A beautifully-b’grassed rockcrop of the Dingle Peninsula. Credit: Ireland.com
Hidden gems of Southwest Ireland – four men, a race, and some of the most beautiful scenery in all the Isles.
There may exist a corner of the Emerald Isle where all the stereotypes (the nice ones at least) of our trans-hibernomaritime-amigos (the Irish) may in fact be true. Nigh-indiscernible vocals, and all the same, the indisputable gatekeepers of ‘craic’, an admirable capacity for consumption of thick, tenebrous liquid, and possibly the most approachable people on the planet. A tweed b’everything’d gentleman stopped me on Dingle’s main thoroughfare to ask the fortunes of the regional rugby team (Munster) and by Fungie* was I glad to be able to tell him for thereafter ensued a 30-minute conversation on the prospects of our respective international sides (nb. the author is, among other things, a rugby nerd). I also conveniently missed the next round of drinks, my round as it happened.
The face that launches at least two ships... Credit: Dingle Dolphin Tours.
*Fungie is a wild Bottlenose Dolphin, Dingle’s cetacean-in-residence for 32 years, an absolute charmer and genuine local celebrity. Experts fathom that he has a lifespan of anywhere between 40 and 50 years so any fans in waiting had best get a shift on (because we don’t know what he was doing before he took his seemingly-early retirement from the open seas). Whosoever bought the commercial rights to his name, leaps, face, backflips etc. has made a not insubstantial killing (albeit mainly from tea towels). There are also ‘Fungie Tours’ whose alumni of attendees include ex 007, Pierce Brosnan and Irish singer, Mary Black. The author can’t help but think there is a glaring opportunity for a budding film producer to cast Colin Farrell as a windswept fisherman who becomes the dolphin’s best friend and wingman (Fungie has been known to introduce numerous girlfriends to the tour boats). Flipper franchise, watch out (and Hollywood execs, you’re welcome).
Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula: idyllic surfcation for the wilder (and wrecklesser) at heart.
The area itself is one of nigh-surreal beauty and very quickly you see what the producers of the most-recent entry into the Star Wars saga saw (tax breaks aside). Glistening greens, golds, silvers, and blues which lend credence to the old chat-up line “your eyes look like the Irish countryside after a soft rain” which here could be more clumsily rendered “you’re as goddam beautiful as the fjordscape of the Dingle Peninsula” or perhaps a little-less bumpily, “your eyes glisten like the Dingle sound on a summer’s eve”, no Jedi mind-tricks required. Surfing off the mega-Isthmus (cue a topographer’s wrath) that is Inch Beach drops you even more romantically into the love affair that only the truly soulless could avoid (and is one of the few sports in which both men and women look as sexy as t’other.. oh we know). Red herring and Star Wars-grapevining for just one inexcusable second, we had it on good local authority that Daisy Ridley (the heroine of the last two episodes, for those uninclined) is “terrific craic” on the beers and I for one can (/want to) bloody believe it.
Spa Seafoods, Tralee – some of the pengest piscine fare you’ll e’er devour (and you can do it seated to boot). An extra, coincidental delight to the weekend’s heroics, the Dingle Food Festival – worth the going alone.
It wouldn’t make the author weep in despair to be told he were wrong, but when people talk of the beauty of Ireland, the tales quickly turn to Galway, Mayo, Sligo, and co. and inevitably that song surfaces for air, but rarely if ever do you hear people, certainly on the British mainland, vaunting the delights of the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Pensinsula, and Killarney (Cill Airne – which sounds a bit like ‘Chill, Ernie’ when pronounced in Gaelic) National Park, around the latter of which our troupe engaged in, and emerged gloriously battered from, a not-ungruelling triathlon (courtesy of the admirable sadists at Quest Adventure Series). It’s worth mentioning that of the hundreds of competitors, the only non-Irish voice I perceived was that of a cheery Burgundian. The point to be made, and this is the author’s endorsement – get ye thither, ‘mainland’-dwelling folk. Fine, Luton has consistently and not unfairly been voted the worst airport in the British Isles over the last *insert fairly large number here* years, but only bring hand luggage (and a blindfold?) and you don’t have to spend too much time there and stand (amidst the denizens, for the most part equally non-plussed) happy in the knowledge that your surprisingly high-grade Ryanair service (as they go) to the much merrier Kerry has set you back but £60 (booking only a couple of months in advance). 20 minutes and a very speedy car rental pick-up later, you’re in Killarney, and not much more than half an hour, high-fiving Fungie in Dingle.
Muckross Lake, around which we paddled with great ferocity, a facet of the gauntlet prepared for us within the wilds of Killarney National Park. Brightly-coloured evidence of the sadists’ handiwork centre right.
Gang from Left: Mundy Miller, the author (Robocop meets Lollipop Lady), Sam Ader, and Freddie Haines, afore the endeavour.