Debra's Diary ~ July, 2008      We flew to Kerry on the west coast of Ireland , intending to catch the airport bus to Tralee, the county town and then on to Dingle.  The bus didn't come.  Five of us waited patiently, in the warm sunshine, but it still didn't come.  So I enquired within, at the Information desk, and the woman behind the desk leapt into action in a froth of indignation on our behalf.  She was certainly formidable, and soon we were on our way to Tralee in a taxi, the tab being picked up by the bus company and from then on, it all worked and we arrived at Dingle to be met by our guest-house lady, Maggie.  The buses work, and we certainly used them, but they are not cheap.  In fact, nothing in Ireland is cheap; not even the home brew.  Dingle is a colourful, cheerful and thriving town.  Strand Street parallels the harbour, and the sounds and cooking smells that emanate from the waterfront pubs are inviting.  Dingle has about 37 pubs - it once had 52 - and it's easy to see how life revolved around them.  In several of the preserved old ones, you could do your shopping on one side and then rest your weary self on the other with a pint.  Mark you, the shopping would be more of a male nature - a bag of nails, a hammer or screwdriver, a pair of workboots.  We sat in Foxy John's and just listened to the locals, immersing ourselves in a culture that carries on regardless.

Our walks were some of the most enjoyable we've done, even though there was a lot of road walking.  It has its compensations: you get on faster on even ground and don't get muddy boots, and most of the 'roads' were little more than cart tracks, so little traffic.  I could not believe the hedgerows - the majority of them were made up of fuschia trees and personally, I've never seen such rampant growth - my fuschia is puny compared to these.  There is abundant archeology on these hills - it's an ancient land.  Part of the Dingle Way is joined by the Pilgrims' Way, near to Slea Head, with magnificent views of the coast and the Blasket Islands.  It's a view you drink in time and time again, and the long 'strands' of beach are a pleasure to walk on - no wonder David Lean chose it for location shots for Ryan's Daughter.

It's an Irish-speaking area, and there is an old-world courtesy extended to those of us who haven't mastered Gaelic.  You are never made to feel inadequate for not managing to curl your tongue around their language, but it is a delight to hear it spoken.  The road signs are mostly dual language, but the publican John Benny Moriarty that we met explained the 'storm in a teacup' as he described it regarding the change of name of Dingle.  The government decided to revert to one of its Gaelic names, and the townspeople objected.  They hadn't been consulted and they weren't having anything foisted on them.  They were up in arms and it made a bit of a splash in Ireland until they compromised on both Irish and English signs.  But the government are slow to put Dingle back on the signs, we noticed.  The people were friendly, with that direct way of speaking that denotes an openness you don't always find in other countries, but the Irish sense of humour always seems to there - whether you know it or not.  

We broke one of our walks at Anascaul to go into the South Pole Inn - we'd heard about it being the home of an Antarctic explorer.  The pub is a shrine to Tom Crean, a little known Irish hero and it has become the life's work of Eileen Percival (whose family now runs the pub) to make Crean's name a household word not just in Ireland but worldwide.  Her passion for the subject is endearing, and you are soon drawn into hearing the story of this local lad who left home at 15 to join the British Royal Navy; a treasonous act for the Irish of the time.  We couldn't resist - I'm a sucker for heroes - so we included the story in our film.  It is inspiring.  We walked in rain and drizzle, wind and sunshine, for you'll get all of them on any given day so you just have to get on with it.  There are some wonderful drives too, if you base yourself in Dingle.  The town is fun, but it is really the pubs - with their food, music and craic - that are the life of the town and on a rainy day, there isn't a lot else to do.  It is a good base from which to explore the peninsula, and to carry on to the Iveragh peninsula too.  There are boat trips to the Blaskets, and we took a trip out to the mouth of the harbour to look for Fungie the tame dolphin.  Sure enough, he showed and it was lovely to see him, but they will refund your money if you don't see him.

The food in the pubs and restaurants is good, but the music is what the Irish really do best, and it comes from the heart.  To listen to a musician like Eilis Kennedy sing unaccompanied in Irish is a pleasure that stays with you a long time and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end!  The talent of these musicians is phenomenal, and considering you are hearing first-class entertainers for the price of a pint (or two...) and a meal, you'd have to travel a long way to beat that.

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