Tag Archives: Pub

Another Day, Another Peninsula

17 May

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Friar's Glen

Friar’s Glen

We started our last full day in Ireland by backtracking. After another amazing breakfast at Friars Glen we set off back down the Ring of Kerry in the clockwise direction toward Kenmare. Within about fifteen minutes we reached Ladies’ View. Ladies’ View is pretty much what it says on the tin, a scenic view. There’s a car park, a cafe and a gift shop, and a spot where you can look north across the Killarney National Park. The panorama takes in Black Valley, the Upper and Middle Lakes, McGillycuddy Reeks and the Gap of Dunloe. The location is named for Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting, who are said to have exclaimed and made much of the view when the Queen visited Ireland in 1861. After a brief stop we headed back toward Killarney Town.

We pulled over on the south side of the Upper Lake and walked a short distance through the scrub to the shore. The Upper Lake is one of the three in the park, the others being Lough Leane and Muckross Lake. We stopped just south of a short tunnel carved out of the side of the mountain that appeared to be nearly a feature of the landscape it looked so old. Indeed, I found an illustration of the same tunnel in The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland, by J. Stirling Coyne and N.P. Willis, published in 1841.

The Upper Lake

The Upper Lake

We admired the view across the lake and I put a hand in the water (I have to touch everything), then we hopped back into the Suzuki Swift and scooted up to Killarney Town. We needed Irish stamps for a few postcards, and of course who can resist the “Everything’s €2” store? It was midday before we were on our way to the Dingle Peninsula.

The Beach at Inch

The Beach at Inch

Our first stop was the beach at Inch. It is nearly a mirror image of the beach at Rossbeigh on the Kerry Peninsula across the water to the south, a spot we had visited the day before, though the beach at Inch is sandy where Rossbeigh is rocky. We followed Bridget’s directions and after visiting the beach stopped about a mile outside of town to look back and take in the view. We drove west through the countryside, stopping occasionally to simply get out and stand and stare at the endless green patchwork of fields. After rain in London, rain in Paris, rain in Normandy, and rain in Amsterdam, we had a spot of good luck in Ireland. The weather was clear and stunning for the two full days that we were exploring the Kerry and Dingle peninsulas.

Strand Street facing the harbor in Dingle

Strand Street facing the harbor in Dingle

We stopped at Dingle Town in the early afternoon and did a little shopping. The shops and homes are painted lovely bright colors. From the look of it, Dingle is still very much a fishing town and is the largest settlement on the peninsula. Rather than stopping for lunch we simply snacked our way down the road. We purchased a few things for family and friends and then set out for the first real planned destination of the day.

I actually had a fair amount of trouble finding the Gallarus Oratory and it wasn’t the first destination in the area I chose. I wanted to see an ogham stone. I very badly wanted to see an ogham stone. There are a few websites dedicated to their locations and translations, and I had located one at the far west end of the peninsula. That the Gallarus Oratory was only a few miles away was an added bonus.

The often repeated story of the structure’s purpose is that it was a church for pilgrims. Séipéilín Ghallarais in Irish translates to “House of the foreigners” or “Shelter of the foreigners.” Like the stone forts we visited in Kerry, the oratory is difficult to date with certainty. The generally accepted time frame places its construction anywhere from 1,500 to 1,200 years ago, although according to at least one historian it could have been constructed a mere 900 years ago. I recall my humanities teacher touching briefly on the oratory’s construction in high school and I remember thinking it was a fascinating building.

Like everyplace else in Ireland the best I could manage as far as directions was a latitude and longitude obtained online (52°10’17.2″N 10°21’02.4″W, or 52.171440, -10.350660). This translated to a slightly less accurate location once it went into the GPS. This got us to a pull-off on the side of an unnamed road. I pulled over, looked left and right and directly ahead and saw hedges, fields and low stone walls. I knew I had to be in the right area but saw nothing to indicate where the oratory might be. I decided that this was a good spot to get the picture of the two of us in our tiny little rental car that I’d been wanting to take. I got out, put the camera on a handy stone wall, set the timer and then got back in the car. Smile! I noted that the car was all in frame and that we were both looking at the camera, and rolled on down the road. A short distance away I found the entrance to the Gallarus Oratory Visitor’s Center. What I did not notice until more than a year later when looking at the car selfie, was the little brown sign at the far end of the pull-off that pointed the way to the footpath that lead directly to the oratory.

