Saturday, June 03, 2006

Slea Head - Dunquin Pier - Gallarus Oratory - Connor Pass

Morning spent on email and blog/photo uploads from an internet cafe in Dingle, followed by a long chat with a Danish lady who managed one of the many stores selling local craftwork. She reminded me that we'd met on Inch strand earlier in the week. The conversation turned towards family history, because my ancestor from near Malmö in Sweden could have been Danish, as that city is one bridge crossing from Denmark, and in fact that part of Sweden had belonged to Denmark in bygone times. DSC05821She shared some interesting stories of recently unearthed family history, and also compared living costs in Denmark with Dingle. The local property market is developing a bubble on top of that being experienced by newly prosperous Ireland as a whole. Prices are high, but building quality is not good.

In a music store I asked after music by Micheal O Suilleabhean, using the pronunciation "Sulliveen" as rendered by a music-sore owner in Cork. The lady proprietor here gave it a radically different pronunciation along the lines of "Soolaborn". I gave up. I now don't even attempt to pronounce any of the Irish Gaelic place-names.

As we approached the entrance of a local supermarket, a young boy of around 5-6 years exclaimed "Jeesus Mairy mither of God" when he saw Bondi. Attentive bystanders may have heard me mutter something about "living in a sitcom". It's maybe just as well I didn't have Bondi's brother Dougal with us, or it might have turned into a Father Ted episode.

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I retired for some coffee and finished off Mike McCormack's "Notes from a Coma" [2005], which had resurfaced from under a car-seat. The story is of a Rumanian orphan, brought up on the west coast of Ireland, driven by personal tragedy to enrol in a state-sponsored experiment that put criminals into deep comas for a three month period. The telling of his life is shared between 5 people, counterpointed by a series of long footnotes that give the present day narrative. Stylistically and thematically, it's in the territory of J.G. Ballard and Rupert Thompson, covering a lot of ground in only 200pp.
DSC05831-36_stitch [ice]
Through the middle of the day, I drove around Slea Head Drive in the reverse direction to yesterday, spending time again at Com Dhineol beach, then walking up and down the steeply angled walkway to Dunquin Pier where ferry boats connect with the Blasket Islands. 

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The Dingle peninsula has been inhabited for about 6000 years and is densely covered with amazing remnants from the bronze age through to the middle ages. Not far from my B&B is the perfectly preserved Gallarus Oratory which is a stone church around 1000 years old (contemporaneous with the Skellig monastery).
DSC05868It looks a bit like an upturned boat with flat gables at each (East-West) end. The stonework style, known as corbelling, lays the stones at an angle so water runs off, and the corners are surprisingly well-defined. Within a few kilometres of there one can also find a stone-age ring fort and a number of beehive stone huts.

These are all well sign-posted (even if you have no idea which road you're on), but if you approach them, you'll generally find a hidden toll booth or an old lady running out of a farmhouse to charge you €2-3 for crossing her land. I think I was not alone in finding the manner in which this was demanded rather affronting. At Gallarus, you get better value for your €3 admission, they throw in a 15-minute film about the site and the history of the area, and give you a free postcard on your exit.
DSC05878-80 Panorama
Connor Pass is the only road at this end of the peninsula cutting through the mountains to straddle the peninsula. At the top of the pass, you can see the sea to both north and south.


  1. Hello from Patagonia. It is vere special your blog. I hope you being very well in this moment.
    Claudio Andrade

  2. Anonymous3:16 am

    Mike, I just stumbled on your blog looking up Com Dhineol Beach on the Dingle Peninsula. Good on ya Man. I traveled the world from 12/30/05-12/18/06 and it was an amazing year. I'm still putting pics together and finishing my blog. Seems you had quite an adventure and a wonderful loyal companion. Carolyn Fischl, Palm Harbor, FL, USA

  3. Anonymous10:59 am

    Jaysus and Maire Mither of God ... I can certainly see why the lad exclaimed such, on first sight of the great hulking beauty of him, your lobo! Thanks for all the attending info. and the bits of history as well ... on the place I care so much about.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I've taken the opportunity to refresh this post with better photos and layout. Four years makes a big difference in bandwidth for uploading!