Thursday morning and we puttered about our cottage. It was to be a day of walking into town, reading menus posted outside pubs and making a list of the restaurant kitchens to be sampled. The three of us rendezvoused at Murphy’s pub for a pint and a spot of late lunch before dropping into the Internet Café for mail call and posting of the previous day’s blog.
|Mike tries to stay busy while I post my blog|
at the Internet Cage
Lunch had been so satisfying that we decided to stay home for dinner, simply picking away at what ever cheese and salad we could rustle up. We also purchased a pack of turf logs so that we could enjoy a cozy evening fire as we each read our books or knitted or watched one of the few TV channels our landlord had provided. It was a great plan, but we had forgotten to purchase anything to get the fire started with. In desperation, we built a teepee of the turf logs and placed a roll of toilet paper under it, in hopes that the burning Charmin would last long enough to jump start the turf. It didn’t.
We decided to do a driving tour out to Slea Head on Friday. This region is fiercely Gaelic. I strongly suggest that you know where you are going because the road signs and signposts are without a word of English. Shortly before lunch we headed out toward Ventry Bay and The Stonehouse café. Great plan, but with no address or other landmarks to direct us to the actual location of the Stonehouse, we stopped into the Skipper instead. Bad decision. Three watery bowls of mushroom soup, no doubt made with reconstituted mushrooms that were then pulverized and topped with butter that lay in a film upon the soup, one serving of pate, one warm Corrona and two cups of tea for 37 Euros. When we had first entered the establishment the host had warned us that we had to eat quickly as he was expecting a tour bus within the hour. That should have been our first clue that this was a tourist trap, but did we listen?
We continued our drive along the peninsula, passing the beehives that were actually huts built by ancient monks to protect them from the elements. They are sprinkled among many of the local farms that cling to the road along the cliffs. If you want to see one up close, there will be a farm wife that will greet you at her gate and then collect a fee before allowing you entrance into her back pasture. You must then shoo the sheep out of the way, watch were you step, and then stoop way down as you enter through the wee little entrance to the beehive for a closer look. We choose not to stop, simply catching a glimpse as we drove toward Slea Head.
WOW! What an impressive sight, as the southwest corner of Ireland disappears into the sea at Slea head. From the top of the cliffs you can look out toward the Blasket Islands. It’s easy to make your way down the cliffs thanks to the making of the movie Ryan’s Daughter. Much of it was filmed at Slea Head and David Lean needed to get the camera and sound equipment down the cliff face. He built a basic road for this purpose and today you can easily walk down the serpentine asphalt roadway to the beach below. Of course, walking up is not quite so easy a walk! But, whether you stay on the top or make your way down to the beach, it is breathtaking.
From Slea Head, the road followed the cliffs and began heading north toward Dun Chaion (pronounced Quin). This is where you can pick up the ferry for a quick ride across to Greater Blasket Island. No one lives on the Blaskets any longer, the last residents leaving the island in 1953. But, it is an area rich in history and heritage. We were lucky enough to find the Blasket Center open and treated to one of the most beautiful and interesting museums I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The Blasket Islanders were a small, tightly knit community who lived an incredibly difficult life. The islands are rocky, fog covered more often than not, and blown by sea dampened winds everyday. Some where in the early nineteen hundreds, Gaelic scholars decided to chronicle the Islanders lives before all their history was lost as the elder members of the community died. Many of the islanders then began to write, recording their history and their way of life. These are the people and the stories that are presented in the Blasket Center today. The building itself is designed to pay tribute to the people of the Blaskett’s. The walls are stone and glass, and as you pass from photograph to photograph through the center, you catch a glimpse of the islands. The main corridor slopes down so that as you work your way through, you are heading down to the sea. At the end, you find yourself in a small glass conservatory looking across the bay. You can still see the island’s last three buildings and the stone walls that divided the farm fields. Breathtaking.
The rest of our drive about was filled with amazing vistas, small enclaves of holiday homes and sheep everywhere. We arrived back at our cottage in time for of each of us to enjoy a few chapters of our individual reads and a cocktail before a late dinner. We chose a traditional restaurant/pub that offered music later in the evening. Dinner was outstanding and the music was a mix of traditional with a hint of blues. All in all, it was a glorious day.