Ireland Revisited – 2010

Returns to Holden Leather, Dingle Golf Links

May 2 – 12, 2010

 

Part 1: Flights from Memphis to Shannon

Part 7:  Shopping in Town of Dingle

Part 2: Drive to Dingle on Southwest Coast

Part 8:  Beautiful Sights near Slea Head

Part 3: Holden Leather, Dingle Golf Links

Part 9:  Drive Over Connor Pass to Shannon

Part 4: Ballydavid, Historic Brandon’s Creek

Part 10: Shopping in Shannon, Flights Home

Part 5: Playing Golf at Cheann Sibeal

Link to 2003 Trip to Dingle and Vicinity

Part 6: Slea Head Drive, Mulcahy Pottery

Link to 2002 Trip to Dingle and Vicinity

 

- Updated June 14, 2010

 

Ten photos mainly taken by Betty Nolan are posted at www.kodakgallery.com in an album entitled “Ireland – 2010” under the account of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email lewis_nolan@yahoo.com for instructions on how to access.

 

By LEWIS NOLAN

 

May 4, 2010 – Tuesday – Excursions to Holden Leather on Dingle Bay, to Dingle Golf Links

 

With my body’s clock scrambled due to yesterday’s overnight flight to a time zone 6 or 7 hours ahead of my home time, I was up early to find a newspaper in the Dingle Skellig hotel lobby.

 


 

Lewis Nolan outside friends’ shop in Central Business Area of Dingle, Ireland May 2010

 

I found that several other hotel guests were waiting around for the indoor pool and fitness center to open at 7 a.m.

 

I also learned that the newspapers from Ireland’s capital city of Dublin were not expected in until 8:30 a.m. or 9.

 

Betty and I enjoyed a delightful, buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I had two scrambled eggs, several pieces of the very tasty Irish bacon (a cut we don’t usually see in America that is sort of like a loin piece of Canadian bacon with a short tail of American-style bacon), a small glass of tomato juice, two poached eggs cooked to order, a bit of fruit and a couple of small pieces of Irish soda bread.

 

We took a couple of extra pieces of Irish bacon out with us for a mid-morning snack that was much welcomed.  Our plans for our first full day in Dingle included stopping at a food store to purchase a few supplies. On this trip, laying in a supply of Jameson Irish whiskey or other hard liquors was out due to health considerations following my series of brain surgeries three years ago.

 

We drove from our hotel through the waterfront of Dingle and around the Dingle Bay to a very narrow, farm road leading to Holden Leathergoods, a crafts shop that makes exquisite purses and other useful supplies. The youngish owner, Conor Holden, immediately recognized a nice purse Betty had purchased at the shop 13 years ago. She carries it regularly to church and other dress-up places and it is showing a slight bit of wear. He joked, “they weren’t meant to last that long.”

 

After examining his nice inventory of hand-crafted purses, she selected a rather small purse in a chestnut brown leather that I purchased for her. Fittingly, the purse had been given a proper Irish name, “Aoife” pronounced like the traditional American name of “Effie.” Conor told us that the firm had laid off all but one of his crafts employees, closed a satellite crafting shop that was on the coast and also a retail store in Dingle due to the continuing economic difficulties and fall-off in tourism that Ireland is facing. His website is at www.holdenleathergoods.com and his email is holdenleathers@iol.ie.

 

We also met Conor’s charming wife, Clair (or maybe spelled Clare) and their two beautiful, twin daughters, Chloe and Caitlin.

 

We also stopped at Foxy John’s combination electrical goods store-bar-bike rental business in the hopes of finding an adapter plug to convert Ireland’s direct electric current to the U.S. standard of alternating current. Strangely, a set of converter receptacles Betty has used in the past didn’t exactly match the wall plugs at the hotel. Foxy John, who had helped us with a conversion gadget on a previous trip, was evidently off. An employee seemed more interested in selling Guinness to morning drinkers at the bar than our issue. He dismissed us by saying only “you’d never find it” when we asked about the location of another store that might carry what we wanted.

 

A short block away was a fairly new, American-style hardware store – Fitzgerald’s HomeValue - that had just the right AC-DC converter plug in stock and a manager who was friendly and helpful.  

It cost less than $5 (U.S.) and worked just fine to operate Betty’s ACER laptop computer.

 

While in town we also stopped at a Centra food store to purchase some Diet Cokes and at Dingle Crystal, recently moved to new space on Green Street. It was good seeing master craftsman Sean Daly, whose beautiful deeply engraved, crystal champagne, wine and tumbler glasses are used with some regularity at our home in Memphis. We also enjoyed seeing his effervescent wife, Liz, who has opened a small, lunch shop in the interior of Dingle Crystal. She kindly treated us to handsome and heaping salads of organic vegetables with a bit of tuna fish on the side and just the right amount of her home-made dressing.

 

We in no way felt it was necessary, but Betty went ahead and purchased a set of six of Sean’s beautifully engraved, crystal napkin holders for our home use and also a six-inch high Christian Cross she planned to give to an old friend. While in the store, we much admired banner blow-ups of a photo of Sean astride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and holding one of his wine glass creations. It happened that the featured glass was identical to the “wave” set he made for us that now sits in our dining room’s China cabinet. The photo was used on the cover of an Irish travel magazine that included a laudatory story about his work and high professional standing in Ireland.

 

Renewing our friendship with Sean and Liz were among the high points of our trip. Betty had included them in the close circle of family and friends she had emailed reports of my progress during the long recovery from my brain aneurysm in 2006. Sean very gently reminded me that they were among those who prayed for my return to good health. We learned that Liz had gone through her own medical ordeal and was nicely recovering from major surgery and a course of treatments for a terrible ailment.

