Our visit to Dingle, County Kerry

in front of the smallest music store in Ireland

The town of Dingle was added to our itinerary after seeing a travel video where they walked down Gray’s Lane and into a bakery and a cheese shop. We were given a route by our host at The Lodge in Kenmare through the Ring of Kerry so we could see the view from Molls Gap and Ladies View on the way. It was meant to be an easy day trip and I really didn’t understand the scope of the journey.

En route to Dingle via the Ring of Kerry

After a somewhat harrowing drive around narrow mountain roads, we arrived in Dingle hungry. We were able to find a spot on Green St. and made our way toward Gray’s Lane for the advertised pastries and cheese. Unfortunately, the smell of cheese in the little cheese shop was so strong I almost walked back out. We settled on a Gubbeen from County Cork to eat later. Now we’re really hungry so I gobbled down a Guinness chocolate cupcake from the bakery next door. We were about to leave to try and find some seafood down by the harbor. We crossed Green St. to head back to the car and I popped into a little art gallery to pay for a postcard I had picked up on a rack outside. The woman at the desk asked if I wanted to look around first and explained that the art work was all by her mother who was still painting well into her 80’s. I called Nancy in and we were both charmed by the local scenery come to life. We both bought a print.

The artist is June McIntyre who uses a variety of innovative techniques including ones on silk that have a luminous quality. Check out https://dingleartworks.com/collections/silk-paintings.

June’s daughter Louise was also kind enough to direct us to the best place on the harbor to eat, John Benny’s Pub on Strand St, which faces the harbor. Louise also recommended that we stop to see the stained glass from a local artist, Harry Clarke at a venerable stone chapel named An Diseart up the street. In addition to the remarkable stained glass work, Mr. Clarke had painted a mural of the Last Supper in one of the classrooms. If you look closely, you can see scenery from the Dingle Peninsula peeking through the windows behind the people, who resemble many of the local residents.

On our way there, we popped into a tiny music store to see if they had the traditional music from the Fiddle Case. The gentlemen explained that they were from County Clare and this shop specialized in music from local artists in County Kerry. He recommended that we check out Eilis Kennedy, who was married to the owner of John Benny’s Pub. So after a brief stop at the chapel, we’re off to John Benny’s with Eilis’ CD in hand.

The smallest music shop in ireland
Eilis Kennedy live at John Benny’s Pub in Dingle

Finally, we sit down to a fabulous meal of local mussels in a creamy wine sauce with mushroom risotto and an interesting salad with sweet potatoes. We share our second half pint of Guinness of the three we’re able to manage on our entire tour of Ireland. We met John Benny, but his wife was not around to sign our CD.

John Benny Moriarity himself behind the bar
Mussels at John Benny’s Pub in Dingle

We had been encouraged by Louise at the Dingle Artworks not to miss a ride around the Slea Head Drive, but we had plans to go to Crowley’s in Kenmare that evening, so we will have to save that pleasure for the next time. I do have a gorgeous print of a sheep meadow to remember the day.

I hope I’ll remember the next time I’m in a strange place to make friends with those I meet, ask questions and follow their advice if I can.

Older than the Pyramids:  Shrouded by Druid Ghosts and Fairy Dust

No written documents, only stone monuments remain as symbols of past human activity..

Carrowmore Stone Circle site: located on the Cúil Iorra Peninsula to the west of Sligo, Ireland in County Clare

April 23, 2022: Day 5:   Carrowmore has one of the largest clusters of megalithic tombs in Ireland.   There are thirty surviving passage tombs out of perhaps an original one hundred.

Carrowmore Stone Circle

Their purpose?  They seem to have been used over time for burial (mainly housing cremation remains). They seem to also have been associated with some type of ritual (centers of ceremony and/or celebration).

