Camp to Dingle, 31st March 2008

Another great Irish breakfast, and this time a sunny morning too, gives me a surge of energy for my hike to Anascaul. It’s a similar distance to yesterday’s walk, and though rain is forecast for the afternoon I expect to reach the village by lunchtime. I know Anascaul will be full of English people attending a family christening: I flew in with them, and they invited me to join them for a drink at the South Pole Inn.
Climbing from Camp, I soak up retrospective views of Slieve Mish, and once the first and only significant climb is done I find myself striding easily through a sweeping landscape of rough pasture.

Tralee Bay and Slieve Mish mountains

Today the curlew and skylark are aloft, trilling their evocative calls over the austere and lonely upland. Shaggy sheep run frantically from me, kicking up their hind legs before turning to stare in disapproval. They clearly aren’t used to walkers intruding on their pastures.

How will you feel by the end of the day?

View from the watershed towards Dingle Bay

After a couple of hours I get my first sighting of Castlemaine Harbour and Dingle Bay near the village of Inch, and for the first time I meet another person on the Way. Karen lives on Long Island, New York. She’s admiring the view from near her B&B stopover. We spend ten minutes chewing the fat about her holiday in Ireland with her husband and a woman friend, and she finds out what I’m up to. Like me, she’s blown away by the scenery.

The wind is blowing merrily too, and thickening cloud is starting to obscure the sun. I excuse myself from further conversation and push on round the promontory for more views of the coast and mountains, conscious that the best of the day’s weather is gone.

Castlemaine Harbour and Inch village

Dingle Bay and the Ivereagh Peninsula

Inch Strand

The rain arrives when I’m ten minutes from Anascaul. The South Pole Inn is open. There are a couple of Englishmen in one bar, clearly here for the christening, which will take place tomorrow. Guinness seems like a good idea to me, and so it proves.

The worst possible thing about a short day’s walking is when it coincides with bad weather. Hikers don’t mind rain, but they don’t like hanging around and killing time in it. I’ve done the twelve miles, the pub clock says the time is 13.15pm, so what am I going to do on a wet day in Anascaul?

The map shows another twelve miles to Dingle. The route looks somewhat contrived: it twists and turns this way and that. I don’t fancy it one bit, in the rain or in the dry, and I don’t want to rack up twenty-four miles today.

It looks like the pub for the afternoon and evening. Is that what I want? Not really. So I ask when the next bus goes to Dingle, and when I find I’ve only got forty minutes to wait I order coffee and a sandwich and listen to the pub blether.

On the bus a young woman is using a phone. I’ve no idea what she’s saying, because she speaks Irish – I am now in the Gaeltacht. In the course of the twenty-minute journey she never stops speaking. There is not one pause in which she might be listening to another person. How does she breathe? What must it be like to be on the other end of the line? Her incessant monologue leads me to suspect she’s calling an imaginary friend.

Dingle is a wet and windblown spot this Monday afternoon, so I look for a B&B straight away. The door is open at a brightly coloured house, where Veronica consults her bookings diary and tries to work out in which of her two houses she can best accommodate me. Finally she shows me a room which looks OK, and I set out to see the town.

In the Information Centre I get lots of friendly help about accommodation along the Way, bike hire, attractions and diversions, and there I also meet Neil Burns. He is Australian, a rugby league referee from Dubbo, NSW, where my daughter-in-law Helen comes from. Her father also used to referee rugby league matches. It’s a small world (unless you’re trying to walk across it).

Dingle is an attractive little place in a huge, sheltered natural harbour. Fishing boats slumber by the pier. Bars, restaurants, shops, B&Bs and hotels abound. My walk around town coincides with the end of the shopping day, after which it’s back to my room for a spot of maintenance on body and clothing before venturing out for dinner. Lord Baker’s restaurant serves delicious seafood and is well patronised. Afterwards I listen to good music at the Small Bridge pub, where more visitors than locals hear a man with a guitar, a woman with a variety of flutes and whistles, and a couple of female singers who each perform two songs. And after that, I sleep soundly.

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