From Dublin we picked up a car and started our driving tour around some of the western and southern counties of Ireland – over to Galway, through County Clare, the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry and County Cork. In some areas the landscapes felt very similar to Scotland but less extreme; in others, it looked like the green, pastoral Ireland I had in my head before going there. Being late autumn it was of course extremely rainy (though thankfully not too cold), with cloud and mist hanging around when there was no rain.
We visited the beautiful Kylemore Abbey in the Connemara region, a beautiful castle then home to Benedictine nuns. We visited Bunratty Castle with its pretty grounds of autumn colours, and the next door original Durty Nelly’s, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland. We tried to see the dramatic Cliffs of Mohor, but the dense fog and rain concealed most of the cliffs at best, or everything not a metre or so in front of you at worst! Probably my favourite part was our drive around the Dingle Peninsula, which I unfortunately didn’t manage to take many photos of, whilst looking out for the famous and rare Kerry cows in the green fields. Later we drove around the Ring of Kerry, another beautiful peninsula on the south-west coast or Ireland. The final highlight was the Blarney Castle, home to druid stones, wishing steps (climb and descend with your eyes closed whilst focusing on a wish for it to come true), and the famous Blarney Stone. I was quite sick and thought I shouldn’t inflict it on others, so I decided against kissing it, but The Boy did and apparently now has the gift of the gab!
In Cork we went to watch a production of Ullyses, a completely baffling book by Irish author James Joyce. I didn’t understand much of it (and not just because of the Dubliner accents), but looking at summaries of the book it seems very much true to it. Between that and the literary pub crawl we did in Dublin, I feel quite learned despite having never really read any Irish literature!
- Murphy’s Ice Cream, Dingle – I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re going through Dingle it’s definitely worth a visit to the original store. I love their ice-cream, their ethos, and how they’ve championed the survival of the Kerry cow.
- Pay As You Please, Kilarney – Excellent food, very cool casual vibe, and as the name suggests you pay what you feel the meal was worth afterwards.
- Soda bread – bread made using baking soda instead of yeast, amongst other additions, which makes for something really delicious and different.