Sunday, June 28, 2009

Glin to Dingle and Some Grilled Garden Goodies

If more of my Ireland journey journal has you yawning, just scroll down the post almost to the end for Sweetie's take on grilled zucchini.

A few days earlier when we exited the Tarbert ferry, everyone seemed to be following the sign toward the west, toward Dingle. Now it was our turn. We were sad to leave our new found relatives, but also excited about seeing some actual ancient (Stone Age) stone ruins.

On a slightly overcast day we drove back to Tarbert and took the N69 southwest, past Listowel, past Tralee, past Derrymore to Camp. Once we passed Tralee we were on the Dingle peninsula.
Dingle peninsula is a lovely but rocky piece of land and is the westernmost tip of Ireland, which is itself the far western part of Europe.

Dingle is part of the Gaeltacht, a part of Ireland where Gaelic is spoken, traditions of music and poetry and the arts are cherished, and sometimes the signs are only in Gaelic. Coming through pass between Camp and Anascaul we read a sign painted on the road that ended in Mall. We were pretty sure that it wasn’t directing us to a shopping mall. As it turned out the phrase was ‘Taisteal go Mall ‘ which is Gaelic for ‘go slowly’. Fortunately we were going fairly slowly so that we could enjoy the lovely green valley below with fields crisscrossed by hedges and stone walls

and flocks of puffy white sheep here and there.

There even seemed to be a section at the lowest part of the valley for peat farming.
One of the pleasures of Ireland is how clean everything is, both with the lack of trash at the road side and in the towns, but also with the lack of billboards and other visual distractions. We did see some signs that explained how clean and fresh many places looked. There is a national competition for the Tidy Town award.

People keep their personal space in good order, towns plant flowers and paint buildings bright colors.

Getting the award seems to be very important. I wish we had something like that here.
There were plenty of signs for those running for office, but even those seemed to be regulated so that none were terribly large. Multiples of the same sign posted side by side on highway overcrossings was as close as they came to big campaign signage. There are often appropriately sized signs at ruins telling a little bit about the history, but even those are discrete. Road signs are very large when needed and usually well placed and helpful. It seems to me that Ireland has the right idea.

Driving home from the Oakland Airport after our trip the most noticeable signs were the commercial ones; neon signs, lighted signs, and billboards were more numerous and shouted for attention much more than the occasional road sign. They seemed to be a blight on the senses after the serene lack of them in Ireland. Think of a busy American large tourist town and all the bright, overpowering signs and then notice these which were on one of the main streets in Dingle which is a major tourist destination.

After coming through the pass we were able to see Dingle Bay on our left as we continued on to Dingle town and our next B & B, Harbor Nights, which sits right on the water of Dingle harbor. Housed in narrow, traditional row houses,

the rooms were similar to a good motel’s, but the beds were top notch and there was a tea set up in the armoire and a good shower and nice sliding door to the balcony. The breakfast room is bright and well appointed and the common room upstairs has really comfy chairs and good, free Internet connections. The innkeeper, Kathleen, was welcoming and efficient and her helpers charming.
One of the advantages of staying here, besides all rooms being en suite and there being parking behind the B&B is that you are within easy walking distance of Dingle town. Should you wish to stay there, they have a web site:
While Sweetie caught up with his e-mail upstairs, I headed off to town and had a look around and mailed some post cards. I was charmed by some old fellas chatting by the harbor

and by some schoolgirls at lunchtime gathered by a grocery store.

Store fronts might have dolphins ‘swimming’ on the front

or they might be adorned with a beautiful carved face with knotwork hair.

There was a lot of traffic and plenty of shops.

I went into a pottery shop

and fell in love with a beautiful and unusual teapot which is the work of the owner’s daughter. I had it shipped home and have already enjoyed the wonderful balance it has…so important in a teapot that is for use, not just looking pretty. Isn’t it beautiful?

That evening we celebrated our anniversary (a little late) and enjoyed a fine dinner at Fenton’s with two kinds of fresh fish. Mine, a flat fish similar to a flounder, was poached and finished with a light butter, lemon and chive sauce. Sweetie’s was a steak, similar to halibut, grilled and it came with a mushroom sauce. Both were excellent and you could tell that it was very fresh fish. Fresh veggies were lightly sautéed. The light as air potato soufflé was a perfect way to enjoy the extra sauces. We shared a strawberry rhubarb crumble for dessert. It came with a dollop of whipped cream, but also with a pitcher of barely warm, pourable crème anglaise . Heavenly! Too bad I had left the camera at home. In fact, most of the time I was in Ireland I forgot to take food photos. What kind of a food blogger am I?

As we walked home from dinner it began to get dark. There were dramatic clouds on the horizon. We hoped for good weather the next day because we were going to explore ancient Iron Age forts, beehive huts used by monks, and hoped to have a picnic, too.

The next morning I headed for town to get supplies for the picnic. I spotted a bakery with industrial sized beaters hung in front of a window. I missed cooking and baking!

Inside I bought some goodies for a picnic I had planned. One slice was a Victoria Sponge enrobed in chocolate. The other was puff pastry with pastry cream and powdered sugar. (The last made a mess in the rental car, but was really good.)
At another grocery store by the post office I found local cheese, a wonderful seeded baguette, some sliced sausage, fruit and juice. At the fish market across from the B&B I bought some salmon pate’ which finished off the picnic provisions.

Starting a little later this way was a good thing. The road along the edge of the peninsula as you go in a clockwise direction is very narrow and the tour buses you are sharing the road with are very wide. Since most of the buses leave much earlier, we had little traffic and could enjoy the wonderful sea views and felt blessed with the slightly overcast but good (but windy) weather.

