Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ireland part 2

Xavier had flown back to London, so Paul and I were again on our own exploring the Irish countryside. Thursday 8th November dawned looking a lot more promising than the past few days, the sun was shining and the mist had cleared from the river valley, so we could see the view over to the Boggeragh Mountains. We decided that this would be the best day to do the famous"Ring of Kerry" drive, so we packed a lunch and set out for the 170km round trip. We first had to go toward Killarney and past Muckross Abbey, then it was up into the mountains. The landscape was beautiful, streams flowed down through the rock and braken to the small lakes nestled bowl like in the valleys, stone cottages mostly painted white stood out in stark contrast to the browns and greys of terrain. Autumn was on the wain, but still the colours were vibrant in the landscape, even as some lowering cloud came down near the mountain tops the colours shone out.
Looking towards Killarney to the left is the Magillicuddy Reeks.

Over the mountain pass and down into Kenmare we went, stopping at the local stone circle for a wander around, then a drive through town a toilet stop and off to the next sight. 

Kenmare stone circle.

Continuing on around the coastal road along Kenmare Bay down to Waterville, the scenery and the amazing rocky landscape draped in low cloud was stunning. These were the views of Ireland that I had imagined, with the lone white cottage on the stark landscape. In reality the cottage was there but not alone, when you zoom in enough you can create the illusion.

Ring of Kerry cottages

We arrived in Waterville to check out the Craft Market that we had seen on the TV, but again I was disappointed as it was full of Woollens and Irish kitsch. Onwards toward Cahersiveen and the marina that we had spotted on the map, finding some stunning scenery on the way. We had a picnic lunch at the marina and a quick scout around the ruined church and graveyard, then continued on towards the Castlemaine Harbour side of the Kerry Peninsula. It was a amazingly scenic drive and we should have stopped and spent more time, but our time was short. We arrived back at the cottage just after sunset at 4.30pm feeling a bit dazed by the blur of the trip.

Stunning coastline with the Atlantic roaring in.

Looking toward the Dingle Peninsula from the Ring of Kerry route.

Friday the 9th we decided to have a quieter day and went to visit some of the local Castle ruins near our cottage. Castle ruins are scattered all over Ireland, they are all in different states of repair, some you can visit for free others you have to pay for ie: Blarney Castle. The town of Mallow, which was only 30 km away was our first stop. This was an example of a Castle ruin with the newer Castle built beside it, sometimes they even used the stones from the old Castle to build the new one.
Mallow old Castle
Mallow newer Castle or stately home really.

As we drove back to our digs we saw a sign for Kanturk Castle so we thought, why not check that out. This one sort of leapt out at us from the trees, a mammoth structure right beside the road, after having a good wander around we decided to head to Kanturk town and have a look. It was another one of those lovely little villages you can come across that is a bit off the beaten track. 

Kanturk Castle.

We were on the move again on Saturday, this time heading to a little village called Kinvarra in County Galway. Our route took us through Limerick where we stopped for a glimpse of the river Shannon. Unfortunately it was a bit grey and gloomy, and the river was grey and gloomy, even Limerick city did not appeal to us. The streets were jammed with shoppers getting ready for Christmas, bands were playing, stalls were bustling with customers, but turn the corner and it was grey and gloomy..baa humbug.

Limerick Castle and the river Shannon.

Leaving Limerick we drove to Castletown and a crafts and Antiques centre we had seen on TV. There was an amazing collection of antiques, nothing like what we have at home, but the crafts were a little limited, very friendly little centre though. Back in the car our next port was the Cliffs of Moher, a famed tourist spot with spectacular cliff views. We drove around the Wild Atlantic Way route admiring the typical West coast scenery of rocks and broken, arriving at the Cliffs of Moher carpark. As we drove past the entrance to the Cliffs there were 5 buses lined up in the Bus Park, with little ant people walking over the hills to the cliffs. The car park was half full and pricey, so we drove on, disappointed. We had expected a remote carpark, with a track to the Cliffs, with no tourist development, but we forgot we are in Europe not the Antipodes. The rest of our drive took us through an area called the Burren, a rock strewn, empty corner of Ireland. An amazing plateau of huge limestone flagstones, cracked and broken after Millenia of rain erosion, an unusual but dramatic landscape. 

A random Castle like structure on the Wild Atlantic Way

The Burren

We arrived in Kinvarra at 4 pm and went to the local pub for an early dinner, we then checked into our cabin. The owners had lit a the fire, so it was toasty warm and very cute. This Airbnb was a nearly off the grid cottage, with a composting type toilet, solar panels and with what would now be called tiny house characteristics, right up our alley. After a lovely nights sleep we awoke to a sunny day and the thought of Exploring Galway. 

Our little cottage.

Sunday 11th December we drove to the centre of Galway and parked near the docks which were near the middle of town, and off we set to explore. After checking out the yachts at the dock we spotted a long break water that connected with Mutton Island, it seemed a popular walk on a Sunday and we could see a Lighthouse on the Island, so off we set to look at the Lighthouse. After quite a hike we arrived at the Island and the gates were shut, no visiting the Lighthouse, the Island appeared to be the cities sewerage treatment plant, hence no access, odd place for something like that, right in the middle of Galway Bay. So back to the city we set in the never ending search for a public toilet, we eventually went to a pub. Galway city is built on a river/canal much like Limerick, but it was a more vibrant city. A lot of the city centre has streets blocked to traffic, street performers, and people were milling everywhere, Christmas shopping was in full swing. The Christmas carnival was underway with Fair rides, and stalls selling Christmas food and cheer. We explored the Galway cathedral, walked the streets, watched the swans, explored shops and the selection of Guinness at the pub. Galway seemed like our sort of city, we loved the seaside atmosphere and the history of the place.

Looking out toward Mutton Island Galway Bay.

One of the many street performers.

Galway Cathedral, only 50 years old but spectacular.

Mr Bojangles Galway style.

It was back to the cottage to relax after an amazing day and quiet night with a few drams to send us to sleep. The next day we explored Kinvarra village the location of our cottage,  we were starting to feel very travel weary so a rest day was called. Tuesday the 13th of December we set forth towards Connemara and Westport, but that will have to wait till Part 3. Cheers for now

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