 

I had to think that Liz and I are in a way common kin and survivors whose recoveries to date are a testament to our Lord’s unqualified love for all the human beings he lovingly created and has advanced over the centuries. Betty and I briefly met the Daly’s shop employee, ironically named Fionra. Our much-loved and missed greyhound pet (whose canine ancestry goes back to Ireland) also bears the name Fiona. We also met the Daly’s attractive daughter, Bella. She works in the resort town of Killarney, giving therapeutic facials and massages. (Betty and I enjoyed several days with our then-teenaged son playing golf and sight-seeing at the not-too-distant resort of Killarney in 1991. Links to that and other big trips are indexed at www.lewisnolan.com.

 

As is often the case in Ireland, the skies clouded up as the day wore on and I don’t think the temperature ever reached the predicted high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The coolness made for a wonderful afternoon for a nap and I took advantage of it back at the Dingle Skellig. That evening we had another wonderful meal at the hotel restaurant followed by their fantastic crème brulee for dessert.

 

We slept in a bit and arose at 7:40 a.m. the next morning, determined to expand our visiting to include the famous Mulcahy Pottery complete along a gorgeous hunk of Irish coast and near one of my favorite golf courses in the world. The course is called Cheann Sibeal (also Dingle Links).

 

After another hearty and wonderful breakfast at the Dingle Skellig, we drove our rental KIA SUV through Dingle and out a hilly, narrow and winding road past the village of Ballyferriter to the fabulous Cheann Sibeal Golf Course. The name comes from one of the massive “headlands,” or bluffs jutting out and overlooking the blue Atlantic Ocean.

 

I found out that as a guest of the Dingle Skellig I qualified for a discounted rate of about 37 Euros (about $50 in U.S. dollars). I think that was surprisingly cheap given what is charged in the U.S. for courses of its very high quality and awesome scenery. Rental clubs and a motorized cart were available at bargain prices and we were welcome to eat lunch in the club’s second-floor, pub-restaurant with huge windows looking out over the course. Betty and I shared a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich served on Irish soda bread.

 

We noticed the number of vacation homes built near the clubhouse had perhaps tripled since our last visit seven years ago. The one-story, white homes are available for rent, as are nearby condos. Oddly, I was told the club does not have an approved, PGA-certified golf professional on its staff because it doesn’t meet “standards” for such that I don’t understand.

 

But the club does have an affable Irishman running the pro shop. We purchased from him three lamb’s wool sweaters for me (in men’s size XX-Large), emblazoned with the club logo and in the colors of black, red and powder blue. The manager kindly threw in a club visor for me at no charge plus a couple of souvenir score cards. We also purchased a golf sweater for Betty, in pink. Nice place (again). It was getting well into the afternoon and the cloudy skies were somewhat threatening, so I decided to come back another day to play in hopefully better weather. But significantly, I saw only a handful of golfers on the course on this day.

 

We drove back out the narrow, farm lane to the somewhat wider highway and went a few miles down the road to the Louis Mulcahy Pottery complex. It is near the turnoff to a now-unmarked, paved lane leading to Clogher’s Beach. It’s odd how poorly marked are the hit-and-miss road signs since the beach is one of the really terrific, vantage points of the ocean offered on the Dingle Peninsula.

 

At Mulcahy, Betty purchased several votive candle holders made of decorated pottery. We had an excellent lunch of home-made, tomato-basil (in Ireland the word “tomato” is pronounced “tah-mah-toe) soup, served with Irish soda bread. We thought the excellent, upstairs café on the premises had been installed since our last visit. We had purchased before a beautiful, pottery table lamp with a hand-painted shade that now rests in a focal point of our living room back home.

 

Betty browsed around the Mulcahy displays of lamps and other distinctive, hand-thrown pottery. Included were some chest-high pots that sold for about $2,000 and up. We thought we might come back on another day and left to drive our rental SUV back to Dingle on the scenic Slea Head Drive. I think it is so named because a massive bluff with a “face” that falls into the sea has a shape like the back end of a gigantic, horse-drawn sleigh.

 

We poked around a couple of the very narrow lanes leading from the cramped highway to Smerwick Harbor. We had explored those paved pathways to the water to our 1997 stay at the now-closed hotel nearby. Formerly known as the Wine Rock Inn, it evidently had fallen victim to overbuilding just as Irish tourism fell off. It had only six or eight bedrooms when we were there and was a 20-minute drive from Dingle.

 

With the wisdom of after-the-fact hindsight, it seemed to us that it was probably easier to borrow money to build expensive facilities than to rent them so far from the tourism infrastructure of Dingle. But was still sad to see the once-nice facility that hosted lunches for busloads of tour groups traveling through the area was now closed.

 

Once back at the Dingle Skellig, Betty and I checked out Internet mail on the laptop Acer net book she brought from home. I napped for a while then we repaired to the hotel’s excellent restaurant for yet another great dinner. This one was fresh fish that included a small portion of my low-carb diet’s forbidden, hash-brown potatoes. Afterwards, we returned to our comfortable suite so I could work on my trip notes in a small journal while enjoying a taste of cognac.

 

We had resolved to revisit only those attractions and locations that we really and truly wanted to see again. So we tried hard to avoid our often-exhausting, go-go drive to see everything and anything when traveling. Not making the cut on this trip – but well worth the trouble for first-time visitors - was an ancient Celtic settlement of Reasc and a few other neat places on the Dingle Peninsula. While we did enjoy the wonderful view of ocean breakers and the clear water at Clogher Beach, we passed on scrambling around the steep cliffs that surround the white sand on three, inland-sides in hopes of finding noteworthy fossils embedded within the rock.

 

(Continue with Part 4, Ballydavid and Brandon’s Creek  /  Return to Nolan Travels Home Page)