Woke up to an overcast sky but reduced chance of rain for the day, the scene out the bedroom window was almost enough to me make me want to stay in bed and look at it. Couldn't though, big day planned and still getting mobile later than desirable.
First stop down some tight country roads to see the Dingle lighthouse perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. A long distance look, it was a long cold walk to the lighthouse so a picture had to do instead. Through Dingle and around to the back of the hill we could see from our room. On top of the hill was a stone tower that had been built in the 1840s as a project to employ people affected by The Great Famine of the 1840s. If you are unaware of this disaster, it was caused by a potato blight which destroyed the crops and not only resulted in a famine, but destroyed livelihoods as there was no produce to sell and without income thousands were made homeless and destitute and were forced to try and survive on inadequate government assistance. This period must have been very bad here as it came up a number of times during the day. The tower was always going to be just a photo as it was at the top of the hill and the only way to see it close was to walk up the hill. Not enough time, or inclination. Actually, looking at the hill there was plenty of inclination and that was the problem.
The initial plan was to now visit a Prehistoric History Museum further out on the peninsular however we had heard a lot about Slea Head Drive, a two hour drive on a road winding its way around the peninsular and ending back at Dingle. The decision was to drop the museum, as by then we were well into the drive anyway and as we had to go back to Dingle, why not take the long road. Good decision, very picturesque, interesting things to see and well worth it.
The first section of the drive closely follows the coastline hugging the rock walls of the cliffs and providing great views but with some tight narrow road sections. Along this stretch we saw some Famine Huts. Houses built from slabs of slate and having a thatched roof. These were built and provided for famine victims. In a similar manner, there were also the "Bee Hive Huts". The photo will show why they got this name. Simple slate slab construction including the roof, A bit like an igloo but a bit more substantial in the summer months. The second half of the drive is not as dramatic as it travels through more open country as it winds back to Dingle. Slate was obviously plentiful and most of the fences in the area and often in other places we have travelled are the same basic slate construction.
From Dingle we headed up over Connor Pass, the highest pass in Ireland, hoping that the car would get there without overheating. No problem, but no fun, always waiting for something to go wrong, Only about 5 degrees at the top and with the wind chill factor, quite cool. The road up is a great road and looks recently developed. Going down the western side is a different story, steep, narrow and winding having to stop in turn-outs to let oncoming vehicles through.
From there it was up the western side of the peninsula to Blennerville to check out a windmill. This was an interesting visit. Not only a windmill that had been completely restored to working condition, though only as a tourist attraction, not commercially, but the town was once a major port for the west coast and nearby Tralee and was the main embarkation point for those emigrating to the USA during The Great Famine. This really brings home the size of the disaster when you see figures on the number of ships and emigrants and the numbers that were lost at sea through the use of unseaworthy boats and poorly skilled sailors.
A drive through Tralee saw the ruins of the Ratass Church located as is often the case, amongst the graves of the associated cemetery. Heading east to the town of Castleisland then it was into Limerick and our accommodation.
An hour to sort things out then back in the car to Bunratty and Bunratty Castle for a medieval banquet and entertainment at the castle. The castle was built around 1425 on the site of 4 former wooden castles, eventually falling into disrepair. Restored in the late 1950s, it is now a living educational tourist attraction and is furnished with period 16th century furniture including tapestry wall hangings, sadly these have seen better days, and wooden carvings.
Back in the car for the drive back to Limerick and here we go again, this time, in cool, light rain, we are limited to 80km/h or the radiator temperature would go into the red. That does it, must be a sticking thermostat so we will drop into Shannon Airport tomorrow and see about a replacement.