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Part I can be found here


Part II can be found here


As a reference for anyone planning a trip to this part of Ireland, I’ll note that we drove from Ennis to Dingle by way of the Shannon Ferry, and it was fine though not very scenic, and driving through Tralee was particularly stressful and confusing. But it got us to Dingle!


~Days 5 & 6: Dingle~

This was the highlight of my trip! I loved Dingle from the moment we came out along the southern coast past Inch beach and saw the tracks of silver light running along the sea toward Kerry.


From Ireland October 2010

Dingle itself was such a charming little town, full of restaurants, pubs, and cute dogs. Not to mention tourists! Bob and I particularly enjoyed the brightly painted storefronts:


From Ireland October 2010

There is also a tower out on one hill overlooking the bay that strongly resembles a Dalek:


DalekTower


(not my picture, I found it in this photo album — sadly there was no time for a hike up the hill to get a closer in person look)


We spent the afternoon of our arrival rambling around the town, window-shopping and sampling some much-lauded local ice cream (which was good, but nothing extraordinary. We find much better made locally in Maine. Or by Ben & Jerry’s)


We particularly enjoyed a visit to the Dingle Music Store, where the proprietor welcomed us warmly and (upon my asking about local CDs featuring concertinas) pulled down a concertina from a shelf and began playing for us. He moved on to accordion later! We enjoyed our impromptu concert very much, and were happy to get his recommendation to see a session later that night down the street that would feature an uillean pipe player. I was sorely tempted to accept his parting offer of a sip of whiskey, because it would have made a good tourist story, but alas neither Bob and I care for it and wouldn’t have wanted it wasted on our palates.


We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant (Tir Na Ri), being in the mood for something different. It was comparable to standard restaurant Chinese food we’ve had elsewhere. We did enjoy the oddity of seeing fellow diners having their beef with broccoli over chips (fried potatoes) as well as rice!


After settling into our B&B (The Lighthouse, located a brisk uphill walk from the downtown, very comfortable, with a huge lovely tub and plenty of hot water at last!) we rested up a bit before following the suggestion of our music-store friend.


The recommended pub, An Droichead Beag (“The Small Bridge”), was conveniently only a 10-15 minute walk from our B&B. There were probably at least a dozen other live music sessions going on that night (a Thursday) but we are so happy we chose this one! Not only for the excellent music, but for the atmosphere of the pub itself. It was a low, wood-beamed, fire-flickering place that reminded both Bob and I of The Prancing Pony from The Lord of the Rings. It was crowded, but everyone was very jovial and there was a wonderful energy throughout, no doubt assisted by the music. We’re pretty sure the band must be relatively famous locally as there were not only tourists but plenty of locals (more so than the following night, when we returned to see a fiddle and guitar duo play to a smaller and less boisterous crowd).


We had a wonderful time, squeezed into our tiny corner. Even the Diet Coke seemed to taste better, in the small glass bottles! We left during the break between first and second set, and I kind of regret not staying to hear more. But we were tired, and I am not a night owl, and we had lots to do the next day!


For our second day in Dingle, we decided to do the popular Slea Head Drive, a loop that runs west from Dingle to the farthest tip of the peninsula. This was probably my favorite drive of our entire trip. We stopped a number of times at various forts, beehive huts, and scenic overlooks.


It was absolutely gorgeous!


From Ireland October 2010

We especially enjoyed stopping at Dunbeg Fort, where we paid a few euros each to the old gentleman tucked into a tiny shed, then headed down a pebbly walk to the edge of the cliffs, where we found ancient stones marking out the structure (it’s not a “fort” in the sense of more modern defenses). A good part of it has already fallen into the sea, alas. We each tested out the beehive guard-hut, and peered down between the gaps in the stone walk to glimpse the ‘suterrain’, a secret underground passage.


After touring the site we watched a video at the tourist center across the street, and had some tea and scones at the Stone House, a restaurant that shares the parking lot. The scone was so tasty and the Stone House itself so appealing (with its sunny, brightly decorated rooms, and tables to sit at outside, all sharing the gorgeous view down to the cliffs and across the water) we decided to have an early lunch. We were delighted to hear that the brown bread and roasted chicken for our sandwich were still in the oven but would be out shortly, so we hung out and talked with the friendly chef/waiter Mark (whose uncle owns the restaurant, if I remember correctly). He told us that this summer they switched from a high-end expensive fish menu to a less expensive more traditional menu, and that it had been a hit. I can see why, as everything we ate there was marvelous! The scone was light and fluffy inside and buttery-crisp outside, the open-faced chicken sandwich was so fresh and juicy, and came with a tasty side salad dressed with a corn-pepper-pesto relish. Mmm… It was the best food we’d had so far on our trip so we decided we might as well have dessert too, especially as Mark said it was the last day he would be there before closing for the season! I had a really luscious Bailey’s cheesecake, while Bob had an apple tart. Highly recommended!


