Ring of Kerry and the Mad Dash to Doolin

May 3, 2009 - 1:21 am No Comments

We woke up and met with Rose at breakfast, asking her to turn on the Internet for us like she had promised, but she went into this story about how her computer’s hard drive made some funny noises a few days ago and that she lost everything. Then she told us that she was instructed by her “computer guy” not to turn her computer on while they are cooking. Perhaps her computer sits on the stove? In any case, it was breakfast, and we couldn’t afford to wait. We headed into Killarney’s city center to find some more information about the rally on the Ring of Kerry and assess our options.

At a tourist information center, a helpful woman named Michelle told us that only a small section of road on the Ring was closed for the Rally of the Lakes and that we’d be just fine since we were getting a late start. The bonus was that all of the tour buses and most of the other tourists had left Killarney several hours before, meaning that there should be very little traffic on the Ring. We cursed Rose, got our morning scone, and hit the road.

Setting off to the Ring of Kerry, we knew that we were about to begin the more scenic part of our trip. Except for one wrong turn that took us the wrong way for a few miles, our GPS and maps met our navigation needs perfectly. That GPS has been a godsend.

Like County Wicklow, the scenery of the Ring of Kerry was varied and beautiful. One minute, you’re gazing at the openness of Dingle Bay, then you’re driving along the edge of a thickly gorsed cliff, then you’re passing through a town that smells like rusty bacon, and then you find yourself in the middle of a rocky, scrub-filled mountain range.

The roads themselves were like many of the roads we’ve been driving for a few days: narrow and bendy. Not a problem, though, since there were hardly any cars around. We don’t understand it. All the books we consulted say that traffic on the Ring is a bit of a pain, especially from the tour buses clogging the roads. But we had entire stretches of road to ourselves several times, and we saw only two tour buses the whole day.

But the posted speed limits on these roads were ridiculous. We’re supposed to drive 100 km/h around a turn along the edge of a cliff? With no guardrails? It was a challenge driving even half the speed limit in most places.

The drive took us through the small town of Cahersiveen. Having done some research on my last name, I know that “veen” is old Dutch for “bog,” and the town of Cahersiveen seems to be surrounded by bogs. I guessed that the town might have been originally settled and named by the Dutch. Turns out that “Cahersiveen” comes from the Irish “Cathair Saidhbhín,” meaning “town of Little Sadhbh.” Oh well.

Daniel O'Connell Memorial Church

We stopped for a seafood lunch at the Lobster Bar in the coastal town of Waterville. It was here that I first tasted Bulmer’s cider. Now that is good stuff! Apple juice with a kick. I wasn’t into Guinness, but this stuff I could drink every day. Seems that Bulmer’s also has a pear cider. Can’t wait to try that one.

Lobster Bar

On the Ring of Kerry

Stopped in Sneem for some really delicious honeycomb and raspberry ripple ice cream. In the end, our whole trip around the Ring of Kerry took about six hours.

Sneem River

Ring of Kerry

Jeff and Stef in Killarney National Park

We returned to Killarney and then headed northward. My ambitious goal was to catch a car ferry across the Shannon River and reach Cliffs of Moher (mow-HAIR) for sunset. I was pretty sure that the cliffs would provide us with something pretty dramatic.

We headed up to Talbert to catch the ferry to Killimer, in County Clare, on the other side. By the time we got there, it raining so hard that I pretty much gave up on the sunset. But when we came to port on the other side, the clouds blew away, revealing blue sky and a blazing sun. The wet roads shined, the grass glistened, and all the flowers and colored houses brimmed with color. I had renewed hope for my sunset.

Wind Turbines in the Sun

Cows and a Wet Road

I pushed the pedal to the floor and took off for the Cliffs of Moher, blazing down the straightaways and wrapping around the turns, zipping by any locals driving too slowly. Stef was scared holy shitless, grabbing her seat with one hand and my neck with the other. She likes sunsets as much as anyone else but is not willing to risk her life to see one. What does she know?

Approaching the cliffs and sensing that we might not make it, I pulled over to snap a few shots. Good thing I did, because when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher a few minutes later, it was closed and there didn’t seem to be any way to get to the cliffs. I was a little disappointed, but we might try to get out there again tomorrow.

County Clare Sunset

County Clare Sunset

County Clare Sunset

A few minutes later, we were in Doolin. Tucked into the hills near the coast and accessible by the tiniest of roads, Doolin is really just a single street of shops and pubs. Even at night, it didn’t take us long to find our B&B just around the corner.

Doonagore Castle

I love the name of the place we’re staying, Doolin Activity Lodge. For some reason, it makes me think of kindergarten arts and crafts class, where you glue together popsicle sticks and use rubber cement and construction paper to make “art.” But it’s a beautiful place. Very clean and nicely laid out, with cool-looking skylights in each of the rooms.

It was late, and we hunted for a place that would still serve us food. We went to O’Connor’s, the biggest pub in Doolin. Our waitress told us that the kitchen was closed but that she might be able to scrape up some Guinness beef stew for us. She did. We wolfed it down, had a few drinks, and enjoyed the live Irish music played by locals in the bar.

Live Music at O'Connor's

Tomorrow, we take a day trip out to the Aran Islands and cruise along the Cliffs of Moher on the way back. Stef and I are really looking forward to it.

We don’t want to jinx things, but the entire trip up to this point has gone like clockwork. Everything has been timed perfectly, we have done more than we had ambitiously planned to do, and every problem has resolved itself. Getting the car has proven to be the best decision we’ve made, allowing us to see and do everything at our own pace for less money than buses or trains would have cost. Overall, we’re pretty amazing at how well things are going…

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