My colleague and co-Deputy Editor of the European Journal of Engineering Education, Professor Jonte Bernhard, came to visit for the weekend. Jonte was on his way to a PhD viva in Limerick where he is serving today as External Examiner.
Here’s a favorite picture from the summer, taken with Jonte, at a dinner in Stockholm that was hosted by our chief editor, Kristina Edström.
This past weekend, Aongus cooked up a lovely dinner for Jonte and me on Saturday. We were joined by a PhD student named Urša — she had attended the Doctoral Symposium that Jonte and I organized at the SEFI conference in September.
On Sunday, Jonte, Aongus, and I enjoyed brunch at Oscar’s on Smithfield Plaza. Aongus and I had hoped to show Jonte several of Dublin’s sites, but the rain put us off. We did make it over, between downpours and hail, to tour the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street.
Aongus had never been on the Jameson’s tour, and I hadn’t since 2003, so it was a rare treat despite it being just a block from our flat.
For me, the work week started with attending an online conference. Then, I did a bit of peer reviewing before heading off to teach Tech Graphics 2-6 PM.
My co-teacher, Marina, and Rachel (who teaches physics lab down the hall at the same time as us) both came over for dinner to celebrate the semester coming to a close.
As both Marina and Rachel are working on PhDs (in BIM and spatial perception, respectively), we’ll be sure to get them reviewing papers for our journals soon!
Following a Saturday morning visit to the gym—weights, pool and spa for Aongus, yoga for me—we mulled over our breakfast of porridge and fruit at home before heading out by bike to the National Gallery on Merrion Square.
We wanted to catch the opening weekend of the National portrait prize exhibition.
We enjoyed the architecture, too, of course. The Gallery has historic old and sleek modern wings.
Nested somewhere between floors is a room full of portraits by emerging artists that includes a portrait painted by Aongus’ sister, Aisling Coughlan, of their late dad.
You may recall a prior post, where all four Coughlan siblings were assembled around the portrait while it hung in the Royal Hibernian Society. Since that time, Aisling retired from her job and enrolled full time at the National College for Art and Design to hone her skills even further.
I think I also blogged when she was on the television competition for portrait painting, which was filmed in London.
Leaving the Gallery, we pushed our bike through the throngs of holiday shoppers on Grafton street.
And since Aongus has been asking Santa for Five Guys, his dream of American burgers and fries under fluorescent lights finally came true.
Our tummies filled, we settled into a cozy table on Fade Street where we could people-watch to our hearts’ content… but we still made it home safely by bike before 8PM.
Thanksgiving here in Ireland is usually just another ordinary Thursday. But this year I made a point to celebrate. I registered for a conference held at the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street, so I could learn about “Next Generation Construction in Ireland” while soaking in old-school Irish ambiance, and I bought tickets for an American Thanksgiving feast.
I love visiting the stately old RIA building, with its floors of well worn books. There was an interesting exhibition on display, and lovely architectural details to treat the eyes and soothe the soul.
Despite heavy rain falling before my cycle over, I was inspired to wear my favorite Irish sweater and the “BIM Hero” lapel pin I received earlier in the year. (I am hoping the pin will provide the good karma I need to get my current manuscript on the Hero’s Journey polished up to final form to submit this coming week!)
During this one-day conference, I learned more than a few new things about Modern Methods of Construction, Irish strategies and policies, and education programs and plans to up-skill the Irish workforce.
Dr. Tara Brooks from Queens University in Belfast presented fascinating research and I’ve included images since I really enjoyed the graphic devices she used to situate her contributions to the body of knowledge in BIM and digital construction.
My own university, TU Dublin, was very well represented among attendees, presenters, panelists, organizers, and session chairs. I’ve pictured Joseph Mady, a part time lecturer who delivered an interesting talk.
Our conference ended promptly at 5, as Ireland’s Prime Minister was scheduled to speak in the same room at 7, and there was setting up to do.
With the conference concluded, I headed across Dawson Street to Cafe en Seine for a cocktail with Aongus.
Then we cycled together over to the Hilton near Lock C6 on the south side canal. We met up with a merry group of Americans (most with Irish in tow) to share a feast of turkey will most all the trimmings.
