June 2nd - Anascaul, Co. Kerry

Sneem to Anascaul

by Emily Larson

Every day is an adventure waiting to happen. Waking up this morning to another day without rain was a pleasant surprise. After another filling Irish breakfast, we began the day by critiquing some of the video footage each of us has been shooting during the trip. It was then almost 9 a.m., and to Howard that was getting late. We loaded up the van, left the colorful village of Sneem, which won the "Ireland's Tidiest Village" award a few years ago.

The village of Sneem, Co. Kerry, is trying hard to again win the "Tidiest Village" award. While we were there, somone was polishing up the plaque from the previous winning year.

Mark McSweeney, a life-long resident of Sneem, was eager to spend some time chatting with a visiting American.

Our first stop was at one of the finest Iron Age forts in Ireland, Staigue Fort. This stone fort is one of just a handful remaining from the pre-Christian era. It is 90' in diameter, with 18' tall walls which are 13' thick. These forts were designed for protection and living quarters in a time of tribal warfare. There is an entryway to the center of the fort, and within the walls are two passageways which could have been hiding spots or storage.

Staigue fort is Ireland's finest surviving example of an Iron Age stone fort.

There were also stairs leading to the tops of the fort's wall, where its defenders could hurl stones and arrows at their enemies. Besides seeing the ancient monuments, the beauty of the landscape is what gives each of us lasting memories of Ireland. Driving though the narrow, winding roads is unique. The beauty of the countryside is breathtaking and difficult to describe without photographs. Today, during the long stretches of remote mountain pass secondary roads, we were the only vehicle on the road. This gave us the opportunity to experience the land of Ireland far off the beaten tourist track and provide a more authentic experience.

High up at the summit of the Ballaghbeama Gap, the group posed for a panoramic portrait after getting out of the van and trecking up almost to the summit of the mountain. Click on the picture to see the entire QuickTime VR panorama (228 K).

At the top of the road from Sneem to Glencar, the six of us were the only humans we saw for the entire drive. With the engine stopped, there were no sounds except the occasional sheep. This freedom gave us a chance to climb and explore the mountainous terrain. Some of us tried rock climbing, in practice for tomorrow's hike up a mountain.

Our next stop was at Inch Beach, near the eastern end of the Dingle Peninsula. Although there were many other tourists there, we still reacted with enthusiasm to the vast sandy beach. The beach extended for miles, in spite of its name, and it was surrounded by green hills. You had to go a ways to get to the water because of the low tide.

Phil show his enthusiastic response to seeing the ocean.

The water was a bit cold, but that didn't stop us from wading and generally enjoying ourselves. It so cold that I couldn't understand how some children could be fully imersed and splashing around. We left the beach and moved on a few miles to explore the ruins at Minard Castle. In the 17th century, the Knight of Kerry took over Minard Castle to fight against the English.

Minard Castle was the site of a bloody battle 300 years ago.

The English armies and navies rained cannon fire on the castle until the east wall collapsed, and then executed all its defenders. The castle ruins stand on a hill overlooking a beach with large boulders. Now these ruins lie in peace, home only to a herd of cows, which some of us tried to make into pets.

For those unfamiliar with the denizens of the Irish countryside, cows do NOT make the best of pets. They are not likely to come to a stranger holding a bunch of grass, as they have more than enough of that everywhere they turn.

The ride from Anascaul to Minard Castle reminded me of a patchwork quilt. The seams of the quilt were the hedges, bushes and stone walls that separated each individual field. The fabric of the quilt were the deep colors of the Irish countryside.

The road from Anascaul to the Minard Castle bay presents especially beautiful vistas of the hilly fields of different patterns and colors.

This trip has allowed me to experience the life of another culture in depth. It is so much more meaningful than reading about it from a textbook. I hope others in the future will get to have the same chance.