There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..



Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ardfert, Flying-boats and Limerick: Part 8 of The West of Ireland

We checked out of our Tralee hotel with a long day ahead before our evening flight home.

Our final day in the west of Ireland
A short drive northwest took us to the village of Ardfert. St Brendan the Navigator was born nearby around 500 and founded a monastery here, though its location is unknown. Ardfert cathedral, dedicated to St Brendan, was built in 1117 and extended in the 15th century.

Ardfert Cathedral
After Henry VIII’s Reformation it became a Protestant Cathedral. In 1663 the diocese was merged with Limerick and as tiny Ardfert hardly needed a cathedral of its own St Brendan’s became the parish church. In 1871 a new church was built, St Brendan's became redundant and the roof was removed – presumably valuable lead could not be left sitting around on unused buildings. The ruin is now in the custody of the Office of Public Works, so we got in free with our Heritage Cards, which had certainly proved their value.

Ardfert Cathedral
Only on leaving did we discover there is free access to most of the site, just the exhibition, behind the modern doors in the picture above, required the fee we did not have to pay. In the exhibition we were talked through the cathedral’s history before having a look round. I liked the ogham stone below. From the 1st to 9th century Primitive and then Early Irish was inscribed on stones using the Ogham script which, to the uninitiated looks like a random series of scratches. I remember reading about Ogham in my teens, but it has taken me until now to actually see an Ogham stone - even if the scratches are worn almost smooth.

Ogham stone, Ardfert Cathedral
 The unroofed section has some pleasing Romanesque carved sandstone…

Norman stonework, Ardfert Cathedral
 ….and the site grew a couple of more crudely built minor churches in its early days.

Secondary church, Ardfert Cathedral
The friendly lady on the desk suggested we visit the ruins of the Franciscan Friary. Following her directions we parked beside a graveyard from where we could see the friary across the fields.

We walked between pastures on a narrow road beneath an ever darkening sky. The cattle were lying down - they knew rain was inevitable.

Ardfert Friary and recumbent cows
The clouds were much darker than they look, I had to lighten the picture to make the Friary visible
The friary was built in 1253 by the Anglo-Norman Thomas Fitzmaurice, Lord of Kerry. Some say it is on the site of St Brendan’s original monastery, but that belief owes more to faith than archaeology. Originally it consisted of a large church and a cloister,…

Cloister, Arfert Friary
… the tower, used for accommodation, was added in the 15th century. At six storeys it looked high enough to almost touch the gathering clouds. It was a peaceful place, with only the quiet sounds of nature to be heard. Despite, or even because of, the gloom Lynne rather took to it, ‘a wonderful place for contemplation’ she wrote in her diary. I hold to my belief that everywhere looks better in the sunshine.

The church and accommodation tower, Ardfert Friary
The rain fell steadily as we drove from Ardfert to Ballyheigue, the road following the coast with green fields on one side and on the other a scattering of caravan parks among the dunes.

Ballyheigue is a ‘scenic resort town’ (Wikipedia) beside the ‘beautiful rock rolling sea’ (town website). To us it looked like a down-at-heal seaside resort in the depths of the off-season - even in July. The café in the centre was steamed up and packed with late breakfasters, so we chose an alternative a little further out. It was open, all the tables laid and equipped with menus, but empty and the elderly man who, we presumed, had been left in charge while younger family members were busy, looked worried. ‘I can only do instant,’ he said but the word ‘instant’ was misleading – he filled a huge kettle and watched it for twenty minutes while some five litres of water slowly came to the boil. We only stayed because we felt sorry for him.

We turned northeast into County Limerick and followed the southern shore of the Shannon Estuary to Foynes. Foynes is a small village strung out beside the main road but the port beyond is Ireland’s second largest….

The start of the Port of Foynes
….and nearby was the only heavy industry we saw in Ireland, looking strangely misplaced in this bucolic landscape.

