Ireland Snapshots: Fishguard to Dingle

Tuesday 2 November
It’s a little before 2.45 am when the ferry sets off from Fishguard on a cold, gusty night with the winds set to touch gale force 8. With Ma sandwiched between Tom and me as we climb up from the car decks, I watch her gamely tackle the steep stairs. Her fragile back is even more delicate these days, but she never falters, never holds anyone up and never complains. And whilst I’m fretting to myself about the after-effects of such a long journey for her, Ma’s as excited as a six-year-old. Despite the terrible forecast, I’m surprised that I barely notice the motion of the ferry, or maybe I’ve been hardened by years of being thrown around in a small boat. The crossing is uneventful and we spill out into a wet, Irish dawn and take breakfast in the coldest cafe in the world. Ma laughs when I invite her to sit by the radiator which, we find is turned off. Then it’s a race to eat our full Irish breakfast as it chills on freezing cold plates.

view from the holiday home

It takes the best part of six hours to reach the Dingle Peninsula which juts out thirty miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Through the drizzle we watch the scenery becoming increasingly dramatic as we head westwards, although we can’t help but notice the ghost estates of brand new, pastel-coloured houses – nearly all of them uninhabited – creeping across the country. We find our holiday bungalow hidden up a very unlikely looking track. So unlikely we try someone’s family home first. We retrace our steps along the track towards what looks like a gravel pit – and there it is; huge, modern and very comfortable. Fall into enormous comfy beds and sleep like logs.

Murphys, an early favourite

Wednesday 3 November.
Our holiday home at Baile na nGall has the most spectacular view across to the trio of peaks known as The Three Sisters, although it’s quite hard to see any of them through the mist. So we go to An Daingean, Dingle, a pretty town and fishing port with hilly streets and brightly-painted houses. Ma spends so much money in the first two shops that I fear her bank will think a mad woman is running amok with her debit card in the far west. She is. Within minutes, Tom is the proud owner of new hairy jumper, and my sister and brother-in-law have crystal glass jug, hand cut by master craftsman Seán Daly (who, incidentally, along with his wife Liz, is completely and utterly charming). Then it’s time for proper coffee and ice cream in Murphys.

Ventry Bay on clear day

The mist lifts for one tantalising moment. Encouraged by a glimpse of The Three Sisters, we dash out for a drive round Slea Head to explore, but chase the mist all the way. Never mind, it’s been a great first day, enjoyed by all. Perhaps the mist will lift tomorrow?


Flowerpot said…
Oh I am definitely putting Ireland on my list of holiday destinations, Chris. It looks fabulous. Last time I was there was - er - over 30 years ago! Well done your Ma, too!
Pondside said…
What a good sport your Ma is! I'd love to visit Ireland - it's on the ever-growing list. We have mist to spare here, so I think I'll try for a time of year with a little watery sun.
Fennie said…
Ah, takes me back. A long way. To 1971. McGilicuddy's Reeks and horse fairs and a Becket Festival where we listened to 'All That Fall' performed by an Icelandic troupe. In Icelandic of course. Of course! Somehow it didn't seem to matter. I've done it in English. Playing the stationmaster. But, yes, congratulations to Ma. A venerable lady. And generosity herself by your account what with hairy jumpers and beautiful crystal glass and all and a pint of Guinness, with your man, there, in Murphys and it with a head on it fit to float a battleship. And you having survived a force eight gale in the Irish sea just to get to little Dingle in the dawn and the far Gaeltacht beyond. Where you might walk over the river dryshod on the backs of the salmon. In the right season. Where if the cash point tells you there are insufficient funds, it may mean the bank, rather than you yourself, you understand, and come back tomorrow. But have a drink while you're waiting and sit by the cold radiator. And the fog settling on the mountains.
Frances said…
Oh Chris, I just love this installment of your Irish reporting, and so look forward to the next.

Jenny Beattie said…
I love that first picture - the view - really stunning.

I would LOVE to visit Ireland. I can't believe I've never been but it looks gorgeous.
Preseli Mags said…
Lovely pictures. I adore Ireland and am so jealous of your trip - it's years since I've been. Not a single pint of the black stuff yet? Go on, you did didn't you?
Debs said…
Most of my family originate from Ireland and a lot of them went on holiday there last year and came back with such wonderful photos and stories. I couldn't go, unfortunately, but want to do so as soon as I can.
her at home said…
Sounds an absolute delight ! I do hope you save me some irish coffee!
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kerikey - I didn't realise you were taking Ma along, too! What a woman! Absolutely glorious photos, Chris - surely must have been worth the journey. Whatsits Dingle looks absolutely gorgeous, although I think we may need to see a pic of Tom in his hairy jumper, too.

Glad to see you back safely. x
Chris Stovell said…
Fp, it's highly recommended, a beautiful place. Yes, she did well!

Pondside, I certainly have to admire her pluck! She's a huge fan of Vancouver Island too, so she doesn't mind a bit of mist!

Fennie, I did laugh when I read this, so did Tom. As for the insufficient funds bit...

Thank you, Frances. X

Jenny, I keep saying it, but it is. I'm definitely going back to see more of it.

Mags, ah, we did, we did! You were so right about it being a fabulous country. And with one exception everyone was so lovely.

Debs, I know how busy you are, but it'll be fab when you do manage to go. Lucky you to have family connections there, too.

Hah, plenty here whenever you're passing, dear heart.

LBD, will see what I can do on the Man in Hairy Jumper front. Yes, Ma and all. She did very well.

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