I wanted to go to Dingle in 1992. I spent two months in Ireland, and mentioned it in my journal at least four or five times. Dingle, in 1992, didn’t quite have the reputation as a tourist destination that it does now – but I wanted to see the end of the Dingle Peninsula and look out across the Atlantic. I had ridden to the southern side of the peninsula, to Inch Beach. But that was the extent of my travel. Every day that we hoped to go, it rained, or something else came up. Continue reading
I followed a mossy, fern-lined forest trail that wound around a bend, and I stumbled upon this little place. It felt like something I’d find in a fairy-tale and I was surprised not to see fresh-baked scones cooling in the window. But this place has been closed up for awhile. I think it used to be the visitor’s center for Connemara National Park in western Ireland. Now, a white-washed, newer, larger visitor’s center sits a five-minute walk through the forest and up a steep hill.
I love any landscape that takes me far away from suburban sprawl. I long to see stark, lonely mountains beneath wide-open skies and I want to ramble through dense green forests in search of fairy-rings. That is what you find in the heart of Connemara. Only an hour or so from the city of Galway, this part of Ireland feels rugged and remote, but makes for easy day trips. Decades ago, this was the first place I visited in Ireland, on a college summer break, and I was eager to see it again, through wiser eyes – and with the freedom of a rental car (rather than a bicycle).
We brought all of our rain gear. Jackets, pants, boots. A cover for my backpack. Those super-tough zip-lock bags for protecting odds and ends in case you get stuck in a deluge. The last thing I really expected when our flight landed at Shannon Airport on the 4th of July in the southwest of Ireland was sunshine and warm weather. That’s not the image of Ireland I had preserved in my memory.
Coming from Colorado, we were hoping for some cooler, wetter weather. Certainly, it was cooler, 75 F, not 95 F. From the moment I stepped off onto the tarmac (because Shannon airport is one of those places where you still have to walk across the tarmac) I could feel that coastal dampness that seeps into my pores every time I get near a body of water. My Colorado skin is like a dry sponge – greedy for moisture wherever it can find it. But the blue sky was a surprise.
Maybe the moment that stands out most clearly in my mind, now, more than 25 years later, is the sunset on top the hill. In Western Ireland, sunlight lingers late in the evening in early July, then melts into a curtain of orange and red light that sinks slowly into the horizon (when it’s not raining). We had packed up tea and biscuits and grapes and took along the three, small, red-headed kids from our host family on the walk up the hill. Yellow light, bright red heads, and vivid emerald green carpet that stretched as far as the eye can see – that’s when I felt I was in Ireland. The photos, now yellowed with age, don’t do my memory justice.
That means it’s time to go back.Continue reading