July 7, 2016 - Ring of Kerry, Gap of Dunloe, Killarney
We had to say goodbye to the east coast for a bit and head west to Killarney. We had a nice breakfast and chat with Victor before loading up the car and were on our way. We had about a 2 hour drive but of course I wanted to divert a little to take in some of the sights! You know- we were in Ireland for 10 days which feels like a lot in theory but when you're actually out there you realize you could spend so much more time exploring.
We got on the road and headed to the Ring of Kerry. Driving through small irish towns, spotting castles galore and other ruins in between villages. And everything was so green. It was foggy for awhile but by the time we got back to the coast it was clearing up just in time for a beautiful day.
We quickly popped through Kenmare (which if we'd had more time we'd have stopped to eat lunch in but alas). And then headed south around the ring. We were going against the traditional way of driving the ring in the hopes that we wouldn't have too much traffic or tour buses to deal with. There were amazing views of both the countryside as well as the ocean. When ocean meets mountains it's pretty anywhere.... but when you add in irish green lushness... AHHHH.
We were headed out to the Staigue Fort - a fort that dates back to the Iron Age that it built with just stones... no mortar or anything else holding it together. It was really neat. I don't think I've ever been able to touch (let alone climb up on) anything so ancient. Jon's not a fan of heights so walking around the top wasn't his cup of tea but he placated me and took some photos before getting down. We were also treated to some really nice views of the water at this spot too.
We had to turn back at that point on the ring but I discovered a cut through (that we would hate but love at the same time) taking us through Moll's Gap and over to Gap of Dunloe on our way to Killarney. After we took the turn off and said goodbye to the ocean for a bit we got 'sheeped!' A family of sheep were wandering the road and made us sit for a few moments before wandering out of the road. They were cute and I got some fun photos of them.
We made a turn on the road that opened up to a really nice lake/pond with the mountains and I made Jon stop the car so I could capture it. But then we turned another curve in the road and reached Moll's Gap. This next moment was maybe my favorite of our whole trip. We parked and walked along some rocks until we were standing over the top of this beautiful valley of lush green. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing and I remember thinking 'wow! we are on top of the world! Nothing will beat this moment in my memory of Ireland.' It was amazing. Even thinking about it now brings a small to my face- it was like being in another world. One that I tried to capture by photo that I'm sure won't do it justice but man was it great up there.
Getting back into the car, we headed down a super windy road through the valley in our plan to drive through the Gap of Dunloe. Now what we learned on this journey is that July/August are the worst times to drive through the gap as that's when the locals make their money doing horse rides, horse carriages, bike rides you name it. We got trapped behind a horse caravan for what felt like forever. They just would not let us pass them. Super frustrating! But then once we finally got around them we had to be super careful driving as there were bikers and walkers constantly in the road. Jon was so stressed driving through here that he couldn't appreciate when we arrived at Gap of Dunloe. It was truly spectacular. Of course this was helped by the absolutely beautiful weather. I took WAY too many photos but I couldn't help myself. Ireland is amazing all the time... but when the sun shines?! YES.
We FINALLY got through the gap and drove quickly through Killarney to get to our B&B, the Mystical Rose. This one had come highly recommended by our tour company so we were looking forward to this stop. We even got upgraded to a nicer room. Score! After checking in and getting maps and more information from Roisin we decided to visit Killarney National Park. I was hoping to scope out spots for running the next couple of mornings as well as enjoy the park on the beautiful day.
Parking was a challenge but Jon managed to get our car in a spot (we seriously had to wiggle to get out of the car). And then we walked around the grounds. We opted not to pay the fees to go inside Muckross (under construction) and wandered the gardens instead. We took more photos (i know i know) and followed the path around to an amazing waterfall. The park was awesome and I was looking forward to our runs. We weren't sure when they opened but then discovered that by foot you could enter anytime. Bonus!
We headed back to the B&B to drop off the car and walk into the downtown area. And low and behold what did we find- but another craft brewery! This was on my map and I was hoping we would cross paths with it- Killarney brewing company. We had missed the final tour of the day but the bartender let us purchase a glass and have tastings for free. Not too shabby a selection and I love my mug that I got! Afterwards we continued on our walk and found a tasty spot for dinner, Porterhouse restaurant. It was quite good and we followed that with some evening soccer at the local pubs. Then it was back to the B&B to handwash some clothes- hey we couldn't carry on for 2 weeks! We did this twice on our trip and it was terrible. But we survived and next time- we'll only pack quick drying clothes and enough underwear for the entire trip. We got everything washed and hung up and then laid out running clothes for the next morning! I was looking forward to that!
More to come with our trip next week!