Slainte: Day 3 in Irelandj

I started my morning with a quick run, loving the early Irish morning. 15 minutes and I was feeling good and ready for the Dingle peninsula. First, a stop at the hotel where I had told everyone to meet me at 9:00 so we could secure passage on Saturday to Skellig Michael, an island 6 miles of the coast of Portmagee. Celtic monks had made their secluded home here in the sixth century, building a sacred monastary. The historical site only allowed a certain number of boats per day, carrying only 12 people per boat. Needless to say, it was a coveted destination and hard to book, for weather was a factor as well and controlled the voyage. I had read about this elusive site and desperately wanted to go. Our concierge called and found a voyage that could take us if the weather held up. We’d need to check back in the evening after he had tested the boat. The best I could do was cross my fingers and hope the seas would allow it.

After I tentatively booked the Skelligs Michael, I yet again lost my group. The patience I had at this point for this was wearing thin, but I told myself to breathe and I headed back to grab my belongings for the day and headed to find them with Mike in tow. My feeling about traveling: start early to get the most out of the new experiences that lay before you. You can lollygag in your own backyard and you’re only in a foreign place once(ok, I have been to Ireland twice, but not to these areas!) and there was so many wonders to see, new experiences to partake in. How often are you in another country!? Patience not being my strong suite, I needed to remind myself not everyone had this mentality, so relax!

Dunberg Fort
Dunberg Fort

Once we found each other (in the hotel restaurant) we popped in the car to venture to Dingle Peninsula, just north west of Killarney. The drive would take about an hour and a half. Dunbeg fort was the destination, a fortress of sorts built on a sheer cliff on shear heads peak. When excavated, pig, sheep and goat bones were found, but it’s still unclear as. To the main purpose of the site. Unfortunately, after the longish drive we were under impressed by the 3 euros we paid a piece to see the meager fortress. That being said, we were in Ireland, on vacation, and the views were spectacular. Onto the next Irish spectacle.

Dingle Peninsula, Shea's Head
Dingle Peninsula, Shea’s Head

An absolute perfect description of our next stop that boasted Celtic artifacts and fossils. The American running the gig asked for 5 euros immediately (the American part should have tipped us off) and we wondered about looking at ancient tools in cases, normadic jewelery, a huge wooly mammoth scull. It left much to be desired, but so it goes in spontaneous traveling. Ya never know what you’re gonna get.

Ashe's Bar, Dingle Pub
Ashe’s Bar, Dingle Pub

Onto the town of Dingle, full of colorful houses, pubs boasting the freshest seafood, and tiny shops full of local ware. I purchased a print of the Irish countryside which has been absolutely wonderful. We ate lunch at a wonderful place that had gorgeous seafood, James G. Ashe.  I got traditional fish and chips and they were scrumptious! Mike and I split a Greek salad and Thai red curry mussels for the table. Everyone was extremely impressed with the food and left full and happy.

We strolled a bit more through the seaport, doing a loop close to the water so we could see the boats. A gorgeous afternoon indeed. Once back on the road, we marveled at the Irish countryside laden with cows, horses, wild flowers and shrubs that neatly divided the land into boxes. Killarney had mountains, streams, hills, rocks and obviously ocean. It truly had every type of landscape.

Arriving back at the townhouse, we dropped our wares and strolled into town to enjoy the infrequent sunshine. Not before checking in to see if we were still on for our Skellig Michael trip the next day…and we did!!!! The seas had calmed and the sun was out.  The weather had been chilly so this was not to be wasted! The streets were full of those with the same plan and we weaved in and out of locals, street singers, and lads standing on corner sides smoking. Mike wanted to pop in and have a pint, so we wandered into Jack C’s, a tiny paneled room with 5 bar stools and a husband and wife team (think grandma & grandpa) with their sweet little dog, Giny. “We always name our dogs after drink.” Classic!

A few more pints at a few local pubs and we decided to try to find a bite to eat. Venturing around the corner, we passed by a street performer who was singing an Irish tune. Lovely, just lovely! We found our way  to The Laurels, a very happening spot indeed! The food was delicious (I had vegetable soup, a side of veggies and a salad) and we left satisfied.

Early to bed, as we needed to leave early for Portmagee.

Cheers!

Slainte Ireland: Day 2 in the Green Isle

Top of the mornin’ to you all! Day 2 started off with Mike and I heading out bright and early, as everyone else was still sleeping. After hitting the hotel breakfast (The Malton has some fabulous coffee), we ran to the market for some apples, brown bread, jam and peanut butter for the remainder of the week. Upon our return, after having told the gang we’d be back shortly, the house was empty. Without an international phone plan or wifi, I got my first taste of group travel: waiting to meet up with people on a different schedule.

After about an hour, we all finally found each other and headed out to Ross castle, a medieval ruin that has been renovated to give you a view into a chieftons life back in days of old. The property sat within Killarney national park, and a beautiful lake lay at the base, with steep mountains rising around it. You can see why they chose this location many moons ago. The tour was fascinating and we all learned life in a castle was quite difficult; cold, drafty, and constantly being bombarded with enemy. It’s no wonder many had respiratory problems and the average life spanned only 35 years!

Guinness in Kenmare
Guinness in Kenmare

After soaking in the history, we drove to Kennmare a cute seaport town with colorful buildings, cute shops and lots of pubs. The castle had made us ravished so we headed into ODonaughs restaurant, a quainte little Irish pub. The food was warm (veggie soup with brown bread) and fresh (seafood cakes, fish and chips, salmon & mash potatoes). Lunch had revived us and we headed out and about, wondering in and out of the little shops. Mike amused us and played dress up, trying on all the golfer caps and even an Irish wool vest. He looked the part and had to make the purchase.

Mike playing Irishmen
Mike playing Irishmen

Meandering about came to an end and we headed back on the Ring of Kerry towards Killarney. Stopping alongside the road, we got out in what’s known as the Ladies view vista. Overlooking an inlet of ocean, the scene was breathtaking. The weather was quite wet and while it wasn’t raining, it definitely was damp and the ground squished below our feet. Totally worth the views though! A bit down the way from this stop was an old church next to a babbling brook. Quintessential Ireland.

Our last stop landed us in the Killarney brewery. The whole experience was lovely and we got to see a video about the brewery, meet the owner and head brewmaster and taste some of Ireland’s finest microbrew. It technically wasn’t a bar, so while they couldn’t sell us beer, we were able to sample after our ‘tour’. Mike and I got the IPA (rare in Ireland) and Sarah and Alan tried the Amber. The second round samples of Killarney stout tasted similar to a left hand milk stout and in my humble opinion, better than a Guinness. Such a cool spot and we were all glad to have discovered it.

Killarney Brewery
Killarney Brewery

The evening had gotten away from us, with the late start, forty minute drive to Kenmare, and brewery sampling and we headed to the hotel bar for a pre dinner drink. Holy hell, it was almost a quarter to nine pm! We ended up eating at the bar, as many of the shops in town were said to stop serving food at nine. So, we bellied up to the bar and had a meal and a night cap. A long day, so straight to bed!