Discovering a chunk of the Ring of Kerry, Ireland!

I class myself as being lucky to be half Irish. And, to be honest, it explains a lot!!

Where to Start?

My paternal grandparents owned a farm near Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, on the West Coast of Ireland. And every summer in the early 70s my mum and dad would pack us three children into a clapped-out Rover P6 (pea green) and travel from our home in Essex to this outpost of Ireland. Funnily enough, I can find no photos of this…mmm, anyway.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Crammed in the back, roof rack covered with black bin liners, we would inch our way to Swansea, Wales. There we’d join the ferry with all the other Irish expats to sail to Cork. Then came the journey through mountains, cliff edges and peat bogs (sounds a bit like Bilbo Baggin’s journey to Mordor!!) which took what seemed like forever. We’d arrive at a house built by my grandfather, for three weeks of summer fun with our cousins. Like all children, we didn’t notice the wonder of the back drop to these adventures in the fields, but as a returning adult the scales have fallen from my eyes.

My grandparents’ farm is still there and is now owned by my uncle. He’s the son who took on the responsibility of the farm with my grandfather whilst my father skedaddled to the UK.

We travel there every other year, taking our daughter and my sister (again, two children in the back seat!), on a 17-hour journey from our home in Swindon. You can do it much faster if you fly to Limerick and hire a car.  But that costs a bucket more and we’re skinflints!

But that’s enough of my family history. The real point of this blog is to share this small part of the world with you.

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry RouteBallinskelligs is in the ‘Kingdom’ of County Kerry and lies just west of the Ring of Kerry. If you haven’t heard of the Ring of Kerry, then you’re missing out on a visual feast. The Ring starts in the town of Killarney, travels to Beaufort, through Killorglin which is home to the Puck Fair, a festival held to celebrate a mountain goat (it’s Ireland!!) and then on to Glenbeigh. From here the road takes you inland before spitting you out onto a cliff edge, with views across to Dingle.

CahersiveenThe next town on the Ring is Cahersiveen (pronounced Care-her-sa-veen), followed by Waterville, Caherdaniel, Sneem and Kenmare. Of course, you can do the Ring in reverse (anti clockwise) but then you face the daunting prospect of buses coming at you while you navigate avoiding sheer drops into the Atlantic. Not for the faint hearted.

Our blog begins in the one-street town of Cahersiveen. It resembles a cowboy and western movie but set in Ireland beside the sea. It takes some imagining does that one!

It’s one long street, with a mish-mash of shops, traditional pubs and even a nightclub.  It’s typically Irish with its brightly painted facades. The most outstanding part of the town is the church, which is magnificent. It dominates the town and was built in 1888, with the laying of a marble slab, given as a gift by Pope Leo XIII.  The church is dedicated to Cahersiveens’ most famous son, Daniel O’Connell (not O’Donnell the singer!). Daniel O’Connell, known as The Liberator, was the first great 19th century Irish nationalist leader. His story is a complex one, and you can read more about Daniel O’Connell here.

Skellig Ring or May the Force be with You

Skellig RingFor our trip home, we veer off right from Cahersiveen, away from the Ring of Kerry, to detour onto the Skellig Ring. This 18km route links the fishing town of Portmagee with Valentia Island and Waterville. By taking this route, you opt to drive along the breath-taking coastline, with views of the Skellig Islands in the distance. These remote islands, were inhabited by monks in the 6th and 7th centuries though they abandoned them in the 12th century. The remains of the ‘beehive’ shaped monasteries are now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can get out to them by braving a fishing boat from Portmagee.

This is so remote, that the next stop from here is America. But no fear, because the might of the American film industry has discovered the Skellig Islands. Star Wars fans will recognise the uninhabited rock of Skellig Michael as the home of Luke Skywalker, and the first Jedi Temple, featured at the end of Star Wars Episode 7, The Force Awakens.  Skellig Chocolate

Hollywood has been and gone, leaving a plethora of Star Wars related T-Shirts, boat trips etc.

Skellig Chocolate Factory & Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle

We know that cycling and eating chocolate is a health and safety hazard, but bear with! As you know our other love (apart from the outdoors) is chocolate, therefore don’t leave the Skellig Ring, without visiting the Skellig Chocolate Factory, where they promise to give your children a puppy!! Or is that a touch of Irish blarney? What you might call a shaggy dog story …

 

Every July, hundreds of cyclists descend to the Ring of Kerry to raise money for charity by cycling 180km of it. The Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, now in its 34th year, takes cyclists approximately 14 hours to do this arduous route.  Ring of Kerry Cycle The road around the Ring of Kerry, clings mostly to the cliff side, with cycling through mountains, naturally going uphill #obvs. We’re no cyclists, but we’d expect this race to be for endurance cyclists.

 

 

 

Beach at BallinskelligsReturn of the Skelligs Ring

Back to Ballinskelligs, part of the Skelligs Ring, which has a quiet, relaxed, back water feel to it. In fact this area is An Gaeltacht, which means Gaelic is spoken and promoted. The Blue Flag beach is stunning, and home to the Caifé Cois Trá, a local meeting place with a country market on Sunday’s from June to August. This is the beach we visit when we go. In May we are often the only ones there. Hence our picture to the right, note how it’s not quite warm enough for a swimsuit!

 

 

Charlie Chaplin Film Festival, WatervilleFrom here, travel along the coast to Waterville. This beautiful village on the coastline has a deep association with one of our forgotten comedians: Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin came here to holiday back in 1959 and loved it so much he came back every year for over ten years, prompting the village to set up the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival which is held in August.

Visiting Waterville puts you back on the Ring of Kerry. You can continue clinging to the cliffs, avoiding the buses all the way to Caherdaniel. But it’s here we leave you, to take a closer look at the Ring of Kerry and Ireland by yourself.

What’s the craic

Visiting the visual Ireland is one thing, but if you don’t stop to meet the people, then you’ve missed the most integral part of the place: the craic! We both speak English, but even I sit at my family’s kitchen table, trying to keep up with the speed, enthusiasm, love and fun of the Irish people.  They love stories and want to the share them.

Go to the Kingdom of Kerry, get out of your car, get off your bike, leave your campervan, and meet the locals. That’s what Ireland is really about.

Let me know if you’re heading that way, and we’ll get you some insider info!!

Have fun, and #getoutside.

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