So to be clear… you can park your vehicle on the side of the road and walk to the oratory any time, night or day, free of charge.

Or…

You can go to the visitor’s center and pay €6 per person. That may sound like a bum deal, and if you’ve studied and just want to have a look at the building I encourage you to park at the pull-off (It’s actually a shorter walk), but you do get something for your €6. There is a small gift shop, a cafe (Not open when we visited), a parking lot, a short film on Irish archeology, and toilets. We also got to meet Katy the Kitty, who was very sweet. As I understand it, the visitor’s center is a private venture put together by the fellow who owns the property adjacent to the oratory. Good for him I guess.

The Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory is of cut stone assembled into a single long corbel vault. Howard Goldbaum points out on his really really awesome website Voices from the Dawn, that this method of construction continued in Ireland with only minor alterations for thousands of years. At a glance it looks to have been put together with no mortar, although apparently a thin layer of lime was used internally to hold the stones in place. There is a single entrance just over 5′ tall and a narrow window set into the east wall. The roof has a just visible sag in the middle. I remember that in my humanities class it was introduced as an example of an “Upturned boat” building.

Katy Kitty

Katy Kitty

While it is traditionally said to be an early Christian church, the name suggests it may have been quite literally a shelter. A place for people from outside of Dingle to spend the night while in the area. The building bears no markings and practically nothing has been recovered from the sections taken in the area. It’s true use may remain a mystery.

After watching the film, seeing the oratory, using the toilets and giving Katy Kitty a scritch behind the ears we headed on to the Church at Kilmalkedar, about 4 km away in a loop around R559 through Murreagh.

The Church at Kilmalkedar

The Church at Kilmalkedar

I first learned about the church solely as the site of an ogham stone. The church itself is fascinating. The current structure is a ruined church from around the 12th Century with some Romanesque features. While the area is associated with Saint Brendan, it is thought to have originally been a monastery founded by the local Saint Maolcethair. There are finials atop the three gables (The roof of the church is gone), incredibly beautiful arches throughout, and a columned gallery.

Day15 Ireland (59)

The Latin

The Latin “Alphabet Stone”

Inside the church is also an alphabet stone dating perhaps from the 500’s covered in Latin with an inscribed cross. One local legend has it that the church was built in a single night by the faeries. The church is surrounded by graves from various periods, and a modern cemetery that appears to still be in use sits adjacent.

Sun dial

Sun dial

In front of the church there is a huge rectangle stone cross of unknown age and a sun dial. The dial has beautiful carving on both sides and the dial face is divided into four sections, likely for the five canonical hours that made up the divisions of the monastic day.

And then there was the ogham stone. This was essentially the reason for our visit to the area. Well, what brought us to this particular part of Dingle at any rate. Ogham is the written expression of Primitive and Old Irish. The earliest inscriptions date from the 300’s, although the belief is that the form originated sometime in the 1st Century BC. It is composed of a series of slash marks along a vertical or horizontal line.

The ogham stone at Kilmalkedar

The ogham stone at Kilmalkedar

The vast majority of surviving inscriptions are proper names, and are believed to be funerary in nature. The ogham stone outside the Day15 Ireland (64)Church at Kilmalkedar bears a partial inscription on one face, and “ANM MAILE-INBIR MACI BROCANN” on another. This translates to “the name Mael Inbir, son of Brocan.” It is likely that this was a local religious leader of some import and there is the possibility that the inscription was made on an existing Standing Stone. The stone also appears to rest in it’s original position, something of a rarity.

You can download fabulous 3D PDF renderings of the ogham stone, the alphabet stone, and the sun dial at the Ogham In 3D project website, here.

We continued to the end of the peninsula on R559 and around Slea Head. We pulled over to admire the view of the Atlantic and the Blasket Islands from the cliffside.

