South West Regional Tourism Authority Ltd,
Dear Sir or Madam:
This letter to you will explain why my recent holiday in Kerry will be my last. My partner and myself spent the first 3 weeks in September 2001 in the Dingle peninsula. We rented self-catering accommodation about 1Km north of Anascaul.
As a particular interest of ours is hillwalking, we thought the area would offer several opportunities to enjoy it. On Saturday the 8th of September we decided to walk in the Slieve Mish area. The Ordinance Survey map I purchased indicated that the Dingle Way crossed the Tralee – Dingle road at a point almost 3 Km east of Camp (OS Grid Reference Q 72.113 – 10.320) where I might park my car and get convenient access to the lower slopes of the Caherconree. We made reasonable efforts to locate where exactly the way-marked route crossed the Tralee – Dingle road, but were not able to find any signs. My experience at map reading led me to believe that the place I stopped my car must be close to the point we were seeking. The road was narrow at that area and I felt it would be unsafe to park at the road edge. There was a wide hardcore area at the side of the road in front of a shed and yard which appeared to be semi-derelict. Parking on this area could not be seen as blocking an entrance and would avoid blocking the road. There was no sign or barrier to deter parking.
After parking at about noon, we approached an individual working on the construction of a new dwelling to the rear of the shed to enquire where the Dingle Way was. He indicated that he did not know where it was, so we had to look elsewhere for it.
Eventually we found a track leading to the hills. When we returned after 6 hours walking, my car was gone. I immediately called the Gardaí on a mobile phone. They were amazingly not interested. They told me that there had been a complaint about a car parked on private property and suggested that I contact the owner of the land. (This I was supposed to find out at 6.30 pm on a Saturday in the middle of the country where all I could see was a semi-derelict shed and a deserted building site). After speaking to the Gardaí I found an unsigned note on the ground near where my car had been parked indicating that it had been towed away, and that I should enquire about it at a given telephone number. When I eventually made contact with the given number I was told that my car had been towed to a house near Castlegregory, and that I could collect it there, almost 12 Km away, without any suggestion as to how I get there. It was by then after 7 pm. I then had to explain that my walking partner had a medical condition requiring the taking of medication a regular intervals, and that the medication was in the car. We were advised to start walking towards Castlegregory and someone would meet us on the road. This we proceeded to do and were met just beyond Camp, and brought to my car. After my car was taken down off the tow truck we proceeded to change from our damp hillwalking clothes and my walking partner retrieved her medication. The person who gave us the lift then said he would check with the owner of the truck (a Mr. Pat Dowd, his father) that everything was in order. He soon arrived and said I would have to pay him £50 for towing my car and the inconvenience. Not having anticipated that my day spent hillwalking would incur such an expense I did not possess at the time the means of paying such a fee. The only cash I had in my possession at the time was £10 to buy petrol. I also felt that, as I had not requested him to tow my car anywhere that I should not be obliged to pay £50 to get my car back. The tow truck owner then said I could not leave until he was paid.
Once again the Gardaí had to be called. Two Gardaí soon arrived from Castlegregory and took my details, and listened to both sides. Their conclusion was that the matter was a civil matter and nothing to do with them. One of the two Gardaí said she thought that I had a point in that the ‘contract’ to tow my car would appear to be between the landowner and the tow truck owner. My walking partner suggested as a goodwill gesture that I give the £10 to the truck owner’s son for collecting us and bringing us to my car. This I agreed to. The Gardaí did not deal with the issue of the tow truck owner preventing me from leaving the scene, although I suspect if tried to force my departure and a breach of the peace resulted they might then have become interested. I then had to debate the matter over and over again with the tow truck owner that while he wanted £50, I could not pay him. Perhaps he saw reason because he eventually but reluctantly agreed to let me leave. At this stage it was after 10pm and dark. It was not until the following morning in daylight that I noticed that my car had suffered minor damage in being towed. You will appreciate that from my experience of the previous day with Kerry Gardaí, I did not think reporting it would be of any use.
From this experience I can only conclude that in Kerry the following applies
It not made easy to find, use and enjoy way-marked walking routes,
You cannot rely on people you meet to give you any assistance to find a route marked on an Ordinance Map
If your car is removed from where you park it (albeit on private property instead of obstructing a narrow busy road) in the countryside, (despite there being no issue of a blocked entrance or any warning signs) the Gardaí do not want to know and will not offer any help to retrieve it.
If someone tows your car away without your permission, demands money for it, and prevents you leaving with your car without substantial payment, the Gardaí do not want to get involved.
People who go to Kerry for hillwalking may not be welcome, facilitated or helped if they bring a car.
I also conclude that I experienced an attempt to ‘rip-off’ a visitor, made easier by there being inadequate signs to guide visitors attracted to the area by promotion of hillwalking on way-marked ways that turn out not to be well ‘marked’. I also experienced the unwillingness of the Gardaí to assist visitors who got into difficulties as a result of the above. I can only wonder how many others may encounter such an experience.
