ESCAPE TO IRELAND - #13 – Town of Dingle

August 24, 2016  •  1 Comment

May/June 2016

ESCAPE TO IRELAND - #13 – Town of Dingle

Map of route for Day 13

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According to the rules for bus drivers, they cannot drive more than a certain number of days in a row without having a day off in between.  So, this day turned out to be Paddy’s day off and we were on our own in the town of Dingle.  I should probably get a government grant to study this and see if it’s true throughout the world, but it seems that when on foot you can’t get to as many places in a given amount of time compared to when you are driven.  But we had all day to explore the fishing town of Dingle – and so we did.

Hussy’s Folly

After sleeping in a bit and wandering down to the hotel restaurant for a leisurely breakfast with a view of Dingle Bay, we decided to take a stroll out to a tower house we could see down the bay to the south.  We found out later that this was called “Hussy’s Folly”.

This structure was about half a mile south of the hotel as the crow flies.  By foot, along roads it’s about 1.5 miles so, not wanting to walk the extra distance nor being a crow we took the next best option and walked to it across a few farmers’ fields.  Apparently we were not the first to do this as the path was pretty well worn and the cows didn’t seem to mind at all.

Hussy’s Folly was said to be built by the local land agent, R. M. Hussy around 1845.  If you’ve been paying attention to these blogs and you’re under 50 years old you’ll still remember that 1845 was during the Great Famine years.  You may also recall that during the famine various agencies created “make work” projects as a way to give away food to starving people without appearing to give away food to starving people.  In other words you have to work for food, even if it killed you.  Well, this is said to be one of those projects as it was built with no actual purpose in mind and it lived up to that expectation and was never used for anything.  This Hussy fellow also had another tower built a bit further down the way (which we didn’t hike to) that was actually used as a light house for a short time but for the most part was also just built to cause labor. 

The tower itself overlooks the entrance to Dingle Bay and is a “castellated tower” whatever that means.  It is a free standing square of a single story over a 1 story raised basement.  The entire basement is above ground level but is still called a basement as it was never intended to be used except for storage and access.  A round topped arch opening adorns each side of the first floor  made of red brick - I’d say this was actually the 2nd floor in America speak or 3rd floor in Euro speak where the ground floor is floor 0).  There was a similar arch into the basement that is blocked over with stones. 

Hussy’s Folly

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Hussy’s Folly

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Dingle (Town of)

According to Wikipedia, Dingle is the only town on the Dingle Peninsula and has a population of around 2000 which is pretty small all things considered.  In 2003 Dingle and Santa Barbara California became sister cities.

The non residential section of Dingle is made up of a main street that goes along the edge of the harbor along with 4 or so other commercial streets that sort of form a rectangle up the side of a hill.  .  Even though the main industry in Dingle today is tourism they still maintain a robust fishing industry as well as taking credit for agriculture from nearby farms.  As one would imagine given that tourism is the main source of income, these main commercial streets are chock full of restaurants, cutesy shops, pubs, and music outlets of all kinds.  Of course there’s also the odd grocery store, hardware store and bank type of establishment to support the local folks but make no mistake, this is a tourist town with brightly colored buildings boasting very Irish signs.

As we wandered the town, in and out of various shops we stumbled upon St. James Church tucked behind the Dingle Pub.  St. James is a small and simple structure built in the year 1807. It is said that the original church on the same site was built by the Spanish. After the reformation it was taken over by Church of Ireland. It’s small, it’s intimate, and there is a certain spirit to the place. Traditional music has been played in the Church over the years so there’s a real sense that there is music in the walls.  They continue to host Irish Folk concerts. 

We also wandered by O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub where our group was booked in to hear a local band that evening.  As their web site says, “What happens when the lives of an Irish trad musician and a Texas nurse collide?  They get married and move the gal, the dog and all her boots to Ireland!  And then of course, open a traditional pub, featuring traditional Irish music.”  That evening we came back here for the band but it was a bit too small for the number of folks crammed so after a few numbers we decided to go over to another Pub downtown where we had been told that Cathy Ryan would be playing that night.  We got there just in time to hear her do a couple of songs.  Turns out she wasn’t really on the bill but like our tour guide – David Francey -  she too was leading a music tour of Ireland and just did a few songs for her tour group.  But, it was well worth it as we love her songs.

