Dingle

Leaving the Cliffs of Moher, our destination was the Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost part of Ireland and all of Europe. Rather than stay in the large town of Tralee, considered the start of the peninsula, we continued on to Dingle and found wonderful accommodation at Benner’s Hotel. I will always remember the delicious meal we had, the best duck breast I have eaten before or since.

1.Benner's Hotel

Next morning, after a short stroll around the narrow streets lined with colour,

6.Dingle7.Dingle

we set off to discover the peninsula. Slea Head Drive is a 47 kilometre loop, starting and ending at Dingle, that takes you right to the western edge of the country. The road is very narrow with occasional passing points and so, is driven in a clockwise direction. The scenery was spectacular from the outset.

8.Slea Head Drive

Our first stop was Dunbeg Fort, the ruins of the dry-stone structure, built around 800 BC, hang precariously onto the sheer cliff.

9.Dunbeg Fort10.Dunbeg Fort11.Dunbeg Fort

Used until the 11th century, the expansive views of Dingle Bay would have given plenty of warning of invasion. The rocky coastline looked very substantial

12.Dunbeg Fort

but much of the area consists of earth rather than rock. During fierce storms in January 2018, parts of the fort tumbled into the sea and it has been closed to the public ever since.

13.Dunbeg Fort

Near the fort there is a group of clocháns, fascinating beehive huts built from stone without mortar to create the ‘beehive’ appearance. Thought to date back to the 11th century, these huts were once family homes.

16.Clochain14.Clochain15.Clochain

The view from Slea Head lookout was breathtaking, although the mist obscured anything beyond Dunmore Head, the westernmost part of the peninsula.

17.Dunmore Head from Slea Head18.Slea Head

The loop road took us to a most fascinating place, Gallarus Oratory.

19.Gallarus Oratory

The 8th century Christian church is amazingly well preserved, the dry-stone walls having repelled the elements for over a thousand years.

Inside, the solidity of the walls becomes apparent around the only window, directly opposite the entrance.

22.Gallarus Oratory

Outside, there is a stone column, carved with a Celtic cross and an inscription in an old Latin script used between the 5th and 10th centuries.

23.Gallarus Oratory

There was such a feeling of peace around us, I imagine it would be quite different with a coach load or two of tourists in the warmer weather.

Mount Brandon seemed to dissolve into the clouds as we meandered our way back to Dingle. The second tallest mountain in Ireland takes its name from St. Brendan the Navigator who, according to legend, spent forty days on the mountain preparing for his voyage in search of the Garden of Eden in the 6th century.

26.Mount Brandon

It’s easy to see how Johnny Cash was inspired to write Forty Shades of Green on his visit to Ireland in 1959.

27.Dingle Peninsula28.Dingle Peninsula29.Dingle Peninsula

 

Suite Sofia

Anyone who has read my Italian posts will know how intrigued I am by doorways such as this.

1.front door

I could hardly contain my excitement when we arrived at our apartment in Lucca and found this was the entrance.

2.front door

I had booked Suite Sofia on the internet months ahead, choosing it because of location and falling in love with the photos (and price, of course). I am always sceptical that, in reality, some accommodation will not live up to expectations. As soon as we walked into the apartment, all fears dissipated, it was gorgeous.

3.Suite Sofia

The kitchen was compact but well serviced, we didn’t intend cooking anyway.

4.kitchen

The original ceilings have been preserved and added to the peaceful ambience,

while tasteful adornments gave the space a homely feel.

The position was perfect, overlooking cafes in Corso Garibaldi, right above a bicycle hire shop.

17.Corso Garibaldi18.Corso Garibaldi

From the outside, the building was stunning,

19.Corso Garibaldi

no traffic except for the two-wheeled silent type.

20.Corso Garibaldi

Our host, Massimiliano, was lovely, nothing was too much trouble. We will certainly return to Suite Sofia if we have the chance.

21.Suite Sofia from Corso Garibaldi

Foreshore Fiesta

Last Saturday marked the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove. Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the eleven convict ships and first Governor of New South Wales, raised the Union Jack on 26th January 1788. Since then, Australia Day has been celebrated across the land with citizenship ceremonies, concerts and various community festivities, along with barbecues and beer. The Aboriginal people, however, refer to the day as ‘Invasion Day’ and see it as a day of mourning rather than a reason to celebrate. There has been much controversy surrounding the appropriateness of the date, with protests as far back as 1938 during the sesquicentenary celebrations in Sydney. A recent poll found the majority of Australians weren’t too fussed about the date, as long as there is a national day of celebration. Perhaps Australia Day should be a celebration of Australia and the multicultural country it is today, not tied to any historical moment?

There is a plethora of festivities to choose from here on the northwest coast of Tassie. The Rotary Club Foreshore Fiesta at Somerset was our obvious choice as Michael had been invited to join Tarkine Strings , a classical string ensemble who , this time, were entertaining the crowd with innovative blues renditions. We arrived early on a warm, sunny day (though a little windy).

1.Foreshore Fiesta

The makeshift stage on the back of a DeBruyn’s truck was perfect for the occasion

2.Tarkine Strings on stage

and before long, the upbeat blues tones were issuing forth to compete with nature’s gusts.