Listoghil, which was erected c. 3500 BC, is 34 metres in diameter and has a distinctive box-like chamber. 
Listoghil,: Supporting stone for the massive cap stone

Their date and who made them: Controversy. I saw some information saying some circles were 6,000 years old; other information with circles from 4,000 to 1,500 years old and passage tombs dating from 3,600 BC. So, the circles date to the Bronze Age. AND they are about 2,000 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids.

Who made them?  A mystery:  Some information says hunters-gatherers who came by sea from Brittany (north-western France). But recent information suggests that the circles were built by farming communities who came to the area around 8,500 BC from Anatolia (Asia Minor/Turkey). So how did the Celtic Irish language supplant the extinct Indo-European language of Anatolia?  Some future historian- anthropologist’s mystery to uncover.

Carrowmore Stone Circle
Knocknarea

In the distance is Knocknarea, where legend has it that Queen Maeve of Connaught is buried upright, spear in hand, facing her enemies in Ulster. You will find it entertaining to check out the fabulous mythology of Queen Maeve and the great warrior Cuchulain: https://www.ireland-information.com/irish-mythology/maeve-irish-legend.html

Carrowmore

When looking at the history of Carrowmore, the part that interested me the most was the 1980’s legal case that established a “precedent.”  In 1983 Sligo County Council sought to place a municipal landfill dump on a quarry site about 100 yards from part of the complex.  In late 1983, the Dublin High Court ruled that the County Council could proceed with its plans, on certain conditions. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court which ruled against the Council in 1989; becoming one of Ireland’s first cases where the historical significant of a site was considered.

Kenmare Stone Circle (The Druid Circle)

April 26, 2022: Day 8:  Kenmare Stone Circle (The Druid Circle) dates to the early bronze age – about 3,000 years ago. The rock used to make the stone circle is Greenstone and Brownstone, neither of which are found locally, but rather several miles away. So a chore to move them to the site. Again, it is unclear as to the meaning of the monument: Perhaps for rituals by druid priests, perhaps as a primitive calendar, perhaps for ritual or ceremonial purposes or as a burial site (beneath the center stone).  Unlike Carrowmore, Kenmore’s stone circle has been untouched by humans due to local myth.

Kenmare Stone Circle with Fairy Tree in top right corner

The site houses two Hawthorn “Fairy Trees.”    “The Hawthorn is a tree of magical enchantment and is strongly associated with the Irish festival of La Bealtaine, which officially heralds the beginning of summer on May 1.   In Celtic mythology it is one of the most sacred trees and symbolizes love and protection.” – See below picture for more information on the symbolic significance of the Hawthorn tree.

Did we write our wish on a white piece of paper and attach to the Fairy Tree of County Kerry?  Yes, of course, just as we had tossed a coin into the Fairy Wishing well in the Fairy Gardens in the Burren of Clare County.    One can always seek more good fortune and blessings.

Importance of Hawthorn tree in Irish Celtic mythology/Folklore
Fairy Tree of Kenmare Stone Circle

April 26, 2022: Day 8:  Cromwell’s Bridge: A more recent stone structure built by man, who’s history is also uncertain. Local lure believes the Augustinian monks built it sometime during the 11th century to cross over the tidal Finnihy River.

Cromwell’s Bridge, Kenmare, Ireland

How did it get its name? Possible theory is that it was it was named ‘cromael,’ the Gaelic word for ‘mustache,’ but English-speakers assumed they were saying Cromwell (after Oliver Cromwell).

Cromwell’s Bridge, Kenmare, Ireland

 Cromwell’s Bridge is located on the edge of the village of Kenmare near Kenmare’s Stone Circle. It provides an easy leisurely walk. I was completely blown away by the beauty of the native diverse flowering plant life that surrounds the bridge and river.

However it got its name, Cromwell’s Bridge is one of several beautiful and ancient sites along the scenic Ring of Kerry.

