Annascaul in County Kerry was our home-away-from-home this weekend while visiting the Dingle Peninsula. The first reason for our visit was for the Dingle Half-Marathon, but the weekend also offered the Dingle Film Festival, beautiful weather, visiting family, and a bit of coastal rest and relaxation. There was lots of driving on the left (which wore me out), plenty of sunshine (yes, I wore sunscreen), and many good meals (I’m sharing my list of favorites).
As with any road trip these days, I did the driving…on the left. I am the official driver of the family now and everyone loves being able to sit back and enjoy the ride as I whirl around roundabouts, stay left without sideswiping the walls beside cozy paths, and manage on those lovely one-lane two-way roads. Just because I am good at it doesn’t mean it’s easy. I drove on the right side (or wrong side, depending on who you ask) of the street for more than a decade was what my brain was accustomed to so driving on the left requires more focus to make sure I carry through the right driver’s instincts and smother the wrong ones (like passing on the left or getting into the car on the left side). To me, driving on the left is like speaking another language. It demands constant awareness to my actions, uses parts of my brain that don’t get flexed every day, and wears me out to the point that I sleep like a log. The driving adventures were just as uneventful and fun as ever. I must admit that our July visit to Dingle was less fun since the lashing rain was madness and the sunshine made it a joy this time. The passengers were oddly the same since each time it was Conor, a mom, and an aunt – plus lots of holiday spirit. This trip offered more exploration and definitely was more crowded since it fell on the same weekend as the third Dingle Film Festival and the first Dingle Marathon.
Dingle town had a bit of Hollywood magic with its film festival bringing stars and film lovers together to celebrate the silver screen. Tying together the marathon and the film festival was director Jon Dunham’s The Spirit of the Marathon. We were not able to see its European premiere, but later that evening we ran into a fellow American from Los Angeles who came to town for the film festival and the Dingle Marathon race director set things up so he and his friend could run the course a day early since they had to fly back to California on race day. Quite nice. Of course, after returning to our laptops and looking up the film we connected that we had probably met the film’s director. Had we known that, I’m sure we’d have asked him a million questions about his passion for running and how it was to create the first feature-length documentary about marathon running. I am sincerely hoping it will be available in theatres here so we can see it. If not, I’ll just wait until I am back in the States next since the film is available as a Netflix rental and ‘Watch Instantly’.
The spirit of the race was alive and well for the first ever Dingle Marathon was a great success after ordering up sublime sunshine, sweet sea breezes, and enthusiastic runners. Conor ran the half-marathon with all its hills and finished in around two-and-a-half hours. Yay! A huge accomplishment considering the lack of hills for training in Cork City limits. Having done races in Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Honolulu, and the like he grew accustomed to nice scenery so Dingle didn’t fail him in that respect. The same weekend as he is running in Dingle, one of his 2009 Cork City Marathon teammates is running in the ‘John Buckley Sports’ Cork Half-Marathon in Blarney.
There are so many wonderful races in Ireland and, thankfully, blogs covering the events with wonderful detail. Here are a few of the bestest I’ve found, (if you write a runner’s blog that’s not included, feel free to comment with the blog’s URL and focus/region).
http://irelandrunning.blogspot.com/ - A calendar of long distance road races in Ireland.
http://munsterrunning.blogspot.com/ - Information about select road races in Munster’s Counties Clare, Kerry, Tipperary, and Waterford.
http://corkrunning.blogspot.com/ - Running scene in Cork, from short races (3km) to marathons (42km).
http://rubbishrunner.blogspot.com/ - Diary of a Rubbish Marathon Runner.
Having visited Dingle for a combined seven days this summer, I feel like I’ve found enough favorites to share. Here are my Dingle favorites for eating, drinking, and playing.
An Canteen, Dykegate Lane, Dingle - My personal favorite with delicious menu options. Cajun chicken is Conor’s favorite. I love their cheesecakes and chips (French fries). They happen to serve the best crab cakes I’ve had outside of my home state of Maryland. They’re still smallish by Harris’s standards, but get three and keep Old Bay in your purse and it’s just what you need to cure summer homesickness.
Garden Café, Green Street, Dingle – Great café with amazing daily specials and lovely local atmosphere. They have this goat cheese and leek tart that was yummy! Super egg salad sandwiches.
Kennedy & Sons Butchers, Orchard Lane, Dingle - The best butcher in County Kerry (though I selfishly wish it was closer to Cork City). Jerry Kennedy knows his beef, lamb, and sausages and provides fairly prices LOCAL products. Known for the Blasket Island Lamb sold there at fair prices. Best part is that the shop caters to the real consumer by selling eggs, seasoning, and other basics so you don’t have to run all over town just to get the ingredients for a perfect meatloaf. And with O’Connor’s Vegetables down the lane you’re all set for shepherd’s pie too! Orchard Lane has its own parking that doesn’t fill up very often. The lane is located off Main Street between Dykegate and Green.
Courtney’s Bakery, Green Street, Dingle – Delicious scones, pastries, queen cakes, breads, and blás (best in the West). Nice table in the sun just outside for enjoying your fresh-baked treats. I wish this place was in Cork City!
Hanafin’s Bar, Main Street, Annascaul - Cozy little Irish pub for the locals with wonderful prices, friendly people, and central location.