Industry beside the Shannon
We lunched in a Foynes pub. Unusually, they offered two menus, one Irish, one Chinese. I always eat local when travelling - well almost always - but this time I chose Chinese style chicken curry. Lynne went for boiled bacon with cabbage and mash. We were served by a diminutive elderly Chinese woman, who gave the impression of having been recently and unhappily transplanted, perhaps by younger entrepreneurial* relatives who were maybe working the kitchen. British or Irish, we were all the same to her, large clumsy people with big noses and strange eyes and she gave Lynne’s lunch a look which may have been disgust. Lynne pronounced it excellent, but it looked too much like a 1960s school dinner to me – I’m with the Chinese lady on this one.

Foynes may be tiny, but it played a key role in the history of commercial aviation. On the 8th of February 1937 a BOAC Short Empire flying-boat (who ever thought that was a good name for an aircraft?) took off from Foynes bound for Botwood, Newfoundland. On the same day a Pan-Am Sikorsky S-42 flew from Botwood to Foynes. Both planes then successfully completed the return journeys, the east-west trip taking 15 hours, the west-east 12. These proving flights soon led to a scheduled transatlantic flying-boat service. In 1942 non-stop flights to New York started, taking a little under 26 hours. The primacy of flying boats did not last long, Shannon Airport’s opening in 1942 was the beginning of the end and the Foynes Flying-boat station closed in 1946 but it had been the start of something bigger than the pioneers could ever have imagined.

The Flying-boat Station, across the road from the pub, is now Foynes Flying-boat Museum, and is well worth a visit.

Foynes Flying-boat Museum
They have all the exhibits you would expect including a flight simulator – Lynne took off nicely, lifting clear of the choppy water at just the right moment, and plunging back into it nose first before she had left Irish airspace (and again, and again). Her diary accuses me of not wanting to have a go, my memory is slightly different, when I eventually prised her off the machine I quickly proved that I was equally clueless.

Perhaps the best exhibit is a full size replica (minus wings) of the Yankee Clipper**, a Boeing 314 which sits in a pool outside the main building, the tail plain visible from the road.

Boeing 314 'Yankee Clipper'
 The interior is spacious by modern standards,…

Inside the Yankee Clipper - plenty of leg room
…there is even a separate dining area….

Inside the Yankee Clipper - dining area
….and the navigator had ample room to spread out his charts.

Inside the Yankee Clipper - Navigators area
After her performance on the simulator, that woman at the end should not, on any account, be allowed onto the flight deck 
The 30 or so passengers arrived tired, cold and sometimes wet, and in need of a pick-me-up so catering manager Brendan O’Regan invented the Irish coffee for just that purpose. Later he moved to Shannon Airport where he invented the duty-free shop. I very occasionally drink Irish coffee, but there have been times when I have really appreciated it, so thank you, Brendan. On the other hand, the next time I become lost between security and departure lounge in a glittering labyrinth of retail opportunities I do not want, I will wish that you quit while you were ahead.

Leaving Foynes we reached Limerick after 4 o’clock. We had passed through on Thursday, but knowing we had a late flight home we thought it best to leave the city to fill in time today. Sadly, we arrived too late to do it justice.

Leaving the car in a multi-storey carpark, we set out to walk round the heart of the city.

With almost 100,000 residents Limerick is not huge, but it is the third largest city in the Irish Republic. The centre lies east of the Shannon but we started by crossing the Sarsfield Bridge to the west side and walking north towards the Thomond Bridge.

Looking at Central Limerick across the River Shannon
Limerick’s origins are lost in the mists of time. Records mention a 7th century Bishop of Limerick, but a Viking trading post established about 920 is the earliest known settlement. The city was strategically important being at the Shannon’s lowest fording point, and from 1118 to 1543 it was the capital of the Kingdom of Thomond which extended across most of Ireland's mid-west.