It was Aongus’ first sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and he’s still raving about his new find. It’s fun to see the delight he takes in root veg… he also loved the glazed carrots. Such a healthy boy! My favorite were the green beans sautéed with bacon.
We made some new friends and had a ball sharing stories in a familiar twang. Until next year:
It’s been a great week! In the past seven days, Aongus and I have hosted my former PhD supervisor, Professor Pamela Eddy for a stay at our place in Dublin. I got to meet her nephew, Michael, over a meal at Damascus Gate. Here are photos with Aongus, Pam, and Pam’s nephew:
Just after Pam flew home, Aongus and I hosted my Uncle Harry and his friend Andi for a tasty home-cooked meal that Aongus whipped up. Afterward, we trotted over to the Cobblestone pub to meet Andi’s family, Linda and Steve. A couple days later, we assembled again at Oscar’s for some lovely seafood chowder. Here are photos of merriment with Harry and the gang:
I am glad they visited while Dublin is sparkling! The holiday lights go on at the end of Daylight Savings, to make our early evenings more bearable. The sparkle combined with having visitors makes life feel so much more worthwhile.
In fact, I’ve gotten inspired to add a new genre of exercise to my routine: ariel yoga. Two lessons in and I’m doing pretty well!
I also recently received copies of William and Mary’s World Minded magazine.
Pam is featured highly in an interview the editor of World Minded conducted with me over the summer. She asked me many questions about my career journey and my roots back to W&M. You can read the interview here:
A positive outcome of the World Minded feature was getting to meet a young alumna named Emma. She came across the article and wanted to chat about internationalizing her career. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting online with Emma as she’s from my home state and is full of zest and ambition. I look forward to seeing what steps she takes in her twenties and thirties. Thank you, Emma, for giving me a reason to break from work for an hour to chat about designing your life!
I look forward to reconnecting with many more family and friends from back home as the world reawakens following the pandemic.
I’m finally coming out of laptop-induced hibernation. I’m ready to move between in-person and online realms, and hoping this will ensue rather seamlessly. It’s been hard to muster enthusiasm for blogging after working behind the laptop all day, every day. Maybe spending time outside will provide inspiration to blog, as it has today.
This morning, I delivered a seminar (7-8 AM) to the Center for Research on Engineering Education (CREE) at the University of Cape Town. The topic was writing research proposals for publication and securing grants and fellowships. I delivered a similar session earlier in the year as part of a workshop series conducted by the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN), and CREE asked me to bring it to their group.
A really enthusiastic group attended and I received several follow-up emails. I really appreciate hearing what attendees valued and how we might connect more in the future. I met most of these folks in delivering Master Classes in South Africa when I was working at UCL, and also when attending the Research in Engineering Education Symposium in Cape Town in 2019. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them better through regular meetings, online during Covid. I’m currently developing a special focus journal issue with one of them, Anita Campbell. We had a meeting about that project yesterday that was so exciting I had trouble sleeping last night!?
Logging off the Cape Town session, I headed over to Bolton Street TU Dublin to help lead a field trip for Transition Year (high school) students to visit sites in Dublin.
One-half of the students toured the “waste to energy” facility in Dublin (which they don’t call an incinerator, as that word seems politically incorrect here but is easy-to-envision thanks to Toy Story). The other half of the students came with Kevin Gaughan and me to see a construction site downtown. I included two photos of our site visit below, but you can see more about the visit, including a full gallery of images, at https://roboslam.wordpress.com/2022/05/12/engineering-your-future-at-tu-dublin-2022/.
While I was busy on the tour, some of my colleagues were preparing for tomorrow’s activity for the same students, a BioSlam. You can view the instructions for making little blood flow monitors on our RoboSlam site, at https://roboslam.wordpress.com/bioslam-ppg/.
I’ll have to step out of the BioSlam for a while to attend an online Meeting on engineering ethics — I hope earbuds do the job and I can attend from the corridor outside the electronics lab.
At the moment, I am taking a breather, listening to an online talk by a leading expert in the history of Grangegorman. The speaker, Brian Donnely, Senior Archivist in the National Archives, is currently talking about Richmond Surgical Hospital (a block from my flat) and as well as TU Dublin’s campus site at Grangegorman, which was used as an “insane asylum” with a prison placed between the two in the past.