Away from the stage, there was more than enough to keep the youngsters occupied. A gorgeous Benscroft Miniature Hereford calf won hearts just doing what calves do

and Yolla District High School brought along animals for the petting zoo.

I’m pretty sure the alpaca winked at me before nonchalantly turning away.

For those who appreciate the piquancy of diesel as much as I do, the Historical Machinery Club of Tasmania had a rather impressive collection of old engines and farm implements as well as some model train carriages.

There were a few stalls selling various goods

24.stalls

and no shortage of amusements for the kids.

It was good to see one fire engine not needed to fight the terrible bushfires, although I’m sure she has earned her retirement.

There were a few options for sustenance but we couldn’t go past the good old Aussie barbecue for lunch. With a choice of sausage sandwich, hamburger or steak sandwich (onions optional but highly recommended), tomato or barbecue sauce what more could we want?

34.barbecue

Tarkine Strings returned for a second set before handing over the stage to the next band.

35.Tarkine Strings

Unfortunately, we had other obligations and had to leave but I have it on good authority that the day was a success with all proceeds going toward the purchase of a wheelchair equipped bus for the Burnie School of Special Education. For a musician’s perspective, have a look at Michael’s post on Tiger Dreaming

Looking Out for Each Other

Last month, I posted about a day spent at the Tamar Valley wineries and the sculpture exhibition, Artentwine. At Iron Pot Bay Vineyard, there was a memorable installation in the garden, this is what I wrote,

‘The man in blue, poised in the garden, sported an outfit knitted with baling twine. My sister and I had been at Deloraine Craft Fair the previous weekend where we had seen numerous knitters eagerly creating something with the blue baling twine. It seems artist, Grietje van Randen, has enlisted volunteers to help complete a double life size Blue Farmer to be sited on a local farm to raise awareness of those living with depression and as a reminder for us all to be looking out for each other.’

The project is now complete and the full size blue farmer stands proudly at Deloraine. This is a wonderful interview with Grietje van Randen

4.at deloraine

Photo courtesy of the ABC

Our property here in northwest Tasmania is surrounded by agricultural farmland, we can attest to the long hours our neighbours toil. Morning, noon and sometimes all night, seven days a week and at the mercy of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. Without these incredible people, we would have nothing on the table to serve our families each day. How easy it is to pick produce from the grocers shelf without a thought for those whose livelihood depends on what we are willing to pay.

Here is a great news story of the completion and final placement of the blue farmer

5.at deloraine

Photo courtesy of the ABC

The Burren

Much as we would like to have stayed in Galway a few more days, our time in Ireland was limited and there was so much more to see. Driving southward, we were once again surrounded by enchanting scenery. Scattered farmhouses wrapped in green, stone-framed pastures overlooked peaceful waters.

1.burren road2.burren road

Just outside Ballyvaughan we encountered Irish gridlock and spent some time chatting to the farmer. We will never forget his name, it was Michael Cannon.

The landscape changed the further we drove into the region known as The Burren.

6.ruins, the burren

The great expanse of limestone karst covers around 160 square kilometres in County Clare, the rock has been dated back to the Carboniferous period, around 350 million years ago.

7.the burren

The water soluble limestone has eroded over the years and formed the channels, known as ‘grikes’ and blocks, known as ‘clints’. It’s hard to believe that when people first inhabited this area 5,000 years ago it was a lush forest. Clearing the land for farming, along with time, grazing and erosion all contributed to the appearance of The Burren.

8.limestone karst, doolin9.limestone karst, doolin

We were too late to see the array of wildflowers that bloom among the rocks in spring but there was evidence of life in unexpected places.

10.fern in limestone karst

We strolled around the quaint coastal village of Doolin with breathtaking views from the harbour.

11.doolin harbour12.doolin

Once part of the mainland, Crab Island is a renowned surfing location, though not today. The building is the remains of an 1830s constabulary outpost.

13.crab island

Further across the water, the Aran Islands are just visible. The group of three islands sit at the mouth of Galway Bay and can be reached by ferry from Doolin.

14.aran islands

There is a path along the cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, about an 8km walk with green fields on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other.

15.doolin cliff walk

Not to mention spectacular scenery along the way.

16.cliffs, doolin

The Cliffs of Moher, on the southwestern edge of The Burren, are 14km of vertical cliffs rising to a height of 214 metres at the highest point. O’Briens Tower stands on that headland, built in 1835 by landowner Cornelius O’Brien as a viewing point for tourists. From Doolin, we could see beyond the tower, all the way to the rock formation known as  Hag’s Head at the southern end of the cliffs.

17.cliffs of moher, o'briens tower & hag's head

We left Doolin to have a closer look at the cliffs, passing a contented local on the way

18.doolin local

and a rather impressive edifice on a nearby hill. The 16th century Doonagore Castle has been in the same family since the 1970s and is their private holiday home. The views would be astounding.

19.doonagore castle

We finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher in all their majesty but time was ticking on and we still had no idea where we would be spending the night.

 

22.cliffs of moher