Thomond survived the 12th century Norman invasion despite the construction of a sizeable Norman castle, known as King John’s Castle, at the fording point. A large glass and steel visitor centre filling in a missing section of the curtain wall was opened in 2013. Somebody thought it a good idea, but it looks like vandalism to me.

King John's Castle, with the inappropriate Visitor Centre, Limerick
In 1543 Thomond was absorbed into the Tudor Kingdom of Ireland.

The Glorious Revolution removed James II from the English throne in 1688 and replaced him with William of Orange. In England the revolution was popular and bloodless, but not in Ireland where the catholic James had much support.

The 1690 Williamite siege of King John’s Castle failed, but they returned in 1691 with a lot of artillery and the Jacobites led by Patrick Sarsfield had to negotiate a surrender. The resulting Treaty of Limerick was signed on top of a stone which has, since 1856, stood on a plinth beside the Shannon.

The Treaty Stone, Limerick
The treaty’s two main points were that Sarsfield and his 12,000 followers (the ‘Wild Geese’) would be permitted to go to France and that Catholics would be free to practice their religion. The first was honoured, the second not.

Thomond Bridge, Limerick
We crossed the Thomond Bridge to the castle and walked south past the 17th century Forty Shillings Alms Houses,…

40 Shilling Alms Houses, Limerick
 …and St Mary’s Cathedral, a fussy looking building founded in 1183 and now the Church of Ireland Cathedral.

St Mary's Cathedral, Limerick
The Abbey River, a small branch of the Shannon, loops round the castle area which is known as King’s Island.

Abbey river, Limerick
To the south is Limerick’s modern centre. We might have dropped into the Hunt Museum had it still been open – it was one of many attractions that we had to miss. We killed an hour in Costa Coffee before returning to the car.

Patrick Street, Limerick
Near the carpark is a statue of King Arthur. Although the semi-legendary monarch is claimed by the Scots and English (though he was, of course, Welsh) I know of no Irish claim despite there being an Arthur’s Quay shopping centre a few hundred metres north of here. In fact the statue depicts one of Limerick’s favourite son, Richard Harris, as King Arthur in Camelot.

Richard Harris as King Arthur in Camelot, Limerick
There was nothing left but make our way back to Shannon Airport and thence home. Leaving Limerick we were pulled over by a young member of the Garda Síochána who was standing in the middle of the wide road watching the traffic.  ‘Do you know one of your running lights is out?’ I said that I did not, but it was a hire car and we were on our way back to the airport. He smiled and waved us on. ‘Tell them when you get there,’ he said, ‘and that you were stopped by a guard.’ He was smartly dressed, courteous and cheerful and I drove away feeling that he had done me a favour, not told me off. It was a very Irish encounter.

* The word 'entrepreneur' was coined by the Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon - who was born in Ballyheigue

**The original Yankee Clipper was destroyed when it hit the water while turning in Lisbon in 1943 killing 24 of the 39 on board, the only fatal accident involving a Boeing 314.

The West of Ireland

Part 1: Galway



Saturday, 30 July 2016

Killarney to Kenmare: Part 7 of The West of Ireland

Much of this blog concerns our travels in Asia where it is surprisingly easy to encounter huge cities largely unknown in the outside world. If I had not been there I would never have heard of Coimbatore (India) or Taiyuan (China) though they are home to over 5 million people. Ireland is different; you do not have to be Irish to recognise names like Tralee, Killarney and Tipperary though their combined population is less than 50,000.

Killarney is 30km south of Tralee and after a leisurely though slightly smaller breakfast (we can't keep up the pace) and a short drive we were walking down Killarney High Street by 9.30. It is a pleasant, cheerful looking town, but we were too early and the cafés and seafood restaurants, butchers and souvenir shops had mostly yet to open.

Killarney High Street
With its rugged coastline and fishing tradition we had expected seafood to be high on the list of local attractions, but the odd fish dish on pub menus apart we saw very little. We spotted specialist restaurants in Dingle and Galway as well as Killarney, but they were high-end establishments requiring booking - not user-friendly to those just passing through. Seafood, it seems, is not part of everyday life on this coast.

