Next Parish America
The rugged Dingle Peninsula is the westernmost point in mainland Ireland. The Irish joke the next parish over is America.
We drove north of the spine of the peninsula before cutting south through the mountains at Conor’s Pass. The twisty, one-lane asphalted road is purported to be the highest on the island. Naturally, the daredevil in me enjoyed the hair-raising climb.
After successfully clearing the pass, our descent began into the village of Dingle. We crashed the local SuperValu (our favorite grocery store over here) and collected a few items for lunch. Here are some views from the SuperValu in Killarney for reference. I especially like the “Travelator” from the parking deck down to the store aisles. Don’t let loose of your trolley!
After driving west of Dingle, we found a “lay-over” alongside the cliffs and had a picnic in the car watching the waves crash. In addition to the view, we enjoyed some curious visitors.
After lunch, I embarked on what I thought was a death-defying climb to peer out over the edge of the rocks to the frothing ocean below. Then I see a mum with her toddler in his wellies doing the same. OK, not so death-defying…
Further out, the Slea Head Drive wraps around the westernmost point on the peninsula, a narrow lane clinging to the edge of the cliffs. If another car came crawling at us in the opposite direction, I’d roll down the window and pull in my side mirror. It’s that tight.
As we looked out over the stone wall (this is supposed to keep us out of the ocean??) we could see the Blasket Islands off in the distance. Up until 1953, the string of islands was the home of a secluded, Irish-speaking population. At that time, they were forcefully evacuated to homes on the mainland because the government couldn’t provide basic services.
Many of the descendants emigrated and settled together in Springfield, Massachusetts. Others lived here on the Dingle Peninsula, within sight of their former homes sadly sitting empty across the water.
A little further along the cliffs, we hiked down to the concrete dock where small boats helped connect the islands to the mainland. It’s an impressive piece of engineering winding down through the rock.
Some have asked why the starving people here didn’t just fish during the Famine. Accessing the ocean from the cliffs requires this kind of structure in 2016. They simply didn’t have these kind of resources back in the 1840s.
Reminders of Irish history are constantly nudging your consciousness around every bend. We stopped to climb around these ruins overlooking the water.
Of course mom found some wildflowers…
As we wrapped around the peninsula, we came across another concrete path down to a tiny, secluded beach. I carefully made my way through the jellyfish washed ashore and poked my head inside a small cave. Wouldn’t want to be down here in high tide!
Eventually, we found ourselves back in Dingle. After testing my parallel parking skills and squeezing the VW into a tight spot along the street, we wandered around town.
The Dingle Pub was a welcome rest here in the late afternoon. The ever-present Irish sense of humor was on display on the bathroom door.
After driving back to Killarney, I had to stop and investigate the local Ford dealership. Really, just a few big differences from one back in the States. Lots more small cars and many more stick-shifts. Not a Mustang or F-150 in sight!