Ireland, days 8-9: Exploring Kerry and hiking in the rain

Although our apartment was in Killarney, we didn’t really see much of the town (other than Tesco and the route to the Tourist Information office), so I won’t be giving any information about it in this post. Here’s what we did instead of exploring Killarney town…

On Saturday we were up surprisingly early considering how late we’d gone to bed the night before!
After a breakfast of porridge (made by the Scottish member of the group – of course!) it was off for a drive around the Dingle Peninsular.

The first place we stopped was Inch Beach, but not for long because OMG was it windy!! I seriously thought I might be blown away! There were loads of surfers out though – perfect weather for them!

Inch Beach
Inch Beach

Next we drove through the town of Dingle, which looked really pretty (but touristy). We didn’t stop though, so I have zero photos. Instead, we drove round to the other side of the bay and up the hill. The plan was to go to Esk Tower for a view over Dingle Bay, but the farmer whose field you had to walk to to reach the tower was charging people €3 for the privilege! Errr, I think not!! So no Esk Tower. I did point my camera between two houses on the hill we were parked on, so here’s a view of Dingle Bay from above with the town of Dingle in the background:

That *should* be Dingle across the water
That *should* be Dingle across the water

We then stopped at another beach – I’m not sure what it was called – and enjoyed the fact that the sun had come out and the wind had died down.

Look . blue sky!!
Look . blue sky!!
View from on the beach
View from on the beach

We stopped one more time when the Blasket Islands came into view and took some photos of them and the water, as well as a seagull that seemed more than happy to pose for our cameras.

Some of the Blasket Islands
Some of the Blasket Islands
Our friend the seagull
Our friend the seagull

Then it was on to Dunquin – the westernmost town in Ireland! We were searching for Kruger’s Inn, where CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) was founded. My dad is a huge fan of real ales and a member of CAMRA, so I wanted to get a photo for him. We also planned to eat lunch there.

Disappointing pub...
Disappointing pub…

Sadly, what we found at Kruger’s was disappointing. Despite all the positive reviews and claims that it’s a “popular bar”, there were precisely 3 people inside, all hovering at the corner of the bar. One appeared to be working while the other two had come in to chat with her. When we asked about food, we were told they do not serve food (despite there being a blackboard in the middle of the room with “soup, sandwiches, tea, coffee” written on it!!) and offered Guinness instead. Err… what?! My guess is it’s been sold and the new owners have changed things… So we headed back to a café/pottery we had driven past on the way to Kruger’s. My chicken pie was very nice, although not worth the price, but then what you were really paying for at that place was the view:

View from the cafe window
View from the cafe window

After lunch, the general consensus was that, although the Dingle peninsular seemed nice enough, we should head back and take in the (apparantly) even more beautiful Ring of Kerry. So we drove back the way we had came until we reached Killorglin then followed the ring from there. Presumable because it was evening by then, the ring wasn’t as crowded as I’d been told and we only spotted two coaches the whole way round!

The first part of the Ring of Kerry wasn’t all that spectacular. We noticed a couple of nice views, but with no places nearby to stop and admire, and drove through a few cute looking villages but for the most part all there was to see was hedge. We made our first stop on the Ring in Waterville, where we took some photos of the beach.

The beach at Waterville
The beach at Waterville
Waterville
Waterville

Waterville’s claim to fame is that Charlie Chaplin liked to take holidays there. The village now hosts as Chaplin festival every year and there’s a statue of him there too – we drove past the statue but didn’t stop for a photo.

We then drove on, passing through the village of Sneem (I love the name!), which is supposed to be very pretty. All I saw of it from the car window was this:

Sneem
Sneem

Our next stop was at Moll’s Gap, which is between Kenmare and Killarney. Apparantly the panoramic stop (where we parked) and its shop are visited by thousands of tourists each year. Well, by the time we got there the shop had already closed and the only creatures we met were some sheep, who we proceeded to have a Meeeaahhh off with (that’s my attempt to spell the sound a sheep makes – because these ones were not saying baaa by any stretch of the imagination! It definitely started with an m and had an eh sound in it!). Oh, and I took some photos too:

At Moll's Gap
At Moll’s Gap

After Moll’s Gap, we moved on to Ladies’ View. We had been looking forward to this, having heard that it’s possibly the most stunning view on the whole Ring of Kerry, and it did not disappoint. We arrived just in time for sunset, and even my crappy camera managed to get some decent shots (still nothing like as wonderful as the real thing though!)

Ladies View
Ladies View
Same again...
Same again…
Looking the other way - no sun in this direction!
Looking the other way – no sun in this direction!