Tralee, Killarney and Kenmare in County Kerry
Leaving the high street we headed a few blocks west to St Mary’s Cathedral. St Mary’s was completed in 1855 to a design by Augustin Pugin (who died in 1850), an Englishman, catholic convert and leading light in the Gothic revival. This blog has encountered Pugin before, at Cotton in Staffordshire and Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire. He was also responsible for the interior of the Palace of Westminster, and his son designed the building where I spent the last twenty years of my teaching career.

It is a handsome building sitting in a field away from the centre, more like a priory than a cathedral. The proportions are traditionally Gothic but the design of the west end with its three lancet windows is typically Irish. The redwood tree marks the graves of children who died in the Great Famine (1845-52).

St Mary's Cathedral, Killarney
The interior is pure Gothic revival, particularly the use of rough stone above the columns.

Killarney Cathedral
We attempted to walk back into town, though the road we took was a poor choice. Before turning right and setting off in a more appropriate direction we found ourselves beside the little River Deenagh. Hearing splashing we looked over the wall, peered through the foliage and saw a heron plodding along beside us through the shallow water.
Heron, River Deenagh, Killarney
Back in the centre we stopped  for coffee then took another run down the now open High Street to buy a few gifts to take home.

The Ring of Kerry has been a tourist route since at least the 1850s when Killarney was the place to hire your horse and carriage for the 110 mile drive. It remains popular but we had time for only a part of it, despite not using a horse drawn vehicle it can still take a day or two - there is much to see on the way.

The first stop on the Ring of Kerry is Ross Castle on the shores of Lough Leane barely 2km from the town centre.
Built for the O’Donoghue clan in the 15th century as a bog standard tower house inside a square bawn, it passed to the MacCarthy’s in the 1580s during the Second Desmond Rebellion (see the Adare post) who later leased it to Sir Valentine Browne.
Ross Castle, Killarney
The Castle put up stout resistance during the Cromwellian Wars (1641-53) until General Ludlow hauled a ship overland to Lough Leane, mounted his artillery on it and sailed up to the castle wall. The Cromwellian forces introduction of artillery into Ireland changed the balance of power, ending the days of the hitherto impregnable tower houses.

The Browne family claimed their heir was too young to have participated in the rebellion and were allowed to keep their land. There is however, a limit to how often you can back the wrong side and get away with it. Supporting James II when he was ousted by the Glorious Revolution of 1668 led to the castle's confiscation. Until being abandoned in the 19th century it was a military barracks and all the buildings other than the bawn and tower house date from this time.

The guided tour took us up the tower house which is fully furnished, has excellent views across Lough Leane and must have been reasonably comfortable, at least when there was not a shipload of artillery floating outside.

Lough Leane from Ross Castle
When the tour finished we popped back into Killarney for lunch (a cup of tea and a sandwich) before continuing a little further round the Ring of Kerry to Muckross.

Muckross House – a Victorian mock-Tudor stately home – and its 5,000ha estate were donated to the Irish nation in 1932 and became the nucleus of the current Killarney National Park.

The entrance is 3km south of Killarney. In the carpark beside the N71 is an array of jaunting cars, their jarveys (as jaunting car drivers are apparently called) touting for the honour of driving you though the estate. We gave them a wide berth, I have an allergy and prefer to avoid horses and anything that has been in contact with them, including jaunting cars and jarveys, at least in their work clothes - it is nothing personal.

We decided to eschew the house and instead stroll to Muckross Abbey. Leaving the tarmac to the jaunting cars….

