My next stop after (my first trip to) Killarney was Dingle! I was very, very excited to get to Dingle, because it was the first time I would really be staying directly on the water of the West Coast. Killarney is a tiny bit inland and although I had done the Ring of Kerry and been to some great beaches (both on the Ring and on the east Coast), Dingle was going to be my first stay directly on the water. I had also heard great things about it being a colorful, quaint fishing village. And all the good things I had been told ended up being true. I can definitely say that Dingle was one of my top 3 places in all of Ireland.
I mentioned in a previous post that my friend Lisa has cousins in co. Kerry, and her cousin Cathal generously offered to bring me from Killarney to Dingle. I think he knew how apprehensive I was after everything that happened that week in Killarney, so he suggested inviting some of his friends and having a night out. He picked me up in Killarney and we stopped in Tralee first for a bite to eat and to collect his "lads", and we headed off to Dingle. Cathal drove the scenic way, over the Connor Pass, which was absolutely amazing, and another terrifying drive because of how high you are. But before the pass you go past miles and miles of pasture area that leads right down to the water, and the whole drive is just absolutely stunning.
When we got to Dingle, I checked into my B&B, met the guys at their hostel, and we hit the town. We had a great time; lots of inappropriate comments were made (lorries full of what, John?), shots were taken, and a bet or two was laid out. Cathal and I actually bet on the name of a bar we were in... I was convinced it was called John Fox's, Cathal was convinced it was Foxy John's, and we bet each other a fried Cadbury creme egg that we were right. We must have been a sight; leaving the bar, we both ran to the street to be able to see the sign. And it was Cathal with the win :) Foxy John's was definitely one of my favorite experiences in Ireland. A bar on one side and a hardware store on the other. I was literally drinking at the hardware store counter, staring at WD-40. Oh, and a 90 year old man with one tooth in his head made a pass at me. Classic Ireland.
The next day the boys picked me up and drove me out onto Slea Head. As much as everyone talks about the Ring of Kerry, and as beautiful as that is, Slea Head Drive really gives the Ring a run for its money. I actually liked it BETTER than the Ring of Kerry. It was absolutely spectacular, and it's probably recognizable. This very famous photo of Ireland was taken on Slea Head Drive:
Unfortunately, I didn't get any shots even remotely as good as this one, but we had a blast. The boys were very hung over and so there were a few stops made... mainly for more Guinness :) One of the places we stopped was called Paidi O'Se's Pub, and is definitely worth a stop if you do Slea Head. Paidi was a Kerry footballer-turned-bar owner who actually passed away very suddenly last year, and I learned while in Dingle that he was known as the King of Kerry. The town actually shut down for his wake, which lasted a full seven days with people from all over the country flooding Dingle to pay their respects. His pub is worth a visit just to have a pint and look at all the photos on the wall. Some great portraits, some great GAA photos, photos of Paidi himself with celebrities like Tom Cruise and Pierce Brosnan. It's right on the beginning of Slea Head and well worth the stop. Dingle is "an gaeltacht" as well, which means people speak Irish there, so I enjoyed sitting in there while the boys played pool, listening to Paidi's wife and a few customers speak Irish to each other. Most likely, they were talking about how awful and hungover we all looked, but what can ya do...
Anyways, the drive was gorgeous, and I, ever the inquisitive tourist, could not stop commenting about the beauty of the area and asking questions about different spots we saw. Towards the end of the hours-long drive, I pointed to an island off the coast and asked what it was called. Killian, who was in the back with me and I think beginning to tire of my endless questions, let out a loud sigh, and responded, deadpan:
"That's Mary's Island."
I don't think I've ever laughed harder. Except for a few minutes later, when we passed a woman walking her dog, and he says:
"And that's Mary."
