Wednesday we headed to Dingle, for four days. Traveling, County Kerry is uniquely different from the areas around Limerick or Killarney. As our bus climbed the steep green coastal hills of the Dingle Peninsula, we could smell the sea again!
Dingle is more than just a small coastal village. It's protected harbor with a "hidden" entrance has been used by seaman and smugglers, for centuries. Today fisherman in both large and small boats use the commercial docks to unload their catch, make repairs, and provision before heading back out to sea.
No longer just a working town, Dingle has an active tourist industry. With great old, Traditional Irish Music, and some of Ireland's friendliest people, tourists flock here by the bus load. Literally, on any given day we've counted 20+ busses.
As we've seen before this huge influx of, mainly American, tourists crowd the streets, shops, and pubs. This area is still several weeks from the "busy" season. Our AirBnB host commented that if you don't have a parking spot in the city center by 1100, you won't get one. Thankfully we are staying in a small residential area, within easy walking distance to everything.
Word of mouth is not the only way tourists are drawn to this beautiful location. Several movies have been filmed here, going back as far back as the 1930's. More recent films include Ryan's Daughter, Excalibur, Far & Away, and scheduled for release shortly, the latest Star Wars episode.
The ocean is still the biggest attraction here with activities such as surfing, kayaking, and diving, being very popular. Bring you wetsuit....;) Local sailing and rowing clubs are very active and there are several regattas scheduled for this summer.
Dingle's most popular resident is Fungie. His name, adapted from A Fun Guy, he is a 14 foot dolphin who left his pod years ago. Why? No one knows, but this 41 year old dolphin is a familiar sight for boats in the harbor and he seems to get some pleasure from the the ooo's and aaaa's of tourist paying €10 for a boat ride to see him.
The hour long boat ride is more than a dolphin watch trip as we popped out of the harbor to look at the dramatic Red Sandstone and Quartz cliffs,
On one end of town is the Dingle Distillery. Starting only a few years ago it produces Gin, Vodka, and a small amount of Irish Whiskey. Although we went on Distillery tours in Dublin, we wanted to see the operation of this "Craft Distillery".
During the hour long tour, our guide Joe, walked us through the history of distillation and some Dingle history as well. The building housing the distillery was once a bakery.
It and several other buildings were owned by Lord Ventry, a wealthy landowner in the mid & late 1840's. During the time of the Great Potato Famine, Ireland lost over a million people and the area around Dingle was one of the hardest hit regions.
Lord Ventry "created" projects", like this tower known as Hussey's Folly
and Eask Tower, on top of this cliff, across the harbor, as an entrance marker.
These projects provided jobs for unemployed and starving farmers. He built a workhouse and bakery to house and feed the workers. Today, that bakery is the Dingle Distillery.
Weeks ago, while in Scotland we stayed in Dundee. One of the many wonderful things about the city was the Royal Research Ship Discovery. We learned the stories of the men who crewed her during several heroic expeditions to Antarctica.
One man in particular, an Irishman, Tom Crean stands out today. Distinguishing himself on the Discovery he was hand picked to crew on the 1914 expedition on the Endurance.
In 1915, the Endurance became trapped in the Antarctic ice and later sank. With the crew stranded on Antarctica's Elephant Island, Crean and three others set off on a rescue mission.
In an open Boat, the four headed to a Whaling station at South Georgia, 1500 km away and more than twice the distance from Dingle to Dundee, 788 km. No GPS!
Called, "one of the most extraordinary feats of seamanship and navigation in recorded history", the men sailed through gales and snow squalls. They reached the whaling station after 18 days at sea Crean then walked alone 48km on an overland track across a 10,000 foot mountain range. He succeeded and 22 survivors on Elephant Island were rescued.
Tom Crean retired and opened a pub near Dingle called the South Pole Inn. Unfortunately, in 1938, he died as a result of a ruptured appendix, but his memory lives on.
The Dingle Brewing Company has honored this local hero by naming their very successful locally made Lager after him.
As we sit in a quiet pub drinking a Crean's we find ourselves fortunate to be in this beautiful small Irish town at the edge of the Atlantic. We did not set out to follow Tom Crean's life or his sailing adventures. But, unintentionally, as we've followed his life "full circle" we are glad we had the opportunity to spend time with the hearty, resilient, friendly people of Dingle.
Fair Winds and Quiet Anchorages,
Jeff & Wendy