A Little Warmth…A Wee Bit of Irish Hospitality

My Nissan Micra and Home for a Night

My Nissan Micra rental car was tiny…whatever you’re thinking, think smaller. Perhaps for this reason, the decision to sleep in said car for an evening wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. But for all of the faults in the plan, it did show me just how far the Irish will go for the sake of some friendly hospitality.

Leaving from Cork, another backpacker from the hostel hitched a ride and we decided to travel the Beara Peninsula together. This section of Ireland is best known for the Ring of Kerry…but I had the time and all of the locals indicated that I should drive the Ring of Beara as well; the Beara landscape is very rugged and rocky with lush green valleys and tall rocky cliffs and hillsides and there are very few tourists.

Suffice to say that it was stunning. As we navigated the tiny, pot-holed, Irish roads, Curtis and I discussed our options for hostels that night. Curtis is backpacking around Europe in a decidedly different manner than myself…he’s camping and hitchhiking the whole way. With that in mind, he pointed to a spot on the map – the very, very tip of the Beara Peninsula, and suggested that we camp there for the night with the stunning views of the ocean on three sides as our greeting in the morning.

Irish Waters

Truthfully, it sounded pretty awesome! By late afternoon we had hiked some of the slopes around Beara and finally made it to the tip…the only problem? There was no where to set park and set up the camping stove for dinner.

A reworking of the game plan and we turned the car around and approached one of the houses sitting along the bay. As we slowly pulled into the driveway of one of the houses a hearty and weathered face popped around the back corner of the house and threw a distracted but welcoming wave our way.

Beara Coast

I was a little nervous about our new plan and as I stepped out of the car a yapping puppy tore around the corner and bee-lined straight for us. The puppy jumped on me, then ricocheted off of my legs to pounce on Curtis. The man we had just seen followed the dog’s path around the corner, wiping his dirty hands on his pants. Cute Irish puppy!

In the way of the Irish, we got a heartfelt hello and a wee bit of talk about the weather before he sent us a questioning look about why we’re parked in his driveway.

Curtis took the lead and we asked if we could park in his driveway for the night. To say that he was taken aback is an understatement. Mighty gave a deep laugh and then nodded his ascent while openly wondering just who in their right mind would want to sleep outside in this rainy and cold weather.

But the Irish are a friendly lot and we were soon chatting with Mighty and several of his neighbors, all very amused by those young’uns planning to sleep outside in the car. As the conversation wound down Mighty indicated that he had to go start dinner for his mother. As he headed over to the nearby garden he asked us if we would like a few potatoes?

A Potato Patch
Mighty’s Potato Patch

The correct response to this would have been yes. And I am still kicking myself that we said no. Honestly, I kind of thought that Mighty was taking the piss (pulling our leg) with the offer of potatoes…I mean, come on, how cliché is that!

But he was serious. He waved us off with another amused chuckle and invited us up to breakfast in the morning if we made it through the night. As we made our way back to the car, Mighty picked up his garden ho and began to dig up his dinner.

Neither Curtis nor I slept particularly well throughout the night; it was incredibly cold and not altogether comfortable. But all of that was forgiven when, at the crack of dawn, we stepped out of the car to a cold dewy morning with sunlight just creeping up over the horizon, lighting up the bay and highlighting all the fisherman leaving the harbor for a day at sea.

Beara Peninsula

Mighty called  down from the house for us and we headed inside to a sunny kitchen with the warm scents of fresh Irish soda bread. Mighty offered to cook up some fresh mackerel for breakfast and was outright speechless when I indicated that though the offer was so kind, I don’t eat fish. He was shocked and after a lot of laughter he asked me what I eat to keep myself from starvation?

With a straight face I respond, “Grass.”

Misty Morning on Beara Peninsula, Irleand
Old stone traditional Irish house on Mighty’s land

The guffaws brought down the house and as his laughter settled into a chuckle Mighty prepared tea, bread, jam and fish for our breakfast. As I was tucking into the dense loaf of brown bread a four year old head creeped through the door and little Nisha plopped down at the table for breakfast, followed minutes later by his dad, one of the neighbors we met the previous day.