I stayed for 3 nights right in Dingle town, and 3 nights just outside Dingle in Ventry, which is right on the Slea Head Drive. It was nice because my first B&B was within walking distance to everything. On my 3nd morning there, I met another girl, Jacqlyn, in the breakfast room who was also traveling alone, and we decided to go see Fungie the Dolphin together that morning. We took the boat tour out and Fungie bobbed to the service a few times. She was very quick about it and so I didn't get too many great shots, as you'll see from the pictures below... but more on her later :)
After we got back from visiting Fungie, Jackie and I both wanted to stay out on the water, and I told her about this brochure I had grabbed from the tourist office about deep sea fishing. We called the number and within an hour we were on a boat with two other girls and our captain Pat, heading out of the Dingle Harbor. Honestly, it worked out so well, and this was one of my favorite excursions of my trip. The girls we met (hi Becky and Erica!) were awesome, and the four of us had a blast. I'll admit it... I was a tiny bit jealous that EVERYONE caught a fish except for me (wah wah), but I was just happy to be out on the water enjoying the good weather.
The best part about deep sea fishing is that they prepare everything you catch, and there's a restaurant across the street from the harbor that will cook it up for you however you want. Fresh fish anyone? Um yeah, AWESOME! Our captain Pat prepped the fish for us and Becky had a great time throwing the leftover parts to the awaiting seagulls. We gave some fish to Pat, because we had way too much (that's right... some people even caught MULTIPLE FISH... again, wah wah) and we took the rest across the street to John Benny's. Within twenty minutes, we had both fried and grilled fish on our plates and were basically stuffing our faces. It was the freshest fish I've ever eaten, obviously... and it was so yummy!
That night the four of us headed out on the town for some beers and music at An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge), and we ended up meeting a couple there who was on their honeymoon. They joined our table and the six of us had a great time. The irony of the evening wasn't lost on me, though... I went to Ireland for nights like that... to meet new people and have a great time... and here it was happening... with a group of Americans :) Regardless, we had a blast, but ended up calling it a night fairly early because Becky, Erica and I had signed up to do kayaking the next morning. Coming back from fishing, we had seen a guy standing by a trailer full of kayaks, and so we had wandered over, asked out price and timing, and signed up for the following morning. Now, that night as we were drinking, I started thinking more and more about it and realizing how terrified I was... I've been kayaking several times, but never on the ocean, and I have an insane fear of sharks. Like, if I ever saw a fin in the water near me, I'd pretty much just have a heart attack and die. So any time someone would bring up kayaking the next day, this is what would be racing through my mind. I think I even dreamed about it. And when I woke up the next morning it was raining, so I really really didn't want to go. Neither did Becky or Erica, because of the weather, and we tried to get out of it at the last minute. All I can say is THANK GOD we couldn't...
We got into the kayaks and did a few practice paddles around some boats in the harbor, and when we were ready our guide lead us out into the harbor. Everyone was saying that they hoped we would see Fungie (except me, who was of course thinking about how sharks eat dolphins and so maybe Fungie would lead a shark our way... damn you Stephen Spielberg for turning me neurotic). While we were out in the area that Fungie lives, Paul Breton came along... a sort of local legend who I had seen out there the day before (his picture is below, on his small red boat, which I took from the dolphin tour). Basically, Dingle people will tell you that if Paul is around, Fungie will be right there with him. They're best pals and while Paul is actually from England, he comes to Dingle every year for several weeks, spends every day out on the boat playing with the dolphin, and the dolphin always knows and recognizes him. So Paul came over to us, we chatted for awhile, and while we had seen Fungie a few times on our way out, once Paul was there, so was Fungie, the entire time. It was beautiful, every time he came up. We stayed for awhile and then our guide pushed us onwards to the caves, saying we could hang out more on our way back.
