Ireland Revisited – 2010

 Beautiful Sights near Slea Head

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 10, 2010 – Monday – Driving to Beautiful Sights on Slea Head Road

 

Our plans were scrubbed by brisk winds in the Atlantic Ocean. Betty and I had wanted to take a three-hour boat excursion from the Dingle Harbor out in the ocean to the Blasket Islands several miles away.

 


 

Lewis Nolan by Gallarus Oratory, made in 7th or 8th Century by early Christians in Ireland

 

The information we had gotten yesterday at the harbor vendor promised that we would see a good variety of marine life, seabirds and other sights. We would also have distant views of the historic Skellig Island, which had sheltered monks during much of the upheaval of   the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period.

 

However, strong winds around coastal waters on this otherwise beautiful day persuaded the boat operators to call off that day’s early afternoon excursion.

 

We had arisen just after 8 a.m. at the Dingle Skellig Hotel and had another very fine buffet breakfast. For me it consisted of the usual poached eggs, slices of Irish bacon, brown bread with butter, tomato juice, two dried prunes, a banana and delicious slices of fresh cantaloupe. After eating in the Coast Guard Restaurant, I took a short nap then dressed in warm clothing for the planned boat ride.

 

After reporting to the boat concession at Dingle Harbor and learning that the excursion had been cancelled, we suspected that a possible shortfall in paying passengers like us might have contributed to the decision. This is Monday, when today’s tourism is often not so buoyant in these parts due to the Irish economy and flight cancellations forced by Iceland’s volcanic eruption of air-born ash slowing international travel. We read the ash plume now reaches 30,000 feet into the atmosphere and covers an area of the Atlantic Ocean and parts of Europe 1,000 miles long and 800 miles wide.

 

Nonetheless, we were determined to take advantage of the generally fine weather on the Dingle Peninsula and opportunities for an open day to follow our whims for today’s travel schedule.

 

With the freshness in our memories of the incredible beauty of the Irish coastline we had sampled by our drives earlier in the week on the Slea Head Road, we decided to have another round of driving and stopping at some of the ancient historical sights of the Celts and the Iron Age.

Heading out of Dingle in the proper, clockwise direction, we drove towards the coast village of Ventry. We passed through immense hillsides of rich, green farmland rising from the sea. It was criss-crossed by low, stone walls marking land ownership. The differing shades of green grasses were dotted with black-and-white Holstein dairy cattle and also by thick and wooly sheep marked with spray painted patterns of ownership.

 

We passed by the very old Dunbeg Fort and nearby Beehive Huts, where early Christian monks lived solitary lives of prayer and denial of most of the comforts of life. Their stacked rocks formed primitive shelters from the weather that resembled spiraling hornet nests sometimes found in trees.  We drove by – but did not stop – a two-story farmhouse with a fantastic view of the sea. We had visited with the old woman who owned the house and steeply slanted farmland that falls to the sea on our 2003 visit.

 

Her name was Mrs. Mara O’Houlihan and she had told us with delight about how parts of the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman movie, “Far and Away,” had been filmed on her land. The widow told us she and other area residents had bit parts in the movie. We confirmed her assertion later by re-viewing the movie when home and seeing her in a funeral scene, clad in 19th Century mourning clothes.

 

We stopped on wide, pull-out spaces in the roadway cut into cliffs every few miles to take more pictures of the breath-taking scenery of the sea far below.

 

We drove past Slea Head (a headland named because of its resemblance to the back side of a gigantic, horse-drawn sleigh) and noted the now-closed, gravel road built by Hollywood for the since-demolished movie set of an old Irish village. As noted in a travelogue about our earlier visit here, it’s really odd how very low-key is what little memory of the movie is carried forward today. A nearby pub had lots of pictures posted on a wall of local characters in costume that had been hired for minor parts in the movie. But there were no shots of the Hollywood stars that came to the pub at times to drink. Neither was there any movie set memorabilia displayed that would be treasured by fans in the U.S. 

