Friday, September 23, 2016

The Ring of Kerry


Woke up to an Irish morning – clouds, sun, rain, and repeat plus today we have very strong winds. Definitely not a biking day, so it’ll be off to the Ring of Kerry. Had Irish porridge for breakfast. It was brilliant! Absolutely delicious – plus you could plaster the walls with it if you had to, it was that thick. We chatted with the hostess about the best way to drive the Ring. She suggested going clockwise because all the buses go counter-clockwise. If you go clockwise, you see the scenery going down. She couldn’t quite understand why everyone else goes the wrong way! She also recommended going to Valentia Island.

Packed up the car and we were on the road by 9am. We took her advice and although some of the road we had done yesterday, the rest was new and  beautiful – even if the skies were a bit grey. The sun is having a harder time coming out today. For all the talk of busy roads and lots of traffic on the Ring, we really didn't encounter too much. Not sure if weather had something to do it with or not.

It was time for a coffee break, so we stopped in Waterville and dropped into Peter’s Place Café. This place looks as if it could be owned by my good friend Nicholas and fit right in with the P-Town crowd. Met Peter and his dog Patch – she’s a real charmer when it comes to tourists – doesn’t bother with locals at all. Geoff explained to Pete that there is a Waterville in Maine. Apparently the two Watervilles have a shared history.  Had a great visit and a good cup of coffee with very relaxing music.
The town’s name in Irish refers to the river in the case of “The Little Whirlpool”, or “The Sickle” refers to the shape of Ballinskelligs Bay on which the town sits; the name however has been transplanted onto the lake with the Irish name being Loch Luíoch or Loch Luidheach. The Butler family built a house at the mouth of the River Currane in the latter part of the 18th century. They named their house and estate Waterville. The village that developed on the estate during the first half of the 19th century was also named Waterville. Cyrus Field happened to be from Waterville City, Maine, USA. It was he who decided to locate a cable station of his Commercial Cable Company just outside the existing village in the 1880′s in the townland of Spunkane. The cable station brought much activity to Waterville and increased the town in size.
We crossed the bridge to Valentia and explored as much as we could of the island. Took a very winding road down to the candle shop. There we met another odd duck. “Awfully windy out there, I’m surprised to see you, surprised anyone would leave home”. We bought a few items, played with his electric cars and said our goodbyes. From there we took another turn down to the lighthouse.The seas were storming. Decided it was time to get back to the mainland. The car ferry takes you back over for 7 euro. The sun was trying desperately to come out but in the end the rains won out. We crossed the bay in pouring rain. 
For a small island, Valentia certainly makes its historical and cultural mark and it is worth noting that there are still native Irish language speakers on the Island as well as a strong tradition of music and dance.  We are also internationally renowned, it was from Valentia Harbor in 1866 that the world’s first transatlantic cable was laid, stretching an incredible 1,686 nautical miles to Newfoundland.
We are now traveling up the other side of the Ring of Kerry and there is not much to see but fog. Oh well. Geoff is doing great driving. These roads are so narrow and winding. You know it is narrow when you’re side mirrors fold up as you pass a car! And did I mention that the speed limit is 100km! As someone said last night: “It’s a limit, not a challenge!” I have to say between the one map we got from the rental agency and the Garmin, we seem to be doing pretty good with directions. Haven't got lost yet.  The roads are very good and, for the most part, easily marked.

We are having a wonderful time even in the raindrops. This is exactly what we wanted to do. No ruins, no churches, no lectures – just countryside, sheep, cows, and wonderful people. It is a pure joy talking to folks. And we haven't lost or misplaced anything in a couple of days. 

Stopped off at a pub along the road for a bite to eat. Just had the best seafood chowder I have ever tasted. I was interested in the art that was hanging up. The waitress gave a complete history of the local color of the people, the town, and the artist. As we were leaving town, we noticed a smoked salmon shop - stop the car! Went in but we really couldn't see much of the operation.

We have finished the Ring of Kerry and are now on our way to the Dingle Peninsula where we’ll spend the next two nights. It is still raining only not as hard. Found the b&b, checked in and resting up before dinner. We have sheep out our window. That's sooo Ireland!

Drove around town tonight in the rain. We walked for a bit trying to find dinner. Took a chance on a very local looking pub, Brenner's. Some of the best fish either of us has ever had. I had blackened salmon and Geoff had pistachio crusted hake. So fresh, so good. The place even came with its own local leprechaun. I would have loved to have gotten his picture - but I thought it would be a bit too rude. As we were leaving, we noticed there were people streaming in and heading towards the back. I asked the waiter, what is going on? "Oh, there is a concert tonight in the old church across the street and they don't have a bathroom, so they all come in here at intermission!"  What a hoot.

The pictures today are not as spectacular as I had hoped. The weather had a lot to say about that. Unfortunately, according to the weather report, it may not get much better while we are in this country. Going to bed thinking sunny thoughts.

Next time...The Dingle Peninsula 



  1. In spite of the rain the photos are great. I can see why Ireland is called the emerald isle. Nice car by the way. Don't have to worry about falling asleep at the wheel on those roads. I'll be going to bed thinking rainy thoughts.

  2. So glad you stopped off on Valentia! We spent a week in a cottage there with an incredible view of Skellig Michael, one of a group of rocky islands off the south coast. And the weather sounds, well, Irish. Never plan an Irish vacation for sunshine, simply enjoy the sun & the rains.