What has been heartwarming is the amount of folk around Brandon and Cloghane that remember my Grandparents. I even discovered last night that they’d been featured on a post card for the area. Grandad striding off into the distance, about to do battle with the local bass and Grannie trotting behind, trying to keep up as well as she could, all 4’11 3/4″ of her.
But they came for years and years. And after a week I can well understand why. It is unceasingly beautiful, tranquil and just good for the soul. This was echoed by a great chap from Cambridgeshire, Ray, with whom I spent a bit of time tramping the rocks, having casting practice and casting evil aspersions on the dolphins that have taken up residence and chased off the bass and sea trout. I can understand that the damn things have to eat, but with that fixed smile, well, they just look smug about it.
Anyhow Ray used to stick to the orthodox bits of the South West – Dingle, Slea Head and so forth and then one day, after 20 years, he happed to take a side trip up through Cloghane and out to Brandon Point. And was hooked. Here’s some of the reasons why [click on image to enlarge]:
26 – 27 June 2015
The Ring of Kerry is pretty spectacular – but you’d need a few days to do it justice. I mean the coast line of the SW of Eire is just so spontaneously gorgeous and largely so un-fucked up you are in utter awe. And here is a thing. There are wind-farms dotted here and there, going like the clappers and I can tell you they do not detract from the viewscape like, say, and open cut mine would. I’ve asked some of the locals about health impacts and they looked at me as though I was some kind of feckin eejit. Which I am, largely, but still.
This commitment to the environment waxes and wanes. Had you been paying attention, dolphins have taken up residence in the Cloghane Estuary. This means that the sea bass and sea trout are off the chew. Either that or the locals essentially keep them as pets and only let them out when there are no tourists around.
Some dolphins were caught out at low water around Cloghane and a few of the locals helped them back in. This was viewed with disapproval by those that make their living from the sea; those who own fishing tackle shops, and the honest (and not so honest) fisher-folk.
The proprietoress of one tackle shop was disapproving. Very. We were some distance from home and, happening in on the shop and reacting as women are wont to do vide a shoe shop I went in for a dekko. However, unlike women in shoe shops, who generally remain silent, purse-lipped and granite eyed while scanning the wares I did what all blokes will do in a tackle shop and partake in the craic. We were well into it as I perused the Abu Toby lures and raised my eyebrows at the ruinous prices. Then I mentioned the dolphins.
That was it. Herself opened up like a machine-gun at the Somme and didn’t draw breath: “Feckin dolphins! Someone should shoot the feckers, feckin well coming in and feckin eatin feckin everything like feckin locusts and leaving feckin nuttin for feckin everyone else worse than the feckin poachers the feckin things so they feckin are and no-one duz anyting about those feckers neither because there isnt the feckin manpower or some such shoite, I’d shoot those feckers too and you knaw sumptin’? no fecker would feckin say anyting to the feckin Garda because it’s like feckin Omerta here with a feckin code of feckin soilence. Can’t get a feckin word out of feckin anyone”.
Or words to that effect, although I’ll give you 20-1 that you couldn’t get a word out of anyone is that no other bugger could get a word in edgeways.
Likely had I mentioned dolphins to the conservationist push I’d get something similar, probably about recreational angling destroying the food supply which would likely have got heated and possibly violent. Now you have a squint at the following while I think about the next paragraph:
We had to take Emer to Dingle to get the bus back to Cork. So back up the Connor Pass we went and hit the strangest combination of factors: Low cloud so dense you could actually chew it and winds so strong they’d blow the spots off a leopard. This was all enlivened by the compulsory Lycrists, suffering for their art and peculiar hikers who deem it necessary to carry stocks in either hand to produce an effect of going cross country skiing. Without snow. Or skis.
It was also my turn to reverse down the mountain due to a ‘ken big, white Landcruiser, in low cloud without lights on and, consequently, to all intents and purposes invisible descending upon us with sphincter shriveling rapidity. The driver seemed genuinely outraged that anyone would have the temerity to be coming the other way, with its lights on. And then we noticed said conveyance was left hand drive. With French number plates. It explained all. Rude gestures were exchanged – and we parted the best of enemies.
In Dingle we repaired to the marina to a restaurant that came “highly recommended”. Why is anyone’s guess. The fish is allegedly “fresh caught”. No it isn’t, judging by the taste, being it had none, and the texture. I don’t know what process is utilised to give a feeling of chewing floury cotton wool and I don’t think I need to. My suspicions were aroused by the architectural design and presentation of the tucker. Any seafood noshery that needs to tart up ersatz fish and chips to the extent whereby one doesn’t know whether to eat it or make a short conceited speech and unveil is clearly compensating for something.
All around the place were twee little notices about “our friendly and helping staffs”. Eh? Oh. I see. They were barely competent. There were many “apologises for not having credits card facilities”, cash only. and, apparently, it is necessary to advise “having patience” wanting to get into the solitary dunny as it was entirely possible someone else might be in there. Imagine. Should you effect ingress you were politely informed “not to dispences” the blue paper hand towel into the loo and “the fishes will thanks you”.
The missus is gluten free. Nothing much on the menu and no, a plain piece of fish was “not possibles”. It became apparent this place was not run by the Irish. If it had been a special meal would have been run up in no time. Or they would have had gluten free on the menu, no error. We concluded this place was a tax haven for the Russian Mafia. In a way, tax issues notwithstanding it was refreshing there were no credit card facilities as had there been by now we would have run up a bill of a squillion rubles on fur coats, vodka and porn.