Now up until this point, the dolphin would come up constantly, and just be up for a few seconds cruising along and go under again. Paul was even letting his boat drift and leaning over the back, and Fungie was bobbing up and down kissing him. That by itself was adorable and amazing. But on our way back, Paul said "Why don't I try to get her to do some REALLY cool stuff? She seems like she's in a good mood today." And he started skiffing his boat and calling to her, and that's when it happened. Fungie started doing jumps and flipping in the air. The dolphin legitimately did three or four sets of like ten huge, high jumps in a row, one set being about five feet from my boat. I can honestly say it was me of the most beautiful, amazing, and yes, indescribable moments of my life. A few of us, myself included, of course, had tears streaming down our faces. It was, by far, one of the best moments of my trip.
Unfortunately, the good mood of the group didn't last very long, thanks to our completely unprofessional kayaking guide. When we got back to the harbor, I was the last boat to pull up to the boat ramp, and I kind of came along the side of it cause everyone else's boats were taking up the ramp. I asked our guide to help me out and put my hand up for him to pull me up. He says, "Oh, you want to get out? Careful what you wish for!". And this is when our guide, the man we paid good money to take us on a fun adventure, purposely flipped my boat and I was all of a sudden underwater in oily, slimy harbor water. Not that I can't take a joke, but I can tell you when you're suddenly and unexpectedly underwater and your head comes within inches of nailing the cement boat ramp, you don't feel safe or comfortable, and you wonder what the heck just happened. Not to mention that if I had brought my camera like a few of the other girls had, it would have been ruined and all my pictures from my trip would have been gone. All the girls were pretty shocked by it and I think the experience really left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Paul, our guide, who had been making sexist remarks all day, did not even apologize to me, and in fact made more jokes as we walked up... "You're definitely going to need to wash that oil out of your hair" and "I hope you brought a towel". So yeah, that really sucked. And it was sad because up until then the kayaking had been amazing. My advice would be if you go to Dingle, do the kayaking, but don't do it with Irish Adventures. There are a couple other companies that do it- pick another one :)
My last 3 days in Dingle were spent in Ventry, which is outside of Dingle on Slea Head, past Paidi O'Se's Pub that I mentioned. I stayed at a place called Garvey's Farmhouse, which I mention because it was just one of the coolest experiences ever. It is a working farm with lots of cattle, and Tom and Joan Garvey, the owners, were great to me. Tom and his helper Max let me follow them around with my camera quite a bit, and since this was outside Dingle and I had already done the Dingle tourist stuff, it was very relaxing just to be at the farmhouse, take walks around the property and up Slea Head Drive, and just veg out for a few days. Fun fact: did you ever see the movie Once, about the Irish busker and the Czech piano player that fall in love in Ireland? Well Glen Hansard, who plays the Irish busker in that movie and who leads an Irish band called the Frames, records his albums at this B&B. They have a separate cottage on the property for rent, and he's recorded there a few times because of how peaceful it is. I took a picture of the back of one of his CD's that Joan had at the house. On the bottom it says "Recorded in Ventry, at Joan's house." Love it :)
Slea Head Drive...
Hungover boys do crazy things :)
I was walking on Slea Head Drive and I saw a farmer outside tending to his sheep. I noticed how small the lambs were and I remembered someone telling me you have to hold them before they're two weeks old, otherwise you'll never catch them. I stopped and asked the farmer how old his sheep were. He pointed to one and said "Well that one is just a couple of hours old." WHATTTTTT. I sprung at the chance and asked "Do you mind if I hold it?" He looked at me like I was nuts, but said "Sure, let me grab him for you." And that is how I accomplished my dream of holding a baby lamb. Oh and did you notice the farmer is wearing a New England Patriots hat? It was fate :)
Fungie from the Fungie boat tour...
Our Fungie tour boat captain...
The Dingle Aquarium... worth a trip if it's a rainy day, but not something I would say is a "don't miss"... you could definitely miss it :)
The Dingle Harbor...
Obsessed with this dog!!!
And these calves... too cute!
Tom and Max...
