Read Part 1 here.
Day 6: Ring of Kerry
One of the highlights of my trip was the Ring of Kerry, but it wasn’t accomplished without difficulty. Once I got to Killarney I kept hearing from other travelers how the bus tours are pretty awful and you need to rent a car to get the full experience. I was terrified of driving on the left side of the road, but that ended up being the least of my concerns. After lots of phone calls I ended up getting the last automatic car available in the area… But I had to pay nearly €200 for one day! People who rented in advance paid less than €20 a day for a stick shift. But after moping about it for awhile I decided to just do it because it’s a once in a lifetime trip. I’m so glad I did!
I spent the day driving around the southern peninsula of Ireland. The roads there are scary! They’re just slightly big enough for one car, yet they’re meant to be two-way streets. So whenever a car came the other way, one of us would have to slowly back up to make room. Yikes!
But at the same time the roads are so beautiful. Driving the winding roads along the cliffs over the ocean was amazing. I would stop every once in a while to explore and take pictures. I also made a number of detours whenever I saw an appealing sign. This included a trip to Ireland’s best chocolate factory and even a trip to a subtropical jungle (who knew?) I also stopped by a few farms to “play with” (read: gawk at from a distance) the cows. A highlight for me was when I found an empty beach surrounded by cliffs. I took the time to take a break and relax, while I took in how small I felt (in a good way) compared to the world.
Later, I stopped in the quaint and colorful town of Sneem for dinner on the river. As I made my way back to the hostel, it was starting to get dark but I wasn’t done with the adventure yet. I spotted another place to stop and started to take a little walk when I realized there were wild sheep all around me staring me down! I briskly (read: cowardly) walked back to my car. But I have to say it’s hilarious to look back on!
Days 7-9: Kilkenny
Finally I made it to Kilkenny, the town where my great grandmother is from! This beautiful city feels more like a small town and, from what I gathered, most people seemed to know each other. That being said, Saturdays here are a little…well the only comparison is Vegas. Stag and Hen Parties (translation: bachelor and bachelorette parties) like to come here for debauchery and the pubs turn into nightclubs for that one night a week. Let’s just say I wasn’t a fan. But by Sunday and Monday, everything was back to normal.
I spent some time exploring the cute little shops, walking through the park, and seeing Kilkenny Castle. I stopped in friendly, local pubs for meals and drinks as I did everywhere else, but somehow it just felt homier here. On Sunday night, I stopped in a pub that had fun Irish music playing. As soon as I sat down, I found myself in a conversation with an elderly musician who frequently plays in New York and a few other men closer to my age. That’s one of the great things about Ireland. It seems that age isn’t a barrier and everyone is friendly with everyone. Anyway, they taught me a lot about the music and the town. That night, everyone in the bar seemed to come together, from the “posh” girls to the farmers, in the name of music (and maybe a few too many pints). Either way, it was a sight to see.