Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Stunning Ring of Kerry

We took a scenic route to Kenmare, passing by bucolic regions with sheep and cows grazing, and rustic farmhouses dotting the green landscape.

Kenmare is a little town filled with pubs, restaurants, and lots of places to purchase Irish souvenirs. Although it's very obviously catered to tourists, Kenmare is still charming because of its friendly residents and enviable views of rolling hills and rivers. The major draw to Kenmare is that it's the perfect place to start a drive around the Ring of Kerry.

After filling up on some fresh mussels and Smithwick's ale at a little pub, we drove about 5 minutes outside of town to our bed and breakfast, Muxnaw Lodge. The house was huge and loomed in front of us as we passed through iron gates. It was imposing, but in a beautiful sort of way. It was originally built as the summer residence for a well-to-do family. Oddly, it reminded me of the hotel in The Witches. There were endless stairwells leading to heavily-carpeted corridors and all of the rooms were wallpapered and filled with antique furniture.

View from our bedroom window.
We set ourselves up in the room and then debated about how we should spend the next few hours. We knew we had a long drive ahead the next day and we began to worry that we wouldn't be able to see as much of the Ring of Kerry as we hoped. After consulting the map for several minutes, we decided we should take advantage of the long daylight hours and see as much of the Ring as we could before it got dark. We hopped back in Paddy O'Hyundai and headed out of town. 

Roadside Ruins

Driving along the Ring of Kerry was amazing. There aren't enough adjectives to describe how enchanting it was. The scenery was unlike anything I've ever seen: craggy rocks, flowing water, gigantic hills, waterfalls, thick trees, and interesting ruins. It was incredible. We stopped at lots of lookouts along the way to snap photos. The picture was ever-changing because of the weather. One minute would be foggy and misty and the next the sun would come out and shine on the tops of the hills, making them green and golden.

Below is an example of how fast the weather changes and affects the colors of the scenery. Both of these photos were taken while we were having dinner (out of two separate windows). They were minutes apart but in one the sky is dark and cloudy and the hilltops are hunter green. In the other, the sky is cloudy but bright and the hilltops are sparkling green.

Scarriff Inn-- American flag!
We ate dinner at a place called Scarriff Inn in Caherdaniel. We sat alongside a wall of windows overlooking several bays and islands. Caherdaniel is exactly halfway around the Ring and also has a Blue Flag beach.

Beach at Caherdaniel

The sun began to set as we drove back to Kenmare. I can't wait to return to Ireland so we can drive the entire length of the Ring of Kerry and visit Dingle Peninsula. The coastline is unique and stunning and I feel slightly cheated that we could only spend a few hours gazing upon it.

We had a good night's rest at Muxnaw Lodge and were greeted by the bed and breakfast host in the morning. She had been out when we arrived the day before and we were looking forward to meeting her. She was friendly and distinctively Irish. Her hair was jet black, tinged only slightly by gray, and her eyes were dark but kind.

She inquired about where we had been and where we were planning to go. We received lots of suggestions about things to do and places to add to our itinerary. She asked if we were in Ireland searching for our heritage and when my husband told her that there were some Lynches in his family, she smiled broadly and said, "Ahhh, Lynch! Now that's a good Irish name!"

Breakfast was delicious. Again we were served the full Irish breakfast with sausage, bacon, black pudding, eggs, and half a tomato. We were also treated to homemade scones and preserves again-- a luxury I can certainly appreciate more than once. We discovered we were the only guests and breakfast was quiet other than the Irish version of NPR playing softly in the background. This is an interesting aside I have to mention... The day's headlines were being read and I was only half-paying attention when I heard, "And big, big news: Katie is divorcing Tom! Well, that does it for the top headlines."

I looked at my husband and exclaimed, "Did you just hear that? I think they just said Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are divorcing. But why would that be news in Ireland? They must have meant someone else, someone Irish."

Of course now I know that they were, in fact, referring to the celebrities. I thought it was very interesting how something so American and tabloid-ish made its way across the ocean and onto Ireland's morning radio broadcast. I must say the "big news" sounded much more interesting coming from a woman with a polished Irish accent rather than from a commentator on E! News.

We hit the road again with full bellies. Our final destination for the day was Kilkenny. On our host's advice, we took the scenic route through Killarney and stopped at Blarney Castle to do some stone-kissing. But I'll save those adventures for the next entry. In the meantime, enjoy some more photos of the Ring of Kerry!

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