Leprechauns and Landscapes…the Finale!!

At last…we are here, I hope you have enjoyed the journey thus far, I know I’ve enjoyed having you in the back seat.  Hop in for one last ride, and unfortunately one last piece of bacon.

Ireland3-34Patrick was yet again ready for us with a nice breakfast.  As before, we poked his brain for local knowledge and advice.  His advice…drive past the sign that says “No cars beyond this point” in the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap of Dunloe, as you will recall from my previous posts, is a rather isolated mountain gap with very narrow roads (as evidenced in the pictures!). The roads are meant for locals who own property out that way (talk about prime real estate!), and in the summer during tourist season, the roads are impassable unless you rent a pony and trap or hike. Being the middle of October, Patrick said we’d be lucky to see more than a few cars.  Thus, once we reached that fateful sign, we drove on like we knew what we were doing!  Thankfully, Patrick was spot on, and we only saw a handful of cars that unsurprisingly, handled the blind curves and tight shoulders with ease and speed.  The road has a lot of areas where you can pull to the side and let traffic by with mere inches to spare.  The road has no name, its simply named the Gap of Dunloe.  It twists and winds (as you’ll see) between the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain (to the west) and Purple Mountain (to the east).  It’s about 7 miles from north to south. Within it are five lakes: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough (north to south). These lakes are connected by the River Loe. Between the first two lakes is an old arch bridge called the ‘Wishing Bridge’ so named because it is said that wishes made while upon it are destined to come true…only wish (pun intended) I had know that while I was there.

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Once through the “Gap” the roads connects with R568 abd N71.  Just pass Lake Looscaunagh is Ladies View, a celebrated panorama of Killarney’s lakes.  The name stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting during their 1861 visit.  As one would expect, there is pub to replenish your “gas tank” and your stomach.

Muckross HouseSince my wife loves waterfalls, naturally our next stop was the Torc Waterfall.  The Owengarriff River tumbles nearly 60 feet off the base of Torc Mountain to reach its destination, Muckross Lake.  Along the lake shore sits the Muckross House.  The Muckross House is a mansion with sixty-five rooms built in 1843.  It was bought by a wealthy Californian miner as a wedding gift for his daughter and her husband and later presented to the State in 1932 in memory of said daughter – Killarney National Park thus was formed.  The house, gardens and traditional farms are all free and open to the public, with guided tours of the house’s rooms available for a small fee. The front entryway has a plethora of mounted trophy heads, including an enormous rack of antlers from the Irish Elk (extinct), found preserved in a local bog.

At this point we had some time for a few last minute shops and then we hit the road back to Dublin.  I’ll spare you the 4 hour drive and get to the good stuff – the pictures (click on the image below for the final Ireland gallery)!  Before I do that however, I’d like to thanks for joining me on this trip.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the dialog and more importantly the photos.

Cheers!

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Click image for the final Ireland gallery

Leprechauns and Landscapes! Part II

Welcome back…hope you enjoyed Part I…now we are getting to the good stuff!

Day two…

We woke early to a wonderful breakfast of eggs, bacon and more.  Let me digress a minute and tell you about the bacon.  The Irish apparently love their bacon because this wasn’t your typical slice of bacon.  It was more like a slab of pork…you’ll have to take my word for it…or just go taste for yourself.  Patrick, the wonderful owner of the B & B, helped firm up our game plan for the day: we would travel the famed Ring of Kerry.  The route covers the 111 miles (N70, N71, and R562), starting from Killarney, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin.

Guide books will tell you to travel the opposite direction (clockwise from Killarney) around the ring to avoid getting stuck behind all the tour buses, but since we were here during the “slow” season, we decided to travel the normal direction (counter-clockwise).  The slow season does have its perks – not much traffic and very few tour buses allowed us to stop frequently – when and where we wanted.

Ballycarberry Castle

We left around 9am with our first planned stop near Caherciveen, Ballycarberry Castle.  This was by far our favorite spot of the day.  The castle was inhabited in the 13th Century but the present construction was built in the 16th Century.   In 1652 it was attacked by cannon-fire from parliament forces. In the 18th century a house was built on the site using the barn wall and it was inhabited by the Lauder family. This house was demolished in the early 20th century which is how it remains to this day.

As directed by Patrick, our next planned stop was Valentia Island near Portmagee.  The Island was very scenic as expected; however, the skies opened once again and we were forced enjoy most of the island from the car.  There was a small break in the rain and the closest attraction on the Ipad map was St. Brandons Well.  We ended up heading down a dirt road that quickly came to an end.  We zipped up our rain jackets and went by foot.  Upon arrival, the Well…was well…rather boring, but my wife hadn’t flown across the Atlantic for nothing…she was determined to see it all. In the distance she could hear huge crashing waves, so off she went!  Begrudgingly, I followed.  Unfortunately, I had only packed one pair of shoes, and they weren’t great about keeping lots of water out (yes, I admit, not the best planning).  Thirty minutes later, we were back in the car with our shoes near the heater on the floor and our socks on the dash “defrosting.”