A Stroll Around Safety Harbor

Fried chicken Al fresco

After dropping off a friend at Tampa International, we decided to avoid the traffic at 5pm on the Howard Franklin Bridge and took another way home, stopping in Safety Harbor for a delightful evening. Our destination was Southern Kitchen on 3rd Avenue N, which features, you guessed it, fried chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes and cole slaw. We ordered 5 fried chicken wings and held the Buffalo sauce plus the Breast and Wing combo.

Southern Kitchen

Our sides were mashed potatoes, green beans, and coleslaw. The green beans were delicious, cooked with onions and bacon. Next time we’ll skip the cole slaw. We ended up taking half the fried chicken home.

Cool gazebo, check out the ventilated roof

We explored the surrounding neighborhood on foot, stopped to take photos at a charming gazebo , large enough to house an orchestra with a clever ventilated roof. We turned down 4th Avenue from Main St. to check out the other local restaurants for dessert and coffee.

Parts of Paris

We looked at the menu for Parts of Paris, and although they had an enticing array of desserts including crème brûlée and chocolate mousse, we kept strolling. We peeked into another pretty house from the 1920’s and the decor beckoned us in. We sat in the front parlor and had coffee and a delicious fruit crumble. The atmosphere reminded us that this was once a gracious home. When we go back for dinner, we’ll opt to sit in the sunroom in the back of the house of The Kitchen at 156 4th Avenue N in Safety Harbor.

The Kitchen

Safety Harbor is an historic town, established in 1917, in the Northeast corner of Pinellas County. It was originally discovered by Hernando de Soto in 1539. He believed he had found the legendary Fountain of Youth and named the mineral springs Espiritu Santo Springs. Today there is a resort and spa on the site that continues to offer access to the healing waters.

The charm of Safety Harbor is it’s easy going pace. With a population of 18.000, it is a pleasant change from the hustle bustle of the rest of Pinellas county, which is bursting at the seams with newcomers and tourists.

The Case of the Disappearing Lake

Turlough at Kinvarra-Cloonnasee: Burren Nature Sanctuary

April 22, 2022:  Day 4. Kinvarra-Cloonnasee: Burren Nature Sanctuary

An early spring has arrived in Ireland.  Wildflowers carpet the meadows and paths, apple blossoms emerge, animals make tunnels through winter’s dry grasses and turloughs have appeared over the winter months.

Wild violets peak out among shaded areas
Apple Blossoms emerge
Animals leave burrowing trails in the dry grass

 A turlough (turloch or turlach in Irish), is an intermittent temporary seasonal water body, almost virtually unique to Ireland.  They are found mostly in limestone karst areas, west of the river Shannon.  A turlough lake or water body is typically wet in the winter and dry in the summer.  The fluctuation varies with the area’s groundwater table.  When the underground water table level drops, the water drains away through cracks in the karstic limestone. Annually, rainfall and springs and fissures fill the underlying limestone, flooding the above ground turlough area in the winter.

Turlough at Kinvarra-Cloonnasee: Burren Nature Sanctuary

The uniqueness of turloughs is of high interest to geomorphologistshydrologists, botanists and zoologists .

Turlough at Kinvarra-Cloonnasee: Burren Nature Sanctuary
“Turloughs are mostly found on the central lowlands west of the Shannon, in counties GalwayClareMayo, and Roscommon, although a few are also found elsewhere, e.g. in LimerickSligoLongford, and Cork…….. Turloughs will usually have specific place on the floor where water flows in and out, called a swallow-hole (slugaire in Irish[2]). Sometimes an actual hole can be seen, but more often it is a hollow filled with stones.”

My favorite pub in Ireland

Crowley’s Pub in Kenmare, County Kerry

The title is misleading because I’ve only been to a few pubs in Ireland, first to Knox’s Pub in Ennis, County Clare for Trad night. They advertise that they have traditional Irish music on Wednesday’s, so we went in, ordered a bowl of soup and a half pint of Guinness and stayed for a few tunes.

