Friday, June 18:  Ring of Kerry

Departed right after breakfast to drive the “Ring of Kerry” around the perimeter of the Iveragh Peninsula, despite some pessimism on my part that there would not be a whole lot to see and a whole lot of driving to go and not see it. After about 20 kilometers, we headed a couple of miles inland, paid our “private land trespass charge” of 2 euro to walk in a field and see the Staigue Fort, a circular wall several meters tall and about thirty meters in diameter, largely still intact. Not much more to say, as it seems that any information provided was merely speculation, possibly, maybe, perhaps.

Towards the western extreme of the peninsula, we stopped at Derrynane House, the childhood home, and country retreat in adulthood, of Daniel O’Connor. He is famous for gaining Catholics equal political rights around 1840. The crucial blow was his election to the British Parliament as a representative from County Kerry. He then traveled to Westminster and refused to swear an oath saying the King was the head of the Church and that “mass was an abomination.” Shortly thereafter the Catholic Emancipation Act was enacted. As a young man he had witnessed France’s revolution, became disgusted with the Union with England, and in his final years saw the first of the potato famines. Some good history lessons for the boys in it all.

We traveled onward to Waterville for scenic views and lunch at the Beachcove Inn. The tour coaches arrived about the same time as us, but they are required to travel anti-clockwise, so many crossed our paths in the opposite direction while we ate. Rather than continue along to the northern shore of the peninsula, we chose to head directly inland, splitting its long dimension in half. Not much traffic on these interior roads, and they got skinnier and skinnier the farther we went. Eventually, the road tilted upward and we crested a pass with a small pull-out and a large valley laid out in front of us. The sign nearby was titled “Glencar, The Kerry Highlands, Twinned with Glencoe, Scottish Highlands.” Not quite equals, but the similarities were obviously there. (Photo 233)

Dropped into the broad valley, were now it was possible to spot oncoming traffic 300 yards ahead, rather than just 300 inches ahead. Ringed by mountains on all sides, we departed down towards Kenmare through Ballaghbeama Gap, which felt downright Himalayan to me. (Photo 234) The road approached what appeared to be a very steep mountain, went around an outcropping and the gap itself appeared. For the next quarter mile the road went upward in a straight line, large boulders on either side, as if we were driving up a dry river bed. A photo stop at the top and the wind whistled quite cold, despite the morning’s drizzle having given way to warm sunshine everywhere else around us.

After driving-fatigue-recovery at home (i.e. a nap), we walked into town. Some Internet, and dinner at a place on Henry Street, where Robert presented Pat with quite a surprise he’d picked up on the walk into town. (Photo 235) A festival this weekend begins tonight in Kenmare, so we’d hoped to hear some traditional music. First, there was a small (very small) kids parade at 7 PM, which I think the boys enjoyed. (Photo 232) We sat outside at a pub with tables out front (and a hardcore clientle inside), nursing our second Murphy’s of the evening, waiting for the live music on an outdoor stage to begin. Eventually the chilling evening, and the politician’s speeches opening the festival, drove us inside at the pub next door, our haunt from the night before, The Square Pint. We watched the Italians beating the Swedes in football until Robert cried “Enough!” and we left a few minutes before the end of the match. But we’d stretched the new law prohibiting children in pubs after 9 PM, by staying until 9:20 PM without getting tossed out.

Photo 231  The Square Pint, Kenmare
Photo 232  Kenmare Parade
Photo 233  Iveragh Higlands, Kerry Peninsula
Photo 234  Ballaghbeama Pass, Kerry Peninsula