And, I’m multi-tasking (a rarity for me) and posting a blog (also very rare these days).
Online lecture by Brian Donnely, Senior Archivist in the National Archives.
In just over two hours, I’ll be teaching an online evening class on Research Methods for my BSc students in BIM/Digital Construction. Before then, I’ll read the peer reviews I’ve just received for the European Journal for Engineering Education, so that I can recommend tomorrow to the Editor in Cheif how to move forward toward publication of the manuscript.
The pandemic closed life down on our little island just days after Christmas.
After a long winter’s hibernation, Ireland has just started to lift the lid. For months, I’ve rarely left home. Aongus got Covid the week his worksite opened back up, just after Easter. But despite staying right by his side, I didn’t contract the illness. I actually tested negative twice, but had to isolate (for what seemed like forever) nonetheless.
I did, though, get a wave of something while Aongus was sick. I felt drained, although not to the same extent as Aongus was.
It hasn’t helped that the big volunteer/publication project I’m currently wrapping up has taken five-times the effort it should have. I couldn’t be happier to see the backside of this lockdown. Or this project….
Fortunate for my sanity, things are gradually opening back up in Dublin, and the sun sometimes shines. My flat is still a nice sun trap which makes life bearable.
In the past couple weeks, Aongus and I have had a few nice outings.
We had a lovely coffee and pasta last weekend sitting outside the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge on our cycle ride to Dun Laoghaire. I’ve always admired this majestic Victorian building but had never ventured onto the grounds.
Last weekend, visiting friends’ back gardens was finally allowed again. We had an absolute ball visiting our friends Diana, Stefan, and Diana’s mum on Sunday evening. We’re looking forward to the day we can welcome them to our place for a meal. (Inside visits are off limits until one of the two families is fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid. We’re well in our way to meeting the criteria!)
Yesterday we ventured out again, taking the local commuter train down the coast to Bray—the town where Aongus and I met over five years ago—and this time we hiked to the top of Bray Head.
I thought I’d been to the summit before, but I’m now sure I remembered wrong. It’s a surprisingly steep and rugged path. Back in the 50s and 60s, there was a chair lift, seen as necessary since it’s so steep.
We chose the climb since part of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk had collapsed, and that favorite path wasn’t an option yesterday.
There’s a spectacular view from the summit, and I’m glad we’ve had that experience. It’s not likely I’ll have it again!
I can’t wait to get fit again. The gym opens tomorrow and I’ll be in the pool bright and early!
Although tomorrow is a bank holiday here, Aongus and I working so we can take off Friday for a new adventure on wheels! We’re going to re-live a favorite itinerary from last summer. Stay tuned!
Aongus and I held a vote the other night. Our best day since moving back to Ireland from London? We unanimously agreed:
Our day cycling in Killarney National Park.
This was one of four days we spent in County Kerry, and the 20 or so hours we spent in Dingle ranked a close second (see prior blog posts on Dingle, Slea Head, and stone forts along the Ring of Kerry).
Awakening from Lockdown
When the Irish government said “Lockdown is lifted–go forth and spend your money on domestic tourism”, we readily agreed! “Let’s head for Kerry,” I exclaimed. “It will be a treat to see Killarney when it’s not full of tourists!”
Indeed, Killarney, its National Park, and its famous Muckross House are typically packed to the gills with Americans.
We arrived safely after a 3.5 hour drive from our home in Dublin. As this was right at the end of lockdown #1, we had not yet been able to buy a bike rack for our car.
Arriving in Killarney, we found many people who were delighted to welcome tourists. Those in the hospitality industry have really suffered, financially, during lockdown. Nonetheless, we found one hotelier who was terrified of my accent. “No, I’m not straight off a plane,” I reassured her. “Dublin is my home.”
After a fair night’s sleep and breakfast in a nearly vacant cafe, we rented bikes in Killarney town and headed for some scenic routes.
Our first stop of the day was Muckross Abbey, a place I’d never visited before. The stone abbey is absolutely spectacular. It is surrounded by a cemetery, woods, and fields.
