This weekend I visited the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle peninsula in Western Island. I know most of you might not know what the heck those two things are so some brief information: Kerry is one of the 26 counties in Ireland. The locals there have a saying that goes something like, “There are 2 kingdoms in this world, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Kerry”. I can testify this saying is very accurate, the scenery blew me away and I encountered so many friendly people. The Dingle peninsula is the most western point of Ireland as well as of Europe.
The only way I was able to see these places were through a bus excursion so a few friends of mine and I went through a cheap student bus tour service (85 euro). The accommodation, breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, bicycle rentals and all transportation was included. It was quite the deal seeing as another bus tour of the same places went for 180 euro/weekend.
We were picked up at the campus of UCC on Friday afternoon and headed straight to Killarney, a popular city in Co. Kerry. There we each rented a bike and took a tour of Killarney National Park. We biked around a lake, walked the ruins of an old abbey, and explored the grounds of a mansion that is preserved through the national park. We were ooo-ing and aww-ing at everything. The park was like something from a painting. The thing I love most about Ireland is the color contrasts of the landscapes. From the sharp blue sky to the shockingly green grass, it looks like someone whipped out a paint brush and colored in the country. Luckily for us at the end of our bike trip the sun was just beginning to set, giving us some beautiful pictures. My only complaint about Friday was that my butt was so sore after biking for 2 hours.
After the bike tour we headed to Tralee, the city where we stayed both nights. In order to save money we bought some food at the local grocery store and made dinner in the hostel. The tour included a free drink at a local pub that night. It was called Baby Guinness and I believe it was some type of dark liquor covered by a layer of Bailey’s Irish cream. It was delicious. We spent the night listening to an Irish duo play contemporary songs from the likes of Coldplay and Tom Petty.
We spent Saturday touring the Ring of Kerry, stopping at many photo spots and small towns along the way. Our tour guide was a young Irish lad who was a hoot. He tried to teach us some Gaelic and traditional Irish songs. The only thing I remember is ‘Póg mo thóin’ or, in other words, kiss my ass. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies and lots of sunshine!!!
One of the first stops was at a photo spot in front of a beautiful river setting in the countryside. As gorgeous as the scene was I was obsessed not with the river but with the GOAT that was just happily hanging out on the side of the road. She was named Holly and her owner was also there with a donkey and a dog. I was able to get a “selfie” (a picture of yourself, taken by yourself) with the goat!! Don’t mind my double chin in the first picture, just look at the beautiful goat! Ireland is full of simple yet awesome animals like goats, sheep and cows. I am very easily entertained by these animals and I made it my personal goal to take a picture with/touch all the farm animals in Ireland.
One of the coolest things we witnessed on Saturday was a authentic Irish Sheepdog Demonstration. An Irish shepherd demonstrated how they use sheep dog to move the sheep over large areas of land. The dogs were very cute and very well trained.
Next stop was over a pass in a few of the “mountains” of Kerry. I use quotations because the word mountain should be taken lightly. They were nothing more than high hills; once you’ve seen peaks like Mt. Whitney in California it is laughable that the Irish call their tiny foothills mountains. But anyways, the view was stunning as always and I managed to get a few decent pictures in, the wind was whipping! Another local saying is that if you have any bad thoughts you should go up to this pass because the wind will blow through one ear and out the other, blowing away any bad thoughts 🙂
We had lunch in a town called Waterville and proceeded onwards to another small town, Sneem. Both were quintessential Irish towns. After those two we set out on a walk/small hike to a beach. I was in shock that Ireland had a beach this beautiful! It looked just like beaches I had been to in both California and on the east coast. The water was turquoise (something I am not use to in California!). Some people took off their shoes and felt the water. I was not so brave and firmly kept my shoes on. I heard the water was very cold so I think my decision was the right one. I collected a few very interesting and different shells from this beach and plan on bring them home as unique and free 😉 souvenirs!
Across the way from this beach we explored an old cemetery. It was my personal mission to find an ancestor of mine buried somewhere in Ireland (I have also been looking at other graveyards/cemeteries we have been to but with no luck) but I didn’t find any 😦 However the views from the cemetery were literally out of this world amazing.
I know at this point you are probably thinking, jeez how many more stops were there but I promise there were only a few more! We made it all the way around the Ring of Kerry and headed back through Killarney National Park, this time by bus instead of bike. At one photo stop there happened to be a man playing the bagpipes! Just out in the middle of nowhere playing bagpipes! He then began playing the Uillean pipes which I had just learned about in my Traditional Irish Music class so it was a once in a lifetime kind of moment for me and one of those moments where I just thought to myself, “Where the heck am I?”
Further into the national park we walked to a small but magestic waterfall. It was getting late and we were all exhausted but we trekked to the waterfall anyways and snapped a few pictures. By the time we were back on the bus we were ready to head back to our hostel.
We ate a dinner we prepared from the grocery store again that night and then headed into town for another free drink at a local pub, this time a shot of Apple Sour (some type of apple-flavored sweet liquor). It was too sweet for my taste but free always tastes good. We headed back to the hostel with a few of the other tour members and spent the night playing a drinking game called King’s Cup (In short a game played with playing cards in which they are all face down on the table and each person picks a card during their turn. Each card has a different consequence and a certain amount of people have to take a sip of their drink with each card) We didn’t drink much at all but it was a very enjoyable night. There were the 5 of us Americans, one German guy, two guys from Canada and a French girl so the diversity around the table was evident!
After the length of Saturday, we were ready to have an easier day on Sunday. We set out for the Dingle peninsula. During the ride there the fog rolled in and it began to rain. That didn’t stop us though and we still went to two different beaches! The views were less incredible than the day before because of the declined visibility but that’s Ireland for ya. At one beach we found a dead jellyfish, sad 😦
After we headed into the town of Dingle. Lucky for us there was a food festival going on! We were able to sample so much delicious local, homemade food! I had a delicious lunch of some cheese I purchased there with crackers. An hour of the way into the two hours we were to spend there it began to pour so we headed back the bus and spent the rest of the time out of the rain (first picture is on the bus). But before we had to take cover I was able to buy some really amazing homemade fudge (the “original” flavor – tasted like caramel) and a butterscotch/chocolate/vanilla layered fudge.
Our second to last stop of the trip was for a hike along a trail that bordered cliffs overlooking the ocean on one side and a grassy hillside on the other! It was well worth the hike to be able to see views that I would never have been able to see otherwise!!
As much as it looks gloomy and cold it truly was not that bad of weather. I was quite cozy with my fleece jacket under my rain jacket. Finally, our last stop of the trip was to a 7th century Oratory (church) right off the road somewhere in the Dingle peninsula. It was breathtaking to be in a structure as old as this one was. Really puts the idea of time into perspective for you.
Now, phew! Finally done. It was a very packed weekend filled with beautiful landscapes and many memories. Somewhere during this weekend I feel head over heels in love with Ireland. I am 110% happy with my choice to study in this unbelievable country. I cannot wait to explore the rest of this island including a trip to Northern Ireland and Belfast coming up in less than two weeks 🙂 For now, I must return to doing what I actually came here to do: studying! Until next time – Kaley