Thusly, should you find yourself in Dingle and looking to strap on a nosebag, stay the heck away from Fishbarr. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We went back to Brandon via some lovely little back roads – rather than take the Connor Pass which looked even more horrific. It is well worth getting off the main drag if you can as there are some utterly splendid nooks and crannies to explore, and, if you are super lucky and if you’ve been good lambkins you might see a peregrine falcon.
Back at the digs it was time to gather some peeler crabs for an evening on the Pier. Charlottey and I set out to the mudflats below Cloghane. She was as keen as heck until she found out that white sandals and socks were not optimum wear and she quickly lost interest. Still some crabs were caught and a baby conger eel. I only know it to be a baby conger as my mate Peter Logue identified it being as he used to flog them for two bob a knock to the only Chinese in Derry back in the earlies. Given there are no Chinese eateries within a bull’s roar of Brandon, this bloke went back to the estuary.
Armed with the crabs (pardon?) I went down to the Pier where the wind that had previously blown the spots off leopards was now earnestly engaged in blowing them back on. The following pix show raindrops reflecting the camera flash. On the one hand they are in the lee of the Pier and in the other they show what happens to rain drops with a healthy 60km/h gust up the arse.
The evening produced nothing other than tinnitus from a flapping spray jacket hood and wet knees.
On the final full day in Brandon the missus and kids went up to Tralee and I joined Ray on Ballyquin largely for casting practice, and casting evil aspersions on dolphins, while watching same cruise the bay and marveling at the gannets in their death dives to earn a living. Eventually this palled and we went our separate ways. Being without a car I started the long trudge along Ballyquin, across the beck and along the main drag of Brandon, remembering that Grandad was a noted user of Shank’s Pony. Even into his 80s he regularly walked the headlands from Lilli Pilli to Surf Beach and back dealing, as only an ex-British Army RSM can with the protests of the moneyed classes who would claim, incorrectly, he was trespassing: “Bugger off!” and yapping Jack Russells; who learned early on that he still had a good kick on him and was pretty good with a shanghai and kept their distance accordingly.
I paused to cogitate on the local quadrupeds. Were they donkeys or asses?
Interpreting this last as a dismissal I made my way up the road to be waylaid by a pair of German hikers. How did I know they were German? Well, dear reader, they were coming down from Brandon Point which is a dead end. This means they had come from Dingle either around the headland from Brandon Creek or yomped it over the ranges. Either way it is a sod of a long way and these two buggers were immaculate. They had not broken sweat. Their spray jackets looked ironed for the love of God. Tidy enough, they looked utterly knackered. Only one appeared to English which was odd – but he could scarcely breathe. The following conversation took place:
“Ve are stayink at ze Clog-hane hoztel..”
“Clog-hane” (Pron Clah-harn).
“Ah yes, Cloghane”.
“Ja, and ve are vanting to be buying of ze food”
“Right” I did wonder if I’d actually caught some fish I might have turned a quid. No.
“Iz zer being a shops arount here?”
Brandon has about 20 houses, 3 pubs. Cloghane is a bit bigger has a small general store.
“What sort of shop?”
“Vere ve can gets der foods. A zupermarket, ja”
I couldn’t resist it.
“What, like an Aldi or a Lidl?” Your man brightens.
“Ja, Aldi or Lidl wut be gut”
“Closest would be back in Dingle” his face fell a tad. “Or Tralee”. He looks downright depressed.
Noting that Germany couldn’t achieve world domination with two wars but have managed it with two supermarkets I felt a bit sorry for them. I told them that they would get some groceries at the store but a better idea would be to get into Cloghane, dump their kit at the hostel, go next door to O’Donnell’s Pub, get on the outside of a couple of pints and have a meal there. I imparted that or E11.50 they could get a massive deluxe burger and chips and salad and given they had been walking all day and could have chewed the crutch out of a low flying emu that would do them far more good than 2 minute noodles and baked beans, even if his name was Heinz. Actually I didn’t say that as it probably would have fallen flat or I’d have got invaded or something.
The mention of pints and burgers and chips and sundry other Irish pub foods them on the march quicker than you could say “Barbarossa”. And off they went.
I made it back alive and refreshed with tea and bickies I was reading the news and saw that the USA had come on board with marriage equality, Ireland having done so earlier. The sun was shining and it began to rain. This is Ireland after all. But we got this:
One could hear some raised voices but we dismissed that as a peeing contest between some leprechauns over first dibs on the crock of gold.
As things would have it I had to go to Cloghane to take stuff to the transfer station and popped into O’Donnell’s to catch up with Ray. He is propping up the bar with the locals. Sure enough, there are our two teutonic friends looking as happy and content as they could be. Actually, they were completely bladdered.
We exchanged pleasantries and the Guinness and the pub food were “Wunderbar”. This was lost on a couple of the locals, one of whom was hard of hearing. It was all blokes up at the bar and I swear your man was thinking to himself “Sure, and which wan of dese buggers iz after wearin a wonder-bra?”
And so that brings to an end Leg 1 of the trip. Leg 2 is already underway – a moderately arse numbing drive up to Crom Estate on Lough Erne near Enniskillen where we shall attempt to coax perch and trout out of the Lake, drive up to the Giant’s Causeway, take a side trip to a linen mill and partake in sundry other such diversions.