Notes from an Irish Road Trip

June 4, 2010 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Ring of Kerry, IrelandSometimes we miss what’s right under our nose. It’s very easy to overlook beautiful or fascinating places close to where you live in favour of more far-flung, exotic locations, thinking that they’ll always be there within easy reach.   

With this in mind, as an ex-pat in Ireland, I was determined to restrict myself to Irish-only holidays this year, in order to see as much of the country as possible. Thus I embarked on an Irish road trip to the Ring of Kerry.   

Sunnybank B&B in Killarney at BedandBreakfastworld.com

Sunnybank B&B in Killarney at BedandBreakfastworld.com

 We set off in sunshine on Saturday morning, the car piled high with luggage. After a long drive we arrived at our first destination, Killarney, which had the feel of a quaint little holiday town, at least at the beginning of the week. By the end of the week it was one of the largest towns we’d seen on the trip and had begun to feel like a veritable metropolis.   

We stayed at Sunnybank, a homely B&B with friendly staff and immaculate rooms just a couple of minutes’ walk from the centre of town. With the temperature still surprisingly high, after an hour or so recovering from the drive, we strolled into town for a delicious dinner at Mac’s of Main Street. There are dozens of great places to eat in Killarney, especially if you’re a seafood fan. I would also recommend a trip to Murphys for some Dingle-made sea salt ice cream – I didn’t try the Guinness flavour!   

Lough Leane, Killarney National Park

Lough Leane, Killarney National Park

 After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast at the B&B, we woke up full of energy for our cycle ride through Killarney National Park. We were heading for Ross Castle, where we would catch a boat down through the park’s three lakes to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, from where we would cycle through the Gap of Dunloe.   

As soon as we reached Ross Castle, set at the edge of Lough Leane, everything I’d heard about the beauty of the West of Ireland was confirmed. The skies were blue and almost cloudless, the waters of the lake were perfectly still and the imposing mountains were visible in the distance.   

The boat ride was one of the most spectacular I’ve taken in my life, easily competing in terms of scenery with felucca trips up the Nile or speed boat journeys through the Guatemalan jungle.   

Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park

Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park

 When we reached Lord Brendan’s Cottage at the edge of the park, the bike ride began. And stopped fairly soon after, when we realised that the Gap of Dunloe was quite an ambitious ride for novice cyclists, especially in heat that had sheep hiding under bushes for shade. Still, once we had half-ridden, half-pushed the bikes to the top, the view was more than worth it.   

After freewheeling our way down the other side of the mountain, we had a 12km ride back to Killarney and Sunnybank, where we were glad of the comfy beds and air conditioning for resting our aching limbs and nursing our sunburn. Yes, sunburn in Ireland.   

Skelligs Chocolate Company

Europe's most westerly chocolate factory

 The next few days were far more relaxing, as we drove around the Ring of Kerry, passing through or pausing for lunch at towns including Killorglin, Rosbeigh, Cahersiveen, Waterville, Caherdaniel and Kenmare, before heading back through the National Park to Killarney. The drive was slow but enjoyable, as we found ourselves stopping every 5 minutes to take pictures of the beautiful scenery, and once to visit the Skelligs Chocolate Company, where we were fed delicious free samples (including gin and tonic and black pepper flavoured chocolate) almost faster than we could eat them. Almost.   

Castle Cove, Ring of Kerry

Castle Cove, Ring of Kerry

 It’s hard to recommend a single place to visit on the Ring of Kerry. At each turn in the road the views become more spectacular; the mountains become more jagged, the towns more picturesque and the white sand beaches and crystal clear waters more inviting. Better advice would be, wherever you’re going, take your time. Be prepared to stop at any given moment for that unexpected view or inviting-looking pub. If you get round the Ring of Kerry in a day, you haven’t seen it.

At Ross Castle

One of my favourite pics from the trip - at Lough Leane

Read our guide to the Ring of Kerry 

By Eleanor @BedandBreakfastworld.com

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