The whole country s like this exercise caution.

The whole country is like this, exercise caution.

Further along are the Dunbeg Promontory Fort and several bee hive stone huts. I’d have loved to have visited them as well, but there are only so many hours in a day, even on the ould sod. There are as many as 30,000 ancient stone sites in Ireland. Not enough time indeed.

Slea Head

Slea Head (You can see Valencia Island and the Fogher Cliffs across the water to the right of the headland)

As you make your way along the southern coast of the peninsula you’ll also be treated to an up close view of a lovely stream that comes rushing down the hillside and crosses the road before continuing on to the sea. I’ve checked, this is a permanent feature. As if the narrow road loaded with tourists in rental cars (Like myself) wasn’t enough, you now have to contend with running water over a hairpin turn on a cliffside road. We learned pretty fast that in general you had nothing to fear if the folks behind the wheel were a little severe-looking and wearing a hat. They were locals. Four girls in a Kia looking EVERYWHERE but directly ahead? Tourists. Watch your butt.

It's not bug, but a feature.

It’s not a bug, but a feature.

We made our way back to Killarney Town, parked near the town center, and wandered about on foot until we found a likely looking pub. We had a nice dinner, throughout which we kept hearing shouts from the back corner of the pub. Bachelor party apparently, and the lads were having a grand old time. At one point I got up to use the gents and rounded the corner headed toward the gathering. There were two of them. I smiled and nodded and got the standard Irish greeting “Y’ aright?” (Gotta love a people who don’t say “Hello” or “Good evening” but ask “Are you ok?”)

I replied “Yeah. You?”

“Yeah.”

One of the things I find wildly entertaining about Ireland and the UK is their approach to bachelor and bachelorette parties. They are very, very, very easy to identify, and we encountered them everywhere. They wear shirts. We encountered far more “Hen Nights” than “Stag Do’s” while on our trip, but these guys were wearing the uniform. White t-shirts with photograph on the front and the groom-to-be’s name across the back with the date. But the guy on the front didn’t look like either of the gentlemen before me. I asked which one of them was getting married. Neither, as it turned out. The groom was stuck somewhere hours away yet and they had no idea if anyone else from the do was going to make it. They’d started without them. Congratulations, offers for me to join them, and fist bumps all around, and I went back to join Julia.

We finished our dinner and returned to Friar’s Glen. Mary was fantastic as always. We settled up our bill and she made sure there was a lunch packed for us in the mud room refrigerator, since we’d be up and out at fist light to make the drive to the Shannon Airport. We were heading into the last week of our trip, and the downhill run would begin… in Scotland!

Take good care

© 2015 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator

The Bloody Tower

5 Jun

Day 2

Sunday, April 15…. first full day on the ground in England.  First order of business was to have some breakfast. I left Julia to continue knitting up her raveled sleeve of care and made my way to the dining room. The George had an average-sized room for a hotel its size and they served an average English breakfast; Tea, fried eggs, toast, bacon, bangers (What we in the States would call sausage links), mushrooms, baked beans and tomatoes. I skipped the tomato and beans and supplemented with cereal in milk from the sideboard. As I was dining alone the waitress asked me to take a seat with another gentleman flying solo. In true British fashion we didn’t speak a word to each other (We hadn’t been introduced).

Cartwright Gardens the morning of my outing.

Thus fortified I made my way out onto the street where I managed to find a bodega that carried Mountain Dew for my beautiful young bride (They don’t call them bodegas in London. I’m not sure what they’re called, apart from a “Shop” I suppose). This made me very popular with the other 50% of our little group. Once dressed, packed (The staff was moving us down to our single room while we were out for the day), and in Julia’s case full of neon green caffeinated soda, we set off for the Tower of London.

