Thursday, 1 September 2011

Day two in Dingle

This morning I wandered down for breakfast and the whole experience was truly top end. There was a good range of options but as an Irishman I couldn’t resist the Irish breakfast. On my plate were sausages from Jerry Flaherty’s butcher’s I’d seen made the day before as well as Black pudding from Annascaul and of course, Chicken George’s eggs. Everything was perfect and I polished it all off. I started to realise I would have to work off this trip when I got back to London!

Artie dropped me down to the waterfront and I boarded the “Fungi boat”. Fungi is a dolphin who made the unlikely decision to adopt Dingle as his home in late 1983, a fact no one can really explain. But he has been in Dingle Bay ever since and his existence has meant a living for a number of ex-fishermen who bring tourists out to see Fungi who likes the choppy waters the boats creates and comes to play. So much a fixture of these waters is Fungi that tourists only pay for the boat ride if they see Fungi, which means they always see Fungi. And true to form Fungi came out to play – gliding alongside the boat and jumping out of the water close to the side of the boat to the delight of all but especially the children on the boat.

Richie, the skipper, originally from Dublin had been a fisherman in Dingle for over thirty years and was glad of the chance to still make a living from the waters around Dingle, even if fishing was an industry in decline. We chatted about Bolivia, his favourite country, and one I had also spent some time in, and about why Fungi might have come to Dingle. Richie gave short shrift to any theories pertaining to why Fungi decided to settle here thinking they all ascribed too many human characteristics to the beloved dolphin. I tended to agree.

I was back on land very briefly, and back out on a fishing boat for a couple of hours. Other than myself there were a couple of families – from Dublin and Northern Ireland - on the boat. Paul, the skipper, told me the weather wasn’t great for fishing as it was a bit choppy but after trying a couple of spots we found a good one and we all started to catch some fish – mackerel mostly but also pollack and one sardine..

The children quickly got over their squeamishness around the fish. Back onshore Paul quickly and expertly filleted the fish and we divided it up between us, and I met Artie and Danielle from Failte Ireland, the Irish Tourist Board, and we went to a pub opposite the harbour for lunch.

I handed them some mackerel fillets and a couple of pollack too and as we chatted they cooked the fish I had caught. No arguing about the freshness of this lunch! And it was delicious, perhaps even more so knowing where it came from.

After lunch we went out to the Dingle Brewing Company. This is a new venture and their new beer , Crean’s, named after the famous Arctic explorer Tom Cream, one of Dingle’s favourite sons, has only recently been launched in the local pubs.  We met Xavier, “the cook”, the main onsite brewer who explained the brewing process and gave us a sample of the newest, still in process, version - version six. With a new yeast with which he was very happy it was a full flavoured lager with a lovely hoppy finish. He explained that the new yeast gave it a better balance and that it had more predictable results which is a must for brewers. He was clearly very excited about the whole thing. A distillery is in the process of being built and there is a little museum as well. The whole thing was very well put together.

After visiting a few more accommodation options I checked in Castlewood House for the night. Their Trip Advisor awards lined the lobby and the whole place was expertly managed by my welcoming hosts, Brian and Helen. I headed out for dinner with Artie in Paudy’s pub, a more modest meal than the night before but still very tasty.  I went for the burger on Artie’s recommendation and it was succulent and the portions enormous.

We stopped into John Benny’s pub where an excellent local band, Lumiere, were playing – two superb female vocalists and an excellent acoustic guitarist. It was very much my kind of thing but I wasn’t alone and everyone seemed to be really enjoying it. I headed back to Castlewood House for the night, tired but happy with another very nice day.

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