We’re in Chorca Dhuibhne, in the west Kerry Gaeltacht. We’re a mere 10-minute drive west of Dingle town. We’ve a farmhouse bed and breakfast here, An Riasc.
We’re nestled literally between Mount Brandon – which is behind the house – and the sea, which is to the front of us.
The iconic Three Sisters (mountain peaks), we can look at them from any window at the front of the house and you can see Mount Brandon from any window at the back of the house.
A really important part of living in a community, I believe, is supporting each other. From day one when I opened the B&B, I tried to support local business and local activities. When people come here we give them a map of the Dingle Peninsula and I point out all of the different activities available.
Who wouldn’t want to go to the Blaskets on a fine day? It’s the most amazing place on the planet, and I’m not a bit biased by the way. And I’m not from Kerry, I’m a Rebel. Can you imagine being a rebel here when Cork and Kerry are playing in the Munster football final?
I’m from Watergrasshill. I’m completely a country girl at heart, but I went to school, I went to uni and I taught in the city, believe or not.
I’ve just had a passion for Irish all my life
I did my primary degree in University College Cork (UCC) in Irish and maths. I did what was then called the HDip, it’s a master’s in education now. Then I was invited by UCC to do a master’s in Irish. I also did a two-year diploma in computer science after that.
I’ve just had a passion for Irish all my life. I think it was instilled in me in primary school.
God rest his soul now, he passed away earlier this year, Éamonn Ryan, he trained the Cork ladies footballers for God knows how many years and won so many All-Ireland medals with them. He was my teacher in primary school. He instilled a love of the language in me.
A farming foray
I knew absolutely nothing about farming and I married a west Kerry farmer, the poor fella. My contribution to the farm is zero for the most part, but I’ll tell you a very good one.
When I came down initially, of course, idealistic Denise down to west Kerry: “Oh, I can deal with the cows, no problem.” Diarmuid had his own little business going and he was milking cows at the same time. I’m talking now 25 years ago, nearly.
One of the days I said: “You know what, I’ll bring the cows home for you this evening,” for milking say, while he was out doing his day job.
Anyway, I went up the bohereen to bring the cows home and they wouldn’t budge for me. I said: “Jesus, what am I going to do now?” I was there for ages and I was shouting: “Seo bhaile, seo bhaile.” All the things they say in Irish.
Diarmuid gave up milking cows many moons ago
I said, you know what, I’ll try another field, maybe there are cows in another field. Low and behold, I had the wrong cows. Diarmuid said: “Forget it, never again.” Imagine if I brought home the neighbour’s cows? I’d never be forgiven.
Diarmuid gave up milking cows many moons ago. He has sucklers now. He thought he was probably made for life when he married a teacher, but the teacher had other ideas. It’s a long story.
I taught in Cork for about 10 years. I came down here and I got married in December in 1996. I had to go back to Cork after our honeymoon to work and my heart was breaking. I found it too tough to be up and down the road to Cork. We had no choice, we had just built our house and we had to pay for it. I got a job in the gaelcholáiste in Tralee in 1997.
I always had the idea for a B&B in my head, so when we were building the house we actually applied for the house as a bed and breakfast
Our daughter Róisín was born in 1999. I had done one year. In about the year 2000 I knew that I couldn’t be part of a community here and be travelling 40 miles to and from Tralee every day. Plus, my heart was breaking to be away from my daughter. I took a career break at that stage and I never went back. Dara, our son, was born a few years later then.
I always had the idea for a B&B in my head, so when we were building the house we actually applied for the house as a bed and breakfast. Diarmuid had said: “Denise, you’re completely stone mad, but I’ll support you all the way.”
An Riasc won an award recently – 2021 Farmhouse B&B of the Year for Co Kerry, awarded by the EU Business News. It came as a bit of a shock to myself
That’s why I’ve been able to actually grow the business, because I had the support of Diarmuid.
An Riasc won an award recently – 2021 Farmhouse B&B of the Year for Co Kerry, awarded by the EU Business News. It came as a bit of a shock to myself. I got an email before Christmas to say I was shortlisted. Would you believe it, it went completely out of my head after that. Then in February I received an email to say I had won this award. I was delighted to get it.
Some people would say we’re off the beaten track here. Personally, I’d say we’re the centre of the universe, because the next stop is America.