Jaunting Cars, Muckross Estate
….we found a pleasant path through the woods by the lake...
Path through the woods, Muckross Estate
 ….which wound its way round to the remains of the 15th century Franciscan Priory.
Muckross Abbey
The large complex has survived turbulent times, being partially destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions and is now largely roofless though the ruins are well preserved and in good repair (at least for ruins!).
Inside Muckross Abbey
Several sources say the most impressive feature is the two-storey cloister enclosing a large and gnarled yew tree – but is that a yew tree?
Two storey cloister and alleged yew tree, Muckross Abbey
Back on the road we drove past Muckross Lake, which is connected to Lough Leane, and then climbed to look down on Upper Lake, stopping for the photograph below at a spot called Ladies View. When Queen Victoria passed this way in 1861 her ladies-in-waiting greatly admired this view; I was quite impressed, too, though I am neither a lady nor was I waiting for anything.
Ladies View, County Kerry
7km further on we passed through Moll’s Gap. Technically it is a pass but with the road sliding from one valley to another via a notch in the valley wall, it feels like something else, though I am not sure what. The original ‘Moll’ ran an unlicensed drinking den near here when the road was under construction in the 1820s. There are supposed to be good views of the interestingly named Macgillicuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range, but we rather missed them.

We gently descended to Kenmare 10km to the south at the head of the Kenmare Bay.

Kenmare is a small town (pop 2,000) but was even smaller in 1656 when Oliver Cromwell gave it (and more) to Sir William Petty as a reward for his mapping of Ireland. Petty had risen from humble beginnings to be a founder member of the Royal Society and is usually described as an economist, scientist and philosopher, though he was obviously also a cartographer. That, though, was not the limit of his abilities - an impressive polymath he was at various times instructor in anatomy at Oxford University and Gresham Professor of Music in London.

He lived in Ireland for 20 years, laying out the new town of Kenmare in 1670 and devoting himself to studying the local economy.

Kenmare centre
But the roots of Kenmare are far older. Two minutes’ walk from the town centre is the largest Bronze Age (2,500-500BC) stone circle in Kerry. There are 15 stones and a boulder in the centre balanced on a (part buried) burial dolmen.
Kenmare Stone Circle
Before leaving Kenmare I will add that it has an impressive array of pubs and restaurants, as befits a town where tourism is the major industry, and is home to the Kenmare Kestrels, one of the 13 teams in the British and Irish Professional Quidditch League. While that last statement is not literally true, it is correct.


It was late afternoon and time to return to Tralee and later to the Brogue Inn for more Guinness, traditional hearty Irish fare and a splash of Jameson’s whiskey.


The West of Ireland

Part 1: Galway



Friday, 29 July 2016

The Dingle Peninsula: Part 6 of the West of Ireland

We awoke to another dull, drizzly day, but fortified with a ‘full Irish’ - bacon, mushrooms, black pudding, white pudding and a fried egg – we set off to explore the Dingle Peninsula, the northernmost of the fingers of land that make up Ireland’s southwest corner.

Driving out of Tralee we rounded Tralee Bay and headed down the northern coast of the peninsula. When the N86 swung south towards the town of Dingle we continued on the minor road which eventually also turns south, approaching Dingle via the Conor Pass.
The Dingle Peninsula
The high ground down the centre of peninsula is rugged and remote, feeling more like mountains than hills. Winding our way upwards we paused at a pull-off beside a small waterfall. Above us, according to the Heritage Council’s informative signboard was a corrie known as Pedlar’s Lake.
Small waterfall below Pedlar's Lake
We set off scrambling up the rocks. Lynne was unimpressed and complained mightily, but it was hardly a difficult climb. A minibus drew into the pull-off and disgorged an American family, parents and three sons in their late teens/early twenties. The young men ran up the hillside, demonstrated just how easy a climb it was. Lynne snarled at their youth.
Pedlar's Lake, Dingle Peninsula
Reaching the top she moaned that there was nothing but a lake tucked into a hillside - well that is what a glacial corrie is. There were some good views though. When the American parents arrived, at a pace more like ours, we took their photograph and they took ours, so we can block out the view.
Blocking out the view, Pedlar's lake, Dingle Peninsula
We descended and drove the short distance to the top of the pass at 456m (1,496ft) from where we could see Dingle.

