Dunquin or Dún Chaoin (meaning Caon’s Fort or Stronghold) is a traditionally Irish speaking Gaeltacht village on the most south westerly tip of the Dingle Peninsula.
This village has one pub- Krugers, the most south westerly pub in Europe which is packed full of character and local characters! It has a beautiful small church, a primary school, a pottery/café (the chocolate cake is divine!) and an interpretive centre for the Blasket Island.
It’s clear to see as you travel along the Slea Head Drive and into Dún Chaoin what drew Hollywood directors David Lean (Ryan’s Daughter 1970) and Ron Howard (Far and Away 1992) to the area. Scenes from the 1970 film Ryan's Daughter were shot at Coumeenole Beach (Trá Com Dhíneol) and on the Ceathrú (Ferritersquarter) in Dunquin. The areas then struggling economy was largely revived by the production of the film.
The fictional village of Kirrary was constructed especially for the film and was constructed in stone to withstand the weather round these parts. After filming concluded the entire village was offered but never proceeded due to the land/grazing rights upon which the village was constructed being held by a number of different parties, disputes arose and the entire village was ultimately levelled. Still visible is the cobbled road upon which the village sat, and of course the stunning views which featured so evidently in the film.
All that remains of the physical set of the legendary film is the original Schoolhouse Building, located nearby to the Blasket Island Interpretive Centre. Siúlóid na Cille, a walk which incorporates a visit to the interesting schoolhouse
Siúlóid na Cille (illustrated by Dómhnall Bric) is an published by Comharchumann Dhún Chaoin- a local community group. Copies of this walk are generally available in the Blasket Island Centre. This provides information and maps on the various walks one can partake of in Dún Chaoin and in the surrounding area.
The parish of Dunquin is nestled between the majestic Blasket Islands and the magnificent Mount Eagle. Clogher Head lies to the north and Dunmore Head to the south. Dunmore Head is the most westerly point on the mainland.
Mount Eagle (Sliabh an Iolair) meaning mountain of the Eagles is the final up-thrust of the Dingle Peninsula, its seaward flanks descending steeply to Slea Head and Dunmore Head (the most westerly point of the Irish mainland), but the islands of the Great Blasket, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane are the partly submerged continuation of the same mountain range. Mount Eagle Lough nestles high in a hollow on the eastern flank.
There is much to see and do in this beautiful place, a must see is one of the most well known postcard scenes in the world – the harbour which is etched into the side of the cliff from which ferrys still operate and from which farmers bring their sheep to and from the islands to graze.
You must also visit Coumeenole Beach, which featured in the film Ryan’s Daughter and has oodles of character and charm, a favourite with locals and visitors alike.
The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí) are a spectactular group of islands off the mainland. These islands, in particular the Great Blasket, are renowned for their wild ruggedness and beauty. The Great Blasket was inhabited by the islanders until 1953, by which time necessity required them to leave due to the decline in their once vibrant population. The people of the island did however leave behind an impressive legacy- critically and historically acclaimed literature. Encouraged by visiting scholars, some of the islanders dictated or wrote their stories down, and from these came three great works: the autobiography of the story-teller Peig Sayers, which became a set text in Irish schools; The Islandman by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, whose elegant, dry memoir was a lament for a passing way of life; and Twenty Years A-Growing by Muiris Ó Súilleabháín , of the next generation, who wrote about what it was like to leave the island forever. No one lives there now. Much of the village remains however, including Peigs house, and the ruins of the “kings House”, Tomás Ó Criomhthain’s house and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin’s house are visible. A few hardy souls stay on the island during the summer months, weaving or offering refreshment to visitors who do get across for a couple of hours visit on a boat that runs from Dunquin harbour in fine weather.
The Blasket Island Centre (Ionad an Blascaoid), celebrates the stories of the Blasket islanders, the unique literary achievements of the island writers and their native language, culture and tradition. The Blasket Centre facilities include a video presentation, exhibition, research room, car/coach parking, restaurant, conference facilities, and bookshop.
In 1588, when the Spanish Armada returned via Ireland many ships sought shelter in the Blasket Sound - the area between Dunquin and the Islands - and some were wrecked there. A memorial stands on the cliffs overlooking the site.
During the summer a daily bus service is available between the village of Dunquin and Dingle town. During the winter however, the service is only available a couple of times a week. There are numerous taxi operators working in the area however, so it’s not necessary to depend entirely on public transport.
Kruger’s is the most westerly bar in Europe and named after Muiris Kruger Kavanagh. Cast and crewmembers often visited the bar during filming of "Ryan's Daughter" and also "Far and Away". Local Dingle and Dunquin people were cast as extras in both films.
Muiris ‘Kruger’ Kavanagh was born in Dunquin, Co Kerry, in 1894. He showed off his spirited individuality at primary school and got his nickname for his support for Paulus Kruger and the Boers in the Boer war. He emigrated to America when he was 19 and after getting a basic education he worked at various jobs from bodyguard and nurse, to PR man for a New York City theatre. He became familiar with many top actors and producers. But at the age of 26 he left it all behind to return to Dunquin. He opened a guesthouse and pub which was to become one of the most famous in Ireland. Set on the remote Atlantic coast of the south west of Ireland, it became the haunt of many celebrities, attracted by Kruger’s own relaxed and colourful personality. Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles were regulars there while filming Ryan´s Daughter. Writer Brendan Behan was also a friend. Kruger’s pub is still in business and a popular traditional music venue. Kruger Kavanagh died in 1971. A remarkable collection of stills including some famous faces are available for perusal on the walls of the pub.
After you have driven, walked or cycled around Slea Head why not stop and take a moment in the Dunquin Pottery/Café?! They sell their own, hand thrown stoneware pottery glazed with irish limestone, and have an extensive range of irish language and irish interest books.
Dunquin is without doubt, a wonderful place to visit.