By Lynn Strough
The scenic route from Kenmare to Killarney includes winding roads through the Killarney National Park as well as rain and sun and rain again, mist and clouds, green green hills and even greener moss, soft as a blanket.
The lakes you pass are worth a stop. I could have stayed and gazed at the views for days.
For a break from the car, I took a long hike to Torc waterfall, and spent a couple of hours on a rocky, muddy trail, up and down, mostly all to myself. You can park a 10-minute walk from the falls, but I preferred the scenic hike. At first the sun shone, the sky was blue, but by the time I got to the falls, the sky was gray and starting to sprinkle. The rest of my hike was through the rain, and I was glad I’d dressed for it.
It was one of my best Ireland experiences — like a fairy forest, all covered in moss — and I even saw a fairy ring, a short hollowed-out tree stump, where you could easily see fairies taking up residence. The ground was carpeted in lots of green shamrocks kissed by raindrops, too.
Ross Castle is a popular stop in Killarney. On my way into the castle, the sky was blue; an hour later it was gunmetal gray, but beautiful both ways. The only way to see the castle is to take the tour, which is quite interesting — one tall tower with a floor for dining, one for sleeping, one for parties. There’s a stone bench for a toilet with a slit to the outside a few floors below, where they hung their clothes over the waste as it produced ammonia which kept the lice out. No heat save a fire, it must’ve been so cold.
These castles were mostly protection against cattle raiding from other clans. A hole gaped in the floor, where boiling oil and rocks could be dumped on intruders’ heads and in the walls are slits for arrows and guns.
My friend Soraya from Australia asked to meet up with me in Killarney as she was off on a journey of her own, so we toured Muckross house together. It’s a huge old house with beautiful furnishings, but when they described living conditions — especially how cold it was — it doesn’t sound like a very pleasant place to dwell. As we walked the manicured grounds near the lake, the rain suddenly came in torrents. Even with rain jackets and umbrellas we got soaked, especially when our umbrellas blew inside out. When you hear about Ireland getting a lot of rain, you can believe it.
Nearby Muckross Abbey is worth a stop as well and you can catch one of the popular horse drawn carts called jaunting cars, run by local jarvies.
When the sky dried up a bit, we drove drove around the lake to the “Meeting of 3 Waters,” where you could take a short walk to a little cottage cafe for tea. The path was moss and heather heaven, the forest a blanket of green and lavender. The little stone bridge where the waters meet was very picturesque too.
On drier days, you can take a boat across.
Killarney itself is a bustling tourist town with more hotel rooms than any other Irish town or city, save for Dublin. It’s also full of shops, restaurants and pubs, and we enjoyed a couple of hearty meals, as well as some lively Irish music. A little girl of about 4 got out and danced an Irish jig for the crowd. Personally, I prefer smaller, less commercial Kenmare, but Killarney has a lot to offer, and is a great jumping off point for the Ring of Kerry.
Lynn is a 50+ free spirit whose incarnations in this life have included graphic designer, children’s book author and illustrator, public speaker, teacher, fine art painter, wine educator in the Napa Valley, and world traveler. Through current circumstances, she has found herself single, without a job or a home, and poised for a great adventure.
“You could consider me homeless and unemployed, but I prefer nomad and self-employed, as I pack up my skills and head off with my small backpack and even smaller savings to circumnavigate the globe (or at least go until the money runs out). Get ready to tag along for the ride…starting now!”
Reprinted with permission