We spent a good hour exploring the Abbey’s multi-story ruins.
Muckross Abbey offers magnificent views at every turn.
Sweeping panoramas abound.
And there are some beautifully preserved details, like this stone relief.
To the side of the worship space is housing for the monks. The plan is straightforward enough, but when exploring it you’ll experience a maze of rooms, passages, and stairs. Delights are tucked away. They reveal themselves, to the persistent traveller, piece by piece. Most rooms are well lit, but Aongus found a dark and spooky one (photo below).
The highlight for me was the central cloister with its ancient Yew tree. Such incredible majesty, reaching up to the Heavens!
We discovered spiraling stairs to the upper floor…
…where I got so mesmerized looking around that I whacked my head on the lintel of a low doorway! I think I was gazing up at the chimney (shown below) when that happened.
I recovered, though, and discovered the Monks’ sleeping quarters. At the end of the room, we found even more stairs. These went up to the main tower.
The inside of the tower was architecturally spectacular.
In spaces like these, the iPhone’s panorama feature provides loads of fun.
We had a great time exploring each nook and cranny.
Here’s a view looking back down toward the main entry of the worship space, and the relief we saw earlier.
Here I am walking the lane back to the Abbey’s carriage parking area, where we had left our bikes.
When you visit, if you are not on bikes, consider taking a carriage ride out the Abbey.
On this tourist-free day, the horses had little work to do.
Muckross House & Gardens
Muckross House itself was closed, though the gardens and cafe were just opening back up from hibernation.
Approaching the house by bike we enjoyed this view:
The surrounding landscape was carefully crafted and meticulously cultivated.
The picturesque view out from the front terrace of the house nearly takes your breath away.
The whole place is a masterful work of art.
Here’s a Yew tree in the garden:
Leaving the house, we headed out toward the National Park’s stand of ancient Yew trees.
This ancient forest of Yews is simply unforgetable. So lush. Covered in mounds of plush green moss.
It’s hard to do justice to this dramatic landscape.
But suffice to say, I felt like a Hobitt!
At the edge of the forest we found dramatic views of the northern lake.
Our bike rental guy had shared ideas of where to stop–including important pointers since few spots were going to be open for lunch. Dinis Cafe, he thought, would be open today. It had been shut for lockdown and this was its first day back in action.
I arrived at Dinis a bit before Aongus:
Dinis Cottage is a quaint little house perched on the hillside, overlooking the southern lake from two terraces with picnic tables.
I enjoyed a nice hot bowl of soup and picturesque views (of the lake, and the man).
And then we were off again….
…to explore some more.
Our next big stop was at Torc Waterfall.
It’s a short walk up hill from the car (and bike) parking area.
Viola! Here’s the waterfall in all its splendor. Aongus isn’t too keep on heights, so he’s hanging on to ensure I don’t fall over the edge!
Or perhaps he’s considering shoving over the edge? 😉
The stairs upward beckoned, promising more adventures, paths, and views. We decided to get going downhill, however, as we had another big adventure in mind.
We did take time, though, to marvel at various trees on the way back down to the car park where we’d locked our bikes.
Muckross House to Killarney
Our tour route took us back around, past Muckross House for a second time.
Returning to Killarney town, we found a second wind and continued on toward the Northern Loop.
Throughout the day, we set our bikes aside, taking side trips by foot.
I long to canoe here someday. Canoes are rare here, however. Kayaks and motorboats are far more common. Aongus didn’t even know what a canoe was!?! People here often call kayaks “canoes”.
Isn’t this view inviting? It makes me want to paddle away….
On the road to Ross Castle, we discovered more phenomenal vistas:
These photos are of Ross Castle, operated by Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW), but closed on this Covid-ridden day.
Our tour around the Ross Peninsula rounded out the day so nicely.
Offering more moss, more green, and so much more lush. Here Aongus models a fine Marino wool sweater we brought back from our last trip to New York:
Memories of this place are great fodder for dreams. There’s almost no place I’d rather spend a day.
Overnight in Killarney
After out adventure, we returned to Killarney for a second night.
