Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Anti-clockwise around the Ring of Kerry

DAY 3: The day began with grey skies and drizzle, so we decided not to do a walking tour of Cork city, but headed straight out to the Blarney Castle, just north of the city.

The castle was built in the 15th century and is in pretty good condition for such an old chunk of stone. The grounds surrounding the castle were green and gorgeous, and there were far more flowers than when I was there in February.

We climbed the cramped spiral stairs to the top of the Castle, which gives a great view of the countryside, and the very cute township of Blarney. Having already kissed the Blarney Stone, I didn’t feel the need to do it again, but it was amusing listening to some of the American tourists talking about how unsanitary it was to have several hundred (or thousand) people kiss a small bit of rock embedded into the side of the castle. Mum also passed, but did manage to get some completely unflattering photos of other people doing it.

There’s a coffee shop in Blarney that does the best hot chocolate, so we camped there for a while as the rain really started to fall.

It rained pretty much the whole day. The cows, sheep, cute coloured buildings and old ruins out in the fields kept us amused, and our Timeless Irish Classics bellowed through the car. We were starting to learn the words, and they seemed so fitting:

“Oh grey and bleak, by shore and creek,
The rugged rocks abound.
But sweeter green the grass between
Than grows on Irish ground.”

We drove through the small town of Macroom and into Killarney, which is one of the biggest towns outside of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. Its proximity to the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula mean it’s perennially packed with tourists and coaches. But its narrow cobbled streets, great little pubs and craft shops give it heaps of character. Coincidentally, almost all of the towns starting with K were the nicest.

After a long walk through Killarney, lunch and some souvenir shopping, we headed on our merry way round the Ring of Kerry, anti-clockwise. We’d been told that the roads around this area were crap, and that we were likely to have to share them with the bwzillions of coaches that take tourists on day trips. Our plan was to get halfway round The Ring that afternoon, and beat the coaches that would start from Killarney the next day.

It was a shame that it was such a drab day, and that the fog was low – because it was obvious that the scenery would have been spectacular. We drove round windy little cliff tops where green hills met the North Atlantic Ocean off the wild west coast. Not being able to see much, we kept driving to a little town called Cahersiveen (pronounced car seveen) and decided to stay there for the evening. It was a quaint little town where the “highway” rambled through the main street. It’s quite extraordinary to see buses and trucks pass each other in these narrow little passageways.

By about 4.00pm, it was windy, wet, freezing, and time for a cider. The barmaid gave us tips about the best place for dinner – a pub just down the road from hers. We found the B&B, which our host had pointed out, was on the “car ferry road”.

The B&B was great – it had a large glass conservatory as the guest’s sitting room, and the room was warm (although you had to run around in the shower to get wet – Irish water pressure is not so good). We got chatting to a British couple who were staying there for the evening, and then a scary looking German family (think middle age punk rocker types with one child) came in too.

We didn’t realise that seafood would be plentiful in Ireland (despite it being surrounded by water….duh!), but we had the yummiest salmon dinner that night. In fact, Mum had salmon every night.

The old pub was cold and dimly lit, but we parked ourselves in front of the fire to thaw out, and asked the barmaid how her town’s name was pronounced. The Irish people are awesome – so friendly, and much less formal than the English…

With a few more ciders under our belts, we called it quits and had an early night, keeping our fingers crossed for better weather!

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