On Monday we arrived into Cork, picked up our silver sedan and bee lined straight to The English Market, guided solely by my grumbling stomach. A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, counters of all kinds of meat, bread, cheese, treats imaginable are stacked within the enclosed halls of the market, which operates every day and has been running since 1788. Completely ravenous, we went upstairs to the farmgate cafe which uses ingredients sourced from the stall holders downstairs.
Refuelled, we headed out to the coastal town of Cobh. A cruise ship, the massive Sea Princess was in town, taking advantage of the worlds deepest harbour, which meant that the village was bustling. Irish bunting and flowers dressed every lamppost, bright again the gorgeous pastel coloured houses lining the streets. Most amazing was the sound of a local band entertaining the crowds in the street, the singing and dancing providing a soundtrack as we explored, reaching all the way to the amazing cathedral at the top, and which looked out across the expanse of the harbour.
Tuesday took us to Blarney Castle. A short drive from Cork, it was well worth the visit! We explored the ruins, the beautiful lawns and poison garden, again to a soundtrack – this time to a lute playing local! Finally we clambered the narrow staircase to the top and dangled backwards to kiss the Stone – a lipstick stain on the rock from one of the many millions who had puckered up before signposting me to the right place: helpful, but making me furiously wipe my mouth after!!
Our next port of call was the Ring of Kerry, a fantastic drive around the coast of County Kerry to admire the dramatic cliffs and nestled beaches. We got as far as Valentia Island which we learned was about to recognise 150 years since a boat carrying the first transatlantic telegraph cable left the island, a week later arriving in Canada to vastly improve telecommunications between Europe and America.
Time pressing on, we turned around and found our way to Ballyferriter on the wild Dingle Peninsula. The drive from Dingle to our hotel around Slea Head was by accident (we learnt that we could get to Dingle in 5 minutes) but we agreed had we not home that way we would never have even known the impressive coastline we would have missed, and well worth the extra drive!
Dinner was traditional Irish Stew and Guinness in a local pub, followed by ice cream from Murphys – self proclaimed as being the best ice cream in the world. We tried gin and lavender, caramelised bread pudding and butterscotch and while we don’t know if it’s the best in the world, it was pretty good!!
Today we looked for ruins – starting with the prehistoric beehive huts in Slea Head. Made entirely of stone, piled on top of each other to form rounded roofs, clusters of these small huts sat amongst the stone walls as they have for thousands of years, staring out across the stormy grey Atlantic towards the dramatic Blasket Islands.
We drove towards Limerick, stopping to eat our cereal from a pass between Dingle and Tralee, daring out across the vast sheer slopes of the Peninsula, again serenaded by a local playing Irish music.
Our next stop was at the impressive Knappaghue Castle. Closed at present to the public we were only able to wander around the walled garden. While overgrown it was nonetheless beautiful, with ivy covered stone walls, grids of box hedging all against the backdrop of the castle.
We continued on to Quin Abbey – the ruins of a past home of a friary which was fascinating and would have been imposing in its day. Today it was still imposing, but in an almost creepy way, some areas boarded up while being excavated and restored, large stone rooms dark even in the mid summer daylight. Perhaps it was just the creepy girl with long dark hair covering her face blowing in the wind, who stared into the cemetery without moving as we approached that gave it it’s freaky feel!!
After a nap in the car I woke to find us in Galway! We directed ourselves to Salthill Promenade. We strolled along the beach in our merino jumpers and jackets and cringed at the brave souls leaping from the diving boards and splashing about in the tide. After kicking the wall at the end (apparently it’s what you do) we headed back to find our home for the night.
We are here for two nights, with more castles, cliffs and Irish fare on the agenda which we will no doubt comment on in the next installment!
For now, a Gaelic goodbye – slàn!
Kelly’s Pro Travel Tip: Over 230 million people have kissed the Blarney Stone (completely made that up). Why not shake things up a bit? Give it a lick.