every step. I spent the next 20 km worrying that I was going to die of hypothermia. Zac insisted I wouldn’t.

We made a few more stops to take in the view and do a bit of shopping. Eventually we reached the place we’d been planning to have lunch. It was a small pub, middle of know where, highly recommended by folks we’d met the night before. Sadly, it had a sign on the door that said “Closed today due to death. RIP.” Whose death it was we really can’t say. But we offer our condolences.

We back tracked to a town we’d just passed, picked a random pub and popped in for bowls of soup and chowder and more of that fabulous Irish brown bread. Perfect lunch! The only other patrons at the pub were a pair of older Irish gentlemen who spoke Irish the whole time we ate. I made up stories in my head about what they were saying : )

Further down the road, we turned down a one lane road-like-thing. It was becoming common for the road to be grown up on either side with hedges at least 6 or 7 feet tall, as thick as can be, all blooming with amazing flowers. (Freesia maybe??). We found a spot to park the car and headed down a walking path also walled in by the flowering hedges. It looked like a scene come to life from a storybook.

At the end of it was the Gallarus oratory. It is an early Christian Church approximately 1,300 years old and in perfect condition. Again with the water-tight dry stone. It had a small door and a tiny window and it was awesome. So we did some poking around, imagined what it would have been like to worship there 1,300 years ago and then headed out.

Photo credit to the husband on the one above!

Interesting though, we were taking our usual self-pic inside the oratory when a woman asked if she could take a picture for us. As I turned around to say yes, we recognized each other. She’d done the same thing for us hours earlier at the Beehive huts : )

About this time, I announced that I really had to pee. Like really had to pee. And, shocker, there are not reststops along these 1 lane country roads. By this point in the trip, we were surprised to see other humans, so a bathroom wasn’t about to pop up soon. And as you’ll recall, the road is lined with the 7 foot hedge rows and that are far too dense to push your way through.

So we drive down this 1-lane hedge lined road-ish thing hoping for a break in the bushes. We find one! It’s a farm lane looking thing, something you’d maybe drive a tractor down – just two muddy tire tracks with grass in the middle. It looks like it hasn’t been used in ages, so we figure its a safe bet. Just beyond it is a blind curve. This is not somewhere to safely just stop your car and leave it. There would been no way for another car to come around the corner and fit around us.

Zac steered the front half of the car into the lane to leave room for passing cars and I hopped out to go tinkle in front of the car. I open the door. I say “this looks a little muddy.” I take two steps. And I sink in the mud. Not a little, a lot. And then I see the car tires slowly sinking with me. This isn’t a dirt road that’s just gotten some rain. This is a fecking bog or marsh or swamp thing and our car is sinking in it.

“Back up! Back up! Back the car back onto the road!” I’m yelling and waving my arms at Zac is shocked and confused and oblivious to my sinking feet. He throws the old Focus into reverse and punches the gas.

The sweet sound of tires spinning and mud flying everywhere fills the air. Zac looks at me wide eyed.

“It’s not solid ground!” I yell to him, visions of us pushing a Ford Focus out of a bog filling my mind.

“No shit!” he yells as mud splatters all over the windshield, the hood and sides of the car. Once he’s freed the car and back on the road, I hold my foot up for him to see.

“I sunk in the mud I say” my shoe and the jeans bottoms – up to my ankle – look like they have been carefully chocolate dipped. Zac starts laughing, I start giggling and am suddenly reminded that I had to pee.

Back into the mud I go to tinkle, hoping I don’t sink up to my waist, carefully trying to pee on my shoe to get the mud off. Juuuust kidding hehe. (Welcome to my blog, new visitors, where foul language and potty jokes run rampant. Now who wants to hire me as a wedding photographer?!)

I did have to waste two full bottles of water to rinse my shoes well enough to get back in the car. These are the same shoes mind you that were recently filled with sea water, so I’m real comfortable at this point. But at least I didn’t have to pee anymore. (Note there are no photos to illustrate this portion of the blog. Sorry.)

We cruise along down the road for our next stop but first spot a creepy old church along the road. It is not mentioned in the guide book we’ve been using for this drive. But the gates are open and there are no signs. And in fact, that gate is pretty damn cool so we stop several meters up the road and run back down to the church.

