Kerry - The Kingdom

Kerry or Kauai? 

KERRY GOLD - 'PUT A BIT OF BUTTER ON THE SPUDS, ANDRE'

Some people feel most alive after a cup of coffee. I feel most alive when I’m at the centre of a wild storm and nature is beating the living daylights out of everything that crosses its path. There is something next to godliness about having your body invisibly swept about the road like a matchstick on a breezy day. I’m not belittling that natural disasters can devastate lives, but so can coffee.

 

For this particular storm we were driving through county Kerry which sees its fair share of storms, especially judging by the number of trees bent out of shape. So what I saw as torrential rain and a tornado, the Kerry folk called it a ‘soft day’. 


Driving through the countryside blown from side to side by the wind, we flashed through a very small town, and paused just long enough for me to take a photo of the local pub entitled “Your Man’s Bar” best.name.ever, it only works in Ireland but its genius is its simplicity. 


Fair play to your man!


As we got closer to the Dingle Peninsula the mountains grew higher and the houses fancier. Then, the rain shifted to a sprinkle and we could make out the intense green colour of the grass verges, the native colourful flowers bursting over the hedges. This beauty of nature finding a way to shine reminded me of a similar wet spot, Hawaii. It’s not often Kerry gets compared to Hawaii, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!


As the wind settled another beauty caught my eye, an 80 year old, pipe in mouth, sitting on the side of the road beside a table of vegetables and bottles with a sign that said “Booze and Turnips”. That’s another great name for a pub right there! Good luck to him, ya do what ya gotta do in Covid times. Nothing spells party like a bottle of beer and a couple of turnips. 


We drove as far out as we possibly could on the peninsula, to a place that was deeply remote, only ocean between us and Amerikay. We stayed in a farmhouse B&B in Fahamore, the last house in the sparse village, right on the edge of the world. The woman of the house was very welcoming and pointed out we had the place to ourselves, well almost, just us and a huge Chinese family playing board games loudly in the dining room. 


Dusk was descending and we were famished, but the only restaurant in the town was booked out so we flew like hungry bats back to Tralee, the only place we could find was a Chinese place (ironically). We had a lovely socially distant chat with our waitress who said in China they are used to pandemics, wearing masks and ordering online so Covid hasn't changed life too much for her family who are still there. 

 

I drove us back to the B&B in the deep dark of a blustery night. Those tight country roads are quite frankly terrifying. I was delighted to see the last house on the horizon glimmer in the moonlight, ahh 'home'. 


Windswept


The next morning we went for a walk, across fields, around the cows, and over to the boats bobbing on the sea, this was the life. Not a sinner crossed our paths. I told Dom that if he picked up Covid in Dublin’s dirty ole town, best of luck to him, I would bolt to this very spot, me and the pandemic savvy Chinese would be playing Mahjong until the cows came home.  We found a very small harbour with old fashioned fishing trawlers moored up. About 5 currachs lined the harbour. I got very excited at seeing the currachs, I had thought these old Irish boats were long gone into the mists of time. I was thrilled to see them still in operation at the corner of the world.

 

Our B&B was in an area called the Maharees (sounded very exotic, more Indian than Irish) it is a 5km tombolo (in layman's speak a sandy pillow of land - what a gorgeous description of where you live! It’s the kind of address the Tooth Fairy might have). 


Leaving the Tooth Fairy to meditate in the meadow with the cows we ventured further along the Wild Atlantic Way. Dingle is my favourite place in Kerry. It's a cornucopia of art shops, pubs, restaurants, surf shops, bars, gift shops, taverns, clothes shops, churches, woolen mills and Inns. Rambling around is a must. You could see the start of some frustration with the government's latest handling of the Corona crisis with a notice in one shop that the community's needs, concerns and opinions didn't matter.


Another restaurant called the Fish Box had an eye-catching message comparing the hospitality industry to the band on the Titanic, they continue playing during the pandemic as the ship sinks. Heartbreaking really, all the businesses Covid will kill, all the suicides, all the domestic abuse, all the untreated heart attacks and strokes, humanity is fragile and this virus is laying us bare. God help us all. 


"Nearer My God to Thee"


On a lighter note we discovered a truly wonderful shop in Dingle. An art shop called Tripster containing excellent prints of Dingle and Ireland in the style of the 1950s tourist posters. So simple and elegant with bright colours and clear lines. An older man manned the till, cash only. I wondered if he was minding the store for the hipster Tripster 20 something ingenue who was clearly the whiz kid Mastermind behind this slick modern homage to a time gone by.


Dom was convinced the man himself must be the artist as the craft of printing is a very physical one, he wasn't sure a hipster millennial would have the graft in them. I asked the man who made the prints to settle the debate, fully sure the man would say it was the work of a local nymph called Mungo Jerry but nope, the man himself was the artiste! I'm just raging I didn't buy more. In true hipster fashion his website is under construction. Another reason to return to the Kingdom of Kerry. 


A terrific read is An Unsung Hero about Tom Crean, a Kerryman who explored the South Pole with Shackleton. After exploring he came back to his hometown of Annascaul, he married a local girl and opened a pub called the South Pole Inn. We had to stop and have lunch there. It's a great spot with lots of old photos and stories on the wall about Tom. When he died his old Navy comrades and his childhood schoolmates carried his coffin 2 miles to rest where his daughter was already buried. Brought a tear to my eye. 


In the same town we made the pilgrimage across the road to take a pic of Dan Foley's pub. The famous postcard of this famous pub has been sent to my eponymous father-in-law a million and three times. A million and four might be his lucky number. I had never been to the pub before but had seen it alive and well on my in-laws fridge. It broke my heart to see it closed and a little worse for wear (the pub, not my father-in-law!). Maybe a post Covid world will breathe new life into it.


Better Times Ahead

 

Similar to Crean and indeed Dan Foley’s pub, it was time to move on, despite the blasts of cold weather (welcome to an Irish Summer) we couldn't let a county go by on our roadtrip without a dip in the sea. Well it turns out I could, I offered to keep the coats and 'mind the towels'. Inch beach, despite the misleading name, was big and beautiful, the fact you could park right on sand, it felt very carefree and Californian. 


Braveheart Sr and Jr ripped into the roaring freezing sea, not a bother on them. As if by magic the sun came out, and when the sun shines in Ireland it transforms before your eyes to a magical place. Maybe Hawaii and Kerry have more in common than first meets the eye.



Comments

  1. Your spirit of adventure and sharp eye cheered me up this morning. Thank you !

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