|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.
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!