Twice around Slea Head

Our experience of the famed Slea Head Drive started in the middle. When we set out in the morning the mist appeared to be dissipating over Dingle harbor, but driving along the coastal road turned out to be like tunneling through meringue. The various monuments along the road are all monitored by guys in little huts demanding money, which I refused to pay when it was unlikely that the monuments would be visible from more than a foot away, so we pressed on toward the tip of the peninsula. Around Dunquin the fog finally started to creep up the hill, revealing this:

We pulled off the road just in time to avoid being run down by the Paddy Wagon, a screaming-green tour bus adorned with cartoons of (and seemingly driven by) manic leprechauns. To kill some time while waiting for the leprechauns to get as far away as possible, we visited the Blasket Centre, an unusually decent example of the usually disappointing multimedia-cultural-interpretation-center genre. Maybe it helped that the culture being interpreted was so small — practically every person who lived on the Blasket Islands in the 20th century seemed to be represented by a picture, recording, or written anecdote.

Next we headed inland toward Gallarus Oratory, an impressive dry-stone structure built, the back of the ticket tells us, “by early Christians who loved their trade. Life was much simpler then, and men understood God and His ways much better than they do now.” Ah, the simple life, with nothing to do but worship God, work from dawn till dusk in the mud-fields, try to keep warm and dry by huddling under a pile of rocks, and wait for the Vikings to kill you.

Nearby is this signpost, apparently indicating that the trail is for saints only.

Next stop on the peninsular tour is Kilmalkedar Church, which sports some nice Romanesque ripoffs of the sculptures in Cormac’s Chapel.

When we got there the church was hosting a school group, kids spilling everywhere. Ever disloyal to my own species, I went and hung out with some lambs until the humans were gone.

By now the sky was clear, so we decided to head back over to the part of the coast that had earlier been clotted with fog. We did not visit the signposted Prehistoric Dunbeag Fort, which was guarded by a ferocious beast:

However, we did poke around the Fahan beehive huts, which were last occupied either in ultra-ancient times or sometime before, oh, 1950, depending on whom you ask.

After Gallarus Oratory the beehive huts were a bit of an anticlimax. Maybe the hut-builders didn’t share the Gallarus architects’ great love of their trade.

They can pass off just about anything as a prehistoric ruin around here, it seems.

The pleasantest way back to town was to follow the loop around Slea Head again, so here we are back where we started, in the middle, which is to say the end.


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