We shared a lovely breakfast with the group and they were so warm and gracious. After we were fed and warmed up with the tea, Nisha’s dad actually went so far as to offer us his spare bedroom if we were staying in the area for a second night.

Although we couldn’t take them up on it (Curtis had a plane to catch a few days later), the Irish hospitality certainly proved true. And my conclusion at the end, man, I should have said yes to the potatoes!  ;-)

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  • http://maiden-voyage-travel.com Emily

    What a fun story! It always amazes me how tiny European cars are. Americans could definitely learn a lesson from that!

    That's great that you got to see the countryside and meet a real Irish family, potatoes and all. I think everyone should get out of the big city and see things like that when exploring!

  • dylan1979

    I have to agree with you about the Irish hospitality. I went there last year and I loved it so much I went back this year. I have travelled to so many countries but I have never come across such friendly, lovely, warm people in my life.
    I was travelling some friend. We were in the countryside. It was getting late and we had not look for a campsite. We pulled in and asked this lady who was out for a walk. She told us there was no need for us to pay for a campsite, we could camp in her back garden. And what an amazingly beautiful and large garden it was. In the moring she cooked us breakfast and gave it to us on her patio. Her and her family sat and chatted to us and gave us travel advice.
    All over Ireland we experienced the same wonderful level of hospitality. It is such an amazing and beautiful contry. I cannot recommend it enough!!!! If you haven't been there, go!!!!

  • dylan1979

    I have to agree with you about the Irish hospitality. I went there last year and I loved it so much I went back this year. I have travelled to so many countries but I have never come across such friendly, lovely, warm people in my life.
    I was travelling some friend. We were in the countryside. It was getting late and we had not look for a campsite. We pulled in and asked this lady who was out for a walk. She told us there was no need for us to pay for a campsite, we could camp in her back garden. And what an amazingly beautiful and large garden it was. In the moring she cooked us breakfast and gave it to us on her patio. Her and her family sat and chatted to us and gave us travel advice.
    All over Ireland we experienced the same wonderful level of hospitality. It is such an amazing and beautiful contry. I cannot recommend it enough!!!! If you haven't been there, go!!!!

    • ShannonOD

      That is truly a great story – and I love that you prove that hospitality is just the way it is in Ireland – you don't have to search it out, they are just a friendly lot by and large :-) Was it a full Irish breakfast? I have a hard time looking at the “pudding” they serve at breakfast!

      • laura

        As an irish person who lives and travels abroad, im really thrilled to read that you had a good time in ireland, I have been to some beautiful places around the world and met some wonderful people and have always been met with hospitality so im very happy to hear that you guys get the same treatment back in Eire. Obviously I love it as its my home so im biased;) its funny you mention the potatoes…. its true that in any irish home you will be offered one of the following, potatoes. a cupan tae (cuppa tea) or a drop….(of whiskey ;)

        • ShannonOD

          It really is amazing how open and friendly people are all over the world once you start traveling. I've only ever experienced incredibly warm and open people in the countryside of Ireland, it's what makes me want to keep coming back! The tea and potatoes were spot on – but where's my drop of whiskey?! I'll have to vie for that offer next time ;-)

  • ShannonOD

    That is truly a great story – and I love that you prove that hospitality is just the way it is in Ireland – you don't have to search it out, they are just a friendly lot by and large :-) Was it a full Irish breakfast? I have a hard time looking at the “pudding” they serve at breakfast!

  • laura

    As an irish person who lives and travels abroad, im really thrilled to read that you had a good time in ireland, I have been to some beautiful places around the world and met some wonderful people and have always been met with hospitality so im very happy to hear that you guys get the same treatment back in Eire. Obviously I love it as its my home so im biased;) its funny you mention the potatoes…. its true that in any irish home you will be offered one of the following, potatoes. a cupan tae (cuppa tea) or a drop….(of whiskey ;)

  • ShannonOD

    It really is amazing how open and friendly people are all over the world once you start traveling. I've only ever experienced incredibly warm and open people in the countryside of Ireland, it's what makes me want to keep coming back! The tea and potatoes were spot on – but where's my drop of whiskey?! I'll have to vie for that offer next time ;-)

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