The colorful village of Dingle Town — the largest on the peninsula — spills down the green hills to the curve of Dingle Harbor. Houses and shopfronts are painted in primary colors — red, yellow, blue, grass-green, vibrant against the steep gray streets. Sheep graze in yards. The first time I visited, in 1989, Dingle was a sleepy place with horse carts clopping along the main street, hauling milk cans to the creamery on the hill.
But over time the village has grown, and gotten popular. The population is less than 2,000, but thousands of tourists visit every year. There are more than 50 pubs, and dozens of B&Bs. The creamery on the hill is now a brewery.
Dingle was where we took our rest day, halfway through our hiking journey. At the visitor center, we flipped through displays and considered our options. We could take a boat excursion to watch Fungie the dolphin, which has been visiting Dingle Harbor regularly since 1984.
We could take a boat trip to the Great Blasket Islands. We could rent bicycles, rent a kayak, hire a guide to drive us to antiquities scattered on the mountains. The travel notes from our tour planner suggested that we might want to take a seven-hour hike to the summit of Ballysitteragh mountain. (To which we said, What kind of a rest day would that be?)
We did none of those things.
This was our rest day, and we rested. We strolled the harbor’s edge, watching the sailboats bobbing at anchor; we whiled away time at Dingle Bookshop and bought four books. We visited the charming public library, with its fine selection of Gaelic-language books. We wandered through St. Mary’s Catholic Church and its peaceful gardens and lit candles for my father and grandmother. I bought earrings at a shop specializing in local art. We stopped at Foxy John’s bike rental/hardware store/pub and sipped Guinness under the flashlights, ear protectors and extension cords that dangled from the ceiling.
A friend drove over from County Cork, where she lives, and we bought ice cream from Murphys, made from local ingredients (including the salt, which is dried from seawater). And that evening we attended a recital of traditional music at St. James Church, with pennywhistle, guitar and uilleann pipes.
It was pretty, and busy, and a wee bit touristy. We were happy the next morning to shoulder our packs and head out into the quiet hills once again.
Laurie Hertzel 612-673-7302