The Glen of the Mad
After the day at the beach, we took a trip to the Dingle Peninsula, the Westernmost peninsula of Ireland. Frankly, it was incredible and there is no
way that this blog is going to capture the amazing sites and natural phenomenons that we saw. But I will try so that maybe one day you too may come here :-) The picture on the left is what I thought we would be seeing- beautiful mountains, ocean, and other landmarks. We did. However, what makes Ireland more than just a beautiful place to visit is the folklore that seems to surround every single mountain, cemetery, and/or holy site. For instance, the valley that we are standing in front of in this picture is
pretty, but what makes it special is its name-- Gleann/na/Gealt (pronounced glauva-mc-gout), which means "Glen of the Mad" in Irish. The legend goes that the King of France, after the
battle of Ce/Ceann/Tro (pronounced “Cayaaane Tra”) battle in which he lost, was so distressed that he travelled to Ireland for its supposed soothing powers. Being nuts, he found himself in this valley (naked and raving) and drank from the waters there. They cured
him of his madness to the point that he put clothes back on, and ever since it has been a pilgrimage for people with mental illnesses. The valley became a valley for mad people long before the crazy French king. Long, long ago in this valley there lived a king with an adulterous wife and loose daughter who slept with the same man. Up
on finding out, the king was so enraged that he killed his wife and daughter, and then went mad from his own loneliness. There are many more layers for this single mountain valley, which is pretty typical of most Irish landmarks. Each place we stopped, we could have talked for hours.
Our next stop was the Minard Castle, known to the Irish local was "Minairae," w
hich is Minard in Irish. The countryside we are staying
in right now is so rural that many people still speak the Irish language as their first language, and English as a second language. It is not uncommon to here "locals" conversing in Irish, which is really cool. Every sign here is also written in Irish first and English second, so you might pick up some Irish in the progress of this trip! This castle is also one of the oldest remaining in Ireland, and was once three stories hight and the site of a great
massacre. Apparently, the British troops were (as usual) trying to take over the castle and agreed to put their weapons down if the Irish soldiers within would come out peacefully. The soldiers came out peacefully and were of course massacred by the British on the spot. The castle was also a rest spot for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago hundreds of years ago, when it was still in use. The picture of the left is the inside
of the castle.
Next, we visited Tobar Eoinn, which means Well of John, referring to
John the Baptist. In Irish Eoinn, or John, actually is the same as the names John, Sean, and something else that seemed really random. The well is said to have medicinal powers, and hundreds of p
eople come to it worldwide, especially on the 29th of August to celebrate John the Baptist. Because he
was beheaded, people walk around the well for twenty times and throw in blackberries that grow along the well. The blackberries turn the river around the well blood red and are supposed to symbolize John’s blood after he was killed. They are supposed to absolve him for Herrod (or something like that- since he wasn’t really in the wrong). Elderly people come here to drink the water for its healing powers. Of course, many of us had to drink the water, as well (just in case)!
Our next stop was Dingle Town for lunch. It is right on the water, and we ordered delicious fish
and chips. A lot of the town’s shops are decorated with dolphins because the town has a resident dolphin—Fungie—who comes right into the harbor and visits with two hundred or so of his friends every day! I bought an authentic pair of sheep gloves and a sheep’s wool hat there (made in Ireland, of course) because it was soooo cold outside. It rained all day, and the wind occasionally felt like it was picking us up from where we stood. However, the wool hat and gloves made all the difference.
In the picture of the town in front of the mountain, you will notice a tomb/ tower looking monument standing on top of the mountain. This tower is an example of one of the work orders that the British made the Irish do during “the Starving Time,” (The Famine) in which the Irish would climb up the mountain every day to construct the tower for a bowl of food per day. There are also some roads over the mountains that lead nowhere for the same purpose, called “Famine Roads” because they were constructed by the Irish for bowls of food.
The Westernmost point of Europe!!
After lunch, we continued travelling and made it to the Westernmost point of Europe, which also happened to be a very treacherous cliff that we climbed to. The winds were blowing so hard that I had an actual fear of being blown away as we climbed, but it was completely worth it. We stood on one side and looked for Ellis Island on the other side of the Atlantic, but I guess that the cloud cover from the rain was too much for it! By the time we had climbed down the mini-mountain and back to the bus, we were completely soaked, but it was absolutely amazing. It is also much, much higher up than you can see in this picture (please note sheep cap, too!)