We poke around, take pictures, make up the history of the building and both keep mentioning that we find it really creepy. Could have been the light mist and hanging fog. I’m pretty sure a WalMart parking lot would look mystical with this kind of fog and mist, so an old abandon church really takes full advantage of the creepiness.

When we finished our pictures we turned to leave out the gate. But both sides of the gate had closed and were latched.

We stood and stared. Sufficiently creeped out because when we came in, both we’re open, the latches dropped so that the posts were stuck in the wet ground.

We walked up to the gate and could see the trail torn through the ground where the gate had been pushed/pulled shut. We were creeped out. Like pee your pants (even though you just peed in the mud) creeped out. So I grabbed the gate and yanked it open ready to get out of there as quickly as possible. The sound that old iron gate made was loud and sharp and as creepy as they church looked. How it got shut without making a noise is beyond me. But we think it was fairies : )

Not far up the road was our last stop for the day – an old church that had been a previous Norman center of worship, built in the 12th century when the English were trying to take control of Irish religion. It is surrounded by an old cemetery full of amazing Celtic crosses and grave stones too worn to date.

In front of it is a tall, skinny Ogham stone that is said to have been in place about 900 years prior to the church being built. And the ancient Ogham writing indicates it was marking a holy spot. Centries ago, a hole was drilled into the top of the stone and it came into use a spot to seal a deal. The idea was that two people would touch thumbs through the hole and in front of the House of God and standing at the feet of their ancestors they would make a promise.

Likely, they were making deals over land or cattle. We opted to renew our vows. Of course we couldn’t really remember our vows. So we made some up. I think I liked them better than the originals : ) It was a cool moment, with the mist still falling and fog hanging in the hills, surrounded by centuries and centuries of life and faith.

After that, we made our way back to Dingle town to our B&B to rest and warm up.

The weather outside was fierce. Driving, howling winds were blowing and a consistent (though not heavy) rain was falling. But we really didn’t want to drive into Dingle. We wanted to walk so that we could be sans rental car and not have to worry about how many pints the hubs was enjoying. So we chatted with the B&B host about transportation options in the area and he gave us the number for a taxi. We were planning to take our car, leave it in a car park, then get a taxi back. But our host was far to hospitable for that and before we knew it he was personally driving us to the restaurant.

We had dinner at a very nice pub/restaurant where we both devoured yet another amazing Guinness Beef stew. I love making Guinness stew at home but as soon as we had it in Ireland, I realized I’d been doing it all wrong. I always cook chunked potatoes in mine. In Ireland, it was always served over a big scoop of mashed potatoes. Perfect!

After dinner, we set out to find some traditional music (trad as its known in Ireland). Just steps away was the lively Dingle Pub and a pair of musicians were just setting up. We grabbed a booth and a couple of pints and settled in for what turned out to be a fantastic trad session. We got to hear some of our favorite songs, once we’ve been singing while drinking since long before we planned to visit Ireland and it was a surreal moment to look around and realize we were finally singing trad Irish songs in Ireland. Happy faces, I tell you, happy faces.

After a while we ventured to another pub for another type of trad session. Where the first pub had feature 2 musicians doing sing-along songs the next had 3 and they were doing all instrumental, older trad which was just as amazing!

When the pubs had closed – they closer early, around 11:30 – we stepped out to assess the weather and if we wanted to call a cab. The wind had died down to nearly nothing and the rain wasn’t heavy at all.

So we decided to walk. We had our rain proof coats and a flash light and my coat happens to be white and thereby reflective. What could go wrong?

We walk on, up hill and up hill and up hill. But we’re happy. Cus we’re in Ireland and the mist is falling and the cobblestone streets are shiny and reflecting the colors of all the painted store and pub fronts. We belt out our favorite Irish song – Fairytale of New York – because we know we’ve no hope of hearing it in a pub (it’s a Christmas song) and we figure this is the next best thing.

As we walk on, singin’, we fail to realize we are now on the edge of Dingle town. The rows of buildings have come to an end. We pause at the last intersection and look both ways. Then we step off the curb and into the road. And suddenly there is nothing between Boston and us, save for a few fishing boats in the harbor, and we are nearly knocked off our feet by the wind.

