November 10- Ring of Kerry
We woke up Friday morning to a cloudy sky and lots of drizzle. We wanted to get an early start on the Ring of Kerry, so we skipped breakfast and hit the road. Everything I read online and in my handy travel guidebooks recommended driving in a counterclockwise direction for the best views. I’m not entirely sure if it really mattered, but driving clockwise would have meant having tour buses pass me, so I opted not to chance it! On our route, we drove through Killorglin, Kells, Portmagee, and a few other little towns. All small and quaint and very cute. Since we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, we pulled off at a beautiful viewing spot to snack on our cheddar cheese, tomato relish, and fresh soda bread.
On our drive, we even almost saw a shepherd bring his sheep across the road, but he waited for us to pass instead. I was pretty bummed, how cool would it have been to have a herd of sheep cross the road in front of us?! When we saw a sign for the Cliffs of Kerry, we pulled over and parked in the little visitor center area. We were both kind of annoyed that we had to pay €4 each to park and walk up the hill to see the cliffs, but it was a view we didn’t want to miss out on. There was an area to the left and to the right- I asked the attendant which side was better, he said the left side. So, we decided to do both lol just to make sure. From the top, we could see Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. I had so very much wanted to take a ferry out to Skellig Michael because it’s famous for being home to lots of puffins during the summer months. As you can guess, we weren’t there in summer so there weren’t any puffins to see. And starting in November, there are no ferries that travel out to Skellig Michael because the water is usually too rough and choppy for it to be safe. Guess we’ll just have to make another trip during the summer months! The views were just incredible. I absolutely love the sight and sounds of ocean waves crashing up on the cliff side and this did not disappoint. Both the left and right side views were amazing, but the right side was a little better because you could see Skellig Michael a little better (not much, it was quite cloudy, remember). We spent several minutes just enjoying the view and snapping pictures. Definitely worth a stop if you’re driving the Ring of Kerry.
We hopped back in the car and headed on our way…on some crazy small roads. As we left the parking lot, I turned on to a road that was literally as wide as one car. I laughed to Josh that we must have turned onto a one way road. Almost immediately, to my great dismay, a van started coming down the hill towards us. Alright, so it was not a one way road. I kind of started to panic because I didn’t know how we were going to get past each other when I noticed little pull off areas on the sides of the road, just big enough for the passenger side wheels to fit over into. Those little pull off areas became my great friends over the trip! I slowed down, pulled off into the little area, and let the van pass- I’m sure he knew we were tourists as only other tourists seemed to slow down or stop when passing another vehicle while locals (who were obviously very comfortable with these tiny narrow roads) whizzed right on by.
As we continued on our way, we drove through a few more little towns such as Waterville, Ballybrack, Derrynane, and Caherdaniel. We finally stopped in Sneem for lunch at The Blue Bull. Sneem had lots of fun, colorful buildings and a pretty view of the river running through it.
At The Blue Bull, we found a lovely seat next to the fireplace and ordered some food and drinks. I had a delicious chicken, cheddar, and pesto mayo on ciabatta sandwich, while Josh enjoyed the shepherd’s pie special of the day.
From Sneem, we continued on to Moll’s Gap where we happened upon a ram just standing in the middle of the road! Finally! As we passed him, he just stood there in a stately manner, taking it all in. I named him Dunloe (we were on our way to the Gap of Dunloe) and he’s my honorary pet now.
By the way, I came to wonder quite often how the shepherds keep track of their sheep on the mountain and cliffsides…there are just so many sheep and so much land, it seems near impossible for someone to keep good track of them. I guess I’ll never know…
We drove a short distance into Killarney National Park for Ladies View which is supposed to be a scenic panoramic view of the Ring of Kerry. Unfortunately, it was very foggy and drizzling, so we didn’t get a great view at all. I took a picture of the road sign nearby, just to make sure I remembered what it was that I had even took a picture of! I really shouldn’t complain though, our drive around the Ring of Kerry was only one of maybe three days with bad weather on our entire twelve day trip!
From Ladies View, we backtracked a little to go through the Gap of Dunloe. What a drive that was! And by that I mean terrifying. It was suggested in our guidebook that most people enjoy seeing the Gap by renting bicycles and riding through because the roads are so narrow. With the weather being yucky and it being November, we braved the drive. There wasn’t much traffic, thankfully, but there was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. The view of the Gap was well worth the nerve wracking drive. Everything is just so beautiful in Ireland.
Plus, there were a ton of sheep outside the fences along the edge of the road which just tickled me to death. Judge me, I was definitely that person that stopped on the side of the road to take a selfie with the sheep.
We made it out of the Gap safe and sound, despite Josh telling me afterwards when I thanked him for believing in my ability to drive through it that he was in fact quite terrified we were going to lose a mirror the entire time!
We finished up our drive of the Ring with one last stop at Ross Castle for a few pictures.
Our final destination for the night was Castlemaine House Bed and Breakfast. It was actually almost as cheap as some of the hostels we had stayed at (and cheaper than the hotel in Kilkenny) and it ended up being one of our favorite places to stay over the trip. Myra was our hostess, very kind and welcoming. The B&B has been in her husband’s family for four generations and you could tell they were very proud of their place. I loved seeing family pictures from all the generations throughout the living room and dining area. We had a private room for the night with an en suite bathroom and everything was very clean and tidy.
We were getting hungry, so Myra suggested we try Knightly’s Bar for dinner. We walked straight over there because they stopped serving food after 6 pm (I think because it’s a very quiet time for tourists and travelers during the winter months). Josh ordered a Guinness and I was super happy to find they had Orchard Thieves on draft. For dinner, I had the chicken and mushroom vol-au-vent with salad and chips. Josh had bangers and mash. Both were really very tasty and enjoyed in the cozy little pub with a fire in the corner.
We settled in for the night pretty early to relax and catch up on some blogging/journaling- that long day of driving really wore me out!
Tip of the day: Even the most nerve wracking, narrow road is worth driving for the gorgeous views found all around Ireland.