Ring of Kerry, Ireland
Although clouds were rolling in from the Atlantic Monday morning, we decided to take our chances and head out to explore the Iveragh Peninsula, also known as the Ring of Kerry. The circuitous route is very popular and tour buses plow the narrow roads (so tight that all the companies agree to travel just one direction, counter-clockwise, to avoid bottlenecks).
We opted to head south of Killarney National Park and drive clockwise to avoid the buses. Our first order was getting out of town. Along the way, here were a few street signs of interest.
Evidently, Irish children aren’t too keen to get to school as evidenced by their slouchy demeanor on the crossing sign. In fact, the highway commission comes right out and admits “slow children” crossing. Note the town names first in Irish, then in English on directions at the roundabouts.
As for our trip, here’s a map for reference. The Iveragh Peninsula juts out into the Atlantic west and southwest of Killarney:
We climbed the hills leading out of Killarney National Park and reached the “Ladies View”. It’s a scenic pull-off along the N71 route. The name apparently stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting during their 1861 visit. It certainly was beautiful. Then, as we’re admiring the scenery, we look down along the wall and get a little guilt trip.
At the small cafe adjoining the pull-off, I admired a couple of antique convertibles parked alongside our Volkswagen. A few older folks piled inside and jauntily drove off, completely unperturbed by the damp conditions.
We did the same (but with the windows rolled up) and headed for Sneem. Yes, Sneem. The Irish have some great names for towns. At least we have a fighting chance of pronouncing Sneem correctly.
This part of Ireland has rougher terrain and is not as suitable for farming. What it is suitable for is sheep. There were sheep along every hill, in every nook and cranny, sometimes on the road itself. At one hairpin turn, a sheep was perched right at the edge of an overhang we passed under. So close I was worried the wipers might not clear sheep droppings off the window.
The terrain is rougher but the Irish landscape always softens the view with wildflowers. These appeared more subdued and wind-swept along the southern Iveragh Peninsula than other varieties we’d seen elsewhere. But they were still alluring, especially up close.
As we curved northward along the stub of the peninsula, we had incredible views down to the ocean from the road as it snaked along the edge of the mountains. Of course, I had my eyes glued to the next blind turn. One huge tour bus nearly took us off the road.
Although the weather wasn’t optimal this day, we’ll soon return to tour the Skellig Ring further out on the peninsula in clearer conditions.
We found a cozy pub in Killorglin and enjoyed a late lunch (and I, a welcome pint of Guinness). A framed photo of Kerry’s first All-Ireland Gaelic football champions from 1903 resided in a proud spot behind our table.
As you can see, green and yellow are the Kerry team’s colors and they are prominently displayed in shop windows, on cars and in towns throughout the County. It felt exactly like a big college football game was just around the corner here in Ireland.
Also catching our eye in the town of Killorglin was this memorial to the 1916 Irish proclamation of independence. We found the line “supported by her exiled children in America” especially interesting.
It’s readily apparent to any visitor that this country allies itself with the USA, especially in contrast with Britain. You see many American flags displayed alongside the Irish tricolour but very few Union Jacks.
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