One of the reasons we decided to stay in Cork was to give ourselves enough time to see the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park. Neither of which is near anything else. So, we had to drive out and back to see stuff, otherwise known as lots of time in the car. That said, the western Irish coast and the Wild Atlantic Way are definitely worth a visit.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a rustic road that takes you through beautiful Irish scenery, ocean vistas, lakes, viewpoints, beaches, and Irish seaside villages. The Ring of Kerry is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, which is just like it sounds and runs from Cork all the way around the west coast to the very top of Ireland, 2600km in all. The coast and the Atlantic along the western side of Ireland is rough and very rural.
There are coves, bluffs, cliffs, and always a rough Atlantic surf along the way. Mike did decide that he had to put his feet in the Atlantic because it is our practice to put our feet in every ocean/sea we run across. This time I had no desire to get my feet, wet so Mike did the honors.
The drives were very long along slow, winding roads. Rather than going out and back to either Cork, as we did, or Limerick, I recommend going from one to the other. Something worth pointing out we learned from a local: The Ring of Kerry attracts many folks on bus tours from Cork and Dublin. Perhaps to lessen traffic impact on the narrow, winding roads, all of the busses circuit the ring in a counterclockwise direction. So, if you prefer seeing the sights over the back of a string of buses, drive the ring in a clockwise direction. You’re welcome.
The coast reminded me of the coast of California south of Big Sur. It was beautiful, rain or shine, and we had both. The scenery is both rugged and majestic.
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park is a beautiful rustic open space area on the eastern edge of the Ring of Kerry with lots of opportunities for hiking, biking, and sightseeing. If you don’t want to walk to see a particular attraction, you can get a ride on a jaunting cart, a little horse-drawn covered wagon that even has plastic flaps for the rain. I’m pretty sure it rained at some time every day we were on the west coast of Ireland. There were lots of viewpoints that we stopped at around the park road. Most looked over lakes and interesting cloud/mist formations.
Our first stop inside the park was to see Muckcross Priory, which is a ruined priory church and graveyard. The building itself was extensive with a large central cathedral and a mostly intact cloister. I would imagine it was a very peaceful place for reflection for the monks who were in residence.
Our next stop was Torc Waterfall. It was raining pretty hard by the time we got there but we decided to go take a look anyway as it was only a few hundred meters. Even with a jacket, this walk required an umbrella. After the trail and some slippery steps, we were rewarded with a view of the waterfall.
Ross Castle in Killarney
The main town in the area is Killarney, which is relatively large. The local castle (because there always is one) is called Ross Castle. Ross Castle was built right next to a lake. We read that it was easier to defend than a castle surrounded by land. The central tower has been restored but most of the outer walls are original. There were some fantastic views out over the lake from the castle walls.
Dallying in Dingle
My physical therapist in Cork raved about how wonderful the seaside town of Dingle was. Since our schedule was flexible, we decided to spend one night there between Cork and Limerick, our next stop. The coast around the Dingle peninsula was similar to the Kerry peninsula but it was a lovely drive to the little town. We were also told not to miss the ice cream from Michael’s, so of course obliged.
On our walk through town, we found this tiny little waterfront fish restaurant that had a Michelin sign in its window. The menu looked good so we asked about a table for dinner that night. Unfortunately, they were booked inside but they offered us the covered patio. Come dinner time, we dressed for cold and rain and ate a lovely meal with a view of the ocean. It was a nice unexpected find on our trip from Cork to Limerick.
Flying Boats In Western Ireland
On our way from Dingle to Limerick, Mike was surprised and a bit delighted to chance upon the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum on the River Shannon. The museum was formerly the control tower for a flying boat port. There are some interesting displays pertaining to aviation in the area. Even today, nearby Shannon Airport continues the tradition of transatlantic flight, despite being a fairly small city.
In addition to the naval and aviation-related displays, there is a section under development to… Maureen O’Hara. It seems she was married to General Charles Blair, who had flown into Foynes during WW2. The connection was strong enough for her to open the museum in 1989. She would frequently celebrate her birthday there, and for her grandson to donate a trove of memorabilia.
Yet, the star of the show is really the replica flying boat attached to the museum. No original B314 still exists and this life-size model is the only replica. Mike found it interesting to wander through the craft, seeing how it was designed and the style of travel it afforded. As a bonus, I got to enjoy an original Irish Coffee, or so they claim, while Mike spent extra time in the museum.
What would you like to see on the west coast of Ireland?