But you gotta love Irish politics.  In 2005 the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - Éamon Ó Cuív - announced that anglicized place names (such as 'Dingle') of Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) towns and villages would no longer be allowed on official signposts, and only the Irish language names would appear. The English-language version of the town's name was thus officially dropped with the largely colloquial Irish name An Daingean being used in its place.

Of course in the case of Dingle, this was particularly controversial, as the town relies heavily on the tourist industry and there was fear that the change would prevent visitors finding it.  Detractors noted that tourists might not recognize the Irish name on sign-posts, and there would be confusion with a similarly named town (Daingean) in County Offaly.  Supporters rejected this argument, pointing out that there are numerous towns in Ireland with similar names.  The minister added to the controversy by suggesting that a name change to English could be brought about by removing the town's Gaeltacht status, thereby losing its entitlement to government grants for Irish-speaking areas.

In late 2005, Kerry County council approved the holding of a plebiscite for a change of name to "Dingle/Daingean Uí Chúis" which took place in October 2006. The result of the vote was 1,005 for the name change and 81 against.  Éamon Ó Cuív (he dude that started the whole thing) stated, however, that there was no requirement to act on the results of the plebiscite.  Nevertheless, in 2008 the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, announced his intention to amend the local government laws to allow names chosen by plebiscite to supersede any place names ordered under the Official Languages Act of 2003.  This would mean that "Daingean Uí Chúis" would be the official name of the town in Irish, with "Dingle" the official name in English. However, the name of the town on road signs within the Gaeltacht would continue to display the name of the town in Irish only.  In the meantime, some locals took matters into their own hands by spray painting "Dingle" on road signs that bore only the Irish version of the name.  So, it seems that the politicians in Ireland have as much sense of what their constituents want as they do on this side of the pond.

Music store and concert venue up a side street (where we heard Cathy Ryan)

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For you Sherlock Holms fans

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Shops up a side street

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St. James Church

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O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub

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Blue, Blue, Red

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Milking the tourist trade

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Dingle Harbor

The town was developed as a port following the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1171.  By the thirteenth century more goods were being exported through Dingle than Limerick, and in 1257 an ordinance of Henry III imposed customs on the port's exports which didn’t go over too well locally.  By the fourteenth century, importing wine was a major business. Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond, who held power in the area, imposed a tax on this activity around 1329.  By the sixteenth century, Dingle was one of Ireland's main trading ports, exporting fish and hides and importing wines from the continent of Europe. French and Spanish fishing fleets used the town as a base.

Connections with Spain were particularly strong, and in 1529 Thomas Fitzgerald, 11th Earl of Desmond and the ambassador of Charles V of Spain signed the Treaty of Dingle.  Dingle was also a major embarkation port for pilgrims to travel to the shrine of Saint James at Santiago de Compostela.  In 1569 the commerce of the town was increased when it was listed as one of fifteen towns or cities which were to have a monopoly on the import of wine

Today the harbor contains a modest mix if commercial fishing boats and a range of private pleasure craft, many of which are owned by tourists visiting Dingle.  One can walk the entire harbor area in about 20 minutes unless you keep stopping to take pictures.

Fishing boats in Dingle Harbor

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Brightly colored houses and fishing boats

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Fishing boat showing its age

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Nets spooled up and ready to deploy

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Store yard of fishing nets

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Painting the scene

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Some of the pleasure craft

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This brings us to the end of our 13th day (6th day on formal tour).


Episode 14 will take us from County Clare up to County Kerry.

I hope you enjoyed reading this travel log and will read accounts of future trips.  

- Images of this trip can be found on my website at.



The Ireland blog series can be found here:


This Blog can be found online here:


Thanks for reading – Dan 


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