For day two out of Killarney, we decided to take a drive around the Dingle Peninsula, a more rugged and narrow finger of land due north of the Iveragh Peninsula. We woke up early, and one of our first detours took us to the town of Anascaul to see the South Pole Inn. This pub was founded by a local man named Tom Crean (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Crean), who was a member of the Shackleton and Scott Antarctic expeditions. Now, if any of you have been following this blog for a while (Dec 05 -Jan 06 posts), you know that I spent some time on "the ice" at McMurdo and South Pole stations. I have already mentioned both of these expeditions in these posts, and basically, Tom Crean was a heroic man: Shackleton's expedition was stranded on the Antarctic coast for more than a year when their ship got stuck in the ice, and Scott's expedition was the second group to reach the pole in 1912 (Amundsen's was the first in 1911). Anyway, after spending just under a month in Antarctica in the summer, I have a profound respect for the early explorers of that frozen continent. Unfortunately, Missy and I were there too early to grab a pint in the pub, but I got to see it and pay some respects to Tom Crean, a good Irish adventurer and hero.
The Dingle Peninsula is another highly visited part of Ireland, though not as much (fortunately) as the Ring of Kerry. We came across a couple of tour buses, but for the most part, and barring the drives through Dingle's scattered towns and villages, we felt quite isolated and by ourselves on our drive about this rugged bit of land.
On Dingle, you are never far from the sea, and you are constantly reminded of that, whether it be by views like this, the crisp sea breeze, or just the distinct dampness and saltyness to the air.
Dun Beag: a Bronze Age promontory fort, which sit at the top of steep cliffs so that visitors, both friend and foe, can only approach from one side, adding to security. This fort is quite impressive with its fortifying walls and trenches still visible. It also had an underground tunnel which was possibly used as a last ditch escape route for the fort's inhabitants. Ireland is blessed with an incredible amount of ancient sites, and the Dingle Peninsula has a great deal of them. Wandering around these sites, it is difficult to comprehend that those stones and structures were put in place thousands and thousands of years ago by early humans, who actually lived there!
Just down the road from Dun Beag is another farmer who takes a couple Euro per tourist for the privilege to wander through his fields and check out some 4000 year old human settlements.
A 4000 year old "beehive hut". These thick stone walls are stacked in such a way that they are watertight and definitely took the bite out of the very damp and chilly wind that seemed to be a regular feature of the area.
We had gray skies for most of the day, but it definitely added to the feel of the place, which I'm sure would be so absolutely different on a sunny day. As I mentioned above, the feeling of isolation is heightened in the country here and the bleak sky just added to the lonely feeling.
Dingle is one of the strongest of the Gaeltacht areas. It was so great to be sitting in a cafe and to hear the original Irish language being spoken all around us. There is a great effort in Ireland to keep the language alive, but English is by far the most commonly spoken language throughout the majority of the country.
The 1300 year old Gallarus Oratory. This is an early Christian structure with a design like an upside-down boat. The fitting on the stones is amazing and there are even some carved areas where a door was in place and for a window at the back of the building. It is also quite spacious, quiet, and somewhat warmer (than the surrounding air that is) inside.
There is just so much charm to the Irish villages and towns....I wish that the pictures could convey that more.
Missy and I had lunch at a small cafe in Dingle town. This was an extremely charming place, and when I go back to Ireland, I will be sure to spend a few days based out of this town. Our lunch consisted of two delicious and amazingly fresh hamburgers followed up with some tea and scones. Missy had never tried scones before, and the combination of those with the fresh cream and jam definitely won her over.