Ring of Kerry

Today has been a really memorable day. Limerick to Cork via the Ring of Kerry. And for much of it, but not all, the sun was shining. Unfortunately we were only in Limerick overnight, so there was little opportunity to see much of the town or the River Shannon other than what we drove past on our way out of town this morning. A short distance away, to the south west, we stopped at the village of Adare for a quick look at several thatched cottages that have been beautifully restored. The residents claim that Adare is ‘Ireland’s prettiest town’.

The road took us from County Limerick to County Kerry, mainly passing through gently undulating green farmland and peat bog country. Several times we saw cut turf drying in the sun, which would presumably be burned as fuel. At the Red Fox Inn at Killgorlin, we stopped for a short break. Most members of our bus party treated themselves to an Irish coffee or Bailey’s coffee here, as apparently it is common for travellers entering the Ring of Kerry to begin the journey with a drink for good luck. Please read on past the next set of photos.

The Ring of Kerry is a spectacular 180 km roughly circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula. It takes visitors along hilly, winding, narrow roads which follow the rugged coastline for a good part of the journey before heading north at Kenmare through the national park and into Killarney. En route, there are charming seaside fishing villages where the houses and shops are painted in many different colours and Irish pubs abound. The scenery is constantly changing and always spectacular. Dry stone walls are common. Small stone cottages, some of which have fallen into disrepair, dot the landscape. Sheep and cattle graze on the green, sloping pastures. Streams trickle down from the hills and into the sea.

We took our lunch break at Waterville, a welcoming seaside village where Charlie Chaplin was once a frequent visitor. It’s not hard to understand why. I tried the breaded grilled garlic mussels, paired with a newly released craft beer from just down the road. The Irish pubs are such great places to enjoy a meal and conversation with friends. When we pulled into the carpark, the skies were changing from blue to grey and the clouds were rolling in. By the time we left, just over an hour later, the grey skies looked like they were here to stay and the cloud cover had obscured the upper slopes of the surrounding hills. Please read on after the next set of photos.

From Waterville, the bus climbed to a high vantage point with water views on both sides of the parking bay. Unfortunately the fog was quite thick now. We could visibly see the mist moving before our eyes. Peering through it we could vaguely make out the shapes of islands below, but for now we would have to accept that we were never going to see the amazing views that this particular lookout was well known for. Nevertheless, there was something mysterious and other-worldly about the mist. The people of Kerry tell stories of leprechauns, faeries and even giants that inhabit these parts, and for all we knew they were here in the misty mountains with us right now. It was eery and beautiful at the same time. We just hoped that the foggy weather would not transform into heavy rain to mar the rest of our journey through the Ring of Kerry.

We were in luck. No sooner had our bus began its descent from the lookout, than the mist began to thin out and the blue skies reveal themselves again. Soon enough, we were down low once more and the clouds had thinned out and dispersed. We had a few drops of rain when we stopped for a short break in Sneem, but otherwise the good weather held for the rest of our journey. At Kenmare, the road turned north, taking us along some particularly narrow passages twisting and turning through the Killarney National Park. The landscape here was beautiful. Ferny glades and leafy green forests provided a change of scenery from the sea coast we had previously travelled along for much of the day. We took another break in the town of Killarney, where horses and carts, known as ‘jaunting carts’ carried tourists through the streets at a leisurely pace.

Late in the afternoon, we came upon the River Lee and followed it into the port city of Cork, with its hilly streets a little reminiscent of parts of Edinburgh. Marg and I climbed the stairs to our fifth floor room in the hotel we’re staying, opened the curtains and looked out of the window. We got a bit of a surprise. Before us, beginning at the hotel wall, was an old cemetery. Here in the land of giants, faeries and leprechauns, spending a night in a graveyard is likely to be an interesting experience. A locally brewed Murphy’s stout was called for.

Kudos today to our Trafalgar Tours bus driver, Gary, who handled the vehicle like a pro on the winding, narrow roads. It was a memorable drive.

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