Travel # 11 -- March 31, 2005
On the road – a full 15 minute trip to Dingle Town

By Bob Corbett

The time has come to move on. After breakfast we will call a cab to come out from Dingle Town and take us there, a transition move. It’s only about a 15 minute ride by the back roads from here, but it will feel like a trans-Atlantic flight. Things will change so much. We will leave this isolated, semi-private place to move back into the more normal flow of things and to a TOWN. Albeit, Dingle Town is very very tiny, not even 1/3 the size of the neighborhood of Dogtown, and probably smaller than that. However, it is quite different from my residential neighborhood here since tiny, tiny Dingle Town has 62 pubs!!!!!!! No doubt about what folks do in Dingle Town.

[I think there claim is exaggerated. After walking up and down the three main streets in town and keeping a count, I don’t think there are more than 55 pubs, unless they’ve hidden a few more in the residential areas.]

But first we did get out last breakfast at The Old Pier. No one else was staying there, so we had the lovely table in the front window, looking out over the sea. I chose the fresh haddock and Sally just loves the “wild” fresh salmon (ocean salmon, just caught). Jackie makes a stern distinction between “wild” (ocean, or fresh water) salmon and “farm raised” salmon and simply scorns the latter, never serving it ever. The rest of the goodies followed, grilled potatoes and mushrooms, fresh fruit bowl, a variety of toasts. Juice and tea, of course.

When our cab arrived, ( I called the same cabbie who brought us out here, Daimund’s cab – a good friend of Jackie and Paul), it wasn’t Daimund driving at all, but wife Dolores. They own the mini-bus cab and share the driving. One of the very few things we couldn’t do by public transport was to enter the Connor Pass, and that was something I really wanted Sally to experience, so I asked Dolores if she would take us up and over the pass. She agreed but said it would have to be later, around noon, since she had a dental appointment in about half and hour. We agreed and she dropped us back at the B&B where we’d staying on the way out.

This was fine for us. We wanted to seek out a laundry and get some clothes washed, and find a place to do some e-mail. We took our clothes just across the street to the only laundry in town, but it was closed that day, only open three days a week. We returned to the B&B with our laundry, but our young hostess saw us and asked what happened. We told her and she said, oh, give me those. I don’t have so much laundry today, I’ll throw them in. She refused to take any money to do this and when we returned in the early evening the clothes were all neatly folded and in our room. What incredible people. Everyone is so kind and helpful.

On my view the Connor Pass is one of the most spectacular natural sights in Ireland. It is a pass over a mountain between the north coast of the Dingle Peninsula, to Dingle Town, which sits on the southern coast, the mountain in between. No buses, trucks or larger vehicles are allowed on the road, it is treacherously narrow and dangerous, but stunningly beautiful at the same time.

Dolores arrived with her 10-year old son Ryan, who also liked to see the road, and up we went. Going up was easy enough, very few cars. We stopped at the tip top where there is a parking lot overlook. We got out in the light rain and enjoyed the stunning view. Then she started down the other side. There the going was tougher, very narrow and windy. Down about 1/3 of the way is a waterfall, and a rocky path to a lake, out of sight, but not too far from the road. Below that were many larger vehicles of road workers who are, inch by inch, blasting out rock and making this pass a bit wider. She said we just couldn’t go on down, but there was little left to see in the lower parts of the northern side.

Going back up we had to stop two different times and back up, jockeying back and forth with tourist cars that couldn’t or wouldn’t get close enough to the rock walls for us to pass. Dolores, a delightful woman, changed a bit and became a grumbly cab driver excoriating the tourists’ driving. She could whip that mini-bus backward much better than most could drive forward. Twice we just inched past a car, so close to the sheer rock wall on the side. She laughed as she told us that the only accident they’ve ever had was that Daimund lost a mirror on the driver’s side, something tourists do routinely. She told us how very happy she was that it was him and not her and that he had a million excuses of how this happened but wasn’t really his fault.