We realized that after a few days in Ireland that we were more at home in tea rooms than pubs, although John Benny’s pub in Dingle has good food and a nice atmosphere. We enjoyed their mussels in wine sauce and mushroom risotto and again shared a half pint of Guinness. I’ll write more about how we ended up there in our review of Dingle.

Our best experience in Ireland was an evening at Crowley’s Pub in Kenmare, County Kerry. It was nearing the end of our first visit to Ireland and although we had been to a great concert in Ennis that featured The Fiddle Case and Luka Bloom, we felt we hadn’t gotten our fill of traditional Irish music. I checked out what was happening in Kenmare for our last few days and found that we had missed a music fest at Crowley’s Pub that featured Mary Donegan. I was able to contact Mary and she was kind enough to let us know that she would be at Crowley’s on Wednesday.

We had quite an adventure that day driving from Kenmare around the Ring of Kerry and on to Dingle, so by 8pm we were tired, but didn’t want to miss Trad Night with Mary at Crowley’s Pub. We arrived just as they were tuning up and we managed to find two stools to perch. I went to the bar and ordered an Irish coffee and the bar tender kindly informed me that they didn’t serve that kind of drink. I fell back on my usual half pint of Guinness and watched as the bartender carefully pulled drafts, let them settle and then filled to the top.

We were the only ones wearing masks at that time and felt awkward, but we had already pushed our luck quite a bit and it was a tight space. We chatted with a couple visiting from Denver CO. They had already covered a lot of territory, starting in Dublin and were going to the Ring of Kerry in the morning, so we were able to nab their seats on the bench close to the musicians.

At that point, Mary looked up and said “Oh, you must be Deidre and was so warm and welcoming, we started to feel at home. After we moved in, we encouraged the two ladies standing to take our stools. They were from Brittainy and didn’t speak much English. I mentioned to the gentlemen playing the guitar that there were visitors from Brittainy and he said that they were Celts as well. We were asked if we’d like to sing, but those of you that know us would say we did well to decline. We did a lot of foot tapping and almost joined in for Sweet Baby James sung beautifully by Maureen Sullivan.

Maureen Sullivan singing Sweet Baby James by James Taylor

We were completely captivated by Mary’s playing of the tin whistle. There were many that filled my heart with gladness. Here is one by John Dwyer, called the Sunny Hills of Beara. I think she also tacked on Fox in the Patch.

(Update from my new friend Mary, 2nd tune is Fox in the Thatch by late John Dwyer, who by the way is Mary’s cousin. )

Mary Donegan playing the tin whistle on John Dwyer’s Sunny Hills of Beara

Another memorable tune was The Foggy Dew, you may remember a version by the Chieftains.

The Foggy Dew played by Mary Donegan, Maureen Sullivan and Peter Crowley

What made the evening so enjoyable was the camaraderie of the trio and their lighthearted banter. We were also impressed with their humility. We asked the gentleman his name and he would only say, “Don’t mind me”. We did a little research and found that he was indeed the owner of the pub, Peter Crowley.

We can’t wait to visit Kenmare again. Mary, Maureen and Peter, please let us know if you are ever on the West coast of Florida. Till we meet again.

Snippets of the Ring of Kerry

We had a list of places we wanted to visit and we hit them all by 2pm, making it possible to add an item to our itinerary suggested by our host Rosemarie at the Lodges of Kenmare.

So many varieties of plant life and my favorite wildflower

We started with a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon and a scone at The Rookery. From there we walked to Cromwell Bridge and the Kenmare Stone Circle. Cromwell Bridge has an interesting history, built in the 7th century by Franciscan monks to reach a holy well across the Finnihy River; but we were more fascinated with the biodiversity of the surrounding grounds.

