Discovering the Magic of Dingle, Ireland
Every few years, my mom and I take a road trip together. She’s intrepid beyond her years, and we value the memories created on each new adventure. This year we chose Ireland. As I began my research, I kept hearing the name Dingle. It quickly moved to the top of my list. I wanted to discover why so many have found this whimsically-named place to be magical.
We hit the road to Dingle on our third day. The plan was to explore some sights along the way and then take a private tour of the Dingle peninsula. As so often happens on vacation, we were running behind schedule. Getting delayed while navigating narrow roads through what appeared to be a bicycle race didn’t help. But that’s another story…. Such obstacles are the norm when driving through Ireland. That’s also part of the fun.
As I watched the estimated time of arrival on our GPS get later and later, I began to stress about our tour. We made it into town just in time, or so I thought. We pulled into the luxurious Heaton’s Guesthouse, which has a gorgeous view overlooking the bay, and were greeted by the Chef and Owner, David Heaton. David informed us that our guide was already parked out front, so naturally I went into crazed-tourist mode as I raced through our check-in (not helped by the fact that I hadn’t eaten). Then David responded with something utterly unexpected: “I’ll make you some sandwiches for the road. What would you like?” It was a simple act of kindness that he didn’t need to do, and all my stress seemed to melt away. So off we go, sandwiches in hand, having had a welcome taste of Irish hospitality.
The contrast of the vivid emerald-green foliage meeting the crystal-blue sea in such an unspoiled land was magnificent.
Mom and I climbed into the van of Diarmuid Begley and headed out to Dingle’s famous Slea Head Drive. I’m a native Californian and have lived near the ocean for much of my life, but I was awestruck by just how blue and unpolluted the water was. The contrast of the vivid emerald-green foliage meeting the crystal-blue sea in such an unspoiled land was magnificent.
There’s a vast array of archaeological and historical sites along Slea Head Drive. One of the finest is the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church, built entirely of stone, which is thought to be over a thousand years old. There are the Ogham stones, upon which are carved the earliest form of Irish writing (dating back to the 4th century). We saw Kilmalkedar Church, a 12th-century Hiberno-Romanesque church. Diarmuid helped Mom navigate its uneven ground, while they chatted away like two old friends. With the Great Blasket Island as a backdrop, we also saw where two ships of the mighty Spanish Armada sank.
We made it back to Heaton’s just in time to be late for dinner. Yes, being late appeared to be a trend…. After a few phone calls, David was able to get us a last-minute dinner reservation. I was quite excited. One of the reasons I was so intrigued by Dingle was that it had been named the top foodie town in Ireland (2014). Just between you and me, food is the way to charm this gal’s heart. So off we go to Global Village, which won the Best Emerging Irish Cuisine Award last year.
The seafood in Dingle is not to be missed. It’s fresh off the boat, caught by local fisherman—a rare treat for me. We entered the bustling Global Village, and Mom and I were led to a nice table by the bar. From the vegetables grown in their biodynamic garden to the artistry of the plating to the impeccably prepared fresh seafood, one couldn’t have asked for more.
It’s a small world, even when you’re halfway across the world from home.
Anne, our server, was lovely and welcoming. I’d mentioned that mom had cancer surgery a few weeks earlier, near her birthday. It was such a brief mention in friendly conversation that I didn’t think much of it. To our unexpected delight, Anne later brought dessert with birthday candles and singing. The huge smile on mom’s face was pure magic. With heartfelt joy, Anne created a special memory for mom, who still loves to tell the story of her birthday celebration in Dingle.
Breakfast at Heaton’s was the perfect continuation of our foodie journey. Chef David goes all out with a lavish array of choices. I went for a classic, eggs benedict with smoked salmon. A meal in Dingle without seafood just wouldn’t seem right. Afterward, the Irish rain caught up with us, so we enjoyed the guesthouse atmosphere and shared stories with fellow travelers. “Are you serious? Your office is just down the road from mom’s house!” It’s a small world, even when you’re halfway across the world from home.
Our time to leave came altogether too soon. There was still so much to see, endless food to be savored, and activities to be late for. Fortunately, Dingle saved one more bit of magic for the end. We drove out over Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland. It’s a narrow, twisting road with rocks jutting along the edge. Mom was happy she wasn’t driving. I was exhilarated. It was a perfect ending to our visit. Though I do hope to return. As a matter of fact, I hear the Dingle Food Festival is coming up….