“Off again, on again, gone again” is the motto for the tour bus business. Today we traveled The Ring of Kerry, a chain of mountains that circle around the bay and glacial lakes. The sights are phenomenal & this is where Ireland’s green shows itself in all its glory. We drove the majority of the day through this national park & we had 3 scenic outlooks where we could take photos. I was excited to get out & look. My pictures don’t fully do this land and the vivid greens justice, but the romantic in me wanted to stay out all day and sit on the unmortared stone walls and visit with the sheep ranchers, watch their dogs coral the wooly sheep and maybe hold a baby lamb. Instead, we were the sheep herded back on the tour bus within 5 minutes time so as to make room for the next wave of tour buses pulling in.
I’ve seen mountains before in Colorado, North & South Carolinas & New Mexico to name a few places. All are beautiful & every time I come back home I miss them (though I don’t miss the vertigo). The mountains in County Kerry are just as beautiful, but what really lured me to them was how they jutted out of the ocean or reflected off the crystal glacier lakes and quietly towered over the bogs. I also loved seeing the dried bogs with the cut turf drying in the sun as wild cotton flowers swayed in the breeze. (Side note: I learned that turf is the first layer of the dried bog & can easily be broken by hand and looks like mud. Whereas peat is compressed & processed turf that is typically sold in briquettes & looks & feels like coal.)
What amazed me was to see ancient tombstones that were of the Ogahm tribe which had Ireland’s oldest form of vertical writing. We passed famine houses that people had abandoned when they fled for America, Canada and other parts unknown to escape the Great Potato Famine of the early 1800s where 4 million people (half of Ireland’s population) either died of starvation or diseases. If you have older Irish heritage, odds are high that they were some of the lucky few that survived the crossing on famine ships only to encounter 7 weeks of similar conditions they were forced to leave. We also viewed stone ring forts that were built in the Iron Age which led to later stories of little people who lived in there (think leprechauns).
We ended the tour at Ladies’ Viewpoint where Queen Victoria and her ladies in waiting spent the afternoon. There were 3 lakes, gorgeous green mountains & beautiful shade trees to sit under. It is rumored that when Victoria was asked what she thought of the view, she said it was beautiful but not as beautiful as her Albert. Poor Queen Victoria, she must have been so deep in her mourning that she couldn’t even see the majesty surrounding her.
Later that evening, my travel buddy, Kristin, & I took a walk around Killarney Park near our hotel. (Side note: we needed that 3 mile walk because the Irish diet consists of meat, bread, potatoes & beers. For the past 5 days I feel like my stomach has created some type of doughy batter that has fermented and blown up like a yeasty ball of goo.) In the park, there were woods, a small stream, lakes and fields of clover (shamrocks!), wild lillies, fox glove and tall wild grasses. We walked through a meadow and to our left was a mansion & to our right were the Kerry mountains. We tried to imagine what it would be like to wake up to that view every morning. The highlight of our walk was to end up at Ross Castle, the last castle in Ireland to fall to Cromwell in the 1600s.
The night ended with a light dinner (personal pizzas and water, one of the lighter options on the menu) and a 3 hour visit with a local, Kirin from Killarney. He bought us each a round of Bulmer’s cider and talked to us about life in general. These past few days here have sparked my life long love affair with The Emerald Isle. It’s no wonder the Irish are natural born storytellers, poets, singers & songwriters. With views like I saw today and the kindness of your fellow man, it would take all the words you had to try and relate all the love, excitement and beauty you witness almost every day of your life. And still, those words are never enough.