We’d not dined out for all of lockdown, and this was a very welcome treat! Aongus loved his first night’s chicken burger so much that we returned to the same pub for night #2. He’s very serious about his food:
The next morning, he was recharged and ready to roll!
We caught a final view of the Killarney lakes from the famous “Ladies View” on our way westward, toward the Ring of Kerry.
As with many iconic sights of Ireland, Aongus had never seen these places before–it took an American to show him America’s favourite highlights!
We are both delighted we grabbed the opportunity while it existed. Once lockdown #2 lifts, we certainly will return again!
Feeling a bit claustrophobic these days. We’re two weeks and three days into lockdown #2 here in Ireland, and my big outings of the past weeks have involved the fish market across the street and nearby grocers.
In fact, I wrote this blog post on the stone forts in County Kerry for you long ago–just after lockdown #1 lifted and the Irish government encouraged us to travel the country (to spend tourist “dollars”).
Since then, I’ve been so busy with work that I never got around to posting. Maybe it will brighten your autumn day….
I’d like to introduce you to Staigue, Cathergall and Leacanbuile–three impressive and ancient stone forts. The first of these is on the southern side of Kerry’s famous ring, whereas Cathergall and Leacanbuile are in the northwest corner of the Iveragh peninsula (aka Kerry’s largest peninsula synonymous with “Ring of Kerry”).
Cathergall and Leacanbuile lay just northeast of Valencia Island. If you are visiting by car, you can reach them by driving to Cahersiveen, taking the bridge northward, and following the brown heritage signs. They are clearly marked and open to tourists. Park your car in a lot at the mouth where two paths join. The path to the right lead to the Cathergall stone fort, while the one straight ahead takes you to Leacanbuile.
Meagher and Neave (2004) say Cathergall and Leacanbuile date from the 9th or 10th century and were owned by wealthy farmers. On the other hand, Rick Steves says they were all “built sometime between 500 BC and AD 300 without the aid of mortar or cement”. The placard posted at Cathergall resolves this by stating they are “notoriously difficult to date”. (I included a photo of that sign, below.)
To reach Staigue fort, drive to Castlecove and turn northward. Again, the signage is clear.
You may notice other circular mounds covered in green along your journey. Kerry is covered in forts, but many are buried and not accessible—the land where they are is now privately owned.
You’ll find all three of these on Rick Steve’s Kerry tour, although they appear to be missing (or perhaps hidden) in the Michelin Guide. You can find details about them from a book like “Ancient Ireland: An Explorer’s Guide” written by Robert Meagher and Elizabeth Neave, and published by Interlink Books in 2004.
All three forts, according to Rick Steves, are about 2.5 miles off the main drag. It is so very well worth the effort to find them, in my opinion!
Staigue stone fort
Approaching the fort by car on the rainy day of our visit, we inched past wandering sheep. The stone fort eased into view through thick fog, periodically crystallizing into drizzle….
Then WHAM: the Staigue fort revealed itself in all its wintry glory. (Okay, yeah, it was June, but I assure you that it FELT like winter.)
Staigue is a fortress, perched on an elevated plain but surrounded on three sides by hilly slopes, and sheep! It measures 90′ in diameter and the height of the walls varies, reaching 18′ at the highest point (Meagher & Neave, 2004).
The entry is small and hidden. From the approaching path, it’s off to the right, tucked away behind and below the clumps of grass. At its base, the wall of the fort is 13′ thick. You viscerally feel the weight of the stone and the thickness of this wall when crossing the threshold.
Here, just inside the entry door, Aongus stands:
This is the view you find as you enter through the small passway of a “door”, protected today with a gate. Despite there being a gate to keep sheep out, people are quite welcome. This site is free to visit.
The thick stone walls vary in height, and undulate like the surrounding hills.
You can scale the interior walls. It takes some care, especially on a rainy day!
Here, you feel you’re on top of the world….
…yet somehow safe.
Cathergall stone fort
The next day, we discovered the Cathergall fort is even taller, higher, larger, and more dramatic than the Staigue.
I’d actually visited all three back in 2003, and Cathergall is the one that stuck in my mind the most, with its intricate stepped terrace stairs, water views, expansive landscape, and towering presence.
