After a peaceful night's stay in our B&B in the rural town of Innishannon, my mom and I woke up bright and early to begin our next journey.
While we were originally set on exploring the Dingle Peninsula, for the sake of time (and to save ourselves driving on hairpin thin roads along the side of a cliff), we opted to drive through a bit of the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park: equally as stunning, yet a bit more accessible. Plus, it was on the way to our final destination: Doolin.
After yet another hearty Irish breakfast in our wonderful host's dining room, we set out to Killarney, which was a couple hour's drive from Innishannon. In the hopes of saving ourselves a bit more time, we stopped into the tourist center in downtown Killarney for advice on how we could get the most of the area in 2-3 hours. You could say we packed a lot in...
Our time in Killarney National Park started at the Muckross Estate, a beautiful Downton Abbey-esque Victorian home situated on acres and acres of land in the heart of the park. We explored the wonderful gardens, full of flora and fauna from around the world, and were amazed at how the bright colors of the garden contrasted with the misty skies above. Everything is just so lush in Ireland, and you really felt it at the estate. We enjoyed our time in the royal spotlight, even if it was only for a few minutes.
We then walked through the forests around the Muckross Estate to the Muckross Lake (or Middle Lake), which lies directly in front of the home. We took a small motorboat across the lake, taking in the spectacular mountain views and relishing the cool breeze. Our driver even showed us the "Meeting of the Waters" where all three lakes (Lough Leane, Muckross Lake/Middle Lake, and Upper Lake) in the National Park come together. At the "Meeting," all three of the lake's currents came together, making for even more spectacular views.
Our boat driver docked at the pier of Dinis Cottage, a small tea room at the far end of the lake— the perfect place to stop for our "elevenses." We popped inside for a cup of ginger lemon tea and a tasty scone to split. A wonderful treat to fuel us for the rest of our day!
We hopped back on the boat and made our way back across the lake, basking in the spot of sunlight that decided to peak through the dark clouds. We took a few more pictures of the Muckross Estate and headed back to our car for the next leg of the journey: driving through the Ring of Kerry.
Ring of Kerry
We wished we had the time to drive/hike/bike more of this 179 km route, but alas, we didn't (you know we'll add it to our bucket list for next time). We saw what we could, and we were still absolutely blown away.
Let's just take a second to talk about the roads on the ring. Holy moly. If you've ever been to Ireland, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I'm sure you've heard the stories. The roads along the Ring of Kerry are tight, weaving and winding through mountainous terrain. On top of that, most drivers speed along these roads like they're on the highway (at least it felt like that). There's nothing worse than coming around a sharp turn to find a car barreling toward you on the other side of the road. We avoided the speedway driving, took it slow, and stayed as far away from the "middle" of the road as much as we could. And, we survived without any accidents. Yay!
The Ring of Kerry itself is known to be one of the most dramatically changing peninsulas in Ireland (and arguably in the world). We were given a taste of the towering mountains, the lush valleys, and the winding rivers, but further along the way you can see much, much more.
We stopped off at Ladies' View to turn around, not before snapping a few photos. Ladies' View is located between Killarney and Kenmare on the N-71. Considered one of the best panaromas in Ireland, Ladies' View is also aptly named due to Queen Victoria's Ladies-in-Waiting visit in 1861. Our photos couldn't capture the beauty of this famous spot on the Ring of Kerry. You'll just have to take our word and see if for yourself!
After hopping back in our cars and driving back through the treacherous roads, we decided to stop at the Ross Castle on our way through downtown Killarney. Situated on the edge of Lough Leane Lake, Ross Castle has been standing since the 15th century. It's very impressive, and the calm lakeside views don't hurt either.
Onward to Doolin
While we were sad to leave the Ring of Kerry behind us, we knew we had a long drive ahead of us. Thankfully, our B&B host recommended taking the car ferry from Killimer in Co. Clare to Tarbert in Co. Kerry to avoid having to drive around the peninsula and through Limerick. The ferry schedule varies depending on the time of year, but in the summer, ferries operate every half hour. You can simply buy a ticket on the Shannon Ferry website, wait for a ferry, and drive right on. The ride is about 20 minutes and gives you a nice opportunity to stretch and take in even more of Ireland's Atlantic Way.
The rest of the drive to Doolin was one of my favorites of the trip. Think lush countryside paired with the occasional quaint Irish town. So lovely!
When we finally arrived in Doolin at Emohruo B&B and were greeted by the most wonderful woman, Margaret, we knew this town was going to be one of our highlights. Don't be fooled by the strange name of this B&B— we learned it's "Our Home" spelled backwards, and we surely felt right at home in Margaret's clean and cozy place. She chatted our ears off as soon as we walked into the door, wanting to hear about our travels and detailing funny stories of past guests. It was after 7 in the evening by the time we got there, so once we settled and freshened up, we took Margaret's recommendation for a good place to eat and hear that famous trad music.
Gus O'Connor's Pub
Since 1832, Gus O'Connor's has been welcoming guests from near and far into their pub for good eats, great drinks, and even better live trad music. As soon as we walked in to the pub, we were greeted by a group of young locals who had clearly been there for a few hours already (and were well into their pints... no judgement). While we waited for a table (the place was packed), we chatted with them about our hometowns, their hometowns, and what brought us all together.
Once we were seated and had a chance to check out the menu, my mom decided on a beef dish, while I opted for the fresh Atlantic salmon. The salmon was definitely a hit— fresh, delicious, and paired perfectly with the lemon cream sauce drizzled on top.
The music began just as we finished up our meals. We decided to move into the main part of the bar to get a good view of the performers and grab another drink for the session. We really enjoyed the young boy playing guitar in the group, as well as the older Irish gentleman who got up to sing a few tunes. The atmosphere was welcoming, peaceful, and certainly jolly— there's something about traditional Irish music that puts everyone in a good mood.
After the pub died down and most folks either decided to head home for the night or move to another pub, we bid farewell to our bar friends and headed back to the B&B. Despite the late night, we were anxious to wake up early the next morning to beat the tourists to the famous Cliffs of Moher.
More about our travels in Doolin and Galway to follow!