Driving around the Ring of Kerry is one of those “can’t miss” tourist things that we decided we couldn’t miss. We went back and forth about how to do it. Rick Steves highly recommended leaving by 8:30 am and going clockwise. That way you would not be stuck behind the giant tour buses who drive counter clockwise and you wouldn’t even meet one until much later in the drive, if at all. Others swore by going in the same direction as the buses because if one was coming at you, it would be up to us to back up and find a place to move over on these narrow, winding roads. When we checked into the campground, Hilary, the owner, thought we should go in the same direction as the buses because there are some rock overhangs on the left, clockwise direction that have taken off bits of the top of some campers. No thanks.
Our decision was to get up at 5 and get on the road by 6, eating breakfast along the way. The buses generally don’t start until 10 or 10:30. This worked brilliantly except for the fact that we never heard the alarm and slept in until 6:30. It didn’t matter in the end—we were on the road by 7 and never saw a bus, except for the empty one sitting on a side road waiting—for what? Were the riders going to hike to his bus?
Our first stop on this 120 mile ring (plus another 15 or so from our campground outside Killarney to the start at Killorglin) was at the Cahergall stone fort.
These forts are notoriously difficult to date. Some are thought to be Iron Age (about 500 B.C. to 400 A.D.) while many are simply stone versions of the common earthen ring fort which was the typical farmstead of the Early Historic period (about 400 to 1200 A.D.).
Cahergall is a particularly fine and impressive stone fort with a massive dry-stone wall. There are flights of steps and terraces in the inner wall and this area has been recently reconstructed. Within the fort there are the remains of a large circular dry-stone building. It is likely that someone of importance lived here about 1,000 years ago. Cahergall is from an Chathair Gheal (the Bright Stone Fort).
Stone wall detail. How did they do that?
Inside the Cahergall Ring Fort
Ramparts, or that's what they look like to me.
We drove on to Portmagee, parking free in a large lot with a nice toilet.
In fact, wait for it…..this toilet was a runner up for the Top Toilet Award for 2002! They’ve been resting on their laurels ever since.
We saw a sandwich board advertising breakfast at The Skellig Mist and since it was by now 9 am and we had good parking, we decided to stop in. The rest of the town was completely dead and we had the place to ourselves.
We ordered scrambled eggs with brown soda bread, coffee and tea. I was impressed with the presentation of the eggs and with how long they stayed hot. I must try this at home.
We enjoyed reading from the stack of National Geographics available. I suggested to Chuck that we subscribe when we return home. He reminded me that we can pick them up for a quarter from the library.
Rick recommended driving around the Skellig Ring. Unfortunately, he is writing to drivers of small cars.
Uh oh, mist ahead and a very narrow, bumpy road. Visibility was fading fast.
This is where we decided to turn around.
It was a good decision—we were back in Portmagee in no time where the road was much better. We carried on with the regular Ring of Kerry road stopping in Waterville where Charlie Chaplin spent a lot of time.
View from Waterville
By now the thick clouds were clearing but we missed one of the best parts—the views going over the Coomakesta Pass. Our frustration continued when we could not find the Derrynane House, something we were looking forward to. This was the home of Daniel O’Connell, the hero of Catholic emancipation in Ireland. We searched for signs as we came close to its location. The first one said “Derrynane House next right, 3.5 km.” Nope, didn’t find it. Maybe the arrow was on the pole with the other 12 signs all pointing in different directions. Just how fast are my eyes and brain supposed to be able to work together from a moving vehicle? So, we drove until we found a place to turn around. Coming back, we saw a sign saying “Derrynane House next left 2.5 km.” Then, of course, nothing. Where’s the sign posted at the turn? I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
I think we are beginning to burn out on travel. Have we seen too much? Is it becoming the same old, same old? Perhaps. Personally, I wouldn’t even do the Ring of Kerry. We felt the pressure to hurry to avoid the obese buses filled to the brim with other tourists (we know we’re tourists too). Traveling at this time of year has definitely been a challenge. I’m almost agoraphobic when it comes to crowds and just want to run screaming when I see them. They seem to morph into a giant cell of squirming flesh, unconscious of any other people. The sense of entitlement just galls me. They’ll take pictures of things that everyone else wants and then stand in that spot, blocking the view, while they check their camera to see how that one and the last dozen turned out. OK, so now I’m whining. The good news is, we did the Ring in 5-1/2 hours as compared to the 8 hours it usually takes. We saw almost no one.
We aren’t happy with having to book everything in advance, forcing us to be on a tightly planned schedule. We would have loved to leave Galway but paying in advance is the way it goes and there are no refunds. Our next week and a half in Ireland is a bit more relaxed and we’re hoping that Wales will be even more so. But, it could be that we’ve just seen and done enough. I think we’re both ready to be home. You did want me to be honest, right?
Oh, but look at this! Wouldn't we just love to have one of these little guys.
It's better to burn out than it is to rust. ~ Neil Young