Ireland 1999 (Part 2)
Up early the next morning, we were the first people to climb the Rock of Cashel. The Rock as a major religious center up until the 18th century. We sat through a film about religious life in ancient Ireland and how the different major sites played their parts. It was very interesting. Afterwards, we wandered through the spectacular ruins. A very famous Celtic cross with the figure of St. Patrick engraved on the stone is here. The weather was sunny and almost warm and the day started out really well. Now I had used a book to help plan the trip and an old European road atlas to figure out the route, and the distances didn’t look that big. The problem is that the big roads on my maps were in realitythese little narrow two lane roads. We drove from Cashel to Bantry in the southwest corner of the island. Of course, when we get to Bantryhouse, the famous gardens are being replanted, the mansion style house is being renovated, but if you still want a tour, it’s 6 pounds per person. Pass. So we headed outto the Beara Penninsula. I had thought about doing the Ring of Kerry, but several people had recommended Beara instead. It was magnificent. The coastline was stunning. The weather was great as we drove around the peninsula. The water was an amazing blue, the hills a deep green, and the mountain tops a dark stone color. It was quiet, peaceful, and hardly any traffic. We spend most of the afternoon there and then headed to Kilarney.
Leaving the Beara Penninsula took some time and when we got to Kenmare we needed to get out of the car bad. It was later afternoon by this point and had been in the car all day. We wandered the main street of Kenmare checking out the stores, looking at the sweaters, etc. After a bit, we headed to Kilarney. The approach to Kilarney was beautiful in the late afternoon sun with the light reflecting off the many lakes we passed. By the time we got to Kilarney, it was dark. We founda B&B and over dinner Colleen and I decided that we needed to scale down the trip a bit. If we spent over 6 hours in the car, every day, we would kill each other. So we decided to drop the northern part of the trip. That night we wandered into a pub where they were playing music and stayed a bit. While I am used to all of the Italians smoking, I usually don’t stay in confined spaces with a thick stew of smoke around my head. We ended up bailing when we couldn’t take the smoke anymore.
Another early departure (it’s the Navy in me), and we’re off to the Dingle Penninsula. Another great morning, weather wise. The drive wasagain spectacular, but a bit different than Beara. The rocks and stone ridges were different and even the types of trees were different. We stopped in the town of Dingle to have breakfast and walk around a bit. Back in the car, our first stop was Dunberg Fort, and Iron Age fort on the edge of a cliff. While part of the fort had fallen into the sea ages ago, the rest of the ruins were pretty impressive. We sawour first beehive hut there, Iron Age stone huts built of circle upon circle of flat stones. Each additional circle is smaller until a flat rock forms a roof, and all of the rocks are slanted outwards, so it’s waterproof. As we continued the drive, we rounded a corner to glimpse Dunmore Head and it’s cove with white sandy beaches. We drove out to the head and then hiked down to the cove under sunnyskies, but with a brisk wind. The cove was beautiful and supposedly was where a scene from “Ryan’s Daughter” was filmed. We walked along the beach a bit before heading back to the car.
We slowly made our way around the Dingle Penninsula and stopped in Tralle for lunch. While Traleeis supposed to be famous for a rose festival, it looked like a dirty heavy industrial town. After lunch, we continued north towards Bunratty. Bunratty had a famous castle that we wanted to see. Well contrary to what my tourbook says, it closes at 445PM, not 530PM, so we missed it. So we took out tourist money and got back in the car and drove to Ennis to spend the night. A small quaint little town where we had our first major problem with the B&B thing. First of all, we couldn’t find one while driving around town. So we parked the car and then walked around looking for one while we explored the town. We tried several B&Bs only to be told that they were full. We finally found one that was upstairs from a pub. We walked into the pub and all conversation stopped. Mind you therewere only 6 people there, but conversation just stopped. And no I’m not being paranoid, it was weird. We talked to the barmaid about the room and she said to follow her. The B&B had a separate entrance from the bar, which was a plus. As we entered the B&B, you had to climb a flight of stairs. On the second landing, there is a HUGE red stain on the carpet and red stuff smeared on the wall. Colleen and I look at each other and say nothing. The room is okay, ensuite, and within our price range. We take it. We were both desperate to find a place to stay, otherwise the obvious blood stain on the stairs would have turned us away. Did the barmaid say anything about the stain? She didn’t even look at it. It was like it wasn’t even there. We headed out on the town because Ennis is supposed to abound with singing pubs. If so, we didn’t find them. We hit three or four pubs that night looking for music to no avail. Most of the pubs were empty or filled with people who would scare you if you saw them on the street. We had a final drink in the pub underneath our B&B and then double bolted our doors that night.