Sunday, 9 June 2013

The End of the Road

The following morning, Friday 31st May, Zorbee and I made the final push to Dunmore Head, the westernmost point of Europe excluding Iceland and smaller islands.

With over two thousand archaeological sites, the Dingle Peninsula has one of the highest concentrations of ancient monuments in Ireland, and we soon came across this strange feature - an ancient pig sty or hen house? ............
....well possibly used as such in more recent times, but originally this would have been built as a dwelling - an example of early Celtic bijou? These clochans or beehive huts litter the area, and although it is unclear when they date from, (estimates seem to range widely from 4000 to 200 years ago!) some experts think they were mainly constructed after the twelfth century.
Nearing Dunquin, or Dun Chaoin (Caon's Stronghold) to use its proper Irish name ..
Dunquin is probably most well known as being the location for the filming of 'Ryan's Daughter' and more recently ' Far and Away'.  The old schoolhouse which was specially built for Ryan's Daughter is still in existence if falling into ruin, but film set Kirrary town which was also built from scratch was subsequently bulldozed by local request - they must be kicking themselves now for destroying a golden opportunity to milk the present flood of tourists!
Over forty years ago I visited Dunquin with my sister Rhiannon when we holidayed on the southwest coast.  The local bus deposited us on a bleak road at the top of the then tiny village and we walked down to the pub where one of the indoor scenes with John Mills was filmed, and where a desultory couple of locals eyed us curiously.  We also wandered down to the slipway which featured in the storm scene.  Now Dunquin has quadrupled in size and coachloads of tourists pass through regularly. There are pottery shops, a visitors' centre and tea rooms - where were the latter when we were gagging for a cup of tea and a bite to eat forty years ago?  Never a problem finding Guiness though.
And here are Zorbee and me at the end of the road - the furthest point we could safely or legally reach on Dunmore Head - beyond lie the Blasket Islands...

Julia was waiting patiently with the lorry, and we loaded up almost immediately and set off back to Rosslare.  However not before a bit of excitement as I had not realised that an unofficial one-way system existed on the narrow and precipitous road round Slea Head to the south. Luckily before we had gone too far we came bumper to bumper with a large tourist coach, rapidly followed by another.  I was forced to reverse several hundred yards to a small parking area where I was able to execute a three point turn on the edge of a cliff and then go with the flow! 
Because of our tight schedule - one important factor being Julia's imminent viva - we did not have as much time for orthodox sightseeing as we would have liked.   However at midday we were conveniently passing through the little town of Annascaul, and were able to stop for lunch at the South Pole Inn.  This was previously owned by Tom Crean, who not only took part in both Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, but also Shackleton's failed attempt. Crean was one of the remaining three men to row from Elephant Island with Shackleton and negotiate the mountains of South Georgia to raise the alarm.  As a result not a single life was lost.
So here is Julia outside the South Pole Inn (which is crammed with Tom Crean memorabilia) taking a fleeting moment to glance up from studying her thesis......
.....and here am I arm in arm with the hero himself.  Note the darling little husky puppies he is carrying (how sweet!) and the inn in the background.......

Then it was the long haul back to Wexford, where the horses were staying at Ballyhealy House again.
Betty Maher-Caulfield was home from her Uzbek travels, so she and her talented artist daughter Serena were able to join us in a couple of bottles of bubbly to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Ireland leg.

Our last evening sleeping in the lorry, and Julia looks supremely happy at the thought of her last night curled up on the floor........

We did not pay a penny for horse or human accommodation the whole way across Ireland and that has to be a first for the many countries I have ridden through.
As one of the main aims of the ride is to raise money for charity this has been much appreciated.

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