On our May long weekend (May 8-10th), Diane and I decided that it had been too long since our last trip, and since it was a long weekend it was an opportune moment to hop in the car and check out an area of the Irish countryside we hadn't yet gotten to. One of the main touristy areas we hadn't gotten to yet was the Ring of Kerry, in South-West Ireland.
So on Saturday morning, we hopped in our car and started down in the direction of Killarney. It's a pretty long drive! It probably took us well in excess of 4 hours to get there, and since we slept in and packed that morning we didn't actually get on the road until almost noon. The roads in Ireland are pretty high variance: there are now quite a few fancy new motorways available, but once you get off of those the road quality can quickly degrade into roads that you really can't drive very fast on. Most of the way out though, the roads were pretty good, so that was good.
We stopped to check in at our B&B - a little house a few minutes drive outside of Killarney. Our host kindly informed us that Killarney was particularly busy that weekend due to a motor rally happening nearby. Forewarned, we headed into town and took a quick pre-dinner walk into Killarney National park before heading off to find some food. Not sure where to eat, we consulted our handy Ireland lonely planet guide and it recommended a restaurant called Bricín which we were fortunate to get a table at since it was booked up later that evening. The food was absolutely delicious! A great way to start off our trip.
We returned to our B&B early since we wanted to get an early start on the next day. The day was a bit rainy and windy at the start, but after being on the road for a little bit the sun came out and the day was absolutely gorgeous. We started the day by stopping off at Muckross house which is part of Killarney national park. The house has some really nice gardens including an extensive arboretum which was quite pretty. Lots of mossy trees and flowering trees!
Our next stop along the ring of Kerry was the Torc waterfall, which conveniently enough is just a few minutes walk from the road. The waterfall is just part of a larger hike which we might need to go back and do at a later time. But we had a lot to see that day, so we didn't really have time to spend a couple hours hiking. So on we went, next taking a quick stop at "the ladies view" which is a nice viewpoint from the road over the hills and lakes. The place gets its name because of the "pleasure expressed by Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting on their visit in 1861 in that spot". It is indeed a very pretty view.
Not too far from there, we stopped at Molls' gap and the Avoca cafe stationed there for a small lunch. From there, it was a fairly short drive to Kenmare which the guidebook said had a stone circle to see, so we did! We also made stops at the Staigue Stone fort (an old ring fort overlooking some stunning scenery) and at the viewpoint at Coomakeesta pass which offers an absolutely incredible view from the road. The road is up high with green rolling hills dropping below us and spreading out dramatically right out to eh rugged coastline. For us, this was probably the highlight of the very scenic ring of kerry drive.
Our stop for the night was a town called Cahersiveen, which is a lovely little town. We got there pretty early so instead of going to dinner right away we wandered around the town a bit, finding not only the giant Daniel O' Connell memorial church but also an old abbey that had long since fallen into disrepair. So much so that there was a whole bunch of vines growing in and through the bricks. Pretty neat ... Dinner that night was at the seafood restaurant QC's. Another really good meal!
On the Sunday we decided to call and see if there was any space left on a boat headed to the Skelligs: two craggy rocky islands shooting out from the ocean off the coast of Ireland. Apparently, getting on one of the boats in the summer is pretty tough, but they were just getting going for the season so we got a spot. Nice! So on Monday morning we found ourselves on a boat at 10am heading on a 50 minute boat ride to Skellig Michael. The water was calm and lovely, and we were soon climbing the hundreds of steps up to the top.
The skellig's stairs were numerous and it took quite awhile to climb them. The view from the top was sure worth it though! Near the top there is some beehive style huts set up -- apparently there was a small group of people who used to live there a long time ago. I can't imagine it though.
After a couple of hours climbing around, we got back on the boat. The boat operator took us by the other skellig which no one is allowed to land on -- it is reserved as a bird sanctuary ... and my oh my there were a lot of birds!!! We didn't just see the birds though - there were also some spotted seals sunning themselves on the rocks! The waves were pretty choppy on the way back, so we were given yellow raincoats to prevent us from getting soaked.
Having made it back to port safely, we were now facing a multi-hour drive back to Dublin, so we started high tailing it back. We stopped in Limerick on the way for dinner at a pub recommended from our handy tour guide... and the food was pretty awesome for pub food.
Not much else to say about our trip. We got back to Dublin pretty late and basically fell into bed after a good long weekend trip! We're going to have to do another one of these trips in the near future -- there's so much to see down there.