From Cathergall, you can see the Leacanbuile stone fort as well as ruins of a castle called Balleycarberry (built much more recently than the forts, but in worse condition).
You’ll catch glimpses of Cathergall from the road and also the walking path:
As shown in the panorama below, you see the entryway to the right. You feel the weight of the wall below you and the expansiveness landscape to the east:
Here’s a view looking to the northwest:
The stair system on this fort is even more extensive than on the other forts. It reminds me of the stepwells of India.
As with the previous fort, it appears there’s an inner core of fill. This one, however, is covered in grass.
Tiny little plants cling to its sides for life.
Leacanbuile stone fort
From the path up to Cathergall, you can view Leacanbuile across the fields.
We enjoyed watching a farmer and his dog practice herding sheep in the field between the two forts.
This third fort is the smallest and most intimate of the three publicly-open stone forts on the Ring of Kerry. This one feels the most like a residence, whereas Stiague and Cathergall feel more defensive. In fact, the sign says, there were four houses inside the wall. This handy plaque provides detail:
Below, you see the rooms, as well as the wall covered with grass and tiny little plants. And you can notice my little head popping out the top of “House A”.
This fort feels more like the beehive housing complex, also bounded by a stone ring, that we saw later in our trip, on Slea Head just west of Dingle. Featured in a separate blog on Slea Head.
The floor inside the ring undulates in a way the others don’t, and I’m not sure what the original ground level would have been–perhaps below what it is now?
None of these four Houses have roof coverings today. There are, however, some covered passageways inside the walls and they are shown in the darkest blue hatching on the plaque.
In the photo below, the entry is straight ahead (the white dot is the plaque beside it). In this fort, the entry is not covered, but there is still a gate to keep animals from entering.
As noted above, we visited all the sites the weekend after the Irish government opened the country up for travel from within. As such, there were few visitors and all were residents of the island.
These sites are not guarded.
We were appalled to find one set of families visiting both Cathergall and Leacanbuile that day, letting a half dozen children play tag and run recklessly along the walls of both forts. They left visible damage, with a number of stones loosened or entirely displaced (at the entry where they’d been jumping across from side to side in their game of tag) at Leacanbuile.
As frustrating as this was, it did, however, make for a visually dramatic scene: silhouettes of dancing, laughing and running children wholly engaged in their game, atop these majestic structures.
I hope you’ll show these ancient beauties plenty of respect and due reverence, when you visit for yourself.
My Dad passed away one year ago today. It’s never easy to lose a parent, but I’m thankful I was able to be there in Virginia with him in his final stages. It was a long and hard fought battle with carcinoid cancer. Dad loved life and resisted leaving us with all his might.
I really feel for those going through life’s end stages alone during Covid.
As today is Dad’s one-year Anniversary, Aongus and I remembered him; we celebrated his life, our love and our small circle of friends. In the days leading up, we have chatted with relatives on the phone.
Today, we tried to stay busy and make the most of the day. We started late-ish, with a breakfast of blueberry-raspberry, buckwheat pancakes and a side of bacon.
Then Aongus headed out by bike to visit his auntie and I jumped on a Dublin Bike to meet colleagues for a walk around the new campus of TU Dublin.
I got a bit of exercise alongside Damon, John, and Heitor—at a much greater distance from them than unusual. In the past we’d have had our sleeves rolled up building robots!
Masks and 20’ between us each today. Still, it was great to see them and view the progress on TU Dublin’s new buildings!
I went straight from campus to join a virtual mass, said for my father at a church nearby. Aongus had asked the priest at St. Michan’s (Dublin’s oldest Catholic community) to mention him and put in a good word. The Irish are careful about marking anniversaries like these and remembering their forebearers. It was so kind of both him and the priest.
Drawing can be therapeutic, so I decided to make a couple videos for my Tech Graphics students. The strategy I developed for teaching them Hand Drawing online has been working out well, so far. Hope it holds out! Marks are nice and high and they seem to be learning well.
Mid-day, my friend Cinaria dropped over an amazing home-cooked Arab meal. I met Cinaria via a Facebook discussion on preparing applications for Marie Curie fellowships. She grew up in Kansas and I in Virginia. More recently, she has been doing research on lung cancer here in Dublin. Such admirable work!
