On day 2, we headed back toward the town of Dingle where we walked around in the rain for quite a while. The rain stopped sometime during our walk around time. Dingle is such a picturesque village with no shortage of pubs. There is even a pub that doubles as a hardware store. This makes me wonder which came first: the pub or the hardware store? We ate lunch at a place called The Diner, which is supposed to be like an American Diner, but much more expensive. I ordered Fish n’Chips and it cost as much as a lobster dinner! Food for a day will easily cost us upwards of 100 Euros a day.
We spent the rest of the day driving around Slea Head and we all marveled at the beauty and majesty of the countryside. The Slea Head drive took us along the coast of the peninsula. We made several stops along Slea Head to see prehistoric buildings, or Bee Hives, and long abandoned churches due to the extreme disapproval of Protestants by Catholics or Catholics by Protestants or both. [Long and complicated political and religious history there.] Our first stop took us to some Neolithic buildings and Dunberg Fort. Most notable here were the cliffs that the buildings were built on. Amazing, sheer drop offs! It was beautiful to see waterfalls off these cliffs. The water originated from the nearby mountaintops and ran all the way down into the ocean.
We stopped by the ruined house that was in the 1968 film Ryan’s Daughter. You know . . . Ryan’s Daughter. Anyone? Ever hear of this movie? Me neither, but it was filmed in areas all along the peninsula and the house from the movie still stands. Gavin and Tristan couldn’t believe that the couch was still there!
From Slea Head we could see Blasket Island. The island that was inhabited until the 1953. The Irish government basically evicted the inhabitants, because it just didn’t want to be responsible for the safety of the people who kept getting stuck over there due to the weather or in cases of emergency. I’m certain that I am over simplifying the matter, but it’s the gist of it.
Along Slea Head we saw abandoned potato fields. Yes, they are still visible. We also saw “Famine Houses”, which are apparently homes that the Irish lived in during those long years of the Great Potato Famine. Looking around you definitely get a sense at how hard life was in this area. The “fields” had to be cleared of rock to actually become tillable land. Rocks were certainly plentiful and used in construction of all buildings. Rock walls are visible all over the hillside, as there was no other place to clear away the stones. From afar the hillside looks like lush, soft grass, but in reality it is rough terrain. I would compare it to that of Crete. The vegetation would rather slice and poke you rather than be trampled on and good luck not twisting your ankle on a stroll up a hill. This is serious terrain and it makes you appreciate how hard these people had to work just to be able to grow potatoes. And we all know that this was not the end of their struggle. The famine was relentless and the lack of help was ridiculous.
We made another historical stop at the Gallarus Oritory. Here we walked through another stacked stone building. The Celtic marker outside the building was later changed into a Christian marker. One of the priests/monks carved a cross above the Celtic design. I think this is symbolic of the Irish culture today. Many are Christians, but the ancient ways are rooted within the people.
Lastly, we stopped by Kilmalkedar Church. Although the church has long been abandoned, the cemetery appears to still be in business. The cemetery itself is an odd sight to see. The headstones are all over the place, due to the ground moving so much during the years. Some headstones are nearly on top of others and some are about two feet higher than others. While walking around the church grounds, Gavin, Tristan, and I walked over to some curious horses that were behind a nearby rock wall. Gavin took some grass and fed it to one of them. Then, Gavin took a single blade of grass about the size of a paperclip and held it out in his hand. His hand wasn’t completely flat this time and one of his fingers got caught in the horse’s teeth. Immediately I saw the look in Gavin’s eyes and the strange moment of hesitation, then I reached around and had to grab his hand out of the animal’s mouth. Oh man! I never heard so much howling from a kid. (Well, except the time that our cat ate the hamster.) Poor little Gavin had a very bruised and cut finger. Gavin banned us all, from even talking about the incident until about a week or two after this trip.