Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cork to Ring of Kerry - Day 5

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today we had an amazing day trip to the Ring of Kerry, again with Paddywagon tours. We arrived early again and got front row seats for the whole trip. Sometimes that was a little scary with the narrow, windy roads and squeezing vehicles. Our guide was Joe O'Reilly, who made the day with his commentary and jokes. Just wish I could remember it all.

Our first stop was for a cow crossing. All in a day's life in Ireland. But our real first stop (and last) was Killarney, the gateway to the Ring. We had an hour to explore what is considered the most beautiful town in Ireland. Again, we saw brightly painted storefronts.

We followed the 112 mile route around the Iveragh Peninsula, traveling first through Killorglin, another town with colorful buildings. We stopped outside the city at Glenbeigh to get our first view of the MacGillicuddy Mountains. 

Next we enjoyed a ride along the coast, stopping for a view of Dingle Peninsula, opposite our route. It was quite a windy day. 

We drove through Caherciven and photographed the Scarrif Islands. 

Lunch was in Waterville, a picturesque little village overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay. We had lunch at the Bay View Restaurant -- vegetable soup with brown bread. We have come to learn that vegetable soup in Ireland is puréed, but quite good. I was intrigued by this craftsman building a stone wall.

From here, we drove along the coastline and saw the Skellig Islands. The most famous is Skellig Michael, a pinnacle of rock rising out of the Atlantic and covering 44 acres. It once was the home to an early Christianisn monastery, but today is a wildlife refuge. That's it in the background. Hard to believe anyone lived here under such harsh conditions.

Then we passed by more of the Skellig Islands for a brief photo shoot.

Along the way we saw Inch Beach, one of the few  beaches along the way. Surprisingly, the water here is warmer than a beach, say, in Maine, because it is affected by the Gulf Stream.

The views were spectacular all along the way. We stopped in Sneem for ice cream and crossed the bridge where the River Sneem meets the currents of Kenmare Bay. We saw interesting  limestone formations from the bridge similar to some I saw in Missouri where the geology is similar.

Then we entered Killarney National Park, which was established in 1932. The park comprises 26,000 acres and has 3 lakes. Here is Lake Killarney and Black Valley.

Our final stop was a short walk to the 54 ft.Torc Waterfall. The woods surrounding it were covered in moss and you almost expected to see leprechauns living there.

We headed back to Cork and arrived about 7:30. Since we were close to Gallagher's, we went there again to eat their beef pie. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cork to Kinsale - Day 4

Monday, July 17, 2017

Today was a casual day with no scheduled tours. Our plan was to take a public bus to Kinsale just to walk around, have lunch and enjoy the ambiance of this seaside town.

We arrived at the station in plenty of time, so I decided to walk around Cork. Although this is our base, we haven't done much sightseeing here, but not because it is lacking.  On the contrary, we have found it to be a lively, modern and energetic city with great restaurants and plenty of shopping, for those interested. This is a view of the city looking across the River Lee to the St. Patrick's Bridge. The other is the main shopping square. 

The city, the second largest in Ireland, has about 125,000 residents and has several major high tech companies. Apple made it its European headquarters more than 30 years ago.

Cork derives its name from the marshy land on the banks of the River Lee. Its Irish name Corcaigh means marsh but the English changed it to Cork. The city center is on an island between two arms of the river.

We caught the 11 am bus to Kinsale, which made several stops along the way. We arrived at noon and decided to eat lunch first at the famous Fishy Fishy restaurant, highlighted by Rick Steves and others. 

Then we just walked around the town and the waterfront. It is considered one of the prettiest small towns in the country and the warm, sunny day enhanced its appeal. Situated on the estuary of the Brandon River, Kinsale was an important port town during the Middle Ages through the 19th century, but today it is a popular yachting center.

We walked past St. Multose Church, built in 1190 but altered numerous times. We also saw Desmond Castle, built in the 16th century, which has been everything from a castle, to a customs house to a French prison. Now it has a wine museum (which we passed on.)

I looked for a view of the harbor and found a small one from the top of a hill in front of a friary.

Then we walked past the colorful storefronts in the old square. Although Kinsale is noted for these, we have seen them in many other towns.

We caught the bus back at 3 and relaxed the rest of the day. I took another walk around Cork and saw the English Market. Built in 1610, it was reserved just for the English for many years. Today it continues to house a wide array of produce, meat and fish stands.

Tonight we went back to Oliver Plunkett's. I had Beef and Beamish Stout Pie and Ed had Bacon and Cabbage. A delightful trio played Irish music while a young couple performed Irish dancing. Well worth the second visit.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cork to Cliffs of Moher - Day 3

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The second most popular sight in Ireland, next to the Guinness Brewery tour in Dublin, are the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast.

We booked another trip on Paddywagon to take us on the 2-hour drive from Cork. It also included some other stops of note.

For a 5-mile stretch, the Cliffs soar as high as 650 feet above the Atlantic. We were blessed with an amazingly clear day (it was foggy the day before) and had spectacular views from two vantage points. The Cliffs are treacherous and there are limestone slabs that protect you on the walkway from doing something stupid. However, it is possible to continue a route beyond these protective structures, and we saw people getting precariously close to the edge for what???...a photo that will never truly show the immensity of the Cliffs but does reveal their stupidity. 

On one side we saw O'Brien's Tower, built in 1835 to mark the highest point of the Cliffs. From here through the mist we could see the Aran Islands.

The visitor center is built into a mound in the ground so it doesn't interfere with the view or the ambiance.

Afterwards we drove to Doolin where we had fish and chips at Fitzgerald Bar in the Doolin Hotel. We asked a young woman from Argentina who was traveling alone to join us. We have encountered lots of young people of different nationalities working in Ireland -- and locals whose children are working abroad. This young woman was working for a Czech company doing linguistics for major companies like Apple. Truly a global society.

Then we visited the Burrens, an expanse of rough, potholed limestone along the coast that was dug up and left bare by the last ice age. The area also has "mini Cliffs" with no protection, and again, people were being stupid.

On our route, we passed by an abandoned farm house made of stone without mortar, possibly several hundred years old. Also a farm house with a thatched roof. Learned that thatched roofs are made with river reeds (rushes), not grass, and must be replaced every 25-30 years.

Then on our way home we stopped briefly for a photo of Bunratty Castle, another "tower" castle which seem to be common in Ireland.

We got back about 6, rested, and headed out for the evening. Went to Gallagher's tonight where we listened to a great trio. The lead singer was only 19 years old and sounded like Stevie Nicks. I had the meat pie with puff pastry topping. Delicious.