I just got back from a last-minute road trip to southwestern Ireland – which covers Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula.
The trip was months in the planning. It was finalized last minute because of the recent midlands lockdown due to sudden spike of Covid-19 cases. Given that the situration could unfold rapidly and potentially lead to a nationawide lockdown, I booked nearly all my lodgings no more than a week from depature and bought the train ticket to Cork just a day before the journey start. This was unthinkable during a regular tourist season in Ireland.
I started my journey in Cork, stayed overnight and picked up the rental car in the morning to drive into Killarney National Park.
My first destination was the Gap of Dunloe.
Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass between the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and the Purple Mountain Group. It is 11 kilometers (7 miles) long, with 200 metres (650 feet) elevation change.
This was the first time I drove on the other side of the road, not to mention a small incident at the beginning – I will elaborate later. Long story short, by the time I reached Kate Kearney’s Cottage, it was almost two in the afternoon. The main thoroughfare was narrow, with pedastrians walking abound. Upon seeing a sign that states: Traffic primarily restricted to horse, traps, ponies, walkers, etc. I pulled into a parking lot.
As it turns out this sign was erected by private jaunting car operators to mimic an official sign to lure tourists into taking the jaunting cars instead of driving The Gap.
Sure enough, as soon as I got out of the car, I was approached by a horseman, 50 euros per ride and you get to see four lakes. No cash? no problem. Just pop into the store and use the credit card to get cash. Not pushy at all and very well organized.
But walk is what I came here for.
It took me 10 minutes to get to the bridge
And the scenery beyond was utterly surreal
There were happy sheep grazing on the greens grass and occasional cars passing by
which was a tad annoying. But people needed to get to places I suppose.
Given my late start I didn’t have enough time to walk all the way to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. I turned around after about 45 minutes. On my way back I spotted this father training his 3 and 6 year old rock climbing.
They were actually from Dalkey, right outside of Dublin. But they were here a lot enjoying the nature.
I had dinner reservation at the Mad Monk in Killarney and had plans to make a stop at Ross Castle before that.
It was mission impossible. The town of Killarney was heavily congested.
I managed to get stuck in the same traffic over and over due to the confusion (largely on my part) on which street to turn and thanks to Google map’s sudden change of mind, redirecting me to the exact opposite direction, then back to where we started.
By the thrid try, I got the message that it wasn’t meant to be and parked the car in the large parking lot across from the Killarney House and Gardens and took a walk.
It was a beautiful park with the backdrop of the mountain range.
and I got to learn about the 21 Bumblebees of Ireland.
With the closing of the The Boxty House in Temple Bar, Dublin, I had every intention to seek out the Bricin Restaurant for its house specialty boxties. Unfortunately they are closed Sundays and Mondays. Althoiugh I was just as thrilled to secure a last minute booking at the Mad Monk.
I had Cromane oysters
Grilled lobster salad
And Bailey’s cheese cake.
Seafood is amazing at this part of Ireland. Honestly, I’ve never had a bad meal in Ireland in general 🙂
With food in my tummy, I thought I would give it another go at Ross Castle.
At dusk, the parking lot was virtually empty and there were only several people fishing along the shore.
Other than the fact that I could not go far because of the flooding caused by Storm Ellen
It was a quiet and intimate experience!
Built for the O’Donoghue Chieftains during the first half of the 15th century, Ross Castle came into the hands of the MacCathy clan during the Second Desmond Rebellion. The MacCathay clan later leased the land to the Brownes, who became the Earls of Kenmare and owned an extensive portion of the lands that are now part of Killarney National Park .
Ross Castle was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Cromwell in the Irish Confederate Wars and according to the Irish prophecy it could never be taken until a warship could swim on the lake:
Ross may all assault disdain. Till on Lough Lein strange ship shall sail.
Legend has it that O’Donoghue still lives in the great palace at the bottom of Lough Leane.
On the first morning of May every seven years he rises from the lake on his magnificent white horse and circles the lake.Anyone catching a glimpse of him is said to be assured of good fortune for the rest of their lives.
By nightfall, I arrived at Fuschia House
It was time to get a good night sleep before my first attemp at the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise.
Note: For those of you who don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving, although there were not a whole lot of bus tours this year, my friend went with Deros Tours for the Ring of Kerry route and Gap of Dunloe Tradition Boat Tours with this company, she highly recommends both.