At Ventry Harbor there was a nice sandy four mile long curved beach. We pulled in and had our picnic, but the wind made it nicer to eat in the car.
Fortified, we headed off to Dun Beg Fort, an Iron Age (500 BC) ring fort on a rocky promontory. This is looking straight down to the sea.
Comparing this actual historic ring fort to the one we had seen at Craggaunowne, it seemed like the real one was larger and that there were multiple rings. Amazing how these unmortared walls

are still standing so many hundreds of years later. The doorways were very low,
but lined up with the breaks in the ring walls.

You can see that the underlying land is very rocky. Imagine having to clear all that rock!

They have estimated that there are something like 40,000 ring forts remains all over Ireland. We had parked across the street at a stone house where a traditional boat called a currach is permanently dry docked. It looked a bit like the Brendan.
Our next stop was at a group of beehive huts or clochans.

They were likely the living quarters for monks. They are enclosed by a circular wall, like the ring forts,

but the rock on the huts continues on up to make a roof, with spaces to let smoke out. Although the entry ways are low,

inside you can see that the roof is a fair distance over your head. Some like these above have lost their roof section. Imagine living in rock buildings like these so close to the water! Some of them were connected with a sort of corridor. You can see Sweetie on one side of two that are connected.

One of the interesting thing about the western part of the Dingle peninsula and, indeed, the area around the Cliffs of Mohr in County Clare, is that there is so little topsoil before you reach underlying rock. Getting to the sand and seaweed to build up the soil can be a challenge when this is the coastline.

It turns out that the inhabitants started out with mostly rock and hard clay and slowly built up the soil by first clearing rocks and piling them into walls, then sand and seaweed were laid on the clay and in time it was good for grass for grazing. A hard way to create soil that wasn’t even deep enough in most places to plant anything. Sheep and cows were grazing near the beehive huts, carrying on centuries old traditions.

Having had enough of stone and wind and narrow roads for the day, we turned around and headed back to Dingle Town. Here is where we were from Glin (day 4 & 5) to Tarbert, Listowel, Tralee and on to Dingle and then the stone fort and beehives (day 6 & 7) and left Dingle on day 8. On day 8 we headed toward Killarney and it’s beautiful lakes and gardens.

Speaking of gardens, thanks to drip irrigation installed before we left, mine is doing really well!

For the food portion of this post, we turn to a summer staple, fresh from the garden zucchini. There has been a fair number of lovely yellow, light green and dark green zucchini squash (also known as corregettes) being harvested so far, with some being given away to friends and neighbors, too.
In case you were wondering, I rarely give more than three medium sized at a time and never any of those baseball bat sized ones that managed to hide under the broad leaves. I like folks to be happy when I turn up with squash, not running the other way in dismay.

This "recipe" works for all types of summer squash; just be sure the pieces are large enough or they might fall through the grillwork and onto the fire or coals. For small pieces, use a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil on top of the grill to hold them.

"RECIPE": Sweetie is a genius with the grill, so we cut the squash lengthwise in thick slices, slather on some olive oil, sprinkle on a little garlic salt or herbs and a good grinding of fresh black pepper and they are ready to grill. I like them slightly charred but not so cooked that they are mushy. A few in the photo were a little too charred for my taste, but Sweetie likes them that way. A nicely cooked zucchini which retains is firmness and has a little sweetness from being so fresh is a true summer treat. Add in some golden bell peppers, also grilled, and you have a plate of goodness.


  1. I wish there were a Tidy Town award here! While Oakland Airport is never a good example of anything in terms of civic awards, I think you have to balance that attitude against where you were. Dingle is a tourist town, but it's not that big. Friends of ours who live in Dublin call it "the filthy city." Much of Glasgow is a STY. Yet, Pitlochry, the town we visited last weekend, is gorgeous, though there are throngs of tourists and tour buses EVERYWHERE. Conversely, where I went to grad school in Oakland is gorgeous -- and Monterrey and Mendocino, which gets tons of tourists, cyclists, tour buses and the like, is generally pristine.

    It's not perfect here, either. By no means.

    As the inimitable Dorothy Parker once said, "you can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think." You can give people parks and gardens and good things in a city, but then you'll have to work hard to clean it up as they work equally hard to pitch Irn Bru bottles and other crap into it. Smart city councilors to think of the Tidy Towns award. I hope it has a nice fat purse to go along with it, so people stay deeply motivated.

  2. Tired out it, I think not. We're talking Paris again - and I'll go to Paris anyday I'm asked but gosh I'd love to go to all these places - Tralee has always called me, you know just one of those names you want to see to give it true life in your mind.

  3. Tanita, It was actually someone who was looking at my photos who commented on there being no visible trash...I know that big cities usually have some and we never made it to Dublin for comparison. Guess we should just enjoy the places that remain beautiful for their beauty and the big cities for their excitement and museums, etc. I'm pretty sure that Tidy Towns in a national program, but will have to check that out! Thanks for the thoughtful comment!!!

    Tanna, Next time we should switch...I'll go to Paris and you go to Tralee. LOL. Guess not...who could give up Paris after all? Glad you are enjoying the travel stories...there will be a couple more.

  4. Ah,Luimneach. :) Those street signs bring back memories from my time in Dublin. To me neither Dublin nor small towns in the countryside were overly tidy or untidy.

    Grilled zuchini are looking good too.

  5. I love those dolphins in the wall. that is so unique.

  6. Good to see it nice and tidy. In the late 70's I was over in Ireland when there were several labor strikes including garbage pick up. It was a sad state of affairs when power would go out, streets were messy and you didn't know if the ferry would run to take me back to England to fly home. It was a definite contrast from two years before. But I love the country and proud of my Irish heritage. I wish I could have seen more of the country.