Ireland '99: Day Seven

Previous Day

Ireland '99 Main Page

Next Day

James Joyce Museum
Dalkey Island
Forty Foot Gentleman's Bathing Place
Malahide Castle

Day Seven -- September 2nd, 1999

We woke up to another full Irish breakfast. Susan described Jenn as a pig-o-phile (the euphemism for the more common term of pork-o-phile) after her second plate of sausage and Irish bacon. Jenn and Susan elected to spend the day with the bridal party touring Malahide Castle and having high tea there. Bryn was going to head off to the go cart races for the groom’s party but discretely opted out when he heard of my hopes for the day: rowing out to Dalkey Island south of Dublin.

Feeling Joyce's footsteps

Thus Bryn and I headed south, along the way fetching my tux and shoes. Bryn navigated me through the city amazingly well. South of Dublin in the small coastal town of Sandycove, we stopped for an extended stay at the James Joyce Tower museum. It is housed in one of the Martello towers, a set of squat round towers built in the 1800’s up and down the east coast of Ireland for defensive purposes. It was quite inspiring to stand in the steps of where Joyce once stood and to rummage through actual memorabilia from his life.

We made a stop by Fitzgeralds, a pub in Sandycove filled with Joycean artifacts. We also looked on longingly at the “Gentleman’s Forty Foot Bathing Place” where several old women and men were swimming in the Atlantic amidst rocky outcrops. We thought of going in, but without trunks and with the promise of a row to an island all our own, we moved on.

Yes, this is the North Atlantic!

A small comment on the route down: I was getting thirsty so I decided to finally try some of the blackcurrant juice drink I bought the first day in Ireland. I took the lid off and gulp down several vigorous swallows. By the time I had made 4 good gulps, my brain began to pick up on the fact that it felt like I was swallowing cough syrup. I gave Bryn a sip, to which he remarked on what appeared to be an Irish obsession with corn syrup if they drank stuff of this strength. He looked at the ingredients and in the process managed to read the extra small fine print: “Mix five parts water with one part juice.” Agh!

Poetry on water

We quickly reached Dalkey and began looking for a company called “The Ferryman” that rented out boats to Dalkey Island. The Ferryman indeed turned out to be just a single fellow, a rather gruff one at that, who used powerboat to shuttle people back and forth. After some pushing, he finally agreed to let us take a rowboat out on our own, only after several cautions of “it can be a bit tricky”. We watched as he rather nimbly skipped across the other boats in the mini-harbor to reach our row boat (I snapped a picture of it).

Bryn ended up taking the first stint of rowing and we headed out. After most of the way there, we were joined by a friendly seal who kept swimming back and forth beneath us, occasionally coming up for air in a snorting blow, perhaps as a derisive comment on our visiting his domain, but he otherwise seemed pleasant enough. Looking back, it was as if he was a protector of this beautiful utopian island, and we needed to first go through an inspection to see if we could enter. As we approached the shore of the island, he gave us a couple large flops as if to wave good passage to us.

Powerman Jack, infusing strength with each row
The secret of Rhone Dalkey: Our guide and protector

The Island itself was idyllic. It had a population of rabbits that was completely out of control. Every footstep was filled with pellet sized bundles of proofs of their protected good eating on the island. The ground itself was riddled with holes from their burrowing. The ~15 acre island contained three distinct ruins: a church, (another) Martello Tower and an older fort. The island also had the most inspiring combinations of rock, grass, white asters and yellow lichens, which all forced me to keep my camera’s shutter constantly flapping and my snapshot index finger twitching over the entire landscape. Bryn and I both agreed to claim the island in the name of Dole-Peters and began to plan what it would take to live there, as their was plenty of food (thanks to Peter Rabbit) and everything else was just perfect.

Tig beneath the ruins on Dalkey
The Martello Tower protecting the island

We walked up to the Martello Tower; it was in sharp contrast to the one we visited just a few hours earlier. This one required a rope to clamber up on to gain access to the entryway, and the narrow spiral stone stairway to the top was a bit more tricky. At the top, we experienced an interesting reverberation of our voices when standing in the center of the round top.

Dalkey's Martello crisp in front of Ireland's insubstantiality
Larger view

From the Martello Tower, we went our separate ways. I had plenty of fun taking snapshots of various lichens and asters. We stayed for quite a while exploring most of the island and taking lots of pictures.

Lichens and Asters
Bryn holding firm, the island is preserved


More texture
Tig and I soaking it all in!
One last final look
Struggling there, Geoff?

The rowboat trip back proved to be a bit tougher, as the tide and the waves were much stronger (really -- it just wasn't my diminutive stature :-). I had to give up after making it to the other shore, but still significantly south from the dock. Bryn bravely volunteered to finish the trip just as I was beginning to hit the point of exhaustion (to which I quickly, meekly replied "Yes please!") and we headed in under his excellence captainship. The whole Dalkey Island trip was such an incredible experience, I had no issue giving the gruff Ferryman fellow twice what he asked for (IRP 10) after Bryn paid for requested 10 note.

Geoff rowing back to the island...
Classic rowboat shot - I had to do it
OK, this is tougher than it looks
OK... Now its hurting!

On the drive back to Howth, Bryn began to joke about stopping by the Dalkey Forty Foot Gentleman’s Bathing Place and taking a dip in our underwear. He began to seem a little uncertain though when it became apparent the at I was taking him seriously. Eventually I got him to the “I’ll go if you go” stage and we turned back to return to the swimming place. When we got there for the second time of the day, the tiny spot with a bunch of old men and women had become much more crowded with people of all ages. This caused Bryn to say simply “Nope. Ain’t doing it.” 


Not one to be deterred :-), I found a more discrete place, though, and to the hesitant smile of Bryn, I slipped off my jeans and jumped in with nothing but my pearly white briefs. To this, Bryn hesitated for a second, and then in a bold move of exhilaration, slipped off his own shorts and…. but wait! The scoundrel had boxers on! After all the shilly-shallying, he was wearing boxers, something entirely indistinguishable from the togs worn by everyone else (and here I was, clearly in my underwear). Well, suits aside, the water, as you may guess, was downright FRIGID! The North Atlantic is not exactly known for its warm tropical waters, and today we found that out. After 15 minutes of swimming around, I began to loose all feeling and my body was completely red from my blood vessels doing everything the could to prevent frostbite.

Afterwards, I read more about the Forty Foot Gentleman’s Bathing Place in one of the tour guides. It turns out the place use to be an all men’s “no togs” bathing place for a long time until some old women had had enough of being excluded. The compromise was to continue to have the “no togs” policy before 9 AM, and then the more public (or in some ways less public) swimming afterwards. The segregation based on sex, though was completely abolished, and thus there are some “quirky” old women that join the old men in the morning.

After our refreshing swim, we then headed back to Howth for dinner with the gals at a nice Thai restaurant just down from the B&B. Bryn and I tried to remain as nonchalant about the perfection of the day to the women, lest they feel bad about their own trip to Malahide castle. If they only knew how gorgeous that island was, how much it impressed upon both of us what it meant to be alive, then we may have to return back there with them, which would risk a let down from what we had today.

I have included some pictures from their day that Susan graciously sent us from her camera.

Thinking about sailing...
Jenn in front of some fontinnia
I'd take Dalkey over Malahide any day

I slept that night knowing I had a bit of Ireland in me.  



Proceed to the next day, or return to the Ireland '99 Main Page.

(c) Geoffrey Peters,, 2002. For more information regarding this web page, please contact
Other web sites include:, ...intangible northwest..., Travel Logs, Yearbooks, Where in the World is Tig?, and Intangible Screen Savers