I look forward to your observations on the above. In the meantime I have posted the contents of this letter on my web site at this address;
I will post your reply when received along with my assessment of if.
This is a picture of the location. The 'X' indicates where the car was parked.
The reply from South West Regional Tourism Authority is posted below along with my assessment of it.
Reply 1 Received, November 1st 2001 from;
Cork Kerry Tourism
Cork City & County • South Kerry
Áras Fáilte, Grand Parade, Cork, Ireland Telephone (021) 4273251
26 October 2001
Re: Dingle Way
Dear Mr. O'Byrne,
I am in receipt of a copy of your letter concerning your unpleasant experiences in the Camp area.
I have sent a copy to the Chairman of the Dingle Way Committee for his comments.
It would be helpful if you could identify exactly where you were. I am attaching a photocopy of the Camp area from sheet 71 O.S.
Regarding your car being towed away, that is an issue I will contact the Gardaí about. I do not know anything about the legality of this.
I do sympathise with you as this was a very unsatisfactory experience and one, which we have not encountered before.
I will respond to you as soon as I have more information to hand.
Tourism Officer, South Kerry.
It's a pity Cork Kerry Tourism cannot interpret the OS grid reference I gave in my initial letter which was established with a GPS receiver at the location.
Reply 2 Received, November 21st 2001 from the same address as reply 1
Dear Mr. Byrne,
In relation to the location of the Dingle Way walking route.
The route had to be altered due to flooding of the Finglas River. This was deemed too dangerous so it was necessary to divert the route off the beach earlier.
The new route now comes up at the Church of Ireland and links via Camp village to the route. This was for safety reasons.
There are markers indicating the change.
I have passed a copy of your letter to the Gardaí, as they would be the authority on issues such as legal parking etc. I have not received a reply from them yet. As soon as I have more information I will contact you.
Tourism Officer, South Kerry.
The incident occurred more than 2Km from the Finglas River, and well away from Camp or the beach!
Reply 3 Received, January 10th 2002 from the same address as reply 1&2
Dear Mr. O'Byme,
Sorry for the delay in replying to you, I have been awaiting a reply from the Gardai, a Garda phoned me following my initial enquiry to tell me that they would write formally in relation to your complaint. I did not get his letter so I have written again asking them to reply on this
Wishing you a Happy New Year.
Tourism Officer, South Kerry.
Reply 4 Received, January 11th 2002 from the same address as reply 1, 2 & 3
Re: Garda Response
Dear Mr. O'Byrne,
Attached please find the written response I received today from the Gardaí. This outlines their position on the matter, you may wish to contact them directly on this issue.
We certainly do hope that you return to Kerry as I am sure that the unfortunate chain of events you described in your letter would not be repeated.,
Tourism Officer, South Kerry.
Nothing in the responses received from South Kerry Tourism leads me to believe that the conclusions I reached in my original letter to them were unfounded, or that a similar incident could not occur again.
Tourists or visitors to Kerry need to wary of being lured to the county for hillwalking, by promotional material that in fact related to facilities that wholly inadequate for visitors who may arrive by car. Tourists or visitors should also be wary of promotional material that infers that they will receive a welcome from all those they encounter. Finally, tourists or visitors should be aware that if they experience an encounter similar to what I experienced, that they cannot expect any assistance from those who promote tourism, such as Cork Kerry tourism, or the Gardaí.
You can let me know what you think now!
Sorry to hear about your experience in Kerry.
1) One day last year, several cars were parked on my property and blocked vehicular access to my house
2) My wife is a Garda
3) My brother is a fanatical hillwalker
When my wife returned home from work on the day that I had been blocked in (the cars were gone), she advised me that it was a civil matter! She's much more easygoing than me and she thinks it's hilarious when I get upset over things like that. We still love each other. Anyway, the Gardai could do nothing for me. However, I did prevent one of the offending vehicles from leaving my property for a while that day (do you drive a red Mazda???? only joking) so I hope that guy thinks before he parks these days. In your case, the local Gardai could have been friendlier but you must accept that it was a civil matter.
While you appear to have been considerate in the way you parked your car, you did so on private property...........sign or no sign, barrier or no barrier. Maybe the landowner decided to make an example of you because other parkers were less considerate. Maybe it's a bit of a scam. Looking at the picture, I think that I could have parked there thinking that it would be o.k. Regardless of that, you can't dispute the landowner's right to have it removed. Your point .... If someone tows your car away without your permission, demands money for it, and prevents you leaving with your car without substantial payment, the Gardaí do not want to get involved is not a Kerry phenomenon. This happens everywhere. I better tell my brother about the spot where you parked. Best wishes,
Michael (from Cork)