Friday, October 12, 2012

Killarney, Kenmare, and the Ring of Kerry

The only day of significant rain during our entire trip was when we visited Killarney.  While we enjoyed lunch and shopping in town, it was difficult to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding countryside.  We visited the beautifully restored Muckross House and, during a break in the weather, were able to stroll the property a bit and take in the stunning lake views.  As wonderful as the House may be, it can't hold a candle to the vista of rain-dappled water that stretched away to the multi-hued mountains in the distance.


We traveled from Killarney to Kenmare, via Moll's Gap, which qualifies as our most challenging drive in Ireland.  A narrow, mountain road bordered by stone cliffs on one side and a sharp drop to the lake on the other, the Gap becomes a series of blind switchbacks as it climbs upward.  More than once, we were met by descending tour buses and our only safe option was to veer as close as possible to the cliff face and allow the bus to negotiate its way past.  When we finally emerged from the Gap, the winding road hugged the mountainside and afforded expansive views of the countryside far below.  Unfortunately, Linda's fear of heights prevented her from appreciating the spectacle as she was preoccupied with embedding her fingernails securely in the dashboard.

We arrived at Kenmare unscathed and were welcomed by the inviting staff at Sheen Falls Lodge.  Our room looked out over the cascading falls and the handsome bar offered quality martinis, so we toasted our adventurous drive and booked a trout fishing expedition for the next day.


There were seals in this pool the day before!

Low tide out one of our windows
Our engaging fishing guide took us to a river near Killarney, to avoid any mountainous roads, as requested by Linda.  While our catch consisted of one nice brown trout (released), we nevertheless enjoyed being outdoors in one of the most beautiful areas in Ireland.  Our guide somehow persuaded Linda to allow him to return to the Lodge via a different mountain pass, which ultimately merged with Moll's Gap.  Needless to say, we hit the bar immediately upon arriving at the Lodge and did some damage to its supply of vodka.

Last place before Moll's gap, Linda crying silently in the back seat...  Hate heights..hate!

Kenmare is a nice, little village with a cluster of pubs that all offer good food and traditional music.  We stayed late and enjoyed a few impromptu songs and jokes when a few audience members joined the scheduled entertainer to the delight of the audience.

Our last day at the Lodge saw a significant improvement in the weather and we toured the Ring of Kerry with a driver.  The views of the sea and beaches were magnificent, as were the row upon row of stone fences which seem woven together in a pattern that blankets the countryside.  The cliff-hugging road near the tip of the peninsula was daunting, but the Ring of Kerry should not be missed.  We say a few places where peat was being dug and dried, and saw  bog ponies, short and stocky horses bred to haul peat from the bogs and light enough not to sink into the soil as would heavier animals.

Bog ponies
Peat cut into blocks for firewood

 The land is haunting and so beautiful!

 We spent our final night in the village, enjoying a nice meal and an evening of music, and looking forward to the next day and our trip north to Dromoland Castle.


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