We popped down to the Russell Square Underground station armed with our trusty Oyster cards ready to zip over to the Tower. An Oyster card is a metal scan card the size of a credit card. It is a refillable pass for the London public transit system above and below ground. Immediately upon our arrival in London we purchased the cards at a cost of £5 and added £30 to each card. Fares on the Underground are figured in zones that radiate out from the city center. Most tourist destinations are well within Zone 1. You scan the card upon entering the Tube or boarding a bus, then again when you exit the system and the correct amount for the distance you’ve traveled is deducted from the card (You MUST scan out of the Underground, otherwise you will be charged full-fare price to the farthest zone). Once you reach a fixed amount for the day it won’t deduct any more, making your card a day pass. This gives you the best of both worlds. If you make only one or two trips, you’re charged the single rate. Once you reach the threshold amount, you are charged no more than the cost of a single day pass, saving you money over the single rate. Just remember, you will have to see a ticket agent to purchase or add value to a card if you are using an American credit card, so allow a tiny bit of extra time on your first outing. (Additional information on the Underground here.)

It was still the weekend, so there was still track work going on, and this meant there were absolutely no trains running to Tower Hill. Service on the Central Line had been replaced by a bus, so we made our way to the Embankment and rode one of the iconic red double-decker buses across London. Much slower than the Tube, but we were armed with a tour company map that we had picked up at the hotel, and with this we were able to get the story on one or two of the notable landmarks we passed along the way.

We arrived at Tower Hill at about 11:00AM. Just across Tower Hill road there is a section of the old city walls built upon a foundation of the original Roman walls that surrounded Londinium.  The wall was one of the largest Roman projects in Britain and went up sometime between 190 and 225. There is a small replica statue of the emperor Trajan on the site.

Roman walls

We’d paid online for our tickets the night before, and just had to stop by the office to pick them up.  Anytime you can do this for any venue I highly recommend it.  Purchasing tickets in advance often lets you skip lengthy queues outside popular attractions and there is almost always a discount (In this instance, £2.90 per ticket. Official website and ticket prices here).  The Tower is looked after by the Historic Royal Palaces, a charity that manages several palaces owned by the Queen on behalf of the British people. HRP receives no money form the government or the Crown and relies on ticket sales, donations and volunteers.

A panorama of the Tower taken from near the ticketing area

The Tower of London is quite impressive. It is a massive fortress that is actually composed of several different buildings with the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror, at its center. It has served as a royal castle, armory, treasury, mint, menagerie, observatory and prison. Several notable persons were imprisoned and executed within the Tower (And the Two Princes, who disappeared from the Tower, are held by tradition to have been murdered there). Today it is still the home of the Crown Jewels, which are on display in a newly renovated section of the Waterloo Barracks.

I really want a trebuchet. I have friends that I am pretty sure could make that happen. Just sayin’…

I first visited the Tower in 1989. Of course the overall structure of the place hasn’t changed in a scant 20 years, but the experience of visiting the Tower has changed dramatically. The trend in museums over the last few decades has been toward the theatrical. The Royal Armouries displays are quite different, and the White Tower has been taken down to the bare bones inside.

Foot armor of King Henry VIII

While I recalled most of the items we saw there, they were in new and dynamic settings with more detailed explanations that placed them in a larger historical context.

The biggest difference, however, is in the display of the Crown Jewels. The display has been completely renovated with funding from De Beers.  The re-presentation was opened in late March of this year. As you enter the Jewel House you see a multi-media presentation about the coronation gear.  The core of the collection is in a central vault, where visitors glide by slowly on an airport-style people mover. I recommend going back around for a second, third, or even fourth look from both sides because these pieces are amazing. The jewels in the Tower are the “New” Crown Jewels that were remade in 1661 for Charles II, the older regalia having been broken up by Cromwell (Whose name and memory we spit on forever) after the English Civil War. While looking at the collection of ceremonial Maces we asked a question of one of the Warders and got a fantastic history lesson. The men and women serving in the Tower WANT you to ask questions, and you will get so much more out of your visit if you do. (Photography is not allowed inside the Crown Jewels display. Since I am trying to make sure I generate all the content for this blog I will not be adding photos not taken by myself or Julia)

We visited the museum of the Royal Fusiliers. The Fusiliers were formed out of two companies of Tower Guards in 1685. While the name has changed from time to time with reorganizations, the Fusiliers have been a fighting unit for over 300 years. The museum is full of interesting exhibits and artifacts. These range from commemorative tins that contained chocolate sent to the troops as a Christmas gift from the Queen in 1900, to a bust of Hitler the Fusiliers hauled back from Germany. There is one artifact that is not in the museum however, the King’s Colours (A regimental standard) that the regiment carried at the battle of Cowpens in 1781. The Fusiliers were nearly wiped out, suffering the loss of 300 men. The battle of Cowpens was fought in South Carolina. The King’s Colours are still on display as a trophy of war at West Point Military Academy in New York. Felt weird standing there reading that.

