Tuesday, 8 October 2013

County Kerry, Ireland

Craig Writes;
We went to a place called Limerick
To find a verse we could mimic
There was no rhyme to be found
Not one single sound
              Looks like limericks in Limerick's a gimmick 
My apologies, this was before I had had a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone.

We left Dublin for a five hour drive down through Limerick, which has absolutely nothing to do with limericks. We found a lovely little pub called the Pat Collins in Adare and stopped for a fantastic pub lunch and my first Guinness in Ireland. 
quaint with a big Q
This ebony blonde temptress was my first
And let me say for those of you that don't know, it is true what they say, Guinness in Ireland is NOTHING like the Guinness you get outside of Ireland. Irish Guinness is nectar, everything else is cats pi#*. 
And how exciting to come across this sign and realise that they're actually real. Low and behold, I actually managed to catch one of the wee little fellas.

I was so excited to discover they actually existed.
Then blow me down me, I caught one of the little buggers
After lunch we head on down through Killarney, Kenmare and finally arrived at the beautiful little town of Sneem and our amazing farm stay, The Valley of the Hare. It has the most stunning views of the Irish wilderness, it was captivating.
Pure unspoilt wilderness
Isolated, peaceful and rugged
Searchlights from above
We all agree, this is the most thoughtfully constructed and prepared family home we have stayed in.  The house is newly refurbished, from top to bottom, it has a kitchen that Gordon Ramsey would be so fucking proud to cook in and it was stocked with everything from locally smoked thick sliced bacon, farm fresh eggs, milk, juice and fresh bread. The pantry had a complete range of herbs, spices, sauces, cling wraps etc, etc, etc. All the stuff a traveller normally accepts they will go without lest they drag a bag of condiments from one place to another. It's like we just moved into Martha Stewart's place.
The fluffy white robes were Ritz Carlton quality, as was the bed linen. The tiled floors in the kitchen and the bathrooms were heated and there was a complete range of bathroom products of  L'Occitane quality, perhaps even better.
We're going to be very happy here.  There is already thoughts of how do we extend our stay.

5/10/13. A lazy day getting to know Sneem. It's a tiny town with a population of approximately 700 sitting snug in the South West of Ireland. The late French President, Charles De Gaul, so loved the place that he was a regular visitor. A sculpture in the town green commemorates this.
It's very popular with the tourist buses, there were several in town just in the couple of hours we were in for a look and a spot of lunch. The people are lovely, friendly and helpful. We stopped into a small gift shop that had boxes of cheap CD's out front and bought a driving CD of Great Irish Pub Songs.  
It was a day for walking and soaking up the atmosphere, breathing the air and buying some local lamb for a slap up home cooked meal tonight.
Christina made great use of the kitchen
and I mean GREAT use
6/10/13. Today we were going to go to Skellig Island. They are a couple of small islands stuck out in the Atlantic about 12 kms off the Iveragh Peninsula. Hundreds of years ago a small group of monks built a small monastery at the very top of Skellig Michael Island. A most desolate, bitter and forbidding lump of rock. Two hundred and fifty metres high, at the very pinnacle of the one of the most inhospitable spots on earth, surrounded by treacherous, unpredictable and hostile sea. It was here they chose to build a place of worship, complete with a small garden and a stone stairway from top to bottom. It is yet another example of mans ingenuity and resourcefulness when he is driven.  The trip out into the Atlantic can be difficult even on a clear day and the seas themselves are never calm, just different degrees of turbulent.
Unfortunately, the fine and clear day we were promised by the Irish Bureau of Meteorology didn't eventuate. We awoke at 7.30am to a dense blanket of fog that refused to budge. The accompanying drizzle and the inability to see more than fifty metres in front of us meant a day wrapped in out fluffy robes on soft leather couches in front of the massive picture windows looking down into a swirling mist of fog in the valley.    There would be no boat rides today for us or anyone else. We sat and enjoyed the friendly wildlife, who were eager to make themselves at home.
This one we called Dina
This persistent knocker we called Scarlet-O
She had some moves, grooving here to Moby
Getting just a little too comfortable here, and, she's on my side
It's embarrassing I know, do you tell them or not
7/10/13 The fog persisted today, although not as thick, and the drizzle had become nothing more than a slight annoyance easily brushed aside with the pop of an umbrella. Today was our final day in this most beautifully wild piece of countryside. We hung the fluffy white robes, zipped the hoodies up tight, grabbed the umbrellas and stepped out.
We headed west on the Ring of Kerry.
The Ring of Kerry
Our final destination today was the famous Skelligs Chocolate factory in St Finians Bay, Ballinskelligs. To get there we passed some of the most dazzlingly beautiful coastline we have ever seen. We were the ultimate in smitten tourists, pulling the car into every second car bay, jumping out and whirring and clicking because no matter how astounded we were by the view the one around the next corner was better.
 this is one of those very rare places on earth that touches me right at the very core
Timeless oceans smashing into ancient cliffs, it's the most beautiful sound
Past Parknasilla, Castlecove, Caherdaniel and Ballybrack finally landing in Waterville.  We found a charming little rustic cafe where we had one of the best chicken curries we have ever had.
Watervale is a small seaside town that like most of the coastal townships these days has become reliant on the big tourists buses that ride through the town dispensing a rolling tide of aged Americans and Europeans with loose wallets and big appetites for the authentic Irish experience.  I don' think anyone would leave here disappointed. From Watervale it was a short drive down to Ballinskelligs Bay and the Holy Grail of chocolate.

I was craving a rich, strong coffee to go with some smooth dark chocolate, to me there is nothing better. Unfortunately for me we're at the wrong end of the tourist season and the coffee shop is closed, but, the chocolate factory is open, in full swing and full to capacity with the most tantalising range of delicious chocolates known to man.
I pout if I don't get my coffee but Charlie's happy, he's in a chocolate factory
The place is huge and obviously used to catering for bus loads but today it was just us and a small group of three Germans. We were plied with a confusing amount of samples. Do I get the Rose and Pistachio or the Irish Whiskey, perhaps the Mint Brittle or the Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt. At the end we said stuff it, we'll take a bit of everything.
A chocolate factory to ourselves, yes we are happy
We were off The Ring of Kerry by this stage so from here we went up and over the mountain where we were completely and utterly enveloped in a thick pea soup of fog only to see it disappear just as quickly once we started to descend on the other side to reconnect and head back the way we came.
It was a fabulous end to a stay that has really resonated with both Christina and myself. For her, she has ancestral ties not only to the country but specifically to this region and for her this reveals itself in vague callings and soft whispers of home. For me, I have no idea of whether my feelings of familiarity are connected by lineage or some other more esoteric connection.  Maybe I was a potato farmer in a previous life, or more likely a marauding Viking. The wildness of this countryside speaks to me. The raw harshness and the beautiful brutality of the brackened roadsides with their pretty yellow, red and blue blossoms and their stiff pointy needles hidden below the colourful facade, ready to skewer anyone foolish enough to take their beauty for granted.

The misted mountainsides are streaked with flowing steams of clear cold water that flow over ancient rocks and through prehistoric gaps and fissures.  They eventually roll down wide and thrashing streams, passed centuries old houses collapse by the burden of time and then rejoin the ocean, billions of years old and the place from where it all began.
I am home here
This place is timeless, that's what makes it special for me. I feel a part of me is from here and that one day this is where I'll return.

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