Back To Ireland's Dingle Peninsula, Part 4

March 23 - 31, 2002
By Lewis Nolan

(Updated 5-16-02. Comments are welcome and should be sent to lewis_nolan@yahoo.com)

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Part 1: Memphis to Shannon and Dingle Peninsula via Inch
Part 2: Golf at Cheann Sibeal, Slea Head Drive, overlooking wild coast
Part 3: More Golf, Antiquities, Dingle Town, Crystal Factory, Harbor Sights
Part 4: Castlegregory, Abbyfeal, Adare, Bunratty and flight home
Photo Album

Quick Links to Points of Interest in This Segment:

Abbeyfeale
Adare
Bunratty
Flight Delays

March 29, 2002, Wednesday - Leaving Dingle

We lazed around the hotel and grounds after a leisurely breakfast. We were in no hurry to leave since our drive over the Conor Pass, through several populated areas to Bunratty and the nearby Shannon Airport would take no more than three or four hours, even with stops. The tide was out so we took some interesting photos of the exposed shingle beach. Several men wearing rubber boots and carrying sacks worked the exposed rocks and shallow tide pools for mussels. One had a noisy dog.

We would have enjoyed another week in Dingle, but by late morning it was time to check out of the Dingle Skellig and drive through the low mountains on the torturous pass, toward Tralee. The roadbed is only 1 1/2 cars wide at points, and small cars at that. On one side is the rough rock of the mountain. On the other side is a stone wall, providing a measure of protection from the steep drop beneath. Such narrow roads make for polite drivers. Smoke from field fires lighted by farmers blurred the usually spectacular views of the sea, the Dingle Harbor and the town from the heights of Conor Pass.

This was Good Friday, an official holiday in Ireland, and many businesses were closed. We were northbound, leaving the Dingle Peninsula, and had little traffic going our way. However, people headed to the coast for the long weekend made for a steady stream of southbound traffic.

We took a short detour to Castlegregory, a picturesque village on the shoreline of Tralee Bay. The golden strand is wide and miles long there. With the tide out,
Lewis on strand at Castlegregory
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
acres and acres of seaweed were exposed. But unlike at the much more populated Dingle, we saw nobody out mucking about to harvest mussels and maybe cockles "alive, alive oh." We drove on through Tralee to Abbeyfeale, where Betty spotted a roadside store specializing in Greyhound racing equipment. We had to stop.

We were amazed at the number and volume of feed brands, medicine, equipment and decorative objects offered for sale. We bought a muzzle to replace one that our greyhound, Dickens, had somehow worked off and chewed up back home. We also bought a black and white racing silk to match his coat and an outdated Irish coin with a greyhound on one side and harp on the other. The coin is mounted and attached to a silver chain. All the old Irish Pence and Pound coins have been replaced by Euros. Last year was a year of changeover. Consequently, many signs still include prices in the old denominations. I noticed a change bureau was giving 91 Euros per $100, a worse rate than the 93 I got a week earlier from First Tennessee Bank in Memphis (less a $5 transaction fee).

At Limerick, we detoured a mile or two to the center of town to visit the Kingdom Greyhound Track, so named for the Kingdom of Kerry of medieval times. Normally, the track is open for racing on Friday evenings. But due to the holiday, it was buttoned up tight. High brick and wood walls prevent non-paying sightseers (and bettors) from looking in. But from what we could see, the facility is much nicer than the aging dog track in West Memphis that has been in an accelerating rate of decline ever since casinos came to nearby Tunica, Miss., two decades ago.

We stopped at the postcard-pretty town of Adare to take some pictures of its beautiful park. The park, which we didn't remember seeing on our
Betty by thatched roof at Adare
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
previous visit, was full of thick, green grass, daffodils, heather and some early blooming fruit trees. It's a charming place, right across the street from an Irish Tourism office that was open on this holiday. Nearby are shop buildings roofed with thatch to appeal to American tourists. Signs at the crosswalk by the park entrance on one side of the street warn visitors to "Look to the Right" and on the other side to "Look to the Left" to make them aware of traffic flowing in directions opposite to the U.S. and European patterns. Other signs in English, French and German instruct motorists to "drive in the left lane."

We arrived at Bunratty - site of a castle and recreated Irish village and folk life center we had visited before - shortly after 4 p.m. The first stop was the Tudor Lodge, an attractive B&B we had booked in advance. Less than 20 miles from the Shannon Airport, we thought its location would greatly reduced chances of road-related delays that could get in the way of our flight out the next day.

