Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ireland, Day 3: The Slea Head Drive.

Okay, where was I? On our third day we drove back over the pass and took the Slea Head Drive we'd had to punt the day before. There were a few things we'd wanted to see along the way, including these beehive huts (also called clocháns, like the town we stayed near). The information about when they were actually built is a little sketchy. Thousands of years ago, anyway.
On our way in, there was a warning on the bathroom door to not let the sheep get in because they'd eat the roll of toilet paper. Silly sheep.
 The lichen on this stone looked floral to me.
 The huts are of a dry stone construction, so no mortar. Many have long since lost their tops.
Either the huts were inhabited by leprechauns or people didn't mind stooping way over to get in.
 We drove on along the rocky shoreline toward Dún Chaoin.
We took the Dunquin-Blasket ferry out to Great Blasket Island (An Blascaod Mór), formerly a fishing village. We hadn't planned this, but arrived just in time for the ferry, and waited for a bit on a pier with a small flock of sheep who must have been catching another boat.
I'm not sure they were all that excited at the prospect of taking a ferry across the water.
Fortunately we got an absolutely gorgeous day for the trip. It was sunny and clear and even the steep walk down to the little pier was fun.
We all loaded on and were instructed to don bright orange life vests as we set out.
I wondered why they dragged a little boat behind us until we got close to the island and anchored. Turns out we had to climb down a little ladder into it and be ferried a small group at a time to the landing.
 Yes, this was our walkway up on to the island. Not for the unsteady!
But it was worth the climb. The island housed a small community for hundreds of years until 1953, when the government decided it wasn't safe for the 22 remaining inhabitants. The little rock houses are pretty primitive. Apparently, three famous writers (whose works about life on the harsh island have been translated, but were originally written in Irish) lived on this island.
 A memorial to the people who used to live on Great Blasket island.
This little beehive hut has an impressive living headdress.
We hiked along the hillside and down to the beach area. On the other side of a rocky divide was a much larger beach which everyone else trekked over to. Which was great luck for us - we had our own private beach!
It was actually warm enough to kick off our shoes, roll up our pants and wade in. Not the sort of bathwater warm ocean water I'm used to, but still very pleasant.
In fact, we came back from the beach sporting a little sunburn on our faces.
I don't know if people decided to leave us in peace on the smaller beach, but it was hard to drag ourselves away from the secluded spot.
We'd not been able to find an ATM on the drive down, so when we hiked back up to the hostel, we used the last few euros we had (no credit card machines here!) to have tea and a scone with jam.
We found a spot away from the midges and had our tea overlooking the Atlantic ocean below.
 Then another hike back through the sheep pastures.
This must be where the imagery for counting sheep comes from. One by one, they slowly crossed the path in front of us.
It was so glorious there we hated to leave, but we got back on the ferry and waved goodbye to our little beach.
On along the coast to the Gallarus Oratory. Séipéilín Ghallarais is "the place/shelter of the foreigners," possibly harboring pilgrims.
It was an early Christian church, of uncertain date like the beehive huts. 6th to 12th century is as close as they can ascertain.
These are cut sandstone, shaped to fit so that they meet tightly and slope inwards to a pointed top. There is only a single tiny window and a doorway providing light.
While we were there we walked over to Caisleán Ghallrois. It was a "tower house" of the sort built by wealthy landowners in the 15th century. The focus was on protection rather than architectural beauty, and so it is basically a huge fortified 4-story box with narrow windows. The best part was petting this friendly donkey who lived in the field next to the castle.
Finally we made our way back to Dingle and walked around until we found live music at the Marina Inn. We had another round of very good fish and chips made with their own IPA (this confused me at first - it means Irish Pale Ale here, and isn't as hoppy as my beloved India Pale Ales) and balsamic-glazed bruschetta with pesto and sun-dried tomato. With the food we tried their IPA and a Crean's, a lager-like beer brewed in Dingle. I can't say much for it. We also tried an O'Hara's IPA, which was quite tasty.
And then the music started up, so there was nothing to do but order a whiskey and stay for a while.
It was dusk when we left and we discovered, as we sat in the middle of the road waiting for the herd to pass, that we'd literally stayed out 'til the cows came home.

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