One of the most important things we have learned so far in Ireland is, get over the weather quickly! Once you do that you can get on with enjoying your time. Let’s face it, you do not come here to lie on the beach or undertake a remake of “Lawrence of Arabia” so don’t expect the weather to be hot and sunny.
We were in a line to buy some groceries when a lady came in and proclaimed “summer is arriving on Tuesday”. I noticed that like the weather forecasts which seem to cover all possibilities, which Tuesday this event was to occur on was not specified. However, we have noticed that the locals just get on with summer regardless. Most beaches that we have been near, often in conditions that would be marginal for seals or penguins, there is usually one or two or more hardy souls swimming in the water mostly sans a wet suit. Maybe they are visitors from Iceland.
We have had a number of opportunities to get our walking shoes on again and have wandered through some pretty amazing places.
In Kerry, we walked the Dunloe Gap and Black Valley catching a small 12 person boat back via three lakes and a connecting river. The walk was along a road that carried very little car traffic but a lot of horse and trap traffic which, was the way most people completed the journey. At 11km and with the best weather day we have experienced, walking was the only way to go.
We drove the Ring of Kerry, getting away to an early start to avoid the crowds. This drive is the one the bus tours complete but, for us, it did not compare to the Dingle Peninsular which had a more remote feel to it. Either peninsular we would have preferred to walk around had we had more time and better weather.
We are pleased we did not consider biking, you would need to be on a “death wish” to bike on the busy regional (R) roads here. They are narrow, windy, no shoulder and the speed limit is 80km. Our worst nightmare is that we will round a corner and be faced with the option of hitting; a cyclist, stone wall or oncoming car, tractor or truck.
The forrest in Killarney National park is being overrun by Rhododendrons and on our walk around Muckross lake you could see how these shrubs (well trees really) were muscling out the native trees. Interesting, in England a couple had raved about the agapanthus they had seen in The Isle of Scily and we told them they were considered a noxious weed in NZ, here in Ireland we were seeing the revered Rhodo being considered a noxious weed.
On our trip north to Galway we decided to look at the Cliffs of Moher. We had been warned that “they were very touristy” but after a very quiet drive north, we were a little stunned by how packed it was. Parking was challenging and I could see the car insurance excess having to be paid as we almost had to flip the car on it’s side to squeeze in. The cliffs were impressive but with buses as far as the eye could see, it was a challenge to move around “cliff side”. Having the same name did not get you any special privileges.
One observation at “The Cliffs” was the suicidal tendencies of those trying to get the ultimate selfie. They are 214m (702ft) high and the number of people standing on the very edge leaning back with phone aloft to get that to-die-for shot for Facebook was amazing.
We are currently staying east of Galway in another airbnb, this time a stone cottage. The owners Martina and John have been great hosts, John’s parents were married in Timaru with his mother being a New Zealander and he has family living in the Nelson area so they knew quite a bit about our country.
We had yet another one of those unexpected but very cool experiences when John and Martina mentioned that there would be hound training early the next morning which we could hopefully observe if we were prepared to rise a little earlier.
That sounded like an opportunity not to miss although we only expected to see a few people on horses with the puppies running around looking confused. After some trekking through the countryside in the morning chill with the distant sound of dogs, we came across two gents in full regalia, complete with hunting horn being blown with a mass of steaming and excited dogs around them. En route we came across castle ruins which we got to enjoy all to ourselves.
After a late breakfast we headed out to “The Burren” and spent 3 hours walking through this surreal landscape. Even stranger was passing Father Ted’s House just up the road in the middle of “The Burren”. No sign of Mrs Doyle or Fathers; Jack, Dougal or Ted but after having travelled through largely deserted country lanes there were a surprising number of selfie takers present. We joined in.
Today we got back onto bicycles and biked out to the local bog. We were assured that the lanes would be quiet and, apart from a few frenetic farmers on their tractors who were endeavouring to get hay in while the rain held off, that turned out to be true. Our fears of ending up as “road kill” were baseless.
Visiting a bog is not activity you will find in the Lonely Plant Guide but it is a truly Irish experience. There was a gent and his two sons loading a trailer with “turf” so he gave us the inside knowledge on how it all worked and the consumption rates of turf for an evening in front of the fire. An hour later we were coming out of a narrow country lane about 10km from the bog when a car went past and the occupant tooted and waved frantically to us, it was our new friend from the bog. He probably went home and told the amazing story of two plonkers from NZ who were lost in the bog.
In the afternoon we were again able to avoid the crowds by visiting Coole Park. It was the gardens that has inspired the likes of George Bernard Shaw and W B Yeats who would spend time staying with the Gregory Family that owned the Estate. We walked the seven woods which were referred to in one of Yeats poems.
Tonight It seriously looks as though summer may arrive on Thursday.