Published: September 22nd 2006September 19th 2006
Corey at the Old Library
Corey and I went to see the Book of Kells on the campus of Trinity College in Dublin
Greetings from Dingle! An Daigean, as it is known in Gaelic, is a small port town in the SW of Ireland, known for its beautiful coastal scenery and lively traditional music. Unfortunately with the rain and clouds there isn't much to see today, but the dreary weather has given us a chance to review our trip so far.
After two long days of cramped airline seats and crowded airport terminals, we arrived in Dublin on September 9th. We caught the last bus into town and sank gratefully into our hostel bunk beds.
The next morning we were ready to explore Dublin, a bustling cosmopolitan city which has enjoyed a significant economic boom with the advent of the European Union. Other Europeans are now traveling to Ireland to look for work, and new construction is in progress everywhere. Luckily there is still a lot to see of historic Dublin. We started our exploration with St Stephen's Green, originally an area of common land used for public hangings but now an attractively landscaped park. At nearby Trinity College, we enjoyed a humorous walking tour led by a recent graduate. Highlights of the campus included the two largest Oregon maples outside the
US (!) and the fellows dining hall, where each dinner is served with a free pint of Guinness. After the tour we stopped in the Old Library to see the Book of Kells, possibly the most famous gospels ever written. The ornate illustrations in this 8th century manuscript are even more impressive when you realize they were done without any kind of magnification or artificial lighting.
From Trinity College, we caught the 11 bus south to my Great Aunt Maura and Great Uncle Jimmy's home in Goatstown (a suburb of Dublin). Maura and Jimmy were glad to see that we found our way to their door without any troubles and quickly whisked us inside for a hot meal and lots of catching up. We shared pictures of our wedding with them and we talked about the trip we have begun. It was nice to be in a home and we are glad to have so many friends and family to see along our 7 month trip. The following day we explored the neighborhood and recharged our batteries a bit. Literally and figuratively: ipods, camera, picture storage device and our spirits.
Before returning to Dublin, we traveled a little
The Campanile on Trinity Campus
The 30 meter high Companile was erected on what was believed to be the center of a monastery prior to the college being built. The four statues on the structure (halfway up) are representatives of the four original areas of study at Trinity: Religion, Law and Medicine are visible in the picture. Science is on the other corner.
further south to Powerscourt and Glendalough. Powerscourt is an extensive group of formal gardens that form the grounds of an 18th century manor. The gardens were certainly past their peak, but we enjoyed the last of the dahlias and an unusual collection of climbing fruit trees. A late afternoon bus took us south to Glendalough (pronounce the lough as if it was written with loch), arriving the midst of an early evening downpour.
In the morning it was clear enough for us to hike around Glendalough, Gaelic for the vale with two lakes. In medieval times it was a monastic center established by St. Kevin, and it was easy to see why this peaceful valley inspired so many to meditation and prayer. We climbed the steep slope of one of the sides of the valley along a waterfall, and in less than an hour were 350 meters above the lake dodging misty clouds and grazing sheep. Passing the remains of an old mining settlement, we followed a gentle path back along the far side of the lake to see a round tower and St Kevin's church.
After making our way back to Dublin, we headed west to Galway
and the more rural SW of Ireland. Galway is also growing rapidly, but the center city remains very cozy and compact. Several streets are pedestrian only, which encourages everyone to remain on their two feet and adds to a kindled energy in the streets. After a modest dinner of fish and chips, we went in search of music. At a pub called Taaffes, we heard a trio of musicians playing guitar, melodeon and penny whistle. A group of rowdy French college students occasionally threatened to drown out the musicians, but they knew the words to the chorus of nearly every pub standard, including Whiskey in the Jar, Wild Rover and My Wild Irish Rose.
The next day we were off for the Aran Islands, where we found the best hostel thus far on our trip. The hostel was near the ferry dock, with a sweeping view of the town of Kilronan and the ocean beyond. Our easygoing Australian host was super friendly, and made us feel like we were visiting friends rather than staying at a budget accommodation. The first afternoon, we bicycled to the 2000 BC Celtic fort Dun Aonghasa, as well as several from early Christian missions
to the islands. By tagging along the a college tour group at Dun Aonghasa, we learned that the semi circular shape of the fort was originally thought to have been the result of erosion, but after comparing it to several similar forts of its kind in Spain and Ireland archeologists now believed it was intentionally using the impassable cliffs as a strategic fourth side. The next day we biked to the highest point on the island, which has been an important strategic lookout since the Bronze Age and now houses a lighthouse as well. We also went to a smaller fort on the south side island called Dun Dubhchathair (the black fort). This was another impressive cliff-side ruin with breathtaking views, completely deserted except for one local man gathering mushrooms.
Another bumpy boat ride took us to the cliff-side village of Doolin, known throughout Ireland as a center for traditional music. We certainly enjoyed our two evenings in its lively pubs, with a much greater variety of music and a wide range of instruments including a harp and a Uilleann pipe. During the day we biked south to the Cliffs of Moher, which were a bit disappointing after the
spectacular cliffs of the Aran Island but did offer some scenic vistas.
From Doolin we moved on to Tralee, capital of the county Kerry. Their Gaelic Football had just won the All Ireland championship, and we found ourselves in the middle of a citywide celebration. A huge parade came right down the street in front of our hostel, and whole families in green and yellow turned out to welcome their team home.
Tralee Gas, Bicycle and Nursery Supplies fitted us with bikes and panniers for our first overnight cycling excursion. Clouds were gathering throughout our trip to Dingle, but we still enjoyed the views across the fields and coastline. We will share pictures and stories from Dingle and beyond in our next blog.
There are more photos below