It is officially too late to call a cab. We are walking. And we are walking looking like Jim freakin’ Cantore covering a Cat 4 hurricane. The once romantic and enchanting mist is now a driving rain. But we’ve had our pints and really, what’s left but to laugh. So we do. We giggle ourselves silly trying to get up this hill.

Whoa, there’s a photo. Raise your hand if you’re glad we didn’t drive back!!

This is completely the middle of nowhere and it is pitch black. There are shoulder high hedge rows on either side of the road and the road is wide enough for exactly 1.25 cars. I am trying with all my might not to be freaked out.

A car approaches.

I take the flashlight and Zac steps in front of me so that we’re walking single file. My coat is white. His is, cleverly, black. I wave the flash light back and forth along the ground beside us in an attempt to beg the drive not to run us over.

The car passes. We give praise.

The car brakes.

We slow our pace.

The car begins to back up.

I begin to chant “ohmagawd ohmagawd ohmagawd”

Zac says nothing.

I say, “Are you going to protect us?!?!”

Zac says, “Yes. I have a swiss army knife in my pocket. First I’ll feck em up with the corkscrew, then I’ll trim their beards with the tiny scissors.”

I begin to wield my flash light like a weapon.

The car reaches us and window rolls down. The wind picks up with brilliant force and even more brilliant timing. The rain is hitting me in the eye and I can barely see.

A voice from the car says, “Do you need a ride?”

There is no discussion. Before I know it, we’re both in the back seat of the car and all “Hi! Are you American too? Where are you from?”

I can’t say when we went from frightened and ready to protect ourselves by whatever means necessary to being willing hitch hikers, but I think it had to do with that final gust of wind.

Thankfully, we were returned safely to our B&B where I made Zac promise not to tell my dad we hitched a ride with strangers in the countryside of a foreign nation.

And so ended another wonderful day of Irish adventures. By this point, Dingle had forever won a piece of my heart. The weather was shit but it seemed appropriate and everything else – the view, the sea, the people – were perfect. I don’t think its anything I can put into words or even capture in the photos. It could not be more opposite than the places where I happily live out my every day. But it is a special place. It was on this day of our trip that we confirmed what we expected before we’d even left – we’d be back to Ireland – and probably sooner rather than later.

Much more to come! Before the stories continue I’ll be posting a photo catch up blog because believe it or not there are more…some of my favorite photos from the trip where taken on the day we drove from Doolin to Dingle and I haven’t been able to share those yet!


7 Responses to “Prerecorded in Ireland: Day 4, Dingle”

  1. betsy September 21, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    Beautiful pictures!! and im really glad I didnt know some of this stuff while you were in Ireland… the itty bitty roads and the hitchhiking and the numerous times you consumed pints and the scary gates closing and……..oh well ..glad your home!!!

  2. doneidalynn September 21, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    I have got no idea what I am going to do at work once you are done with the “Maggie & Zac Take Ireland Chronicles,” but please continue with the feckin’ hilarity!!? I love reading about your trip, and the pictures are amazing!!

  3. Diane September 21, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Maggie I love it all but you have two shots in this blog that I need blown up so I can mat and frame. The sleeping giant and the beach with the sea gull would look awesome in a black and white. Is that possible? I love the blog and your adventures 🙂 Please continue…

    • maggieandzac September 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      Anything is possible : )

  4. becky September 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Maggie, you are a wonderful story teller. My husband and I took this same drive just a year ago and I can’t wait to return. Dingle and Ireland are such a magical, wonderful, place and everyone should try their best to take a trip there. Keep the great stories and beautiful pictures coming, they bring back my own wonderful memories.

  5. Janice September 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Maggie- Can’t say that Bob even knew what a blog was until you two went to Ireland…but if you dare return in the next 10 years- you better ask us to go with you! :)I We love the pics and the narratives! You two are the best! So glad that our paths have crossed!

  6. Jenny Lynn September 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    I LOVE everything about this blog: the stories, the pictures, the happiness and the Maggie-style honesty!! You two are amazing individuals and an even better couple 🙂

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