Insider Experience: Ireland – Day Three to Dingle
March 18, 2019
It’s time to hit the road once again and make our way down to the Dingle Peninsula. Along the way, we will visit the pubs of two different families that are connected to our trip, and get inspiration from locally-made gin, vodka, whiskey, and beer. Here is the report from Day Three of the Inside Experience: Ireland group trip.
It wasn’t too long of being on the road before we came to a town called Foynes for a coffee stop. As we entered the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, nobody in the group really knew what to expect. We certainly didn’t recognize where the coffee was.
Our guide Mary told us the story: as aircraft gained longer range in the 1930’s they were looking for ways to potentially cross the Atlantic to connect Europe and North America. Eventually, flying boats were deemed a suitable option, and as Foynes sat on the eastern shore of the eartern-most country in Europe it became the hub for these passenger-carrying seaplanes.
The museum tells the story of those early passenger flights and the legendary aircraft that carried celebrities, royalty, rich and famous and desperate refugees. It sits within the former passenger terminal building and features the only Boeing B314 flying boat replica in the world. This was interesting to explore, as the comforts and amenities were more akin to steamship travel than to flight. This makes more sense when you realize that the time it took to cross the Atlantic was as much as 24 hours of travel or more.
We then were brought into a room and each found a station at a long table in front of us to tell the next story. It turns out that Chef Joe Sheridan invented Irish Coffee in this very building to refresh weary passengers that had returned to the airport restaurant after very bad weather forced their New York-bound flight to turn back.
A little hot water to warm our glasses…then a spoon of brown sugar, a shot of Powers Irish Whiskey, strong Bewley’s coffee, and a topping of heavy cream slightly whipped and poured over the back of the spoon. The recipe can be found here.
After we all made our own, we raised the glasses and said Slainte to now knowing this true story of the birthplace of Irish Coffee.
Another hour of beautiful scenery brought us into Tralee in County Kerry. We were told we were making a stop, but as we entered The Castle Bar we learned that it is owned by our tour leader Even McElligott’s uncles Adrian and Gerard O’Sullivan.
I decided to start the ordering and asked for three pints of Guinness. To my complete surprise, he told me I needed to come back behind the bar and pour them myself.
I poured the three pints and gave them time to let them settle and decided to take orders from other tour guests. Two over there, four over there! The numbers were piling up, so I was taught by the O’Sullivan’s how to pour two at once.
After successfully completing my bar shift, I took my own pint of the bar and sat down to join the others. Did I really just pull pints of Guinness in a pub in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day weekend? Apparently, I did.
The road into Dingle is stunning as it skirts the northern edge of the peninsula and past remnants of a former passenger railroad line. Up and down rolling hills, past fields and farms filled with sheep and lambs. With the hills in the background it certainly made for some great photo opportunities along the way.
Once in the town, Seamus brought us down Main Street so we could see where the hotel was in relation to the pubs, churches, and stores. We then pulled in front of Dingle Distillery.
A group tasting got underway with their unrefined small pot white distillate called Poitín as well as their young barrel-aged whiskey.
The tour of the distillery in the building that was formerly the Fitzgerald sawmill was very informative and also helped to tell the story of the 7-year-old distillery operation, one of the first to be independently owned in the country in decades. When they started in 2012 they were the fifth in the country, there are now close to 20 distilleries in Ireland.
We then finished our visit with a taste of the Dingle Gin, a product that has earned awards including recently named the Best Gin in the World out of 400 entrants at the World Gin Awards in London.
After the hard stuff, our group needed to eat. And the big Ireland vs. Wales rugby match was about to get underway. Could we somehow feed 25 people while watching the match— and do that in under an hour?
Seamus had an idea, which became evident when we pulled in front of large oceanside bar and restaurant called Páidi Ó Sé.
We were shown to a back room to seat us all, and as the match got underway a very efficient bartender whipped around the room taking orders for food that arrived strikingly quickly – especially given the volume of business in the main part of the bar.
The bus then nimbly made its way along Slea Head Drive which provided numerous scenic views and opportunities for pictures. The very active sea churned beneath the cliffs. On the other side of the road. small homes and farms dotted the hilly landscape. Seamus narrated the whole drive, telling us about the sites and the residents who live in this beautiful area.
Founded 11 years ago by Adrienne Heslin and Paul O Loinsigh, since then this place has been churning out beers from “the middle of feckin’ nowhere”.
We enjoyed samples of their beer in a cozy room, as small groups went to explore their very small brewery located in a garage just through the garden adjacent to the pub.
The group then was brought back into Dingle Town, and we found that Evan had arranged for us to meet Finn MacDonnell of Dick Mack’s Brewhouse.
Located behind the legendary Dick Mack’s pub which has been serving liquid refreshment since 1899, the brewery was started just two years ago. It is housed in a former cowshed constructed in the 1830s and today features a state of the art brewhouse which produces beer for their tasting room, the pub, and a couple of dozen bars all on the Dingle peninsula.
We were on our own to explore the pubs of Dingle…and maybe some food along the way. Some went to J. Currans Shop Bar, others to The Dingle Pub. My small group went to Kennedy’s Bar, Barr na Sráide, McCarthy’s Bar, Foxy John’s, and An Droichead Beag.
As the clock struck midnight to mark Saint Patrick’s Day some were just getting back to the hotel. It was time to sleep a wee bit before waking up to celebrate the holiday in grand fashion. [Read the Day Four report here]
Don Littlefield is the General Manager of Brew Bus Tours. This is his third visit to Ireland. He enjoyed many pints around Dingle from Dick Mack’s Brewhouse just before dreaming about writing this post. Twitter @BeerinME