By Cacinda Maloney
We were up and at ‘em bright and early for our South by Southwest Ireland countryside tour since we had a full day planned for the Dingle Peninsula. Dingle is a tiny, quaint town on the tip of the peninsula once described by National Geographic Traveler as the “most beautiful place on earth!” I have to say it was a stunner! From there we planned to visit the abandoned Blasket Islands. They provide the perfect vantage point from which to view the surrounding countryside and although they remain uninhabited today, visitors can travel there by ferry.
Driving through the countryside, you get the distinct feeling that life here is simple, yet the people are strong, living a rough life next to the sea.
From the shores of the ocean to the lush green landscape, you will wind your way along the road, hugging the edges of the steep cliffs down below in disbelief at its rugged beauty. From surf spots to wine festivals, this tiny area packs a punch of things for you to experience with the world’s newest epic drive known as the Wild Atlantic Way.
Soon you will come upon Fahan, an area on the Dingle Peninsula noted for a collection of “Beehive Huts”, known as Fosra.
They lie below Mount Eagle on the southern coast, West of the fishing village of Ventry and South of the Slea Head cliffs. It is thought that most of the clochan (beehive huts) in this grouping dates to the 12th century during the time of the Norman invasion and were used as habitation sites. Who would have thought that a person could actually own these 12th century national monuments? Well, she doesn’t actually own the beehives, just the land they were built on. The caretaker, Mary, inherited the land which is now a national historic site and lives on the property.
“Gi day!” “It’s quite cold owt ere”, spoken in her deeply accented Gaelic English as the local guides gab it up with Miss Mary. She comes out of her house daily to collect the one Euro per person rate as the tourist buses stop in front of her house. The guides tell us this is how she makes a living and that it is a good gig if you can get it! She makes a joke or two about how she is really just giving back to the American economy, as her son now lives in the East Coast of the USA and she collects these coins so that she can visit him during the winter!
Back on the bus, our group is driven along the winding sea highway with scenic stops. We drove from Inch Beach to the Blasket Heritage Center, but unfortunately, our ferry out to the deserted islands got cancelled due to high wind/waters, so we instead toured the center, which in itself is worth a visit if you enjoy history of the region.
From there, go right on over to the local sensation Louis Mulcahy Pottery shop, where you can browse his collection, as well as have an excellent lunch and tour his facility. His facility delivers its pottery throughout the world and I was lucky and had a chance to meet him and put my hands on the potters’ wheel! It really was a fun experience.
Just a few weeks later, my piece arrived, after it was left to be fired and cleaned up by the staff. Not quite up to his caliber, but a great time nonetheless!
We then returned to the Skellig Hotel in Dingle so that we could go back into town later for the Dingle Film and Wine Festival 2013 that was going on in town. It was a merry event with local booths of foods, wine and sweets. But you know what I loved? I loved the colorful painted building in Dingle, as well as the DOORS and windows, I am a sucker for that in any town! I have always been a fan and this was no exception.
Great Craic (crack) was had here!
In this area of Ireland, the people are great fun (craic) and will banter with you in jest and good spirit, as they love to chat it up, drink their beer, dance and listen to live music. When you are in Ireland, you should not only visit the cities, but visit the small towns to get to know the people, the place and get a good feel for the history of its people. As for me, it was great craic!
Note: This trip was sponsored by Failte Ireland, the Tourism Board of Ireland, although you are stuck with my opinions about the great craic!