Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tralee, the Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney

Slea Head
Today we continued our tradition of finding an LDS community to connect and worship with. In Tralee, as in Sligo, when the GPS told us that we had arrived at our destination, we still weren't quite sure where we would find the group because, as in Sligo, the congregation met in rented storefront space with only a small sign in the window indicating that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met inside. In this case, there was not much storefront—only a door that opened onto some stairs leading to the first floor, where the congregation was gathered. Though we had checked the Tralee Branch’s meeting times at, we were disappointed to discover that sacrament meeting had begun an hour earlier than listed, so we missed all but the last few minutes of the final talk.

As it happened, the speaker was the newly called president of the LDS Church’s Limerick District. (When Michael had attended church in Limerick a couple of weeks ago, the just-released district president had taught the Sunday School class.) The new president looks like he’s in his mid-thirties and seemed to be still somewhat in shock about having been called to preside over at least five congregations spread across the southern half of Ireland. Fortunately, Ireland is a small country, so he can reach any of those branches in less than two hours; nevertheless, he undoubtedly will put a lot of miles on his car over the expected eight to ten years of his tenure (while his long-suffering wife will be left at home with the kids). We were impressed with his humility, his warm personality, and the depth of gospel understanding evident from the comments he made during an excellent Sunday School discussion on discipleship.

This Sunday, regular members of the Tralee Branch outnumbered the tourists. Other visitors in attendance included another “mature” American couple on vacation, and a younger couple from Utah who were on their honeymoon.

After the SS class, we changed into traveling clothes and got back in the car. We were thrilled to see clear, brilliant sunshine because our itinerary for the afternoon involved appreciating the ocean and mountain vistas of the Dingle Peninsula. From Tralee we headed west toward Brandon Mountain, skirting Tralee and Brandon Bays. Our road atlas indicated that the route southwest over Connor Pass was “unsuitable for HGVs and buses,” and we soon discovered why: not only is the pavement barely wide enough for one car, but in several places it corkscrews under low outcroppings of rugged rock. Curves are many and passing pullouts are few, so we were lucky that although there was considerable traffic in both directions, we never met an oncoming vehicle unawares.

Looking south from Connor Pass

Looking north from Connor Pass

Narrow road to Connor Pass
Steep climb to Connor Pass
Waterfall at Connor Pass
We parked at the top of the pass so we could enjoy the spectacular views, both to the north across the peninsula to the open Atlantic, and to the south across Dingle Bay to the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. Nancy ran back down the highway to take photos of the scary road we had just navigated. As we were getting into the car after she came back, who should pull up beside us but the honeymooning couple we had met in church that morning. We offered to take a couple of pictures of them, and then got back on our way.

Outside Dingle
The village of Dingle is at the bottom of the road out of the pass, on the south coast of the peninsula. From there, we decided to continue west as far as we could go along the Wild Atlantic Way. Unlike yesterday, today we enjoyed mistless, awesome views of the rocky coastline, nearby Great Blasket Island, and the more distant Skellig Islands off the shores of Kerry—and a few wet-suited surfers. Michael wished we could stay in this place where time seems to blend into eternity.

These sheep were "branded" with
big splashes of bright blue dye.
Western Dingle flatlands

Sybil Point on the Dingle Peninsula
Turning east toward civilization, we stopped at Slea Head, where some brave eastern Europeans were scrambling down the rocks to the water. The WAW from Dingle continues past the Slieve Mish Mountains and along the south shore of the peninsula, then joins a wider highway that leads to Killorglin, one of the points along the Ring of Kerry.

Road to Slea Head
The Ring of Kerry is renowned as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, featuring magnificent views of the stunning, varied terrain. Today we were able to enjoy the northernmost arc of the Ring, which follows the River Laune through green lowlands.  Before reaching Killarney, we made a stop in Aghadoe, where a park across the road from a huge, incredibly ugly modern hotel offers an incredibly gorgeous view of Killarney and Lough Leane.

View of Killarney and Lough Leane from Aghadoe
Thanks to our trusty GPS, we found the Ryebrook House B&B without any trouble and were warmly greeted by Mary, our hostess—although her brogue was so heavy we had to ask her to repeat herself more than once. When we had settled into our room, Mary pointed us toward the center of town, indicating that it was about a twenty-minute walk away. She recommended a couple of restaurants that we might try for dinner, and then asked, “Do you like music?” When we eagerly replied in the affirmative, she told us that her husband, an accordion player, and her son, a guitarist and singer, would be performing at a pub called Dunloe Lodge. “It’s not a nice pub,” she warned, “but if you like music you might stop in for a listen.”
Ryebrook House

The walk into downtown Killarney turned out to be a challenge for Michael, whose sciatic nerve problem unfortunately has not responded to the twice-daily stretching regimen prescribed by his physical therapist. But he soldiered on, and after checking the menus of several restaurants we passed, we decided that Italian food sounded like a nice change, so we took a table at Robertino’s. Michael had bruschetta (which was served on a large piece of ciabatta, necessitating the use of a knife and fork); bacon-wrapped, mushroom-stuffed chicken with steamed vegetables; and a slice of chocolate cake. Nancy ordered vegetable soup (forgetting that here in Ireland, vegetable soup always seems to be a potato-based purée rather than a clear broth containing recognizable vegetables), a hefty serving of lasagna, and cream-filled profiteroles with chocolate sauce for dessert.

Musicians at Dunloe Lodge
After dinner, we found Dunloe Lodge and went inside. Mary was right: the pub was not nice, more like a seedy American bar than the other pubs we have visited. A handful of customers obviously had been there most of the day. A group of men at the bar were engaged in loud, rowdy conversation, and one woman kept falling into other unsteady patrons as she tried to make her way to and from the toilet. We stayed, however, because we had been hailed by the accordion player as soon as we came in (his wife must have told him to look for us), and because the music (performed by a singing bass player in addition to the father and son) was pretty good. We listened for about half an hour and then gave up our seats to a few of the regulars.

Since Michael didn’t feel up to a twenty- or thirty-minute walk back to the B&B, we opted to take a taxi. The cabbie assured us that he was taking “the quick way,” but the trip seemed to take nearly as long as it had on foot. Nevertheless, we made it back to Ryebrook House safely and went right to bed.

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