Less fun was the part where we were eaten alive by midgies. I’ve seriously never seen so many of the evil beasts in one place! At one point, I put out my hand and saw literally about 10 little black insects sitting on it!! Eeew, eew, eew! Then, while posing for a photo, one went up my nose. Aarghh! And just to make things more annoying, the boys were barely pestered at all while us girls were literally covered in evil midge-beasts! Two German girls who arrived shortly after us were waving their hands about and screaming as well though, so I’m clearly not crazy… the evil beasts from insect hell were actually there!

It was laaaate by this time, so we decided to skip Torc Waterfall, although I had heard it’s amazing, and head to Tesco instead, where we purchased food for that night and also the next day. Back at the apartment, I made a sauce using the left-over chicken, courgette and tinned tomatoes and we served it with pasta. We ate late again, but at least this time the food was ready before midnight! Then we spent some time planning the next day (hiking day!) and trying to find a tour that didn’t make us book it 24 hours in advance, which obviously was no longer possible…

Day 9, Sunday, had been set aside for hiking. We were getting picked up at Killarney Tourist Information office at 10 a.m. and needed to walk there, so an early start was required! Jan made sandwiches for the hike while the two girls  made breakfast, which consisted of porridge, potato farls (an Irish version of potato scones) and scrambled eggs. Then we were on our way! The mini bus was late picking us up, which resulted in the nice lady at the tourist office phoning the company for us, but eventually a mini bus arrived (with only one other person in it) and we were off! On our way through Killarney, the driver told us a little about the things we were passing (not that I remember anything), then we were dropped off at Kate Kearney’s cottage, which marks the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe.

Typically, the day we had set aside for hiking was the day it rained literally ALL day!! The Gap of Dunloe was still pretty impressive, but I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I would have if I hadn’t been busy getting drenched! Also, my hiking trouser are water resistant but not waterproof, so after about my mile 3 of 7 my legs were soaked! As were my feet… stupid hiking shoes started leaking! Nevertheless, it was a nice enough hike and I felt very virtuous getting my exercise despite the rain 😉

In the Gap of Dunloe
In the Gap of Dunloe
"Yes, up there is where you're walking to next..."
“Yes, up there is where you’re walking to next…”
I LOVED this ruined house we walked past in the Gap
I LOVED this ruined house we walked past in the Gap
Nearly there! This was about 2 minutes away from Lord Brandon's Cottage.
Nearly there! This was about 2 minutes away from Lord Brandon’s Cottage.

It doesn’t look nearly as wet in the photos as it did in real life!
Our hike took us to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, where we all had a nice hot drink while we waited for a our boat. Yes, you did read that correctly! The tour we had booked involved being brought to the Gap by bus, hiking or pony trapping our way down to Lord Brandon’s Cottage then being taken by boat from there to Ross Castle, where the bus would be waiting to take us home. I barely took any photos on the boat ride because it was freezing and I was terrified of dropping my camera in the water, but here’s one I took just to prove we actually were on a boat!

On the boat
On the boat

The driver/guide stopped occasionally to tell us interesting little facts. As we passed under the Wishing Bridge, he said that any ladies wanting to get married should make a wish as we went under it, and he guaranteed he would see them again within a year with a ring on their finger. One woman on the boat then asked if he could go back so she could have another go! Wish granter or not, the bridge looks very cool!

The Wishing Bridge
The Wishing Bridge

We also passed by the Ladies’ View – where we had been the night before – this time from below. An hour later, we were at Ross Castle where our nice warm bus was waiting for us! And instead of taking us back to the Tourist Information office, the driver asked us where we were staying and took us right to our front door! More Irish friendliness (or maybe he just felt sorry for us in our drowned-rat state?). Next on the agenda was warm showers, dry clothes and hot tea all round! Then we took the opportunity to do some laundry before  spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Jan and I even went for a nap (which turned into a longer sleep when he forgot to actually set the alarm!). We were woken up at around 8 p.m. with the information that food was nearly ready – steak and gravy pie with the remaining potatoes. Yum yum!! Some people had thought about maybe going to the Torc Waterfall or to have a look at Killarney itself that evening, but it was still raining so we decided against it and had a quiet evening in. There was packing to be done anyway, ready to move on to our final stop the next day…

Ross Castle... and there's our bus driver waiting for us!
Ross Castle… and there’s our bus driver waiting for us!

Ireland – My Favourite Things

I will be providing you with a map of the route we took in Ireland as soon as I figure out how, but for now here are some of my personal favourite things from the trip.

