I’m much more active the next day – 29 January 1998 – beginning with a visit to Foxy John’s, a hardware store/bike shop/pub where I hire a bike for the day. Following a loop route in my Rick Steve’s guidebook, I head out to Slea Head, the westernmost point in Europe. Along the route there’s the dramatic scenery of steep cliffs and ocean views as well as the cultural ruins of antiquity. Some of the latter include the Fahan clocháns, stone huts expertly built without mortar the resemble beehives or igloos. These were once used as habitations and still shelter the sheep that wander freely over the peninsula.
At Slea Head itself, a point marked by a stone crucifix and a statue of the Three Mary’s weeping, I’m amazed that the sheep are standing on the steep cliff itself in a place I didn’t think sheep could even get to much enjoy grazing. The sea is dotted with jagged rocks known as the Blasket Islands, once home to community of rugged islanders. Sadly the Blasket Islands Interpretive Center and the ferry to the islands themselves are closed for the season.
Heading back inland I pass through the village of Ballyferriter where Ireland’s official bilingualism is abandoned and all the signs are solely in the Irish language. The sun is already starting to set so I decide not to stop and cheat myself of a uniqiue cultural experience. The final site on the tour is Gallarus Oratory, a small stone church resembling an overturned boat that may date back as far as 800 AD. I get chills thinking of the small community worshiping here over a thousand years ago.
Back in Dingle, I shower off the offensive smell I’ve gained while peddling around the Slea Head loop. Jessica, Amy, and I head out An Droichead Beag or the Small Bridge Pub, which true to its name is built over a bubbling stream. The music is good (they even sell an excellent recording called A Mighty Session) and the company is even better. Jessica and Amy try to fix me up with the local women (they both have boyfriends at home) with little success and mostly we enjoy conversing. Jessica even offers to let me stay at her flat in Paris. I accept the offer and start thinking of ways to revise my itinerary to piece in a side trip to Paris.
My time in Dingle turns out to be much the opposite of my time in Killarney, quiet, contemplative, and understated. I enjoy it all the same and consider Dingle one of the loveliest places on Earth.
Pedaling to Slea Head. I was so proud of myself for managing to get this shot with the self-timer.
Baaa! How did these sheep get out on this cliff?