Winding roads, caves and cliffsides!

Friday the 8th of June, 2012Youghal – Kilarney – Kilorglin

I bet by now people think I am just making random names up and proclaiming them county’s of Ireland – I wish! They are hard to spell and even harder to pronounce! The lady in Youghal corrected me once and I didn’t have the stones to try and say her town’s name again in front of her!

Anyhoo, we packed up after two nights in Youghal and headed out into the day. It looked like it was going to rain – but to be honest it looks like that a lot of the time. Sometimes here it rains and sometimes it only rains a little bit 🙂 We have been pretty lucky, with a few full days of sunshine here and there though. We headed back up , through and beyond Cork till we reached Kilarney. Other then being another great place to eat/drink/see stuff in Ireland, it also has a national park nearby!

We hopped out of the car and after a look at the clouds,  foraged out our ponchos. Not used since Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail, they had collected a bit of odour , but still good! We hoped we they wouldn’t need to be used. The national park is quite big, time being a factor we initially did a quick stroll around the front part, it has a nice stone garden. There is also a place called “Muckross House” which is a 19th century mansion, we didn’t venture inside – but it is pretty on the outside. There is a cafe close on hand as well. We had a buffet lunch there, which wasn’t too bad. In the line we met a young couple doing the driving for a team doing a mountain trek competition. It is an event where the teams climb all four of the highest peaks in Ireland in four days. Bugger that in the rain!

Venturing slightly further afield, we started walking towards Torc’s Waterfall, 2km away. The path went by a lovely lake and mountain scene and through some forest. The NP is home to the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland. There are also wild red deer (which we didn’t catch sight of) that are native. Halfway through the walk, the rain came belting down, we got quite a cold, windy shower. It was a semi- jog for the last part! We reached the site of the waterfall and started climbing up one of the paths into the mountain, but we were on a time limit, so weren’t there long. If I ever go back, I need to reserve a few days for this area! The waterfall wasn’t huge, but the area is very pretty. We also discovered you can drive straight up the highway and park next to the waterfall… Oh well!

We spent the next part of the afternoon at Bonane, which is an area set in a valley south of Kilarney by around half an hour. In this county is the Bonane Heritage Park. It houses a number of old archaelogical sites – stone circle, ring fort, standing stones and more. The various sites have been dated from late Neolithic to early Bronze age times! It is really interesting, it is a community funded site as well, you chuck a few Euros in at the gate and walk up to. It only takes an hour or so and is pretty amazing. The view of the area is nice as well.

A Bullaun Stone – google them!

We moved on and began our drive towards Kilorglin, where we were booked into another B&B. Ringing ahead and telling them we would be some time yet, we began to drive back in towards Kilarney. We deviated at this point to start driving the “Ring of Kerry”. This is a 179 km drive winding around the coastline. It is usually done over a day so you can stop in several places. We did not have that time on our hands, so we only hopped out a few times. It was hard to guess how long it would take as well, since the roads were so curvy and you have to take them a bit slow. (Steve – go and drive here one day, Greg had a bloody great time).

The Ladies View

Somewhere after Caherdaniel..

It was beautiful scenery, green hills and lovely coastline dotted with small islands. You pass through a great view of the Kilarney Lakes (knows as the “Ladies View”).  We were making pretty good time and I had discovered reference to a great seafood restaurant in the Lonely Planet. It was on the way to Kilorglin, out on the spit of Cromane. It is known as “Jack’s Coastguard Station” – it looks like a dingy little pub on the outside, but it has been revamped into a stylish eatery on the inside. There are large windows affording a fantastic view of the ocean. We got a table with no booking – yay!

Ok, I am going to talk about food a bit 😛 I had a pate starter with a cherry conserve and Greg had a bloody amazing shredded crab with guacamole and gazpacho. Mains were good too, I had cod and Greg had salmon, veggies were included with our mains. We stopped eating at that point there and toodled away, I snapped a quick photo of the sunset as we were leaving. An added bonus to this place – live piano player. It was lovely. We drove a tiny bit further to our B&B, we were given a very warm welcome by the owner of Coffey’s River’s Edge – which is a lovely place! Again, we crashed out after a long day!

Saturday the 9th June 2012

Saturday dawned bright and clear (hooray!) and with a few tips from the B&B owner we were off and racing. We continued north up the coast and then caught a car ferry across from Tarbet, which saves a lengthy inland deviation via Limerick. We drove through a number of small coastal towns, stopping for a late lunch in Lahinich. We pressed on to check out the very famous Cliffs of Moher – 203 odd metres high and pretty darn spectacular. There is a little lookout castle there (which charges you 2 more Euro to go up) – we didn’t though.  There are heaps of sea birds circling the cliffs and you there a few walks you do around this area.

Cows sleeping in the sunshine!

When faced with a spectacular view, get distracted by taking photos of bees.

The famous cliffs..

We spent a bit of time walking about and then I spent a bit of time gazing at trinkets for sale 😉 Being a tourist hot spot there are people selling every kind of lucky charm you could want to get your hands on! I do like the silver jewellery though. There is also a cultural centre with a bit of environmental data about the cliffs, which is included in the ticket price. They have had to erect a stone barrier along the walkway, due to the heavy tourist traffic and people crawling out to the edge. Tourists were speeding up the usually slow process of the cliffs degrading!

Moving on…

We hopped in the car and drove upwards towards the north of the Clare Region. Here in lies an area known as “The Burren” – which is a large karst landscape area. It is also home to quite a few local flora and fauna. I got confused about where to go for what and did not realise till later that there is a national park in this region! Next time I am in Ireland – it is happening. (I keep saying that!) There are so may hiking trails and things you can do there though. Also a heap of orchids I could have gone looking for – balls!

We ended up visiting the Ailwee Cave in Ballyvaghan, which has a cave open to the public. It has quite old bear remains and a small waterfall inside. The cave has an interesting history – it was discovered by a farmer looking for his dog which had taken off after a rabbit! The farmer did not bother to tell anyone about the cave for around 30 years or so!  The tour was about half an hour – if you’ve done cave tours before I wouldn’t do this one in a hurry. (it wasn’t bad, but wasn’t spectacular). It was the last tour for the day – we had arrived a bit late. There is also a birds of prey centre where you can observe flying displays of some of the raptors. It helps fund a re-introduction program.  We were too late to see the birds – bugger! You can also fork out some Euros to do some falconing..

Austen-esque style photo of the waterfall in the cave

Looking out over The Burren countryside

We drove out of the very pretty region and stopped at another stone fort along the way, but it was closed as well. (To be fair, it was like 6.30pm – the sunlight tricks you in this place!) We pushed on to our hotel. We stayed in one that was quite close to Shannon Airport. We had a mid-morning flight to Scotland the next day. Our one week jaunt in Ireland was done – it was great fun and I will be going back without a doubt! Greg liked it as well – a lot of history and beautiful countryside.

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