Saturday, June 01, 2013

An Daingean

We've been on the Dingle Peninsula, staying in the town of Dingle (An Daingean), since Thursday afternoon; yesterday was our first full day and our first bike ride.

(I have to say, this idea of taking public transportation, then using bikes for day trips, has worked out well. The rail infrastructure is really well done, and it was nice to sit and watch the landscape roll by. The only part we couldn't do by train, Tralee to Dingle, was a bus ride and the perfect opportunity for some serious people-watching. The whole thing was one big, fun adventure - I'm really surprised more tourists don't travel this way.)

The biker part: we rented some tourist/touring bikes for several days, better than our Carlow bikes but not by much, and yesterday we rode out around the end of the peninsula. We rode out to a place called Slea Head, then around the north side and back in a loop (called the Slea Head Loop, appropriately enough).

It was beautiful, in fact it was almost silly how beautiful it was. The sky, and the water to our left, and the landscape to our right, were all constantly changing, and each bend in the road revealed another breathtaking vista more beautiful than the last. We stopped twice to explore some ancient ruins, and twice for tea or snacks, and a whole bunch of times just to look around.

The ride was about 33 easy miles, and took us a total of maybe five hours. We got back in time to pick up our laundry at the cleaner, grab yet another amazing dinner (the food here in Ireland is very good), and catch a folk concert - I was surprised by how much I liked this - in an abandoned church. Afterward we stopped in a few pubs on the way back to our B&B, and caught several more amazing musicians. Our latest night out so far, but completely worth it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


We are leaving Carlow now, taking an early train to Dublin as the first leg of our trip to the town of Dingle - our first Irish Rail experience giving us the confidence to try the rail transfers and a bus ride, rather than renting a car...

Our trip yesterday was by bike. We couldn't find any rentals anywhere in Carlow, but a small bike store basically loaned us two second-hand childrens mountain bikes, and off we went to Bunclody, a town about 20 miles away (via the tiny, and busy, main road) which was my father's paternal grandfather's birthplace.

The ride was uneventful, though Anne kept having to readjust her slipping seatpost, and the town itself was very pretty. (It's hard to believe anyone would ever want to leave, until you factor in the starvation and political oppression.) We spent an hour or so exploring, got some lunch, and ride back to Carlow.

Once "home," we hit a pub whose owners may have been related to my great-grandmother (Byrne is a common enough name, especially here), toasted our adventure with some cider, then showered, got some dinner, and hit another pub for some Guiness while we helped the locals watch the England-Ireland soccer matchup. We left after a while, walking outside to a beautiful evening sky - the sun was just setting, though it was already almost 10:00. It was light out when we went to bed, but we had an early start planned.

When we awoke (just before 6:00) the sun was already high up and shining brightly in a cloudless blue sky. I have a sunburn from yesterday - this place is much sunnier than I expected.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Carlow Town

We got up a bit early this morning and, after breakfast and a final walk through Saint Stephen's Green, we checked out of out hotel and took a taxi to the train station. About one hour later by intercity rail, and here we are in Carlow (pop 20,000), with the approximately half mile walk from the station,  to our hotel in the center of town, giving us our first feel for the place.

Carlow is not your typical tourist town: about an hour by rail southwest of Dublin, it had a bit of a boom as a bedroom community in the Celtic Tiger days, it's a bustling enough town with plenty of nice old buildings, and there are a number of amenities but they're mostly for home use. There's a few pubs, and at least one B&B, so we're good.

We're in Carlow mostly for genealogical reasons. My father's paternal grandmother was from a village, now absorbed by the town, called Graigecullen - it's basically what's on the west bank of the River Barrow, which divides Carlow. No looking up graves or relatives, I just want to walk where she once walked. We did that this afternoon, walking along the riverbank, and tomorrow we'll bike the 20 miles to Bunclody, the village where my father's grandfather was born.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dublin Days

Day two in Dublin - it's 9:30 here and we just got back from breakfast, and are about to do some more tourist things: buy an umbrella and a cheap local phone, visit the distillery...

We arrived yesterday morning, got through some fairly laid-back customs and took a bus into town, then walked over to our hotel, which is on the edge of a party-tourist-commercial zone (Temple Bar, Grafton Street), near Trinity College. It was still too early to check in, but they us leave our bags, and we went out and got some breakfast - we both got mini-versions of the Complete Irish Breakfast, which was awesome, even including the sausage items we we advised to avoid (black pudding etc).

After breakfast we went exploring. It was a beautiful day. We walked around town,  checked out Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells exhibit, strolled up and down Grafton Street, visited a pub for some real Guinness (definitely better here), and then went back to our hotel and took a nap. Out to a brewpub for dinner - I didn't realize they had brewpubs here, thought it was Guinness/Smithwicks or nothing, but these guys were awesome - then back for another "nap" that lasted until morning.

Today we awoke to what I think is more "traditional" Irish weather: it's a bit cool and a light rain is falling. We just got back from breakfast as I said, and soon we'll be heading out for some sightseeing, including a visit to the Jameson distillery.