Aongus and I had planned to have Cinaria for in for a visit, but a few days ago the government said no more discretionary visits to other’s homes. As it was, I met her on the Quays just long enough to exchange a bag full of goodies she had prepared. I do look forward to having her over as soon as health regulations permit.
Since lockdown, we’ve had only two other people in the flat besides ourselves–a washing machine repairman and a graduate engineer I’ve been mentoring. It will be nice to get back to normal one of these days.
The meal Cinaria cooked for us was extraordinary! It was clearly cooked with both skill and love. Really lovely flavors!
How blessed we are to have friends and health and delicious food during these trying times.
Thank you, Cinaria, Damon, John, Heitor, and Auntie Eithne, for helping make our day a positive and uplifting one!
We will end the day with a swim at the gym. Then it’s headlong into another intense week of work.
I may be far from home and family, but I felt surrounded by love today.
At the very end of June, after a long day driving around the Ring of Kerry we headed toward Dingle with a stop off at Inch Beach during tumultuous weather.
The weather calmed as we arrived at Dingle’s Brambury Guest House and our hostess encouraged us to hop in the car and drive Slea Head. With now-perfect weather, we shouldn’t risk missing the views! The day before, we’d abandoned plans to drive the Skellig Ring due to rain and low visibility.
Our first stop after leaving Dingle for Slea Head was Ventry Beach—a bit cold, but pretty in the glimmers of sun.
We stopped for a glimpse of an old fort that is tumbling into the sea but it wasn’t open. Frankly it doesn’t look either safe or as if it can be saved from the sea. But there is a gift shop that was just closing its doors when we arrived:
The cliffs here are impressive, and the fort is sliding right off. It’s not pictured, as all I could capture was scaffolding and fence.
Bee Hive Huts
Our next stop was the Beehive Huts, a cluster of houses situated within one large circular compound.
I’d guess that you must pass over a farmer’s land to arrive at here from the road. I say this as the site is publically maintained but there’s a man collecting a €3 fee per person.
Many such sites exist on privately-owned land and can’t be viewed (without great will and determination). Paying €3 is the easy way to go! It a fascinating place to behold.
The €3 got us each a cess and a copy of this information sheet:
The very western end of the Dingle Peninsula is called Slea Head. The Atlantic pounds these cliffs, day in, day out.
The water is so very blue!
And there are views of the Blasket Islands, just beyond Slea Head:
The bit of land shown below has always stayed in my memory, since my first trip around Slea Head in 2003. It’s less dramatic in a camera phone photo, as it gets flattened out. In person it’s quite impressive.
An addition, indelible, memory of the 2003 trip was our visit to Gallarus Observatory, an ancient church of dry stack stone. Not a bit of mortar was used. Yet the place still stands today. Amazing ingenuity and craftsmanship.
This plaque explains how the edifice was constructed:
Indeed, during Europe’s Dark Ages, when most knowledge was forgotten, monks were hard at work on the nearby Blasket Islands, copying religious texts by hand and keeping literacy alive.
It is awe-inspiring to think of what a few dedicated and hard-working individuals were able to do for humanity.
Leaving that kind of legacy is why I became an architect. But today, instead of designing buildings, I design with words.
I find the hour or so I spent at Kilmalkedar Church in 2003 is also etched in my being. That’s why I wanted to share it with Aongus as well. It’s just a few minute’s drive from Gallarus Observatory.
Fortunately we saw a humble little print out on the wall of the Observatory gift shop (outside, as the shop itself was still closed in the aftermath of Lockdown). It told us the name of the church so we could search for it on Google Maps.
Kilmalkedar Church is surrounded by a cemetary.
It was built in the 1100s, and is thus much newer than Gallarus Observatory which may date back as far as 600 AD.
In true Irish fashion, the cemetery extends inside the church walls.
And you’ll find ancient markers here,
The drive around Slea Head offers thousands more fabulous views, not captured here, and many opportunities to stop and explore the many gorgeous (but cold) beaches.
I wish for you a sunny drive around this peninsula someday, and many happy returns for Aongus and me as well.