Dingle from Conor Pass
Down in the town we parked and walked up the main street. Though small - under 2,000 inhabitants – Dingle is the urban centre for a large area and has more facilities than most towns its size.
Main Street, Dingle
We followed one of the colourful side streets towards the harbour, pausing en route for a morning cappuccino. Father Tom, a retired Catholic priest and therefore inevitably an Irishman, is a member of the same book group as us. He spent his childhood summers on the Dingle peninsula and recommended our group read ‘Twenty Years A-Growing’ by Maurice O’Sullivan, a memoir of growing up on Great Blasket Island off the tip of the peninsula (of which more later). It was largely because of Fr Tom (and Maurice O’Sullivan) that we were here.

Dingle’s altered a lot since the 1950s Father Tom told us, and no doubt he is right, but Dingle today looks cheerful, well maintained and prosperous, and if that is a change it is for the good. Like Connemara, Dingle is a Gaeltacht area, and the language we heard most as we walked to the harbour was Irish – so not everything changes.
Down to the harbour, Dingle
Dingle harbour sits at the end of large sheltering inlet and has ample room for working boats….
Dingle Harbour, working boats
….and pleasure craft.
Dingle Harbour, Pleasure craft
The tiny village of Ventry is seven kilometres further west, the beach hiding behind a substantial caravan park. Drizzle had fallen at Pedlar’s Lake, but at Dingle the sun had emerged and the peninsula was looking its beautiful best. Even so Ventry’s climate would put it a long way down my list of desirable beach holiday locations.

Ventry Beach, Dingle Peninsula

The young Maurice O’Sullivan visited Ventry in the early years of last century, stowing away to join the adults for Ventry Races, competitions between boats from the local villages, and a great social occasion with much drinking and some fighting. The event has now grown into Ventry Regatta, a two day sporting and cultural festival, though racing curraghs, the traditional local fishing boats rowed by teams of four, is still a major part. I think beer is still involved, too, but fighting is disapproved of these days. We were ten days late for the 2016 version.

I remarked in the Connemara post that the hedgerows were full of wild fuchsias. Fuchsias are also common on the Dingle peninsula -  and so are irises.
Roadside irises, near Ventry
We followed the Slea Head Drive which would take us round the tip of the peninsula. We missed Dunbeg Promontory Fort which is off the road – and much of it has fallen into the sea – but did stumble across a group of clocháns, or beehive huts, a couple of hundred metres further on at Fahan.

The huts were a short walk up the hill from where we could look back down the peninsula.

Looing back down the Dingle Peninsula from Fahan

They are undateable, but could have been built any time between the Neolithic period and the 12th century. It is difficult to imagine how they were used; were they constructed for animals, humans or both and as homes, or merely refuges? Whatever their function they were certainly robustly built.
Clochán, Fahan
Fr Tom says you could once just walk up and have a look (I can remember when you could do that with the Pyramids and Sphinx) but now the farmer collects a fee. He looks after the site too, so it would be churlish to begrudge him a modest recompense.
Clochán, Fahan
Dunquin, at the tip of the peninsula, is more a scattering of houses over a large area than a village. We passed the nearest point to Great Blasket Island and continued to the visitor centre, a little further on but built where the view of the island is best.

After a light lunch we visited the Great Blasket exhibition. The island was abandoned in 1953 and the islanders ruined dwellings can be seen below and to the left of the newer white constructions. To the right of the houses are their few usable fields. Apart from the meagre products of their agriculture they lived by fishing, trading their surplus with the mainland, and were also happy to dine on puffins which they caught along the cliffs.
Great Blasket Island
The island had a school, off and on, but surprisingly in this most Catholic of countries, no church or priest. Attending Mass required a 2km row to Dunquin followed by a 3km walk to the church. They returned laden with the supplies they had ordered the previous Sunday.

