Dingle Peninsula, Fairies and ghosts
24 Apr 2012
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Shamrocker Day 2: Killarney - Ennis
After breakfast we joined by two more travellers, there are now 38 on tour. We stop for a short while to admire the Kerry Lakes and “mountains”, we are shown Carrauntoohil, at 1038m, it is their highest, a mere molehill beside what we have back home.
Our next stop is at Inch Beach, where the locals learn to surf. The water is pretty cold, guess that explains lots of wetsuits hanging from balconies. Tony is standing by a waste water pipe and Cynthea takes a couple of photos, from that angle it looks like he is taking a pee.
Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head are spectacular and dramatic. There are stone walls everywhere around here. Many don’t actually go anywhere or enclose anything, they were built to provide employment, which must have very high as these walls are all over Ireland.
Reminders of ancient civilisations are all around. Beehive shaped huts from 3200BC are still standing, testament to the skill of the people that we often portry as grunting, club wielding savages. What ever happened to their knowledge? It is sad to think that it is lost forever. We do not visit this site as the owner charges EUR2 to enter, and see that she stores garden equipment and paint in these historic stone huts.
We paddle in the Atlantic at Coumeennole Beach, local legend says that if you dip or feet in the water here you leave a piece of your soul in Ireland. Some on the tour are not too comfortable with this, but Tony and Cynthea both go in the water, it is really cold. At least it numbs Tony’s sore ankle, it is giving him trouble still, and sitting in the bus only makes it worse. There is a carved rock with Ryan’s Daughter, 1969 on it – perhaps this is one of the locations where the movie was filmed?. Dave points out a small cave, and Tony crawls inside on his hands and knees, thinking that you can stand up inside, but maybe if you were a Leprechaun you could…We paddle in the Atlantic at Coumeennole Beach, local legend says that if you dip or feet in the water here you leave a piece of your soul in Ireland. Some on the tour are not too comfortable with this, but Tony and Cynthea both go in the water, it is really cold. At least it numbs Tony’s sore ankle, it is giving him trouble still, and sitting in the bus only makes it worse. There is a carved rock with Ryan’s Daughter, 1969 on it – this is one of the locations where the movie was filmed. Dave points out a small cave, and Tony crawls inside on his hands and knees, thinking that you can stand up inside, but maybe if you were a Leprechaun you could…
And that is another myth that Dave shatters, the Leprechaun as we know it was invented by the film industry. The notion that if you catch and keep a Leprechaun you will get all his gold probably comes from the con men that roamed the countryside. They were neither short, nor worn green, but if you were silly enough to let one go you could be sure you wouldn’t get his gold.
We continue around the peninsula and see the sleeping giant out in the sea, it really does look like a giant person out there, and being Irish, there is another legend to go with that. The Irish we are told, are very, very superstitious, none more so than farmers when it comes to believing in fairies. Fairy trees can be found in the middle of a field, and woe betide anyone who disrespects them. They can be found decorated with ribbons and small gifts, and even of photos of people that need help. Dave tells us that the tour used to stop at a fairy fort, but every time they called there something would happen to the bus and the journey would be delayed. On one trip a guy took a leak in the fort, and the bus would not start when they tried to leave, stuck in the middle of nowhere for three hours. He seriously believes in this, and tells of visiting a tree with friends, and that one mocked the tree, breaking branches, and being disrespectful. He left in his car, and the others followed to find his car had crashed shortly after leaving the site. We hear a few days later that the Kennedy clan’s bad luck is attributed to one (JFKs’ Grandfather?) who removed a fairy tree from his field.