But despite its garden setting, we were again reminded why we had not gone the B&B route since our first trip to Ireland more than 15 years ago. We found the woman who ran the place to be annoyingly overbearing and about as hospitable as a prison guard. It was plain she didn't like us, either. She clearly wanted our room free of guests early the next day, duplicitously telling us that travelers through Shannon were advised to arrive four hours early. Had we done that, we would have missed the scheduled breakfast she serves promptly at 8 a.m., which would have saved her a few dollars. (Most Irish B&B's give their guests a range of an hour or two for meal service). Had we sheepishly acceded to her airport arrival advice, we would have departed without the breakfast we'd paid for and been stuck with way, way too much time to idle around the airport lounge. As it was, we arrived two hours early to find the terminal all but deserted.

While filling the Nissan rental car's gas tank (about 40 Euros, or $4 per gallon), my arm and watch got doused with gasoline from the cranky pump. The watch stopped working a few days later. It was a bad start to our last evening in Ireland. We soon found out that the Bunratty Castle and heritage center closed for Good Friday. Also dark were all but one or two of the village's restaurants and pubs, including the one recommended by our travel agent, "Dirty Nellie's." Finally, a friendly hotel clerk made some calls on our behalf and found that the Manor House Restaurant was open. I had some good salmon there and Betty had a gigantic butterfly pork chop. We both ate sparingly because of the long trip ahead tomorrow.

March 30, 2002, Saturday - Shannon Airport to Boston and Memphis

We had a light breakfast and departed the B&B without a word from the manager. I've never encountered such rudeness in Ireland and wondered how in the world this woman got into the business.

The rental car was returned without hassle. My golf clubs and other luggage were cursorily and politely examined by Security at check-in and we repaired to the reasonably comfortable terminal lounge to wait for our flight. Betty bought some gifts in the duty free shop and I visited with the young couple from North Carolina we had met in Boston. They were in high spirits, having had a great week of sight-seeing across the South of Ireland.

Our Aer Lingus flight to Boston originated in Dublin, as do many if not most of the U.S.-bound flights from Shannon. It was delayed by more than an hour by a mechanical problem that prevented one of the doors from closing properly. We never knew why, but when it finally landed in Shannon all the passengers who boarded at Dublin got off the plane. It took a long time to get them back on the plane as well as the larger number of passengers who boarded at Shannon. Unlike many American airlines, the Irish don't board by rows, putting an element of Gaellic confusion into the process. My carryon bag was lightly checked as the unorganized scrum of passengers passed a table. Eventually, everybody was on the full plane and we took off for America.

By now we were an hour and a half late. But we had arranged plenty of connection time in Boston and were not overly concerned about making the late afternoon Delta flight to Atlanta. However, there was not adequate time to eat dinner at the airport - particularly since Betty was nailed twice in 30 minutes for major scrutiny of her carryon, her clothing and her ID. She again had to remove her shoes. The airport security staff also gave full treatment to a boy who looked to be about 11 and a feeble old woman with a walker. It's no wonder so many Americans are choosing to drive or stay at home.

Our hopes of making the Memphis connection started fading when we ran into severe thunderstorms as the plane neared Atlanta. Hart Field was closed to incoming and outgoing traffic. The pilot advised that we might have to divert to another airport because fuel was running low. But the weather cleared enough for us to land with fuel to spare The last Delta flight to Memphis had also been delayed by the airport closing, so we still had a chance of making it home that night. The plane was ready and at the gate, but its flight crew had been stuck in another city and was more than two hours late in getting into Atlanta. They finally arrived, reeking of garlic. Boarding was called and we took off for Memphis just before midnight. We were very tired and slept for most of the hour-long flight.

March 31, 2002, Sunday, Memphis

We arrived in Memphis about 12:30 a.m. Unlike our last experience with Delta's baggage system at Memphis International Airport, the plane was quickly unloaded and we collected our luggage without undue delay. There were no waiting taxicabs and it was much too late to call friends for transportation to our house. An accommodating airport employee called a taxicab company. Within 10 minutes, a friendly cabbie driving a station wagon appeared and we were home at 1 a.m. We had been traveling 23 hours and felt it. Exhausted, we showered, fell into bed and slept until midmorning, which is quite late for us. It wasn't long after arising that we drove to the dog track in West Memphis to pick up Dickens. And was he ever glad to see us - and we to see him.

But even with the flight delays on the return trip, the aggravation caused by Security at Boston's Logan Airport, and our dissatisfaction with B&B's, it was another great trip to Ireland. We're looking forward to returning in a few years.

- Memphis, May 14, 2002

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