Species list of area surrounding Cromwell Bridge
The river Finnihy in Kenmare

The Stone Circle of Kenmare dates back to the Bronze Age. Again, interesting history but we were drawn to the Hawthorn trees where you can write your wishes on a card and hang it on a branch. Hawthorn trees are often found at sacred sites and it’s considered unlucky to cut one down, lest you offend the fairies. In 1999, road construction between Limerick and Galway was delayed 10 years while they worked out how to bypass a Hawthorn tree.

Stone Circles in Kenmare

Reenagross Woodland Park was another visit to fairy land.

A portal into a Fairy Wood
Point of Lovers Walk

Kilmakilloge Harbor was the highlight of the day. We were bound for Helen’s Bar near the pier as suggested by our host Rosemarie.

Follow the posted signs
Stay on the designated road; your Sat Nav will lead you to a sheep path
We got off the path, but a sheep led the way

Arrived at Helen’s Bar and we were greeted by herself

We enjoyed the seafood platter with fresh and smoked salmon, prawns, mussels and crabmeat on a bed of salad with puréed vegetable soup and brown bread.

A required stop on the Beara peninsula

Tomorrow we head to Dingle for another snippet of the Ring of Kerry.

All who wander are not lost (mostly)

Bridge St. In Carrick-on-Shannon

We’ve seen a lot of charming public houses in Ireland, but we always seem to end up in a tea room. After a long morning of wandering in the Irish countryside, we stopped in historic Carrick-on-Shannon for refreshment. We walked up Bridge St. past a pub, which had mouthwatering savory aromas, and crossed the street to get to Tegi’s Tea House. We felt immediately at home with the tufted velvet chairs and floral wallpaper. The display cases were filled with sweet delights as well as fresh salad ingredients and savory croissants. We ordered roasted vegetable soup, a ham and cheese croissant and a salad bowl.

Tegi behind her stunning display case

For dessert, we had bread pudding with custard and cream and a coffee Swiss roll. The cream in Ireland is magical and has no ill effects on the body. Same with the butter and cheese.

A gentleman at the next table kindly pointed out that the Earl Grey was better without milk. We chatted about our travels so far and he asked if we had read a little Yeats at Glen-Car Falls. I proudly replied that I had indeed read Stolen Child aloud to Nancy before we set out. He shared some additional insight into Irish history and culture, thank you Nile from Sligo.

See pictures below of our stop at St. Columba’s Church in Drumcliffe to pay respects to W.B. Yeats.

Simple farewell to a legendary poet
Bluebonnets near a gravestone at St. Columba’s
Sheep meadow on the walk to Glen-Car Falls.
Glen-Car Falls, just East of Sligo
Last tea party of the day

We wrapped up the day with a tea party in our room. Locally made brie , Carr’s cream crackers, impossibly crisp Pink Lady apples and pears, Java Republic Morning Dew green tea.

Lost in Fairy Land

Day 4: April 22, 2022 : Burren Nature Sanctuary in Kinvara, Co. Galway. (https://www.burrennaturesanctuary.ie/). We relocate lodging to Sligo from Ennis, throwing in a side trip to the Burren Nature Sanctuary.

We were looking for a simple hike to enjoy wildflowers and a little nature. We arrive to find the sanctuary to be a teaching and play center for children. Excellent program: activities and pictures of different flowers/plants; their health/herbal benefits.

Thinking it was only for children, we decide to leave. A guide convinces us to take a walk through the fields and wooded area.

Beautiful. So glad we did. Many beautiful wildflowers, singing birds, blooming bushes and trees and…. the fairy garden!!

We wander into the Fairy Garden and ….and get lost! Help! Totally turned around and wind up on one of Burren ‘s National Park trails. We finally hear children in the distance and asked their teachers for directions back to the main building. We were only 10 minutes away once we got back on track.

So next time you get lost in a Fairy Wood, remember that you’re closer to home than you think and to listen for the voices of children.

