The Ring of Kerry:
This is one of the 'biggies' in Ireland. It is reputed to be the most scenic drive in the country in the most scenic county. In order not to annoy any more coach drivers, we decided to drive the Ring anti-clockwise, that is, with the buses and not against their preferred direction of travel.
It had rained all night but this was merely a taste of what the day would be like. First stop was the Kerry Bog Village: restored and furnished cottages together in an old, tiny village, a bit like Old Sydney Town on a very small scale. There was a turfcutter's cottage, a thatcher's cottage, a forge and so on. It was quite well done and interesting, and probably all the more authentic in the drizzly rain! Two young girls had set themselves up in one cottage and were playing traditional tunes on a tin whistle and a squeezebox. We got chatting to them and one would have talked the leg off a chair - but I think she is the adventurous one who, when she is older, will travel to Australia to come and see all the deadly animals she was so interested in but terrified of.
As we continued around the Ring of Kerry, the rain simply got heavier and heavier. The mountains to our left were swathed in cloud which tumbled down their sides. The winds picked up and soon the rain was being driven almost horizontally. Not pleasant driving conditions and certainly not good sight-seeing conditions. But we ploughed on to the west of the Kerry Peninsula following another so-called ring called the Skellig Ring and over the bridge to Valencia Island. At the Skellig Heritage Centre we stopped and had some lunch in the camper, hoping that the rain and wind would ease off. However it didn't, with the winds increasing to gale-force. By the time we walked from the car to the building after lunch we were drowned! The Centre had a display and also showed a film about the Skellig Islands just off the coast - sharp, craggy rocks rising straight up from the ocean depths. Monks had retreated there a thousand years ago and built a monastic retreat over a few centuries. (What possesses people to live in god-forsaken places like this escapes me completely.) We would have liked to have taken the ferry over and climbed the steps to the ruins but with the weather, all boat trips were cancelled. After having seen the film, though, the steps, all 600 of them, look incredibly steep, daunting and dangerous and I'm not so sure I would have enjoyed the climb after all.
We drove around Valencia Island to see not very much in the fog and rain, and then headed back to the mainland to finish the Skellig Ring to return to the Ring of Kerry. The road, which was narrow and steep and prohibited to coaches and trucks, wound up the mountains through passes at quite some altitude. We were in the clouds we had seen clinging to the mountain tops earlier and which had now descended to lower levels. Visibility was reduced to 50 metres or less. At times, we had a line of 3 or 4 cars in front of us, but only the one directly in front was visible 90% of the time. If we came down lower, we got glimpses of the reputedly spectacular coastline, but that was all we got, tantalising glimpses.
And still it rained, rained, rained, and all along the road there was minor flooding. In one place a section of road was washed away; rivers and streams broke their banks and spilled over the fields and roads. The banks on the sides of the roads ran with rivulets of water; whole mountainsides ran hundreds of with silver streams and waterfalls down their steep sides.
When we could see it, the landscape of the south coast of the Kerry Peninsula was as varied as it was beautiful. In some places there were wild, untamed, boulder-strewn grasslands reaching down to cliffs at the water's edge. In others luxuriant forest arched over the road and blotted out the light so that we drove in gloomy twilight. Small fishing villages huddled around the shores of tiny bays and inlets. Miserable-looking, wildly woolly, unshorn sheep huddled together by rocks or fences trying to get some shelter with their new lambs. In one low lying area a peat bog was still being cut - the peat is still apparently being used today.
At Kenmare we left the Ring of Kerry, turned south and then east again. Our next excursion is a trip around the Beara Peninsula. To get to the campsite, we again climbed mountains and turned off the main road towards a forest drive. It's only a 2-star camp, but as long as the showers are hot, that's no problem. The facilities are 'quaint' and the place a bit overgrown. Our only instruction about choosing a site was not to park on the grass or we'd have to be towed out in the morning. We are following the advice.
Geraldine And this is high summer. It sounds identical to our experience in the Ring of Kerry in November (late autumn). I suspect the reason Ireland's greatest export is people lies less with potato famines and economic woes than with the fact that they are all washed out of the place by the rain!