Other Dingle DON'T MISSES:
Murphy's Ice Cream: Murphy's has a couple of locations in Ireland, but Dingle is their home base, and this became one of my favorite treats in Ireland quickly. They are famous for their funky flavors that are a reflection of Ireland: for example, Guinness and Bailey flavored ice creams. My favorite combination: a scoop of Dingle Sea Salt and a scoop of Caramel Honeycomb= HEAVEN. Word of advice: avoid the Irish Brown Bread flavor. It literally has hard pieces of Irish bread in it. I nearly chipped my tooth on a seed :)
Brian de Staic Gallery: I LOVE Brian de Staic jewelry. I have had one of his necklaces for years, and on going to Ireland I decided that those were the souvenirs I wanted to get my sisters and my best friend. He makes lots of different types of jewelry, all of which you can see in his gallery on the water in Dingle, but he's famous for his ogham necklaces. They are beautiful and my sisters and I and my best friend now all have matching necklaces! Granted, the names spelled out in the ogham are different, but still... they make a great gift and they're really unique.
Harrison's Family Restaurant: Remember that fried Cadbury creme egg I was talking about earlier? Yeah, this can be found at Harrison's, and I went there with the guys my first day in Dingle because Cathal's mom had told us they have a fried Mars bar there. When we walked in and the first thing I saw was Fried Cadbury Creme Egg? Forget it. It was all over. I went there DAILY to have one for the rest of the week. Like, by the 4th day, the woman saw me walk in and literally called over her shoulder to the person on the fryer: "One fried Cadbury egg!" BEST THING YOU CAN FRY, EVER. Served with ice cream and hot fudge. Nom nom nom. I'm 2 seconds away from looking up plane tickets just to go back there... so so so good. And they did have fried Mars bars and other fried sweets, in case creme eggs aren't your thing (and if they aren't- HOW ARE WE FRIENDS?) :)
The Mighty Session: Right next to the Small Bridge bar in the center of town, The Mighty Session is another great pub that has trad music every night of the week. Oh, and one of the bartenders is a Yankees fan and was sporting a Derek Jeter jersey... clearly, it was the perfect bar for me.
Dingle Brewing Company: The Dingle Brewing Company is on the way into town, right as you come off the Connor Pass. And they make one of my favorite Irish beers there- Tom Crean. Cute little brewery, and worth the visit for a quick pint at their bar. Bring cash though, as they don't take cards.
Boat Yard restaurant: This great little place is right across the street from the harbor, right next to the Dingle Aquarium. The food is amazing... I had the Fisherman's Pie and it was one of my best meals in Ireland. The panoramic windows in the front room let in great light, and the atmosphere is just nice there. I ended up meeting an absolutely great mother and daughter team there (hi Karen and Kaycee!) and went out with them that night. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you're passing through Dingle.
Dunbeg Fort: Dunbeg is out on Slea Head and while it's not the most amazing stone fort you'll see in Ireland or anything, it's a cool thing to stop at if you're on Slea Head anyways. The view from the fort is amazing too- I popped in my ear buds and sat on the hill leading down to the fort for about an hour and just completely took in the cliffs and scenery around me. Gorgeous.
Dick Mack's: I had what was easily my worst bar experience EVER at Dick Mack's in Dingle. I won't get into the big long story, but basically I walked in, it was one big group of local young'ins (19 or 20) facing each other in a big circle, that I had to walk through just to get to the bar, and as soon as I walked in, a tourist (gasp! oh no! not a tourist in Ireland!!!), the entire crowd stopped talking. And the bartender turned off the music. And you could literally hear a pin drop as I ordered my Heineken. Yeah, that's right, I still ordered a drink, cause screw them... but it was painful and humiliating and I would never, ever return to this pub.
Irish Adventures: Simply based on the story I described above regarding being flipped into the water by our tour guide, I would never recommend Irish Adventures. BUT I would recommend kayaking in Dingle, especially if you're going in April because that's the month that Paul is around and maybe you'll get as lucky as I did to see Fungie do some tricks :)
Next up: My trip to the Aran Islands... a place that changed my trip drastically ;-)