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 my brightest idea. But for all of the plan’s faults, it did show me just how far the Irish will go for the sake of some friendly hospitality.
Leaving from Cork (after having successfully kissed the Blarney Stone), another backpacker from the hostel hitched a ride with me and we decided to travel the Beara Peninsula together. This section of Ireland is best known for the Ring of Kerry, but I had time and many locals indicated that I should drive the Ring of Beara as well. The Beara landscape is rugged and rocky, with lush green valleys, tall rocky cliffs, and flowered hillsides. There are also passingly few tourists!
Suffice to say that it was stunning. As we navigated tiny, pot-holed Irish roads, Curtis and I discussed our options for hostels that night. Curtis was backpacking around Europe in a decidedly different manner than myself—he was camping and hitchhiking the whole way. With that in mind, he pointed to a spot on the map—the very tip of the Beara Peninsula—and suggested we camp there for the night, so we would wake with stunning ocean views of the ocean on three sides in the morning.
Viewpoints Along the Beara Peninsula
Curtis’ plan sounded incredible! So we set off to explore this little visited part of Ireland’s southern coast. En route to the tip, we hiked many slopes around Beara and drove many tiny, winding roads. The landscape is truly breathtaking and worthy of a drive. Yes, it’s a tad similar to the Ring of Kerry, which I drove in the following days, but there is far less development. It is, in a word, worth visiting.
Discovering True Irish Hospitality
By late afternoon, we had finally made it to the tip. The only problem? There was nowhere to park and set up the camping stove for dinner.
After reworking our game plan, we turned the car around and approached one of the houses along the bay. As we slowly pulled into the driveway of one of the houses, a weathered face popped around the back corner of the house and threw a distracted but welcoming wave our way.
Or new plan made me nervous, but 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, eliciting much laughter, then he ricocheted off of my legs and pounced on Curtis. The man matching the face followed the dog’s path around the corner, wiping dirty hands on his pants.
In the way of the Irish, we got a heartfelt hello from Mighty and a wee bit of talk about the weather before he sent us a questioning look about why we had parked in his driveway.
Curtis took the lead and Mighty asked if we could park in his driveway for the night. He was taken aback but also curious.
He laughed deeply and nodded his ascent while openly wondering just who in their right mind would want to sleep outside in this rainy, cold weather.
But the Irish are a friendly lot. Once we had a place to park, the only thing left was to chat some more. Mighty’s neighbors wandered over to see the fuss, and all of them were amused by the young’uns planning to sleep outside in the car. As the conversation wound down Mighty indicated that he had to start dinner for his mother. As he headed over to the nearby garden he asked us if we would like a few potatoes?
The correct response to this would have been yes. And I am still kicking myself that we said no. Honestly, I kinda thought that Mighty was pulling our leg with the offer of potatoes: I mean, come on, how cliché to have a potato garden, right?!
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 continued digging up his dinner.
Neither Curtis nor I slept particularly—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 creeping up over the horizon, lighting the bay and highlighting the many fisherman leaving the harbor for a day at sea.
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 responded, “Grass.”
His guffaws shook the roof. As his laughter settled into a chuckle, Mighty prepared tea, bread, jam, and fish for breakfast. As I tucked into the dense brown bread, a four-year-old head creeped through the door. Little Nisha plopped down at the breakfast table followed minutes later by her dad, one of the neighbors we had met the previous day.
We all shared a lovely breakfast and everyone was warm and gracious. After they had us fed and warmed up with the tea, Nisha’s dad offered us his spare bedroom if we were planned to stay in the area for a second night.
Since Curtis had a plane to catch a few days later, we couldn’t take them up on it, but all I had ever heard about Irish hospitality had certainly proved true. And my conclusion at the end of a fun and memorable 24 hours in rural Ireland: I should have said yes to the potatoes! ;-)