It looks idyllic on a fine day, but it was a hard life. The population peaked at 160 in 1911, but by 1951 had dwindled to a couple of dozen and ultimately everyone was gone, some to the mainland, many to America.

The later years of Great Blasket were marked by a Gallic literary flowering. Encouraged by visitors from the mainland not only Maurice O’Sullivan (Muiris Ó Súilleabháin) but also Thomas O’Crohan (Tomás Ó Criomhthain) and Peig Sayers published memoirs and stories.
Maurice O'Sullivan in Garda Siochana Uniform
He joined the Guards when he left the island in 1927
Picture borrowed from First Stop County Kerry 

‘Twenty Years a-Growing’ was published in 1933 to critical acclaim, though given O’Sullivan’s background and sketchy education it was perhaps inevitable that some of the acclaim was distinctly patronising. It should not have been, O’Sullivan saw life through the eyes of a poet and in a translation which carefully retains his Gallic rhythms he places the reader in the heart of island life. ‘Twenty Years a-Growing’ is well worth reading.

We continued round the end of the peninsula through Ballyferriter, a village with a wonderful name, though as 75% of the population is Irish speaking it should properly be called Baile an Fheirtéaraigh. By the coast here are three small peaks like waves on the land known as The Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters, Ballyferriter
Through a maze of minor roads – we did not pick the easiest route – we found our way to the Gallarus Oratory.

You may park at the visitor centre, pay their fee, watch their film and spend money in their gift shop or you can drive up what the Rough Guide calls a ‘fuchsia lined one-track road’ park in the lay-by and walk in for nothing, which is what we did.

Fuchsia lined one-track road, Gallarus Oratory, Dingle Peninsula
The oratory, a beautiful little gritstone building like an up-turned boat, is a mystery. It was ‘discovered’ in 1756 by an antiquary called Charles Smith. He decided, without any evidence, that it was a 6th century church. Later archaeologists have conjectured that it may be 12th century Romanesque Church or a shelter for pilgrims. Local tradition says it is the funerary chapel of the giant Griffith More, whose grave is nearby.
Gallarus Oratory, Dingle Peninsula
Whatever its purpose, it was built with great care and precision sometime between the 6th and 12th century, the later date based on the carved rounded stones that make the top of the single window. After the 12th century a proper arch would have been used.
Lynne and the tell-tale window, Gallarus Oratory, Dingle Peninsula

We had the oratory to ourselves until a minibus load of American tourists arrived. They were on a tight schedule and ran briskly round the site for five minutes before being herded back onto their vehicle. Some had seen Gallarus only through a viewfinder. That is why we do not do group tours.

We returned to Dingle by the direct route and headed back to Tralee along the main road which starts along the southern coast of the peninsula. We stopped to look at the spit which almost cuts Castlemaine Harbour from the sea. It is a strange feature with a windswept beach ideal for exercising horses….
Castlemaine Spit, Dingle Peninsula
 …but was less impressive than the view back up the coast of the peninsula.
Looking out to sea along the south coast of the Dingle Peninsula
We returned to Tralee and later found our way to a large pub called The Brogue. As always in Irish pubs we were greeted if not like old friends, at least like new ones and were installed in a booth where we could observe all the happenings in the bar without being seen ourselves. From such a privileged position it is disappointing that we can report nothing scandalous or exciting.

I like a good thick pub steak now and again, and if they can cook it rare – which does not always happen – so much the better. I have nothing but praise for The Brogue’s steak from which blood ran freely. Lynne enjoyed her hake garnished with tiger prawns and for some reason we received a free dish of potato gratin. Whether everyone gets this, or the chef had made one by error and needed to get rid of it I have no idea. As we both had chips, extra potato was not what we needed, but it was surprisingly tasty.

We washed it all down with a couple of pints of Guinness and by the time we were finished we were pleasantly stuffed. Fortunately we had just enough room left to continue our organoleptic examination of Irish whiskey. I am getting to like that, too.

The West of Ireland

Part 1: Galway