The Dingle Peninsula in Kerry, Ireland, has to be one of the most spectacularly beautiful places on Earth. I was warned the weather was not going to be great this week, but as it turned out the sea mist that so regularly shrouds the headland at this time of year made the whole place seem even more ethereal than usual. The only downside was not being able to see the mountain tops or even to get the opportunity of viewing the scenery from the top of Mount Brandon. Down below, however, the sea was just something else, and since it was still pretty humid, it was a delight to swim in, even though I was slightly lumbered with my camera equipment and my car etc.
I stayed at the Benners Hotel in Dingle, the oldest hotel in the town, which is the most westerly town in mainland Europe. It’s right in the centre of town, with great staff, service and most importantly a vibrant bar area. Having travelled for two days beforehand and slept in a tent the night before, I was particularly pleased at the great night’s sleep, and even more so at the enormous breakfast I hovered the next morning to prepare myself for a day of filming along the Dingle.
It took me most of a day to get from Dingle to Slea Head (00:52), mainly because I was compelled to stop literally every 200 metres to take another clip of the magnificent views. Unfortunately, when I got to Dunquin, it started really heaving it down with rain, so sloped into a Youth Hostel at the top of the road opposite the very informative Blaskets Interpretive centre. The Blaskets are a group of islands just off Dunquin where a community lived until 1953 who spoke only Irish language. In the 1930’s a group of people from the Island emigrated en masse to Springfield MA, and by 1950 only 25 people remained. The Dingle Peninsular, and Connemara are only two places in Ireland where you can now find Irish spoken as a first language.
On speaking to the landlady at the Hostel, we got on to the subject of Ryan’s Daughter, the masterpiece of a film by David Lean, which was filmed around Dunquin in the late 1960’s. As it happened, the road running alongside the hostel, was literally at the foot of the hill where a village was specially made for the film, and what’s the more the old school house, now derelict, stood just half a mile away in the other direction. The next morning, I rose early to walk up to find this location, only to find the track, the elevation of the road I remember so clearly from the film, a few foundations and lots of sheep. There is barely anything left. The view up there was incredible though. I then moved on to the old school house (04:10), which sits right on the edge of a cliff with walls in good condition, but sadly with its tiles all blown off. The main giveaway was the modern mortar in the walls, the breeze blocks inside and a few pipes, but other than that, I could get myself in a position where I could remember the scenes of Michael (Sir John Mills) and the priest Trevor Howard emerging from the gate. At 07:30am it felt magical, and yet so few people came here.
At the foot of the hill is the beach where they filmed the gun running scene, when Leo McKern nearly lost his life while running into the water to grab boxes of ammunition. You will notice the path on the way down to the beach (04:55) and a few of the rock formations, but note that other beaches were also used for this scene, including Inch beach (05:15) further back along the Peninsula, now a surfers paradise.
The rest of the drive around the peninsula was equally awe-inspiring with a number of sites I hope to visit the next time, which will happen in 2012 if all goes well.
My thanks go to the Muireann, the Manager of the Benners Hotel, Catherine Murphy at Fastnet Lines and to Tom at Glidecam who sent one of their excellent products to me in time for this trip.