Day 1 An Mhór Chuaird

The good thing about holidaying in your own country is that 45 minutes after you start your journey, you’re there. So it was this morning when I left home at exactly just after 820, and by 9am was crossing over the county lines into Kerry. Once I left the main road and started heading for the Ring of Kerry though, it all slowed down dramatically. I was caught in the middle of a bunch of cyclists who slowed my progress considerably on the twisty windy roads of east Kerry, but hey I was in no mad rush.

So it was nearly 1030 by the time I reached my first site of the day, the ancient ruins of Staigue Fort. The road to the fort was laid a long time ago, and so in places was barely wide enough for my car, never mind for any oncoming traffic. Luckily on the way up, I encountered only 1 vehicle and only 3 (in a bunch) on the way down – it would be a different adventure on a busy day. There are pullouts to let cars pass, but they’re few and far between. The fort itself was basically a large round stone structure up a lane at the end of this road. I could see it being fascinating to tourists (let’s be honest, American tourists) with the age and purpose of it, but I’ve got castles and ruins all over the place at home, so it wasn’t really worth the detour to me.

I pressed on and found Derrynane House, which was more or less a summer home for the 19th century Irish hero, Daniel O’Connell. A pleasant little house, a lot smaller than I’d envisioned, but with some nice features. I was also sweet talked into buying a Heritage card here which should come in handy for the rest of my trip, although I suspect that when I get to the actual places, it won’t be accepted on days starting with T, or odd days of the month, or years with a 3 in them. Whatever, we’ll see.

I spent a while in Derrynane around the grounds, mostly, and then spent an even longer time driving along the Skellig Ring, stopping at every pullout I could find to take a pic or 2, or just take in the view. Rugged landscapes abounded and while the day wasn’t sunny, the clouds and rain stayed away long enough for me to enjoy the views.

I crossed over onto Valentia island around 1pm, and after a brief stop in the ‘Skellig Experience’, continued up the island towards the lighthouse. I took a wrong turn somewhere though, and ended up at the Grotto, which is basically a slate mine that somebody has put a statue of the Virgin Mary on top of. Or maybe she got up there of her volition, who knows.

I then continued around the island, and once I found myself back at the ‘Skellig Experience’, decided not to bother trying for the lighthouse again, and just head back to the Ring of Kerry.

More views and more stopping meant that it was gone 430 by the time I got to the Bog Village, a fairly ramshackle open air museum with 4 ‘historical’ buildings (although I still don’t know if they’re replicas or authentic; I suspect the former). There wasn’t a soul there (including anybody taking money, I had to pay in the nearby pub) and the experience was short and quite dull. I don’t know what it was, but it just wasn’t very interesting or even educational.

And so within 15mins, I was back on the road, and completed the ring (except for a bit I’ll do tomorrow) into Killarney. My hotel is right on the outskirts, a short 5min walk into the main town, but out far enough that tomorrow I should be able to skirt around the town to get to the National Park which is south of here.

This was a good first day. More or less what I expected, although I’m impressed by the professional nature of some of the tourist traps, I mean, sites. Years ago, there would not have been an audio/visual element at Derrynane house (telling the sort of O’Connell, natch), I can assure you, but there are always lingering moments of Irish half assery to keep thing interesting. Long may it continue.