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Visiting the Dingle Peninsula in all its glory for The Gathering 2013

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For the first time I opted to take in Tommy’s pub featuring himself on guitar and vocals plus the outstanding young button box player, Damien Mullane, originally from England but resettled here in Dingle who just produced an excellent new CD called simply 13.  

The pub is small and intimate, and it doesn’t take many to fill up the front room with its mixture of visitors who know what they are looking for, and others who are attracted by the quaintness and atmosphere of a well-staffed proper Irish pub.  Gorgeous music and ambience on the first night.

On the Wednesday, a much-needed lie-in was called for but the brilliant sunshine and warmth of the day soon got me into action for a leisurely walk around town that included a stop at one of the three music shops, Siopa Ceoil off of Strand Street, a more recent addition to the venerable Dingle Record Store operated by the venerable Mazz O’Flaherty for over three decades which I visited the next day opposite St. Mary’s Church.  

Along with some new CDs featuring local talent, I was treated to a cuppa coffee by the owners (the Herlihy father and son tandem who operate it) and a mini-concert by Micheal Herlihy on accordion and Maire Breatnach, a well-respected fiddle player who also recently relocated to the peninsula to educate her child in the Irish language and customs. 

Another coffee followed later with singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh of Danu who recently returned to her Dun Chaoin roots as well.

The warmth of the sun drew me first to Murphy’s ice cream shop with its creamy homemade treats, and then out on the roads back towards Anascual and Inch Strand for a pleasant walk along one of Ireland’s longest beaches looking out at the vast expanse of Dingle Bay that separates the larger Iveragh Peninsula with its equally beautiful Ring of Kerry.

As the sun still shone brilliantly I made my way back to An Daingean (its Irish name) for a 8 p.m. early bird reservation at a pub that I had heard about but never visited before, John Benny’s on Strand Street. 

Owned by locals John Benny Moriarty and Eilis ni Chinneide, the popular restaurant and pub becomes a charming hotspot later on when the center room becomes a music hall for those lucky enough to garner one of the seats there. 

Tastefully miked performances can be experienced in the bar areas in the front and back rooms allowing for general conversations that can overcome artists in the best of pubs. 

Since the landlords Eilis Kennedy and box player John Benny himself along with Donagh Hennessey were the featured acts this night, I didn’t want to miss any of the action there on my first and only night to avail of it. 

It was wonderful singing from the husband and wife duo along with the chance to see Donagh Hennessey once again provide his standout accompaniment all night. 

Several bonuses on the night were another great early-bird special of steak and colcannon washed down by the local brew, Crean’s, and receiving a copy of the newly-minted Lumiere’s CD My Dearest Dear featuring Eilis and partner Pauline Scanlon accompanied by Donagh Hennessey.

My last day would start earlier with a Ventry Harbor departure around Slea Head out to view the Great Blasket Islands accompanied by many relations of Fungi, as the dolphins playfully tagged along our small island ferry. 

Sunshine continued to follow my journey around to Dunquin with its excellent Blasket Island Center, Ballyferriter and Ballydavid after an enjoyable lunch with singer and musician  Breandan Begley who hails from this beautiful part of the world near Mount Brandon. 

My last night’s rambles started hitting the Mighty Session first, then next door to An Droichead Beag to see Meabh ni Bheaglaoich, the box playing daughter of Seamus Begley (who was touring in Africa with Teada) and finally back to O’Sullivan’s Courthouse where I began my Dingle journey to see Full Set’s Theresa Horgan (another transplant from Cork) and Tommy. 

Though you would need a week to fully enjoy all that the Dingle Peninsula has to offer, even a few days is enough to comprehend why it is such a vital place in today’s Ireland and worth allocating the time and effort.  I’ll be back again as soon as I can.           

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