I’m just back from a short jaunt around the Republic of Ireland, and here are a few photos of the trip. The slideshow starts in Dublin, then heads to Dingle town. Then (the bulk of the photos) comes the Dingle Way – a walking trail that goes around the perimeter of the Dingle Penninsula. I hiked 41 miles of the Way, from Dingle town to the village of Cloghane. Finally, we finish off in the city of Cork.
I have realized that this has been the most civilized method of backpacking I had ever engaged in. It was still a true outdoor adventure; I covered 41 miles of the County Kerry’s Dingle Way on foot over the course of three days, from Dingle town to Cloghane, over hills, across fields, along beaches, and between brambly hedgerows, in fair weather and foul. On my first day I was completely soaked by a downpour, trudging through muddy bogs that, more than once, almost stole a boot from me.
I’ve done a bit of hiking, backpacking, and camping around the States, and, after this trip, I have realized what all of my previous expeditions were lacking: Pubs. Unlike in the wild backcountry that’s on the doorstep of so many major American cities, in Ireland, you’re rarely ever more than a day’s walk from a village with a public house in it, and in that pub you’ll find a hot meal and a cold pint of Guinness – something that’s hard to come by on the Pacific Crest Trail. The village will also provide a real bed and a warm stove to dry your soggy boots by.
I also want to make a brief mention of the great value on such a hike of a small flask of fortifying spirits. I brought with me a flask of Powers Irish Whiskey, and I have to say that it proved invaluable when the weather was cold, damp, and blustery, and I still had six miles to go. A sip or two is all that’s necessary – probably not even a full shot’s worth, certainly not enough to feel the slightest intoxication. But a small drop of the pure (The Rocky Road To Dublin, q.v.) is just the thing to warm you up a bit, make your feet hurt a little less, and make whatever endeavor you’re about to undertake seem like just a little bit better of an idea.
Yesterday I toured the Guinness Storehouse, on the site of the St. James Gate Brewery, where most of the world’s Guinness
is produced. It was your basic flashy, A-list tourist attraction, with multimedia displays taking the visitor step-by-step through the history, production, and distribuition of the black stuff, and ending with a free pint at the bar at the top of the building. And I have to report that it does indeed taste just a bit better here in its home.
Aside from the basics, here are a few things I’ve learned about Guinness Stout while here in Ireland. Some I leaned in the tour, some elsewhere.
- Arthur Guinness started the business in 1759, and signed a 9000 year lease on the location. This being the 250th anniversary of Guinness, that leaves them another 8750 years of brewing in their present location.
- Many Irish people will only drink Guinness in their own country. I have had more than one Irishman (including a 6’6″ rugby-playing bartender, whose pub I ducked into to avoid an altercation with a group of drunk Eastern Europeans I had somehow inadverntently slighted) tell me, “It doesn’t travel well.”
- One of the Duke of Wellington’s officers, after being seriously wounded fighting Napoleon’s troops at Waterloo, wrote, “when I was sufficiently recovered, I felt the most extraordinary desire for a glass of Guinness, and I am confident that it contributed more than anything else to my recovery.”
>>You may see all of my posts regarding Ireland in the Emerald Isle catergory.
It’s before dawn and I’m up making my final preparations. Checking that the necessary supplies are in order. And just now as I write this, I remember that I’ve forgotten something very important – my flask! How could I even consider setting out for the birthplace of Jameson and Bushmill’s without it?
This will be among my shortest trips ever; a mere ten days. But previous experience has taught me that a great adventure can be had in a short time, if only you remember to keep the scope of the trip limited to what is achievable in the alloted time. So my plan is to spend a few days enjoying Dublin, and then to bus out to Dingle, where I will walk the Dingle Way around that rugged penninsula, bus from Tralee back to Dublin, and fly home.
Experience has also taught me that most planning before a trip is next to worthless when the realities of the Road intervene, so my secondary plan is to ditch all this planning and wing it.