Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ireland 2011 - Chapter 3 - Beara Peninsula & Ring of Kerry

Our Driftwood Tour of Ireland wasn't like a typical tour at all - no big buses or crowds of people. It was more like having a friend show you some of his favorite places. We went off the beaten track often, and saw so much more than I could have on my own, places only a local would know about, like Gougane Barra  Forest Park.

Pine trees at Gougane Barra Forest Park

After a ferocious rain storm the night before, the second morning of our tour dawned dry but overcast - nice enough for a walk in the beautiful forests of Gougane Barra.  It was damp and mossy and quiet as we strolled along a little stream that is the beginning of the mighty River Lee.

Old stone walls have been covered with moss in Gougane Barra.

There was such a wonderful feeling of peace in that place. It's hard to describe the serenity and calm that you feel. It's almost a spiritual experience, walking among those dramatic towering pines with the carpet of soft green moss underfoot.

Gougane Barra Lake and waterfalls

Because of all the rain the night before, there were waterfalls streaming down the sides of the mountains. Simply beautiful!

Just down the road, believe it or not, we saw this thatched roof public toilet - with skylights, no less!


It even received public recognition for its innovative design!


Next stop: Bantry House and Gardens...

Bantry House  & gardens, on Bantry Bay

The gardens were beautiful - I loved the boxwood knot garden, wisteria circle, and fountain.

Gardens at Bantry House

The stables at Bantry House
Flowers in the gardens at Bantry House

We drove around Bantry Bay to the Beara Peninsula and stopped in Castletownberre for lunch at MacCarthy's pub...

Castletownberre, County Cork, Ireland

... the very same pub shown on the cover of Pete McCarthy's McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland . When I read that book five years ago, I never dreamed that I would one day sit in the very place that was featured on the cover. That really tickled me to no end!


Here's the poster they have up on the wall in MacCarthy's, with a picture of the book cover...


After lunch, we drove up a narrow country road to an unmarked pull-off, walked through a rusty gate into a farmer's field, made our way through a pasture, dodging cow pies, and found this ancient stone circle, constructed around 2000 BC. It seemed incredible to me that the Irish are so casual about their historical landmarks. There were no guards, no big parking lots, no information center or tourist brochures. And no vandalism! It was that way all over Ireland.

Dareenataggert stone circle

I had to take this picture just to show that we really did see bright blue skies while we were there!


I was surprised at how rugged a lot of Ireland is. There are some spectacular mountains, like these on the Beara Peninsula ...

Driving over Healey Pass on the Beara Peninsula
View from Healey Pass
View from Healey Pass

We stayed overnight in Kenmare where we had fun shopping along the main street.

Kenmare, Ireland

The next day we drove through the mountains via Molls Gap to Killarney National Park on the Iveraugh Peninsula.

View of the lochs from Molls Gap

We had a really interesting tour of Muckross House. Very beautiful!

Muckross House, Killarney, Ireland

Gardens and greenhouses at Muckross House



Flowers at Muckross House

Driving along the Ring of Kerry, we stopped at the Staigue stone fort, built around 300-400 AD. I was really impressed with the engineering of this place. It was built during the Iron age, without mortar, and the walls are 13 feet thick at the base. It's been standing there for thousands of years, and the walls are still even and stable. It was really cool!

Staigue fort, Sneem, Ireland

The small opening in the wall, to the right in the photo, is the only entrance to the interior. The built-in steps shown here allowed access to the top of the walls.

Interior of Staigue fort
Look at the stacked stone work on those walls!

We continued on our journey around the Ring of Kerry, over the Coomakesta Pass, then took a side trip to Ballinskelligs and around the Ring of Skelligs, where you can see the Skellig Islands eight miles off-shore. (More about that tomorrow.)

Ring of Skelligs with Skellig Islands in the distance

We ended our day in the tiny fishing village of Portmagee, where we spent the night in a hotel right on the harbor.

Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland

I went out to explore and sketch a bit before it got too dark, and was touched by this memorial to those lost at sea.


Memorial at Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland


Tomorrow we continue around the Ring of Kerry and on to Dingle!

3 comments:

  1. In Kenmare, there is a beautiful sweater shop where everything in the place is hand knit. We spent about 2 hours in the place trying on sweater after sweater. I bought just one but it was with tremendous restraint (I had purchased two other sweaters along the trip). We were in Ireland in 1993 and I still wear that sweater. I get compliments all the time from a sweater that is nearly 20 years old! I still love it. I

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  2. I should have said there was a beautiful sweater shop in Kenare 20 years ago. It might be gone by now...

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  3. My mom shopped for a sweater the whole time we were there and never did find one that was "just right", so she came home without one, which made me very sad. I was hoping she'd have a keepsake of our trip. I bought a really nice wool hat at Muckross House - I wore it alot during the trip, and will think of Ireland every time I put it on this winter.

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