I did not know that the Tower had served as a menagerie.

Sculpture of lions that were once kept at the Tower

There are of course the Tower Ravens, but it also once housed lions, baboons, and even elephants at various times. New to the Tower are life-sized metal wire sculptures throughout the fortress of the animals that were once kept there.

A Tower raven, about 16 inches tall. VERY big birds.

Also new since my last visit was the memorial to the ten persons executed on the Tower Green. The memorial was installed in 2006. It is comprised of a glass pillow on two disks, a glass disk bearing the names of the ten people and a granite disk inscribed with a remembrance poem by the artist, Brian Catling.

Memorial on the Tower Green

If you should find yourself in Kentucky back in the States and have a day to spare I recommend the Frazier Museum in Louisville. It has on permanent display a collection from the Royal Armouries and the Tower of London, the only one of its kind outside the UK. I’ve visited the Frazier more than once and there is always something fascinating to see.

We left the Tower and stopped at a fish & chip stand outside the gate before walking to the Tower Bridge.  Apparently lots of folks confuse Tower Bridge with nearby London Bridge. The easy way to remember the difference is that the Tower Bridge has towers on it… and is next to the Tower. Really.

I think Tower Bridge is incredibly beautiful. To me it has an almost fairy tale look to it.  The bridge has just undergone restoration, and particularly with the Summer Olympics coming up it is being made spic and span (There were workman hanging from the south suspension portion of the bridge the day we crossed).

Tower Bridge

The bridge was completed in 1894 and was operated by a hydraulic/steam engine system until being converted to hydro-electric in 1974. Originally a greenish color, the suspension portion of the bridge was painted blue with red and white accents in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It has just been repainted those colors and it looks amazing. The upper pedestrian span now houses the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Adult admission is £8.00. If you’re even more into planning ahead than I am, check this site to see when the bridge will lift to allow a boat passage.

We crossed the bridge and wandered a bit to the west walking along the Thames. We passed the HMS Belfast (Currently closed) and wandered around the Southwark Cathedral and under the southern end of London Bridge. Then we hopped on the Tube and took a short side trip.

Trinity Church Square is on Trinity Street east of Borough High Street. Get off at the Borough Underground station on the Northern line and walk south along the High Street, turn left onto Trinity. The square is about 200 yards on your right. Standing in the center of the square is the (Purported) oldest outdoor statue in London.

Statue of Alfred the Great, (Maybe) The oldest free-standing outdoor statue in London

The story goes like this; The statue is believed to be of Alfred the Great. Alfred is considered the first English king and re-founded the city of London in 886 (We know that cuz we saw a plaque!). Some sources indicate that the statue was moved to Trinity Square in 1822 from Westminster, where it had stood since 1372.  However, there are others who think the statue may have been created for the gardens at Carlton House in 1735.  Carlton House was demolished in 1825. Julia is somewhat skeptical to say the least.

Controversy aside, the statue sits in a beautiful square directly in front of the Henry Wood Hall. The flowers and trees around the square were in full bloom when we stopped by.  Looking at it alone in this setting it is certainly easy to believe it has stood for over 600 years

Our next stop was Kensington Gardens.  We took the Tube to the Queensway stop on the Central line.  This will put you out on the northern side of the park just by the Broad Walk to Kensington Palace (And incidentally just by a restroom right inside the park).  We strolled down toward the palace and as we walked I heard Julia chuckling to herself.

“What?” I asked.

“We’re in England.”

Indeed.

Duck pond at Kensington Palace

We walked in the gardens and around the duck pond by the palace, and then Julia noticed a golden cross just above the trees nearby. She asked what it was and I confessed that I had no idea. We walked south past the Round Pond and came upon the Albert Memorial.

