The beautiful Gallarus Oratory is Dingle’s most compelling historic monument, dating from somewhere between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Built entirely of dry gritstone in the shape of an upturned boat, the church sits proudly in its field at the very western edge of Europe like a Platonic ideal of architectural purity, still quite intact and unadorned. Its stones, carefully selected and smoothed off inside and out, and gracefully corbelled to form the roof, are now weathered to soft tones of green, brown, purple and orange. It’s lit by a single window opposite the doorway, while the only features inside are two large, pierced stones above the lintel which probably served for the attachment of a flap-like door. Access to the oratory, which is in state care, is absolutely free, so there’s no need at all to pay €3 at the privately run visitor centre, which comprises a gift shop, café and fifteen-minute audiovisual, sitting between the most obvious car park and the church; instead, continue a short way along the hedgerowed lane to a tiny car park which gives direct access to the oratory.
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