1. Irish friendliness. Anything you’ve heard about how friendly Irish people are is 100% true!! In fact, we only encountered one unfriendly Irish person throughout our entire two-week stay (at the Cliffs of Moher, in case you were wondering). Just to give one example of the extreme friendliness and determination to help: On the final day of our initial stay in Dublin, I went with Jan and another member of the group to Kilmainham Gaol (very interesting by the way, and well worth a visit). The bus driver not only announced our stop (Irish – and UK – buses don’t do this automatically), but asked us to wait a few minutes before getting off so he could direct us to the jail. Another passenger who was waiting to get off then interrupted to say he works just opposite and would be happy to show us the way. Not only did he then deliver us right to the entrance, but he also pointed out a park opposite (actually the grounds of an art gallery) where we might like to go for a walk after our tour. All together now: Awwww!

The "New" east wing of KIlmainham Gaol - we were told it's been used in various films/TV series so some of you may recognise it
The “New” east wing of KIlmainham Gaol – we were told it’s been used in various films/TV series so some of you may recognise it

2. Being able to order a cup of tea with milk without either being looked at like I’ve just grown an extra head or – even worse – being brought coffee creamer instead!

3. Buying a horse head on our very first day in Dublin, naming it Charlie (because that way it could be either male or female) and proceeding to take photos of each other wearing it all over Ireland.

Charlie in a field
Charlie in a field

4. The full Irish breakfast at the B&B we stayed at in Dublin (Waterloo Lodge… highly recommended!). And bumping into the butcher on our way out on the first day! No Tesco Everyday Value sausages at that place…

5. The amazing carvery meal we ate at a place called O’Neill’s in Dublin. I have no photo to share with you because I had inhaled it before the idea of photos even occurred to me…

6. Kilkenny. All of it. The highlights being: i) The cute kitty we discovered hanging around the graveyard of St. Canice’s Cathedral. I’m not usually a cat person, but this kitten was soo soft! ii) Blaa Blaa Blaa sandwiches… and the lovely ladies who worked there. iii) The sweet shop next door to the sandwich place, where I discovered Jedward chocolate bars and also bought a bag of the most delicious cherry boiled sweets. iv) Going for a few drinks with an English girl who worked at the hostel we stayed in and playing “I have never”. Fun!

Blaa Blaa Blaa

7. The ruins of Kells Priory, located just outside the village of Kells in County Kilkenny. Basically a giant adventure playground for adults! You have to brave a lot of sheep droppings to get there, but once you do it’s well worth it. My photos do not do it justice at all… this thing must have been absolutely huge when it was in one piece!!

Part of Kells Priory
Part of Kells Priory
More of Kells Priory
More of Kells Priory

8. This bridge over the River Barrow in the village of Leighlinbridge. I took sooo many photos of it! The walk along the river was pretty nice as well.

Google tells me this is a valerian stone bridge, and Wikipedia adds that it's from the 14th century and thought to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe
Google tells me this is a valerian stone bridge, and Wikipedia adds that it’s from the 14th century and thought to be one of the oldest functioning bridges in Europe

9. The tour we took of the Rock of Cashel – our guide was so enthusiastic and informative! I can’t remember half of what he said now, but at the time it was very interesting! I do remember that the reason the monks who lived there eventually abandoned the rock was the weather… and I can well believe it given the wind on the day we were there!

Part of the Rock of Cashel (can anyone else see the face on the left-hand side?)
Part of the Rock of Cashel (can anyone else see the face on the left-hand side?)

10. Taking photos of the sunset at Ladies View on the Ring of Kerry. Although the part where we got eaten alive by midgees was much less fun!

My friend admiring the sunset at Ladies View
My friend admiring the sunset at Ladies View

11. The adorable thatched cottages in Adare.

One of the thatched cottages in the village of Adare
One of the thatched cottages in the village of Adare

12. Seeing a puffin at the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately it was too fast to photograph, so here’s a picture of the cliffs themselves. Also, we were told The Princess Bride was filmed there, so I now need to watch that film again and see if I recognise anything!

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

13. The pies we ate in Galway! If you ever find yourself there, you must go to a place called The Pie Maker!! I was able to try three savoury pies (pork sausage in veal gravy pie, roast beef pie and chorizo, mozzerella and pesto pie) as well as one sweet one – the rubarb and ginger. All four were delicious! And at only €9 for a savoury pie, gravy and mushy peas (or pie, salad and wedges) it’s an absolute bargain, too! A photo will follow once I request it from my friend (my camera’s battery had run out at this point). **Edited to add: PIE!!**

Pie, glorious pie!
Pie, glorious pie!

14. This adorable puppy who we met at the top of Diamond Hill in the Connemara National Park.

Gorgeous puppy!
Gorgeous puppy!

15. The cute little cafe in Dublin that Jan and I stopped at to write postcards shortly before we left for our flight home. The cake I ate there was nice enough, but nothing special, but the cafe itself was adorable… and also cheap!

Cafe Oya... I loved the wall decorations!
Cafe Oya… I loved the wall decorations!

And there you have it… my 15 favourite things from our trip. More Ireland posts will follow shortly…