Wednesday, June 28, 2006

County Clare and Ladies View

DAY 4: To be sure, the rain stopped, and although it was cloudy, the view of countryside around Cahersiveen was much better than the day before.

Brigette, Eilish’s daughter, was a cute little kid who served us our full oirish breakfast. Mum asked what she usually had for breakfast, and she said in an even cuter oirish accent “Aww, cereal or sometimes rashers (of bacon).” The temptation to ask silly questions just to hear Irish people talk, was often too great to resist.

After breakfast, we made friends with Brigette’s cat Bingy. Bingy was a very affectionate cat, who wound itself round our legs and demanded to be patted for 20 minutes. Mum, who was suffering cat withdrawal symptoms (having not seen her “girls”, Misty and Pixie, for over two weeks) gave Bingy all the attention he demanded – to the point where he was doing that weird cat-going-sideways-in-ecstasy thing. They actually needed to be separated with a crowbar.

We set off for a quick squizz of the small pier where ferries take passengers over to Valencia Island, about a kilometre off the coast of Cahersiveen.

Then it was back onto the Ring of Kerry and onto some more bendy cliff-top roads. If you get stuck behind a truck or coach on these roads, you’re more or less stuffed – or at least reduced to a snail’s pace.

Fortunately there wasn’t a lot of traffic on this road, and other than a few sets of roadworks, we had a pretty good run. The landscape got rockier, and a couple of times we had to stop to let sheep cross the road. This was the clich├ęd Ireland I was looking for!

We stopped for a cuppa at a lookout called Ladies View. It looked out to a scenic valley where some of County Kerry’s biggest lakes converged.

Earlier, we had decided that if we could get a decent drive in today, and get quite a way up the coast, we could visit the Cliffs of Moher and Galway the following day.

We completed the Ring of Kerry loop and bypassed Killarney this time, heading north to Tralee for lunch. It was a larger town than Killarney, perhaps with a little less character and more traffic.

Parking in most Irish towns is a complete disaster. This is without doubt one of the country’s biggest problems – there are simply too many cars on the roads for the cities to cope with. Parking stations are packed, streets are crammed with cars parked on the sides, and it’s really quite tedious to get across town.

The green hills of County Kerry sailed by, as we drove up to the Shannon River Estuary, and to a car-ferry at Tarbert. We only had to wait about 20 minutes for the next ferry to take us over to Killimer in County Clare.

County Clare seemed even greener than County Kerry, and we stopped in the cute little town of Kilrish for the ritual afternoon cuppa. I guess the greener a place is, the more rain they’re likely to get, and as if on cue, it started drizzling again.

We then headed further west and up the coast road via Kilrush, Doonbeg and Kilmurry, through Milltown Malbay, and into what we thought was the pick of the villages for the evening – Lahinch.

Lahinch’s beach makes it a popular resort town for surfers, and it’s also known for its traditional music.

The B&B was about a kilometre out of town, so we backbashed for a while before heading back into town for a pub dinner. Another pub across the road had an Irish band playing that night, and a few hot toddies kept us going until the band started. I’d never really been into traditional Irish music, but listening to it for 8 hours in the car each day, and then again in pubs at night has really changed my mind. I’m an Irish music convert!

The band was excellent, and as we left the pub, the heavens opened up and the green green hills of County Clare were watered once again.

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