Ok, I had never even HEARD of the Albert Memorial. It is stunning, absolutely stunning.  It is situated just across Kensington Road from the Royal Albert Hall. The memorial consists of a massive gilded statue of Prince Albert seated under a gothic canopy. There are eight statues representing the four continents of the Empire (Asia,Europe,Africa, andAmerica) and four Victorian industrial arts & sciences (Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering, and Manufacture).

The Albert Memorial

Victoria commissioned the memorial shortly after Albert’s death in 1861 and it was paid for by public subscription.  It stands more than 170 feet tall and is simply amazing to look at. It was recently renovated and if you are in the area make time to have a look.

We walked along the south side of the park through the flower gardens to the Princess Diana Memorial by The Serpentine. The memorial is a circular flowing stream and quite lovely. A plaque nearby explains how the memorial was composed of more than 500 pieces of granite cut using a hyper-accurate computer guided cutter. The Princess of Wales Memorial Walk also winds through the park (And several others in the area). It is marked out by plaques set into the pathway.

Princess Diana Memorial

Detail from the Italian Gardens

From the Diana Memorial we walked north along the Long Water. The collection of fountains and sculptures at the northern end of the Long Water is collectively known as the Italian Garden. We got there as the sun was setting and watched the ducks paddling around the fountains and the evening joggers going by.  After a while I finally figured out that the planks going down into each pool of water was so the ducks could get in and out.

Trivia geeks take note: There is a statue of a seated man on the east side of the gardens with an inscription that just reads “Jenner.” There is no explanation or even the subject’s full name. Turns out he is the man likely responsible for saving more lives than anyone else in human history. Edward Jenner created the first smallpox vaccine that used cowpox, and is considered the “Father of immunology.”

It was getting dark so we headed back to Cartwright Gardens, and began that evening’s dinner dash. We started at the Nelson just around the corner from The George. There was a chalkboard sign out front advertising a Sunday Roast. We went in, Julia had a seat, and I walked up to the bar to order our food.

“I’d like to order the roast.”

“Oh, sorry we’re out.”

“Ok, well what about the pork roast, or chicken?”

“No, we’re out of food. The kitchen is closed.”

“Ah.”

Not even 8PM. Off we go.

We wound up at an Italian place called Balfour on Marchmont Street. We asked for a table and were asked if we had reservations. I can’t imagine how pathetic we must’ve looked when we told them “No.” After a few minutes conferring and re-arranging we got a table. Crisis averted (For today).

The food was quite good, if served absurdly hot. Like, harm-yourself-and-require-medical-attention hot. We found this to be true in many places across Europe.  Most establishments are smaller and your food doesn’t sit around? They’re using microwaves? Dunno, but watch yourself so you don’t get burned. I had the chicken parmesan with chips*. It’s England, just about everywhere you go chips are THE side. Even a menu item to themselves lots of places.  I also had the obligatory pint of cider and we looked through the pictures on our phones from the day.

We’d been moved down to our single room at The George. It was what I would consider an average size. The exception is the bathroom. I guess more precisely you would call it the toilet, as it had only a shower and not a bath. Since the hotel was not built as a hotel but a residence they’ve had to put the toilets where they could. This is accomplished buy putting in what is basically a one-piece fiberglass insert that is very much like the toilet in an RV. Overall I’d say it isn’t much more than 6 feet long. The front edge of the toilet is under the sink and the shower was not much wider than my shoulders. It was perfectly serviceable, I just had to be careful when I moved about to keep from crashing into things.

We had a lovely view of the park and tennis courts outside, a tiny television that we never turned on, and a comfortable bed, which we fell into. Big day tomorrow… bus trip to Bath… and Stonehenge!

*I was just going to assume that you all knew this, but then I remembered that one of the main goals here is to inform, so… just in case you don’t know;  When I say “Chips” in England (Or pretty much anywhere in Europe) I mean fries. What we would call “Chips” in America the English call “Crisps.” Now you know.

Take good care.

© 2012 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator