VFYW Contest: Escape To The Emerald Isle

Contest #249 is especially needed after Andrew's bleak, black-pill column this week.

This gorgeous view is not brought to you by an algorithm:

Our first contestant throws a Hail Mary:

This week I’ve been thinking about New Zealand, perhaps because of the upcoming election. One of the most charming places there is Queenstown, which is around a lake and mountains. So for those reasons, and none other, I’m guessing Queenstown.

Only 11,942 miles off. Another reader gets closer:

The cars, bus, etc seem European. The church-ish building looks Scandinavian. The environment doesn’t seem as harsh as Iceland, Greenland, Faroe, etc. Denmark is too flat for the hills in the background and Norway is too hilly (except maybe around Oslo?). Finland is too forest-y.

So I’m a bit confused, and like a lot of other things in my life I’m leaving this halfway done as well. My money is on some small coastal town in Sweden.

Another reader gets us island hopping:

I instantly thought of Iceland: the clouds, the tree-less hills, the houses (though they’re not quite colorful enough to be a central part of Reykjavik). The tiny bus in the background looks like the standard Iceland bus.

Another interprets the bus differently:

The National Express bus suggests we’re in the United Kingdom, and the colorful buildings and rolling hills certainly look like Wales. I can’t narrow it down more than that, so I have no choice but to guess Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch — the town with the longest name in Europe and the one-time home of actress Naomi Watts.

That reader also sends the following video — the most charming thing you’ll see on the Internet today:

This reader is less eloquent:

This is the northern UK. Not exactly sure where, but in some place where they say “Bloo’y ‘ell, mate!” a lot.

Another reader:

The photo looks like it could have been taken in any number of places in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland (or Northern Ireland). So I’ll compromise and pick a spot in the middle: Ramsey, Isle of Man.

Another gets to the right country:

From the plant life, to the church spire that resembles St. Michaels, I am going to have to say Sneem, Ireland. If not Sneem, then somewhere on Ring of Kerry. Slainte!

Another gets the right county:

Weird when you have a sense you’ve driven past one of the windows in the contest, but the background doesn’t quite match up. My guess is somewhere along the Tralee Canal, in County Kerry, Ireland.

Another gets the right town:

Astonishingly and frighteningly, I have deduced that the photo was taken in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland. Which, according to tripsavvy.com, is the second-best small town in Ireland. 

A “first-time entrant in the contest, long-time reader” sends a bit of trivia about the town:

This is Dingle (AKA an Daingean Uí Chúis), County Kerry (AKA Ciarraí), Ireland (AKA Éire). The actual name of this village and in what language(s) the signage should appear has been controversial in Ireland, as your readers may be interested to know. A good outline of that whole saga is here.

Another reader got help from a book:

I remembered a brilliant little book called The Summer Isles by Philip Marsden. He sails up the west coast of Ireland and Scotland, exploring the history of early Celtic Christianity and the mythology of islands on the Atlantic fringe. Something about the church spire reminded me of the book. So I looked up a few of his stops, and realised that was Dingle harbour.

Another reader squints at the tower across the harbor:

Adding Ireland to my search turned up a similar tower on St. Mary’s Church in Dingle. Arriving on Google Earth, it showed just the kind of ocean inlet that our photographer looked across. Zoom down on St. Mary’s and there’s our tower:

Another reader pinpoints the right building:

So, this is my first attempt at VFYW — a challenge that my partner shared with me (he knows I’m wistful for travel these days ... ). Immediately, the view tugged on my memories of a road trip along the coast of Ireland — the fenlands, the brightly painted houses, the walled fields, the tour buses crowding the already narrow streets. Looking for larger coastal towns, I found myself (again!) in Dingle. The view from the window of Clonmara B&B (Milltown, Dingle, Co. Kerry; 52.1392369125076" N, 10.2884495258331" W)

Thirty other readers also got Clonmara B&B, and most of them nailed the right window. One of them got there in a flight simulator:

It’s a Microsoft thing. If you get the chance, do try it out — it’s the perfect therapy for wanderlust in this locked-down age.  

The simulator will probably appeal to this Irish native:

I may be living in the US for almost 20 years, but there is nowhere else on earth like the west coast of the Emerald Isle. In this overhead screenshot, note the wonderful ring fort just behind this house — Ireland is dotted with these ancient structures:

This contest was bittersweet, as I was due to visit Dingle as part of a larger Irish west-coast trip planned for my family this past July. I looked forward to being a tourist in my own country with my US-born kids, but the plan was scuppered by the pandemic. I’m from the north of the island and have never been to County Kerry. Next year hopefully!

Chini, the all-time champion of the contest, is especially impressed by this week’s window:

If the Dish team ever puts together a second VFYW book, this one might qualify for the cover. Kudos to whoever took it — perfectly framed, good light and plenty of little details in the scene. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in looking for the location I forget to enjoy what views like these provide: a perfect little window into another reader’s world.

This week’s view comes from the Clonmara B&B and looks east northeast along a heading of 70.92 degrees. An overhead shot:

Another reader gets on the phone:

I saw this week’s picture and thought, “easy, Scotland or Ireland”.  With those green hills and deep tides, it had to be one of those two. Half of my weekend later, I’d very nearly given up hope when I happened up the blog of a British retiree, who’d taken a photo from his window in “the lavender room” of the Clonmara B&B. Upon further enquiry via a call to the proprietor, I learned that the Lavender Room indeed has a number, and it is room #3.  

Hopefully this contest will bring some business to Clonmara B&B — though it’s so beautiful that it’s probably not needed. A reader adds, “The proprietors will perhaps be wondering by Friday why their charming YouTube video has got a lot more views this week”:

Our contest poet chimes in:

The name of this lodge is Clonmara,
Rent weekly, or just til tomorra!
They’ve hung out their shingle,
In Kerry and Dingle,
Where ne’er is there sadness nor sorra!

The reader who submitted the Dingle photo also wrote a poem:

When I stayed at Clonmara, the woman who owned it told me it was the house she had grown up in. As a girl in the late 1960s, MGM rented the house for Robert Mitchum to live in while filming Ryan’s Daughter

The film was only supposed to take four months to shoot, but as is typical of movie shoots, it took over a year to complete. When they finally moved back in, she said the place was filled with empty whiskey bottles and cigarette burns. MGM made it right and restored it to its glory.

I wrote a poem, which I shared with the owner.


In a town named Dingle, a house lives by the sea.
Resting on a blanket, of softest emerald earth,
old and fearsome spirits learn to give it berth.

Silent rays of sunshine clouded through with rain,
decided on occasion to bless it with a name.
Clonmara is they called it for sitting by the bay.

Now in time a film crew journeyed through one day,
stopping by Clonmara, where it be they stay.
And a great known actor, blessed with such a name,

Robert Mitchum met her, and found her very game.
Then one day it happened, that Robert fell away,
and lacking him a body, Clonmara invited him to stay.

Now, when visiting Clonmara,
you hear a rattling sway,
know it’s dear old Robert shooing you away.

But pay no heed to Robert rattling away,
tis just the clink of whiskey bottles
from some long, forgotten stay.

On a less refined note, as the son of two Army officers, I couldn’t get this poem out of my head this week, namely the line, “Don’t let your dingle dangle dangle in the dirt / pick up your dingle dangle, tie it to your shirt.”

Soooo … who’s the winner this week, out of so many correct entries? The prize goes to a long-time contestant who nearly won years ago — and she has a remarkable story:

It’s a joy (of sorts) being back on the VFYW train. My first ID was one back in 2013 — City Hotel in Tirana, Albania. I missed the correct answer due to guessing the wrong room, only to find out later that I had gotten the wrong number from the staff member who e-mailed me back. Oops!

But funny enough, a few months later I was invited to serve in Peace Corps Albania. When my family came to visit, my mother (a reader and VFYW follower) booked rooms at City Hotel, including *the* room itself. We enjoyed the novelty of sharing the view, and my family loved Albania. As did I! I miss it every day, four years after leaving, and I am still amused to remember the harbinger of my new home via a VFYW. 

Anyway, this week's view: it’s the Clonmara Bed and Breakfast in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland. Would you believe that it’s the very first place I checked? I got the strong impression it was Ireland, Scotland, or Wales and decided to start with Ireland based on the architecture. After putting on Google Maps’ terrain filter and looking for places with mountains near water, I decided to start with Dingle. A little zooming in, and the correct street was obvious. Here’s the window:

Perhaps all the GeoGuessing I did over the years while missing VFYW paid off! I’ve gotten great at finding things from pictures, and I’ll admit that I don’t tell new friends or partners about my creepy skills until I’ve known them a bit. 

Speaking of creepy skills, our super-champion in Rome, who’s nailed every contest this year, crawls inside the window:

This reader gets even creepier:

It’s always nice when a VFYW shows a bit of the window casing, which often gives clues. This stout, handsome casement has four locking cockspur latches, familiar to me from spending quite a bit of time in England. There are also intriguing back reflections on the inside of the window, suggesting there might be a reflective glass-fronted framed picture or mirror on the wall behind the photographer. There is even a shape that could be a backlit silhouette of a seated person — our photographer was not alone? With enough time and computing power, maybe we could identify the sitter.

Oof, that’s creepy, sorry. Thanks for another delightfully intriguing View!

Keep the algorithms away!

Many of our human contestants this week have been to Dingle, so here’s a collection of their stories. The first:

Me: “Oh, that stone bollard has the same weathered look of gravestones I’ve seen in Ireland.” Me again: “Hmmm, those terrace houses on the hill look like the ‘Deck of Cards’ in Cobh.” Me, after hunting around Cobh for a while: “Huh. No cathedral. No mountain. No inlet. But that’s definitely the coast of Ireland.”

“Wait — this looks like ... [shifts search to Dingle ... and ... ] BINGO”:

I traveled around Ireland with family when I was a teenager, around 1989. I almost didn’t make it to Dingle, but I’m glad I did. Rick Steves talked endlessly about it and I just had to see for myself. Such a great location tucked into the craggy nooks of the sea — warm and welcoming in the cold of December. It’s funny, I originally thought the view was from the Milltown House Guesthouse (they have a ton of photos showing the view — and falconry!), but it’s actually next door at Clonmara B&B. I might have to return for another visit, this time with my kiddo. I know he’d love it there.

Happy to be back playing the contest again, and this one was a fun trip down memory lane!

Another trip:

We had the pleasure of visiting Dingle a few years ago, staying at the home of Mazz O’Flaherty, a fixture on the local music scene. She was very patient with my broken Irish.

The next night we spent on An Blascaod Mór (Great Blasket), the island evacuated back in the 1950s, where a couple of houses have been restored for visitors. I’m attaching a picture for fun, though maybe you don’t want two Irish VFYWs too soon?

It seems appropriate that today I took my family to get pictures for Irish passports. Though we’re US citizens, we’ve acquired Irish citizenship thanks to my grandmother from Leitrim.

Another reader tracked down a window in the real world:

Four years ago, when my daughter was just 15 months old, my wife and I took her on what was (for us) a pretty epic trip to Ireland. We travelled at a leisurely pace, mostly on the West coast, exploring Yeats country and heading south through Connemara and further down into County Clare (where we visited Kilkee and walked past the house where VFYW #228 was taken).

The trip ended in County Kerry, which was probably the highlight for us, since it contains some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world. For the last week we stayed in Dingle. We explored the area as much as the weather allowed, walking out to Dunmore Head (the Westernmost point in the Irish mainland), taking a boat tour of the Blasket Islands, and just generally enjoying the natural beauty and the laid-back atmosphere.

On our last day in Dingle (June 24th) we woke to discover that the UK had voted to leave the EU, a harbinger of our current turmoil.

That’s all the politics allowed for this contest. Another tourist writes:

I spent a windy rainy day touring the Dingle peninsula with my family a few years back. We didn’t let the weather, dubbed “pure hardship” by a poetic local, stop us from seeing the sights. We must have looked crazy walking the sacred labyrinth behind St. Mary’s Church (the lone tower in the photo), but I feel confident recommending it to anyone who needs a moment of quiet meditation.

Another highlight was the oddly shaped Gallarus Oratory, just a 15-minute drive from Dingle. Depending on who you believe, it was used as either a church or tomb and was built in the 8th or 12th centuries. I think it’s worth a visit, if for no other reason than it’ll keep the rain off your head for a bit.

Thanks for a fine walk down memory lane!

And past the wedding aisle:

I wish I had a glamorous story for you, but, alas, it’s nothing more than the typical millennial excursion to Ireland because it was a cheap-ish vacation to Europe — that happened to be our honeymoon! I recognized this immediately because my wife and I stayed in the bed & breakfast across the harbor.

Dingle Peninsula was my favorite part of the trip. We made an impromptu decision to hike Mt. Brandon on our first day there. It seemed easy from the base, but the fog hid from us the vast, vast majority of the journey that lay ahead. The fog as we neared the summit was beyond disorienting. I felt like I was living a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Thank you for reminding me of some good times. This was such a welcome distraction for my wife and me tonight, as we got to look back at some old pictures.

Another romantic story:

I knew exactly where this window was right away. My now-wife and I spent a night in Dingle in a B&B across the tidal flat on our quick tour of Ireland. On the trip, I flew to Dublin from the Middle East where I was living. My wife flew from DC on her law school Spring Break. We took a train to Farranfore then walked to the Kerry airport, luggage in tow in the Irish early spring. Driving into Dingle, the sun was low and the clouds lifted just enough to light up the entire area. It was a great start to an incredible trip.

We’ve been wanting to get back there ever since. Is a trip to Dingle the prize for guessing the window right? 

Ha, well if our revenue from Dish subscriptions goes high enough after the paywall drops, maybe we’ll have enough funds for free trips. For now, the prize remains a VFYW book or two gift subscriptions. Regarding the former, you can always buy your own copy on Blurb.com (where we sell it at-cost). Definitely don’t do Amazon, as a reader hilariously points out:

Did you know that your book was selling for this much on Amazon?

Amazing, since you sell the book for a heck of a lot less. Just thought you’d like a laugh … or is it sad that someone might pay that?

This week: Dingle, Ireland. Next week:

So, where do you think it’s located? Email your entry to contest@andrewsullivan.com. Happy sleuthing!