Dingle – May 31, 2014 – Today I got the chance to cross two items off my bucket list. I have always said that I wanted to tour a true castle and to see the Ring of Kerry.
I have been fascinated with castles since I was in grade school. I remember learning all about the castle, from its rooms and general layout to it defensive structures. I recognize that there are different types of castles and defensive homes here (Normal round towers, Mortano towers, and the fortified manor) and they are different from walled cities. Today, we toured Bunratty.
We got there first thing in the morning as they opened to avoid the bus rush. As a result, we were one of the first of the day to tour the grounds. Now, one of the key differences is that this is not a ruin, it is a completely restored fortified manor house originally built by the O’Connell’s and eventually taken by the O’Brien’s. As we walked the main hall, the Chiefs Hall and the private quarters of the building It was impressive. From the top of the castle you could see for miles down to the Shannon River.
As I was moving through the castle, I got to see the arrow slits, the murder hole, the listening ports, and walk the circular stairs of the castle.
The family that owned this castle progressed through about all states of royal homes . They started with a wooden walled fort with house (burned down). The grounds grow through several stages from castle, to manor house, to estate (Dormond – now a famous hotel).
The second experience was the Slea Head Road. According to Joe (bus driver), the Slea Head drive is the best. Our trip, the Slea Head Road, is considered the most spectacular. The Slea Head drive is after the Ring of Kerry - it is an extension of the Ring roads.
As an additional benefit to the drive, we also had the opportunity to see a bee hive home. These ancient rock houses were built to provide shelter from the weather in the eighth century.
Our final experience of the day (actually it was between Bunratty Castle and Slea Head), was to visit with Sean at Dingle Crystal. Sean was apprenticed as a crystal cutter at age fifteen at Waterford Crystal. He worked there for fifteen years, becoming a master cutter. When Waterford Crystal was bought out, he went his own way opening Dingle Crystal. He showed us how he cut crystal. He made it seem easy to make all those cuts using a diamond cutter and his hands.
As I finish this entry, I leave you with perhaps the most important photo of the day.