By now its around 2pm and we hadn’t even made it half way around the ring.  The next 30 miles or so can be summed up by one word…panorama!  You’ll see some of these in the slideshow below.  Near a town called Castlecove we noticed a point of interest on the map called Staigue Fort.  As a kid, I built forts with anything I could get my hands, so why not take a look at how they did it “back then”.   Staigue Fort is a circular ring fort of dry-stone, meaning it was created and held together without what is known today as mortar.  The road to Staigue Fort was one of the more interesting/hairy roads we had been on – a skinny roadway bordered with hedgerows of hawthorn, bog iris, willow and fuchsia.  The walls of the fort are 10-18 feet in height and 13 feet thick at the base. The diameter of the whole structure is 90 feet. Impressive to say the least.

As you can see by the rain on my lens…it was raining.

Daylight was running out as we approached Sneem, but we decided to stick with N70 to Kenmare instead of taking the shortcut (R568).  We were not disappointed!  With the sun setting we reached Kenmare.  The final leg of our day would be in the dark but just as “interesting”. I think my arm still has a bruise from my wife grabbing it, hanging on, and gasping as we came upon hairpin turns, tight quarters and passing traffic.  Nightfall was masking some amazing scenery, but we would focus our final day in this area, Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe.  Some amazing photos still to come! Click on the image below for the Part II gallery.

  As always comments are welcomed!  Thanks for reading.

Leprechauns and Landscapes!

My beautiful wife!

Okay, now that the “We do’s” and “We Will’s” are over I can get back to my third love (behind my new wife and flying, in that order), photography!  I’ll begin by stating how excited I am to be making my first entry in my “International” blog.  Long overdue, but well worth the wait…my first International trip with my beautiful new bride.  Before I get started, I must give credit where credit is due.  Barbara, thank you for being so patient with me as I stopped oh so often to capture the beauty of our honeymoon.  I could not have imagined sharing it with anyone else, I love you!

I struggled for a long time about how to display all Ireland has to offer, truth be told, words and images only scratch the surface of what this country offers to its visitors.  You truly need to experience this place for yourself.  In order to share the most from our trip, I’ve decided to break it into three parts…each covering one full day of adventures and adoration for the scenery of what is and what once was.  So take a break from your hectic day/week, go back in time and enjoy Ireland through my eyes, my lens, as you ride along on our trip through southwest Ireland.  Stay tuned friends…the best is yet to come, along with my personal travel tips for Ireland!

Day one…

The other side of the road. The “fast” lane is on the left…just plain weird!

We arrived in Dublin early in the morning (6am) to typical Ireland weather; cool, dark, gloomy and rainy.  It was expected this time of year and we came prepared.  Our first expected surprise came as we unlocked our rental car.  Not only would I be driving on the wrong side of the road, I’d be on the wrong side of the car, driving a manual AND shifting with my left hand.  Off we went!  Our game plan was ambitious, but doable…Dublin to Cashel to Cork and finally Killarney.  Leaving the airport along route N7  and merging onto M8 it quickly became obvious there was more scenery than time.  If driven non stop the trip would take about 4 hours, ours took 10.

Our first stop was Cashel.  Small town city driving isn’t what you would expect.  The streets are very narrow as space is limited, making small town city driving more hectic than big city driving in my opinion.  Complete with a meat market and a friendly (and talkative) traffic officer; the quaint little town offered everything we had hoped it would.  The highlight of the town is ironically, the Rock of Cashel.  A spectacular group of Medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone.  We continued through Cork on N22 without stopping (regretfully) as the jet lag was beginning to set in and our bed and breakfast was still a distance away.  Hungry and thirsty, we found a local pub outside of Carrigrohane called The Angler Rest…I had to see for myself if Guinness tasted different in Ireland than it does in the States.  Now I must admit, I’m not a huge Guinness fan to start with, but it does taste differently abroad, it’s much lighter surprisingly.  We had a traditional Irish lunch complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, cabbage and ham.  With a full stomachs we pressed on and drove to the Blarney Castle.  Unfortunately the skies opened and it began to pour.  We left, adding the Blanery Castle and Stone on our “2nd trip” to do list.  The last leg of the day took us through Macaroon and finally into Killarney around 5:30pm.  The sun had set and our eyelids were not far behind.  Thankfully we had already made a reservation at The Woodlands Bed and Breakfast, situated just outside of Killarney.  We chose to base ourselves here for the entire trip because of its proximity to the destinations we wanted to see.  Buckle your seat belt and let the journey begin.

For optimum viewing press the “FS” button for full screen display, then “SL” button for a slideshow.

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Thanks for reading – see you next week with Part II of our Ireland trip!