There's only one word to describe the Dingle panorama: Awesome
It’s Friday, farmers market day. A small cluster of maybe a dozen stalls fills the little car park in the centre of the town.
Jennifer Touchstone from Manhattan is selling cheese. She and her husband Brandon were travelling and saw an ad on a volunteer website ( workaway.info) put there by Maja Binder, who makes cheese in Castlegregory.
The next stall is manned by German-born Maja’s husband-in- waiting, Oliver Beaujouan, who hails from the Loire valley in France. He offers a serious collection of fish and meat pates, home-made sausages, salmon and chorizo. His pièce de résistance in showman terms, however, is a cheese melt created by flame- heating a large block of Swiss raclette and pouring the result on to a slice of bread.
“Hey, you’re the fellow on the bike!” exclaims Mark Murphy, the organiser of the market and a lecturer in culinary arts in Tralee IT. “I was reading you; I think the Wild Atlantic Way is a brilliant idea, brilliant!”
Out beyond Ventry, I drop into an old college friend, film-maker Nuala O’Connor, who lives tucked into the lee of Eagle Mountain with partner Philip King and their daughters. There’s some local anxiety about widening the N86 road from Tralee to 26 metres in parts, so people may come to Dingle faster.
She and some others think part of Dingle’s attraction, part of its defining characteristic, is that it is a little peripheral, a shade apart – a place to which one has to make an effort to come . . . which many people do.
“Does 10 or 15 minutes off the journey justify the extreme scale of what’s proposed?” she wonders.
The road to Slea Head and beyond is narrow and winding and a delight. Coumeenole beach – where schoolmaster’s wife Sarah Miles lost her heart as Rosy Ryan to dashing British officer Maj Randolph Doryan (Christopher Jones) in Ryan’s Daughter – is constant, unchanging in its beauty.
Out to sea off the head, the Blasket Islands lie calm, sleeping as they always have on the edge of our world. The great island’s Dunquin-facing slope is bathed in sunlight. The lesser islands are smothered in low cloud; less distinct, more remote, darker. The sun shines on Blasket Sound.
And beyond it all, the great vastness of the wild Atlantic, at this moment calm, rising and falling slowly, gently, washing the edges of Ireland.
There really is only one word for it. Awesome.
Today’s journey: Ardfert to Galway; tomorrow Connemara