Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ireland, Day 3:The Dingle Peninsula, Kerry

After our fabulous tour of the Ring of Kerry yesterday, we decided to take a day to see the Dingle Peninsula also in County Kerry but just north of the Ring. And since we both enjoyed the leisurely bus ride, we booked again with the same company and were pleased to see Pat the bus driver pull up again this morning in front of our hotel. He's a little hard to understand, truth be told, and I didn't really enjoy the comment about my hair (though it was the truth) but he was a safe driver, knew the area well and he had some great stories.

Today, in place of our Italian-American friends from Connecticut was an Irish couple from County Wexford in southeast Ireland. They were farmers with 80-90 head of cattle and as many sheep. They grew grain to feed the livestock and they were off on a 'holiday' to the west of Ireland. They never did say their names but they were friendly and nice to talk to. The word of the day was 'aye' and between the farmer, Pat the driver and the farmer's wife I think I counted at least 300 utterances before I made myself stop!

Our first stop was alongside the road to see ancient 'Bee hive' dwellings (about 1300 years old). These small buildings are made only of gritstone built with a dry rubble masonry technique shaped in a hive that have never leaked to this day - pretty amazing given the winds and rain that this area of Ireland gets. American builders could take a page from the early Irish natives! This set of buildings was situated next to a private home and Pat warned us that the old woman who lived there would come out immediately to collect 2 euros. Well, she must have a set of ears like the border collies from the day before because the door opened in a shot when the first people off the bus crossed the street. Pat said she winters in Boston with her sister, no doubt paid for by her intimidating ways!

Next stop was a beach so big that they could have filmed the invasion of Normandy or had the invasion here and really surprised the Germans! This is where Pat's storytelling expertise kicked in. The reason this beach was famous (in his mind anyway) because the former Bishop of Galway was caught here with his American mistress by people on the beach who recognized His Excellency even in a swimsuit. Apparently, and this was not new news to the farmer and his wife who snickered knowingly throughout the telling, Bishop Sean Casey was quite the gadfly...drinking, driving sports cars, vacationing in fancy homes not to mention his philandering..until he was outed. The American woman in question, Annie Murphy, must have quietly went back to the states where in due course she discovered she was pregnant. She didn't return until the boy was 17 years old when she needed money for his college education. A scandal! In Dingle! My word!

Despite the juicy gossip, the scenery here was the better story. It falls into the category of..'if you think the Ring of Kerry was nice...' ...this was truly breathtaking! On the ring, Pat showed us a mountain that was used in the scenery of "Far and Away' but on Dingle, they built an old Irish village on a rocky cliff and used that and many of the surrounding areas in the movie. Tom and Nicole were there for a while apparently. They also filmed 'Ryan's Daughter' here too. We vowed to re-watch both when we return.

We made a lunch stop near the Blasket Islands, as remote a part of the world as you could imagine. The Bishop and Annie should have vacationed here!. The islands are so remote that in late 1953, the last residents were whisked off the Island because they would not have survived the winter. There were a couple of playbills in the restaurant for (depressing) summerstock local theater one entitled 'The Cripple of Innisfree'. My sister, who I believe thrives on miserable Irish stories, would love it! Maybe it'll come to Broadway.

We made a stop inthe town of Dingle and I was thrilled to finally get into a woolen shop, though I now realize after only three days in Ireland, that they're as common as nail salons are in the U.S.

Tomorrow we leave for Kinsale on County Cork and say goodbye to this lovely hotel (albiet with the lousy internet service), Pat the bus driver, the charming town of Killarney and the most spectacular scenery I think I have ever seen. The Cliffs of Moher have a lot to live up to.

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