And while you believe in fairies, you may as well believe in ghosts. Later in the day Dave tells us that a hotel we pass by used to be used by the tour, but not since the night that every one went out except the bus driver. He was in his room when a woman came into his room, screaming at him to get to out and stay out. The tour group returned to find him outside, wondering what the hell was going on. Dave swears it is true… but after cowandas you have got to wonder…
We stop off to for some more great views from the peninsula before heading back to Dingle for lunch. Therein is another tale from Dave… The people of Dingle wanted to change the town name to the original Irish of An Daingean, so they petitioned for the name change, that was granted, and all the road signs were changed over. Their pleasure, however, was short lived. Dingle was famous for a dolphin called Fungie, and people would come for miles to see him. But they couldn’t find the town any more, so the locals petitioned for the road signs to show both names. This request was declined due to the cost of the change, so enterprising locals have gone around the district and handwritten Dingle on the road signs.
We have an hour and a half here for lunch, probably a bit long as there is not a lot to do in the short time following lunch. They are said to have THE BEST fish and chips in Ireland, so Cynthea has to have some. Tony is happy to wander up to the supermarket for a sandwich and then explore the town. He walks the streets, hoping the ankle wont hurt too much, and finds a crack house, oops, make that craic house, and a pub that warns customers to beware of the drake, and to call in for good quack. Tony’s ankle is bearing up ok, very sore at the start of a walk, but comes right eventually. Stretching before heading off doesn’t seem to help it very much though. Like many towns in the area the houses are very colourful, each with a different colour front door. There are two reasons given for this, one is so the postie could find you (no numbers on the houses). The second is so the lads could find their way home after a night at the pub – just as long as the missus didn’t re paint the door while you were out!
We head off through Tralee, home of the Rose of Tralee, a competition to find an ambassador for Ireland, open internationally as long as you can prove your Irish ancestry. It is not female only, and, we are told, it is not a beauty contest, but their standards are strict, a Spanish girl was stripped of her title when organisers found she had a tattoo on her foot. Sorry Dave, you can’t enter then, not with all your tats.
We stop at Adare where there is a huge store specialising in heraldry. If only we had the room, and the Euros, there were some nice pieces there that we wouldn’t have minded. We pass under the Shannon River, bypassing Limerick on the way to our stop for the night at Ennis, in County Clare. In true Irish fashion many millions more than necessary was spent on a tunnel under the river, rather than on a bridge over it. Over time, and well over budget, this 675m long tunnel cost the tax payer around a million Euro a metre.
Our history lesson for this afternoon is on the “great hunger” (1845-49), as the Irish prefer to call what we know as the famine. Dave, our tour guide, has studied History and Archaeology and is able to give us a good insight into the country. We are told that although the potato crops did fail through blight, it was not a complete failure, and the hunger was said to be caused by political, social and economic influences of the English (there was a lot of Irish food being exported to England). Over a million died, and a million more emigrated during this time. We hear tales of relief supplies being blocked from entering the country, and of young children who would commit a petty crime because at least in prison they would get fed.
In Ennis (or Ines in Irish) we stay at The Rowan Tree hostel, a pretty hostel that has a nice atmosphere and plenty of room in the dorm. We can pay for tonight’s accommodation in pounds, £34 for beds in a six-bed room. There is a great kitchen, with lots of cooking utensils provided so we decide to head to Tescos to shop for tea. It takes a bit of finding, and is a lot further than we thought, but this is a pretty town, with colourful, narrow, busy streets. We raid the must sell bargain bins again, and also get some fruit for tomorrow. At full price, food here is very expensive, more so than in the UK. The Irish government also has a tax on plastic shopping bags, they cost 33c (Euro) each. We try to manage without one, but Geraldine has done some shopping too, and we get to use hers.
After tea we head into town to Brogans pub to hear some traditional Irish music. The music great, and the singing really wonderful, but sometimes we are told to shut the feck up if we are making too much noise. We don’t stay too long, enough to have a Jameson’s and a Guinness or two… it has been another long day. On the way home we notice an extremely high memorial in the town, it is a very tall column with a statue on top. We get photos, but forget to look and see what it is about! It was of Daniel O'Connell (The Great Liberator) whose election to the British parliament by a huge majority in 1828 forced Britain to lift its bar on Catholic MPs.