Thursday, June 24, 2010
Ring of Kerry
We're in Ireland for quite some time--a whole month! with a car!--but for the first two weeks we've got shows most nights, so there's a limit to how far we can travel before the chain of performance yanks us back.
Last Sunday, however, we had a full day off, and we used that time for an epic drive from Cork to the famous Ring of Kerry.
We were warned in advance that it would be crazy touristy. That if we wanted "authentic" Ireland we should head to the Dingle or Beara peninsulas. But seeing as how visitors have been swearing by the Ring of Kerry for hundreds of years now (really! it was a hot spot even in Victorian times, though I suspect there were less plastic-shamrocks-made-in-China available for purchase), and armed with Rick Steves' invaluable guidebook and a detailed road atlas, we set our alarms for 7 AM.
(This is the cue for those of you who know us to gasp.)
And off we went!
Although we got a later start than we'd intended. Probably because we'd stayed up until 3 AM. So we weren't actually on the road until 10:45 AM.
(This is the cue for those of you who know us to laugh.)
But goodness! It was beautiful even before we'd gotten anywhere near the Ring.
And driving on the wrong side of the road really isn't so hard. Especially with a patient navigator by your side.
City folks that we are, we were delighted by the many sheep and cows and horses along the way. These ones were loose by the side of the road, so we pulled over to get closer...
They were interested until we pulled out our camera. Then they huffily walked away. Tourists, they bleated.
But listen! Our late start proved to be a blessing. All those huge tour buses roust their elderly inhabitants out of bed at the crack of dawn in order to beat the traffic, so by the time we were sailing around, we had many of the roads to ourselves. And with the midsummer sun (it doesn't get dark until around 11 pm), there was no shortage of sunshine to light our path.
This is a ring fortress built around 500 BC that we had pretty much to ourselves. Well, us and the sheep and the horses and cows.
It's hard to capture in photographs how beautiful the peninsula is.
It's in the way the water meets the rocky shore, and in the variety of textures and colors that make up the rolling patchwork of the countryside.
As my husband said at one scenic overlook, "I need an 180-degree lens."
Everywhere you look you can see the obvious footprints of the glaciers that moved through here and grooved the land.
And the beaches are exquisite. Soft sand beneath your toes, but big hard rocks with cockles and mussels and shallow pools with interesting marine life to explore.
By dinner time, we'd worked up a hearty appetite and ordered dinner at this pub in Portmagee.
Seated at a picnic table alongside the small harbor, we ate big bowls of chowder and a hot seafood sampler and washed it down with a few pints of Harp.
It was delicious.
And I have to say, it didn't feel very "touristy." Everyone else appeared to be locals. And if there are a few more places along the Ring to buy postcards then there are in other parts of Ireland, well, I certainly didn't mind it. Especially since those same places have WCs and tend to sell ice cream.
The only thing that would have made our trip better is if we could have spent the night there and driven back the next day. But a morning technical rehearsal beckoned, so we popped our Chieftans CD back in and continued on our way.
Tourists, said the sheep. Why not Springsteen?