Well Saturday saw a brighter day for me. I felt MUCH better after a bit of breakfast and lots of water. I am convinced that a bottle of tap water in my room caused my pain. Anyway, Liam arrived around 9:30 and we were checked out and on the road out of Dingle by 10:00 a.m. Dingle was absolutely wonderful and I was rather sad that I had to miss about a half a day, but that’s the way it goes.
Saturday turned out to be one of those rare Irish days without a cloud in the sky and not a bit of wind. After some discussion, we decided to do the Ring of Kerry long route as opposed to a short portion with the majority of the day in Killarney. Liam said that it is rare to have a day like this and we should take advantage of it so off we set for a loop around the Ring of Kerry.
Now the traditional Ring of Kerry is a 179-kilometre-long circular route that takes you from Killarney down to Kenmare, then around the Iveragh Peninsula traveling through Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh and Killorglin before returning to Killarney. The route takes you past pristine beaches, rolling hills, farmland, islands in the Atlantic, mountains and lakes. It is one of the “must do” attractions in Ireland. However, one of the problems is that the tour buses flock to the area and because of the narrow roads, you may become stuck behind a tour bus and end up having our views blocked or worse trapped if a bus takes a hairpin turn too wide and becomes stuck. As a result Liam suggested that we modify our Ring of Kerry tour somewhat.
First we were leaving later than most in hopes we would avoid the mass tour bus crowds. Second, we were going to take some detours around lesser known roads and take in the Skellig Ring, sort of a ring with the ring. The Skellig Ring is a 18km loop off the main route that links Portmagee and Waterville where we would once again join up with the main Ring of Kerry loop. The route would take us Reynard Point where we would take a short ferry ride to Valentia Island.
As we left Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula behind (and the best B&B ever – Castlewood B&B in Dingle) we almost immediately detoured to the little town of Annascaul, which was the home of Tom Crean. Mr. Crean was a famous Irish explorer who trekked to the South Pole on the Discovery expedition in 1901, the Terra Nova expedition in 1910 (ironically the boat I travelled on to the Antarctica was named the Terra Nova) and on the Endurance expedition in 1914. When Mr. Crean ended is exploration adventured, he and his wife opened the South Pole bar in 1927, which remains open to this day. Not only did we see the South Pole bar, but we also visited a little memorial park in honour of Tom Crean.
After the brief stop in Annascaul, we drove on passed Inch Beach which was full of surfers and swimmers in wet suites. At this point, Liam diverted from the main drive and took us up a little side road where he dropped us off to hike up the hillside above Inch Beach. It was simply spectacular with views across to the beach and the Dingle Peninsula. After about a ten minute hike, Liam caught up with us and we continued on up the narrow road past little homes and back onto the main thoroughfare.
Our drive continued on to the little town of Killorglin. And as we drove into the town, we passed a bronze goat aka King Puck who apparently is the guest of honor at a time honored pagan festival each year that dates to 1603. The billy goat (a poc, or puck), is the the symbol of County Kerry due to the mountainous regions found in the county. During the festival, King Puck’s horns are decorated with ribbons, and King Puck is hoisted in the air by some kind of pedestal for the duration of the festival. There are a variety of street fairs, entertainment and fireworks. I was really pissed to find out we had just missed the festival, which was apparently held last weekend. (I would have loved to see King Puck dangling in the air as people danced around celebrating a goat.)
Anyway, we drove on from Killorglin and through more little scenic towns with pastel coloured buildings, along the ever present narrow, windy roads. As we continued, the region became more hilly, but the views of the Atlantic were never far away. When we reached the town of Caherciveen, we detoured to the Skellig Ring and drove the short distance to Reynard Point where we drove onto a little car ferry for the short ride to Valentia Island. And when I say short, I mean short. I’ve taken longer to drink a glass of water than this ferry ride.
Once on Valentia Island, Liam suggested we take a quick detour to see the lighthouse. Now I thought we would be visiting the lighthouse, but Liam just wanted to take us to see the magnificent views of the lighthouse from the hillside above. Once there, I could understand why he thought it was a great picture spot. Absolutely gorgeous views of the Atlantic, the lighthouse, the little farmland surrounding the lighthouse, the Dingle Peninsula and the Blasket Islands.
With the requisite pictures done, we drove across the island towards the Kerry Cliffs, which Liam believes are the most beautiful cliffs in Ireland (even better than the Cliffs of Mohr). The drive took us along a gorgeous stretch of coastline where Puffin Island and Skellig Michael came into view. (Skellig Michael is an island about 5 miles off the coast where a monastery was built on the top of the hillside. Only 120 people per day are permitted to visit and you are most assuredly guaranteed of becoming seasick on the loooong ride on a tiny little boat, which is the reason we had not signed up.)
Anyway, the trip to the Kerry Cliffs was absolutely beautiful in the sunshine. Once we parked, we walked up a gravel path that had been constructed in the middle of a farmer’s field. The path forked right and left both requiring steep climbs up a hill. We chose to go to the left to start and although the climb was a little tough given I was still not 100%, we were rewarded with the absolutely stunning views. And while the view was certainly enhanced by the brilliant sunshine glistening off the water, the cliffs were probably spectacular in any weather as they really were gorgeous. In addition, we had magnificent views of Puffin Island and Skellig Michael.
After staring at these beauties for a bit, we hiked back down the path and walked over and up to the cliffs on the right side. Equally breathtaking! And unlike two days ago at the Cliffs of Mohr and the Cliffs of Kilkee, the waves below were not crashing against the steep cliffs, but rather were lapping gently at the cliffs resulting in the soft wave like sounds you might hear on one of those sound machines that are supposed to put you to sleep. It was absolutely lovely.
We eventually left the Kerry Cliffs and stopped for lunch in the little town of Portmagee. After lunch we walked across to the harbour and saw a large old anchor and found out the anchor had come from the Crompton, a sailing vessel from Tacoma, Washington that had left Tacoma in November 1910 with a loan of grain bound for Limerick. The vessel had crashed in fog off of Portmagee and while all of the sailors were rescued, the vessel and cargo were a complete loss. Parts of the vessel still lie off the coast.
From Portmagee we followed the coastline before cutting across a portion of the peninsula to Waterville where we picked up the Ring of Kerry again. As we passed through Waterville, we climbed to the highest point in the Ring of Kerry, Eagles Hill at 543 meters. Again, another opportunity for some amazing photos of the coastline and beautiful landscape.
As we wound down and around Eagles Hill, the terrain became less mountainous. We continued to follow the coastline passing little islands in the Atlantic until we turned inland where we drove through more rolling farmlands. We stopped briefly in the little village of Sneem and popped into the Blue Bull Restaurant (yes Bull there is a picture) before continuing on to our final stop of the day in Kenmare.
The drive from Sneem to Kenmare took us through the most forested region we have driven through to date along the Kenmare River. We finally reached our B&B (but not before I directed Liam to the wrong B&B, which gave the poor owner a scare since they were sold out for the night). Once we were back on track, we were shown our lovely second floor rooms with views of the Kenmare River. By now the skies had clouded over and before we took a walk into town, the proprietor insisted on giving us umbrellas to use for the night. Hopefully, the rains will hold off so that we can enjoy the Beara Peninsula tomorrow. Otherwise the plan is for us to spend the day in and around Killarney. Whatever we decided, it was going to be hard to beat our picture perfect day on the Ring of Kerry.