Another of our favorite stops on the drive was at Slea Head Beach. It’s an amazing setting, right on the tip of the mainland, with only the Blasket Islands further out. The beach is a cup of pale sand held between sharp dark stones. You reach it by means of a steep curving switchback, and when you stand on the beach facing out to sea, a tall cliff looms behind you. Very dramatic!


From Ireland October 2010

We continued on, stopping to observe more interesting landscapes:


From Ireland October 2010

Our last stop before returning to Dingle was the Gallarus Oratory:


From Ireland October 2010

We enjoyed visiting the Oratory itself, marveling at the mortar-less construction that has stood watertight for centuries. We also enjoyed parking in the lesser-known public lot and walking in, thus avoiding the fee for the visitor center.


Back in Dingle, we had late afternoon tea at the Goat Street Cafe and wished we would have been able to have a full meal (it was closing at 4:45 and we weren’t really ready for supper). It looked like the kind of food we would really enjoy (spicy stirfries and couscous and curries and tarts), and smelled wonderful. We contented ourselves with dessert. Check out the cute plate decorations:


From Ireland October 2010

We went back to our B&B to rest up for another night of music, then found ourselves a late but tasty dinner at an Indian restaurant down by the harbor. If we return to Dingle we’d definitely eat there again, but we’d also have liked to check out The Blue Zone, which had some delicious-smelling pizza but was sadly full when we stopped in.


After supper we returned to An Droichead Beag for another round of music, and then to bed to rest up for our last full day in Ireland!


~Day 7: Lough Gur and Bunratty again!~

Our only fixed plan for our last day was to attend one of the touristy “feasts” at Bunratty Castle for dinner that night. We decided to break up the drive back by stopping in the Lough Gur area, south of Limerick.


We loved this region, and wished we could have spent longer! Lough (lake) Gur is surrounded by interesting sites ranging from hill forts to neolithic tombs to the largest stone circle in Ireland. We were fortunate to also have lovely weather with blue skies and puffy white clouds, which leant the scenes a fairytale quality.


From Ireland October 2010

We were amused that the stone circle also served as cow pasture:


From Ireland October 2010

From Ireland October 2010

Regretfully leaving Lough Gur, we drove north through Limerick (not as bad as we feared) and found our last night’s lodging at Headley Court in Bunratty. This was a serviceable B&B we chose primarily for its convenience to the airport (10 minutes away). It wasn’t the most lovely location or the most charmingly decorated, but the proprietor was friendly and breakfast next morning was tasty (for the first time we were offered something other than eggs/toast/porridge: French Toast!)


After checking in, we returned to Bunratty Castle for the second time on our trip. As I had expected, the affair was slightly (or perhaps quite) cheesy, but was still fun, and the food and entertainment were actually very good! I don’t think I would do it again, however, because it was pretty clear they were packing in far too many people for true comfort, in the interest of making as much money as possible no doubt. The tables were packed so tightly it was uncomfortable, and I am not even a particularly large person. The food service was likewise rushed, probably because there are two seating each night, and we were the first. But aside from those drawbacks, it was a fun way to end our trip!


Overall I had a very good time, though it was also a learning experience for me in terms of what I enjoy and what I don’t enjoy in a vacation. I discovered that I much prefer a vacation where I stay put in one place for several days, and do more of my sightseeing by foot. If I were to return, I would probably try to rent an apartment in Dingle for 5 days, or perhaps somewhere on the east coast, and do more walking tours. I also much prefer staying in an apartment for purposes of eating. Not only do I enjoy poking around local grocery stores, but it would have made it easier to eat healthily and cheaply. So, it’s good to know that for the purposes of future vacation planning!


And lastly, here’s the entire set of pictures from our Ireland 2010 vacation, for anyone who just hasn’t had enough cows, stones, sea, and silly off-kilter self-portraits.




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~The Prep~
My husband Bob and I decide earlier this year that to celebrate his birthday and our twelfth anniversary we would take another “big” vacation: to Ireland! I had never been, and the last time he was there was thirty years ago. We decided to stick to the West coast since we only had a week, and we planned to rent a car since it would afford us more freedom to see the sites we wanted to see, at our own pace. After researching prices online, we took our plans to an agent at AAA, and she found an independent tour option through CIE tours that was cheaper than what we could do on our own (it covered flights, car rental, and lodging). Working with AAA was a smooth process and I would recommend it to anyone who either doesn’t feel comfortable doing things on their own, or who feels it is a better deal. That said, I think in the future we will make arrangements on our own, for two reasons. One is that we will probably want to find a rental property and base ourselves from one or two locations if we return. The other is that we had a bad experience with Hertz rental cars at Shannon airport and would not use them again.

Cut for pics of antler-mermaids, stone monsters, ring forts and giant Pi )

To be continued!

April 2017

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