A Little Warmth… Finding a Wee Bit of Irish Hospitality

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Nissan Micra
My cute Nissan Micra rental car.

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.

 Beara Peninsula coastline
Pretty views of Ireland’s Beara Peninsula on a two-day drive of the lesser-known cousin of the Ring of Kerry.

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.

Beara Peninsula rocks
The Beara Peninsula is windswept with rough waves and some pretty stellar views!
green cliffs
Looking out toward the Ring of Kerry in the distance.
inlet
The Ireland’s Beara Peninsula has a lot of water on the interior as well, like this pretty lake!

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.

puppy
Mighty’s adorable puppy.

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?

Mighty's potato patch.
Yes, that is a potato patch where Mighty dug up some fresh potatoes for supper!

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.

beara peninsula at dawn
Defintiely the Ring of Kerry there in the distance, as seen from Ireland’s Beara Peninsula
stone traditional Irish house
Mighty showed us an old stone traditional Irish house on his land.

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!  ;-)

6 thoughts on “A Little Warmth… Finding a Wee Bit of Irish Hospitality”

  1. 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!

    Reply
  2. 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!!!!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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 ;)

        Reply
        • 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 ;-)

          Reply
  3. 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!

    Reply

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