After that breath-taking experience we walked down to the e-mail place and did some e-mail home and then headed down to John Denny’s to repeat our meal from the day we’d stayed here four long days ago. Again, we had the Irish stew which was so good and such a gigantic bowl. There is a large grocery in Dingle and we went in to get some snacks, wine and needed another bottle of Bushmills. However, when we got the other things, we noted there are really SEVERAL different offerings in the Bushmills area. We had just gotten standard Bushmills for our first bottle. But they offered Bushmills Black, about 5 Euros a bottle more expensive, and two version of Bushmills Single Malt scotch, depending on how many years it was aged.

Neither of us knew a thing about the differences and I wanted to know what was best. We asked and no one at the grocery could tell us. Off we went; I was on a quest. We entered two off-license shops (liquor stores) and they were equally unhelpful. One lady told me the Bushmills Black was better since it was more expensive. But she had no idea why or how it was different, just that they wouldn’t charge more if it wasn’t better.

We gave up and decided the lady with the “more expensive” argument might well have been right, and we got the Bushmills Black. Oh my, was she ever right. Smooth and soft, gentle. A lovely sipping whiskey. We even drank a second bottle of it before the very last day in Dublin, carrying some with us as we traveled. That was made easier because the BB comes in a black tin container that makes it easier to carry without breaking.

[When I got home I went to Starr Market here in St. Louis. There, finally, I got the story. The man who runs that shop really knows his stuff. First of all, he told me, Bushmills is actually a scotch, but since it wants the name Irish whiskey it can’t call itself that. That’s the plain Bushmills. Bushmills Black, he informed me is a much smoother, aged version of the plain Bushmills. Then they do offer two different scotch whiskeys as well, single malt barley fermented scotches, one is very very expensive. Wish we’d have known all this in Ireland. There, I discovered by asking everywhere, Jameson is the most popular whiskey, and Paddy’s second. Every pub keeper allowed with me that indeed, Bushmills is a very fine whiskey, but a NORTHERN Ireland whiskey, and that made a difference. Ah me, politics and history enter into whiskey drinking as well as every other aspect of life in Ireland.]

All the time we were going around Dingle Town we were dodging a fairly hard rain, ducking into doorways, waiting a bit here and there and dashing along the street. We went in and out of some of the tourist shops, not to shop, but to get shelter from the rains.

The very last thing we were going to do was to walk the “circle walk” of about an hour or hour and half round the full port of Dingle Town. Just as we were ready to start a heavy rain began to pelt down and after ducking into a couple of doors and shops, we gave up, hugged the walls and went the two blocks back to our room.

Eventually we gave up, and it was getting dark anyway, and returned to our room to have our evening meal in. It was very simple, just lovely snacks, cheese and such.

While we were at The Old Pier we had long talks with Paul about places remote like this, that we might visit. He was laid up the last day anyway and couldn’t do much. He had gone to Ballydavid himself two nights earlier, did a good deal of drinking with his cousins, came out of the pub, and something went wrong and he fell, breaking his ankle. He had to be taken in the late night into Tralee General Hospital (where my brother had been, and where we were going tomorrow), and Paul had a huge cast on his leg.

He told us the place to go was down south to the Bantry Peninsula and Berea Peninsula. He explained they were very undeveloped and non-touristy, we would be alone and the scenery would rival that here in Dingle. It sounded so darn good that when we got to the e-mail place, I cancelled several stops in the northern areas that I had made reservations for – canceling out two days in Dublin, our days in Donegal (the weather there was just too cold and windy this period) and a few others. Thus I had cleared about 7-8 days and after we spent this one night in Dingle Town and a couple of days in Tralee, we would head south to Bantry and Berea Peninsula.

This turns out to have been a very dumb mistake but fortunately only really cost us two somewhat lost days. Yet it was decent too, since we were heading up north to Donegal, but the weather there continued to be very cold and rainy and windy and would have been quite unpleasant, plus very few buses run in rural Donegal this off-season time of the year.

A cold, wet and quiet day, but the mid-day trip up and over the Connor Pass was just marvelous, and our food and drink were in good order.

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Bob Corbett