A Call to Help the Homeless is answered by local musicians in County Clare

April 21, 2022: After a leisurely satisfying breakfast at the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, we headed to Doolin to catch the ferry to see the Cliffs of Moher (see https://kindredspirits.community/2022/04/21/day-three-on-the-wild-atlantic-way/)

After being tossed about by sea waves of the North Atlantic ocean crashing into the cliffs (having a delightful time), we rested a bit and then walked a few blocks from the hotel to the Glor Theater for the Clare Easter Choir concert.

We were totally blown away on two counts: the musicians plus the event organizer. Many good acts. Two clips below of Adam Shapiro, from the Fiddle Case (https://www.thefiddlecase.com/band). The performances by Luka Bloom and Mike Hanrahan were equally outstanding. One could tell The Fiddle Case band and Bloom and Hanrahan were loved by their country men.

Martina Corry’s photograph of her grandmother, Josie O’Brien, at her home in Tulla, has been selected as a finalist in a nationwide photography competition.
https://clarechampion.ie/martina-puts-granny-in-the-frame/

One could also tell that the organizer of the event, Josie O’Brien, was well respected . As the musicians said – if Josie ask them to play, they would drop what they were doing to support her request.

That made us wonder why, so we asked a few questions; also did a little research to find she is a campaigner for the homeless. (https://clarechampion.ie/tag/josie-obrien/)

We had purchased tickets online before we left the States and were gratified to find that we had participated in such a wonderful benefit. Another delightful day and evening in Ireland experiencing the open hearts of the Irish.

Adam Shapiro, a band member of the “The Fiddle Case, “playing traditional Irish music.
Adam Shapiro, a band member of the “The Fiddle Case, “playing a piece he composed while in Holland.

Day Three on the Wild Atlantic Way

Today’s adventure is a day trip to Doolin to see the Cliffs of Moher via the Doolin Ferry. Our tour guide Tony provided a short history of the cliffs and pointed out the varieties of seabirds diving for fish in the churning Atlantic. Nancy is prone to motion sickness and the ferry rocks like a cradle at the dock. She soldiered through in the hope of capturing the Puffins gathering for spring breeding season with her new Sony lens. She’ll share her photos in a separate post.

Nancy braving the Ferry ride to the Cliffs of Moher

Before we set off, we carbo load with pancakes for Nancy and a full Irish breakfast for me. Not pictured is another plate heaped with croissants and scones in service to sweet Irish butter. So far, I’m still squeezing into my Columbia travel pants.

Breakfast at the Old Ground Hotel
Full Irish breakfast at the Old Ground Hotel

After a thrilling ferry ride, we followed the Wild Atlantic Way to Ballyvaughan. The road takes us around the Burren, another UNESCO world heritage site.

Cows and rocks in the Burren

We happened on a tea garden in Ballyvaughan called An Fear Gorta, which translates from the Irish to the Hungry Grass.

An Fear Gorta tearoom, translation The Hungry Grass

Another delightful meal with a savory tart and butternut squash soup followed by a pear and almond tart.

We’re sitting overlooking the back garden with a view of the Burren. We met two delightful women, Merrie O’Higgins, who used to live in West Palm Beach and her sister Sallie O’Sullivan visiting from Dublin. They described Dublin so lovingly, we want to include in our next tour, at least to visit the art galleries. Sallie is a retired professor and photographer and suggested we continue on to Black Head if we want spectacular shots of the shoreline with the ancient limestone steps of the Burren leading to the edge of the earth.

Merrie O’Higgins with her long haired collies and her sister Sallie visiting from Dublin
More cows and rocks with ocean background

On our way back from the edge of the known world, we see a blue and yellow sign. The Hazelwood Hotel is closed to tourists in order to house Ukrainian refugees. In a world feeling helpless from this senseless tragedy, they sacrificed their profits to make a difference.

We’re off to Sligo for the weekend for sacred sites and more natural beauty. We hope to see Glen-Car Falls described in Yeats poem Stolen Child. Check back for more of our adventures in Ireland.