 

We stopped for another delicious lunch at Mulcahy Pottery and greatly enjoyed their tomato-bisque soup made by a neighbor. The snack bar hostess, “Trish,” recognized us from our visit earlier in the week and was wonderfully gracious - as the Irish always are in such places.

 

We drove a few further miles up the coast to a regional museum in Ballyferriter that celebrates the Celtic history of the area. We had toured its small collection on a previous visit. But we found that on this day it was closed, despite signage to the contrary that says it is open 7 days a week during the season. We did go inside the town’s Roman Catholic Church, where the front door is open even though there was nobody inside. We picked up a few brochures and religious handouts written in the traditional Irish language of Gaelic, the long-established native tongue in this section of Ireland.

 

Many of the road signs are all in Gaelic and a great many teenagers are sent to this part of Ireland to board in private homes during parts of the summer. They are taught sufficient Gaelic to pass proficiency exams required to graduate from Ireland’s equivalent of American high schools that are operated by either the Catholic Church or government. The old Irish language remains as the primary language of some senior citizens in remote areas, but more and more dual signage, publications and education is handled in Gaelic at the government’s encouragement.

 

We returned to the historic Gallarus Oratory in search of better directions to the ancient Christian Church of Kilmalkedar. We remembered it as being nearby but on an unmarked, narrow road. It took another two stops for directions, but we got there just as a light rain started falling. Thankfully, it was the only rain we encountered that got in the way of our touring the Dingle Peninsula on this trip.

 

Kilmalkedar – with four sturdy walls but missing the roof - was made in the 12th Century of carefully placed slabs of mortared stone. Surrounding it is an ancient graveyard still in use. Two men employed by government were clearing the land of overgrown grasses and shrubs.

 

We noticed a chest-high, very old stone that was inscribed with the mostly forgotten Ogham Irish alphabet. It reinforces our finding - arrived at while combing old cemeteries around Ballinasloe in Central Ireland for the unfound graves of my Nolan ancestors - which the Irish don’t put near the importance on neat and tidy cemeteries that Americans long have. The state of the cemeteries we’ve visited in Ireland is like the haircuts of men there – scruffy to the point of being on the wild side.

 

We proceeded on to the town of Dingle on a back road to complete today’s driving tour. We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing at our hotel and getting ready for our long drive the next day over Conor Pass to our lodgings at the Oak Wood Arms Hotel fairly close to the big airport at Shannon. Due to off-and-on cancellations of flights from Ireland to America due to volcanic ash in the atmosphere from Iceland, we were a little nervous about our flight on Aer Lingus leaving on time.

 

But we are both grown up and realize that we have the maturity and resources to deal with any flight cancellations as best as we can. We have the comfort and confidence that comes from having good health, lots of time on our hands, nothing urgent awaiting us at home and the standby, emergency finances to handle just about any situation.

 

But after more than a week in beautiful Ireland, I should say that we do miss our comfortable home in Memphis and beloved pet greyhound, Fiona. In addition, Betty was pleased to get a cheerful Mother’s Day email message from our son, Casey and his beautiful wife, Caroline.

 

Our last dinner at the Dingle Skellig Hotel was again wonderful. Our friend Liz Daly, who with husband Sean runs the Dingle Crystal company in town, joined us at the hotel for a great dinner. Sean was running late on returning from business and family matters at Cork across the country.

 

Aided by Liz’ great company, we had a delightful meal of freshly caught salmon, served with broiled asparagus. For dessert, Liz went for the delicious sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce Betty and I had enjoyed previously. We split the Coast Guard Restaurant’s fantastically good crème brulee.

 

Of course we invited Liz to join us at some future time in Memphis, hopefully with Sean. We think there is a good chance he’ll be invited back to Santa Barbara before too long in connection with the line of beautiful, crystal glasses he hand-crafts and sells in honor of that Southern California beach resort.

 

(Continue with Part 9, Drive Over Connor Pass to Shannon)  /  (Return to Nolan Travels Home Page)