"" Writer's Wanderings: The Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

One of my very favorite parts of this Ireland trip was our time spent on the Dingle Peninsula. It started with a beautiful B&B, The Greenmount House, to stay in for three days. The B&B sits up on a hill overlooking pastures and the Dingle Bay in the distance. Our room faced that view and in the bayed window, had two very comfortable easy chairs to cozy up in.

Our drive around the peninsula was a bit more pleasant than the Ring of Kerry, I thought. The sides of the road were not as hedged in and so there was more to see. One of our first stops along the way was the Dunbeg Promontary Fort, another ring fort, very small, however there was apparently more area below ground in the mounds surrounding it. Our question was who would you defend against? Surely no one would be foolish enough to try to scale the cliffs from the sea and we didn't think anyone would back themselves up to the cliff's edge to defend someone coming at them from the land. I'm sure there was good reason. We just couldn't see it.

To get to the fort on the cliff's edge, we had to walk a path that ran alongside a stone fence. These stone fences are found all over Ireland. In order to do any planting, farmers had to pick stones from the fields. Instead of hauling them over any distance, they made fences around their fields. Some of the fences have been there for centuries and are only held together by the clever way they were stacked.

Another stop a little further up the road was to see some houses that had survived from the time of the potato famine. If you spend any time at all looking at Ireland's history, you cannot miss the potato famine of the 1840s. Groups of cottages were made up of a house for the main farmer and then smaller peasant cabins. The particular group we visited had been inhabited right up through the 1960s and fixed with electricity at one point. They are now just a tourist attraction and have several mannequins set up in period clothing to depict the famine years.

Along with the famine houses, as they were called, were several fenced areas containing some farm animals. As we paid our two euros at the entry, someone on their way out mentioned that there were a couple of goats on the loose. The guy collecting entry fees whistled to the two sheep dogs he had nearby and yelled something to them--possibly in Gaelic since I didn't understand what he said. They took off up the hill. A while later, we were entertained by their shenanigans in trying to get the loose goats back in the pen. As you can see in the picture, the dogs weren't above terrorizing the goats into submission.

The other significant stop we made--other than lunch which was always significant--was an oratory, the Gallarus Oratory. It is an 8th century church used by early farmers in the area for worship. Shaped like an upside down boat, the stones are so well laid that it stays dry inside even in the rains that hit this area. It is about 24 feet long, 15 feet wide and 15 feet high and would fit a very small congregation.

Instead of parking in the large lot and going through the visitor center, we parked on a side road nearer the oratory and a bit shorter walk. It was also quite a beautiful walk as the path was lined with fuchsia bushes that were so thick they gave us shelter from the strong winds blowing that day.

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