Defeated by the Dingle

On Saturday 21st May 1927 Charles Lindbergh peered down from the cockpit of the Spirit of St Louis on his historic solo transatlantic flight to see the Three Sisters, small coastal peaks at the end of the Dingle peninsula. At last had reached Europe!

The weather must have been better that day.

We pitched our tent in a full-on gale at Europe’s most westerly campsite, advertising a ‘view’ across to those same Sisters.

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Clouds obscuring the Three Sisters

We used to love camping and have many fond memories of family holidays under canvas when our children were small. Mostly in the warmth of France. But we hadn’t tried it for 10 years.

So why are we camping now?

Because real touring cyclists camp. Because we think it might be magical. Because it will certainly be cheaper.

Before investing in a super-lightweight-cycle-touring tent, we decided to give it a go in Ireland with some of our old, heavy gear.

We imagined waking to a beautiful, calm dawn in a gorgeous bay refreshed from a full night of sleep and listening only to the sea gently lapping against the shore.

The reality was that we woke to another wet and windy day in a field full of campervans, sleep broken by our air-mat deflating and listened to the kids next door squabbling over their Coco Pops.

We managed seven nights, but it wasn’t an unqualified success. Camping is not that popular in Ireland … probably because it can be a teeny bit wet.

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The Dingle Peninsula is said to be one of the most beautiful in Ireland. But we didn’t really see it.

Heavy cloud had settled languidly over this part of the country, putting its feet up and refusing to move on. And with the clouds came the gentle Irish rain that feels so soft and seeps into every fold of clothing.

Not the best weather for cycling.

So instead, we headed into the town of Dingle to see what it had to offer. It turned out to be a lot.

The Dingle regatta was in full swing, with rowers braving the rain to race naomhóg, traditional boats made of tarred canvas stretched over a wooden lattice.

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In the evening, we saw a one-man play about the life of a local fisherman and his deep connection to a dolphin that appeared off the coast and never left.

This is based on a truth … there is a bottlenose dolphin in Dingle harbour called Fungie who has been entertaining visitors for 32 years.

Fungie the Dolphin
Fungie      Photo Credit: Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours

The pubs of Dingle are famous for their music, their character and their window displays.

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Dick Macks: Probably the most famous pub in Dingle

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Foxy Johns is also a hardware & bicycle store

They were all full on this Saturday afternoon for one of the sporting occasions of the year – the All Ireland Hurling Final.

So we became sons and daughters of nearby Limerick for a day cheering on their team against Galway, the defending champions. Making the final was a very big deal for Limerick as it is 45 years since they last won.

Hurling players use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opponents goal posts. These look like a football goal with two rugby posts on top. Hit it in the net for a 3 point goal, hit it over the bar for 1 point.

At the end of normal time Limerick were leading by 8 points, a huge margin. But as the referee indicated eight minutes of injury time, the green shirted fans around us started muttering about the curse of ’94 when they had lost to Offaly from just as strong a winning position.

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A Galway player lining up a free hit

Surely it couldn’t happen again!

It could … in injury time Galway roused themselves to score again and again and again. Limerick wobbled but to tears of relief all round, they managed to score the single point they needed to cling on and win.

Cue raucous celebrations!

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Limerick are Champions after 45 years

Hurling is an incredibly fast, tough and skilful sport. It’s a sport that almost makes us wish we were Irish.

Dingle

We only managed one 40km bike ride around the end of the peninsula but it was just as beautiful as we were promised with views out over the Blasket Islands and lots of fascinating local history to discover.

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Looking out to the Blasket Islands

We especially liked the moodiness of Brandon Creek where St Brendan and 14 monks are reputed to have set off in a small boat sometime around AD 535 to cross the Atlantic and eventually reach Newfoundland, stopping at islands along the way (Hebrides, Faroe Islands, Iceland etc.)

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Brandon Creek

This journey was repeated to prove it was possible in 1976 by Oxford graduate, Tim Severin, who made the journey in a replica boat made out of wood, flax, oak bark and wool grease.

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Tim Severin and his replica boat

Not made of such stern stuff, we have to admit we were defeated by the Dingle.

We drove more that we cycled. And we failed to ride over Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest, as it was blowing a gale in thick cloud at the time.

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An optimistic ice-cream van at the top of Conor Pass

On the last morning the sun came out at last. We woke up to see the Three Sisters in all their glory through the flap of our tent. As we sat on the lush grass, drinking coffee and listening to birdsong it almost felt like a moment of magic.

So we hope to come back one day to see the Dingle properly in the sunshine.

And we might rediscover the joy of camping after all. The jury’s still out on that one.

Clare and Andy

Dingle Peninsula
By bike: 40km, 540m climbed
By car: 101km

Wild Atlantic Way (so far)
By bike: 640km, 8878m climbed
By car: 287km

7 thoughts on “Defeated by the Dingle”

  1. We loved Dingle as well even though it’s very touristy. We also managed to see Fungie from the deck of Bella Rosa. 🐬 He comes out to greet all the boats apparently, so he didn’t just choose us because he liked the look of us. It’s all so lovely there even when the weather’s soggy (which it seems is a lot of the time!). Good to read the blog because it reminds me of how charming Ireland is. It must be great to see everything from a bike because you’ll see so much detail.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great photos and crafted words. I look forward to reading every one of these, though I am finding it harder to get inspired to go on a cycling tour of Ireland than I did with Mallorca or Chile 😉 . The wind, rain and cloud, just seem a little too prevalent!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lucky with most of our weather in Ireland – it changed at Galway – we remember the Dingle as a place of great fascination and beauty. But you achieve far more than we did. Really enjoyed these blogs for the writing and pictures but mostly for the huge variety of interest in them. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you – you have brightened up my morning (food shopping with in Tesco’s, stole 5 mins with a coffee). You paint such a romantic picture in Irish drizzle or glorious sunshine. Again, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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