The blues and the greens. If I had to pick what astounded me the most about Ireland, it would be the natural beauty of the land – the rich, deep blues of the sea and the lush, vibrant greens of the earth. Sometimes I look at my photographs from the trip and all that beauty comes flooding back to me, but even then I know my photos are pale imitations of the real thing. It can’t be captured; it has to be seen.
One place where we saw that beauty most clearly? The Dingle Peninsula, where we spent a day making a scenic loop through the area’s most impressive vistas and important sites. It was, without question, one of the best days of our trip – which is really saying something.
Before we got to Dingle’s great outdoors, however, we stopped at a crystal carver’s workshop for a demonstration. Ireland is, of course, known for Waterford Crystal, and the founder of Dingle Crystal, Sean Daly, trained at Waterford and became a master craftsman there before opening his own shop in Dingle. It was truly incredible to watch him work; while we were there observing, he carved an intricate pattern on a crystal goblet. I couldn’t believe he could 1) work so quickly and 2) do so with a bunch of American tourists gawking at him and snapping photos.
(Can we also discuss how cool it is that a guy who is a burly motorcycling enthusiast is also quite skilled at carving super delicate crystal? Awesome.)
Next, we drove out to Slea Head, which offered us some of the most gorgeous views in Dingle. My words about the gorgeousness of it all seem redundant at this point, so I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves:
We continued on to the Great Blasket Centre, which chronicles the history and traditions of the rugged and wild Blasket Islands, whose last inhabitants were evacuated in 1953. The center features interesting displays about the islands as well as beautiful views of the islands themselves. While there, we paused to have lunch at the Centre’s cafeteria – seafood chowder and Irish soda bread for me.
We continued on to the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church from the seventh or eighth century. For something so old, its construction is quite impressive – the stones were all perfectly cut to fit together smoothly in the arched shape you see today:
From one church, we went to another – the ruins of Kilmalkedar, another early Christian church. Kilmalkedar also features a more modern day cemetery, with beautifully tended gravestones.
We headed back into Dingle Town and, after a brief rest, to dinner. We ate at Out of the Blue, which is known for serving only fresh fish and – as they proudly proclaim – no fish ‘n chips and no meat. I found that the restaurant lived up to its excellent reputation, as my halibut was delicious, as were the vegetables that accompanied it:
After dinner, we headed to a concert at a local church. The experience was fantastic, and we were treated to a range of local musicians – from people playing Irish pipes, guitars, ukeleles, and flutes to singers with a variety of vocal styles (including one young girl described as the “Irish Taylor Swift” but who I found far superior to T. Swift and would instead dub the “Irish Ingrid Michaelson”). It was amazing to me how such a small town could have such a deep well of talent; Irish’s musical heritage clearly runs strong here. The evening was one of those “magical” experiences I will always remember – perhaps evidenced by the fact that I didn’t get any pictures of it, preferring instead to just enjoy the moment.
- Dingle Crystal: Green Street, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland | +353.66.915.1550 (note: this address is for the retail store right in town; we toured the workshop outside of town, but I’m not sure if that’s open to the general public)
- Great Blasket Centre: Dún Chaoin, Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland | +353.66.915.6444
- Gallarus Oratory: Gallarus, Dingle Penninsula, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland | +353.66.915.5333
- Out of the Blue: Waterside, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland | +353.66.915.0811