03 Jul

Ireland: The Highlights (part 2)

From Dingle, we made our way toward Killarney, where I got Bing Crosby’s rendition of “Christmas in Killarney” stuck in my head for two days, but first we stopped at Inch Strand, which is a long and wide beach, still in the Dingle peninsula. (I’ve read that Inch strand is 3 ½ miles long. We didn’t walk the entire length of it.)

In Killarney, we rented bikes once again, but they were much more expensive than the Dingle bikes, and not made for efficiency. At the rental office, they asked for a driver’s license to ensure we returned the bikes, and they also gave us a bike lock, proving that we were in a bigger town (in Dingle, they had done none of the above). Unfortunately, they didn’t prepare us well with directions. The map they gave us was A-trocious. Still, we mostly found our way; we rode to Killarney National Park, which is full of gravel paths and nice views of a lake called Lough Leane (“lough” is the Irish word for lake, kinda like the Scottish “loch” and pronounced pretty similarly). But the hilly ride kinda destroyed Eileen’s knees.

The following day, having learned that our best times were when we got out of the car and explored on foot or bike, we stopped at another park near Glengarriff and embarked on a light hike. It had been raining pretty steadily all morning, but it let up just in time for our arrival at the park (it was a nature reserve, I think). By now, the Bing Crosby song in my head had been replaced by “Cracklin Rosie” by Neil Diamond, which I heard in some store in Killarney. Why is she “crackling,” by the way?

The nature reserve was nice. We took a 1-km loop, which we just about completed before encountering a huge puddle obstructing the path. We could see the lot where we’d parked our car, but this puddle was not the kind you just sidestep. It was a shoes-submersed puddle. So we turned around and hiked a different path to a waterfall, where we were able to join up with the park road that would take us back to the parking lot. By the time we got to our car, though, the river had overrun its banks to the extent that water was just a foot or two away from the front tires of our car, which was parked about 30-40 feet from the river’s original bank.

Days later, when we returned our rental car, we were making small talk with the bus driver who shuttled us to the airport from the rental place. He commented that the weather had been pretty bad, to which I replied, “Yeah, but you expect a few rainy days, don’t you?” He said, “Actually that’s the worst we’ve had all year.” There was some pretty major flooding, if fact, in Galway, a city about 80 km north of Shannon, where we flew in. We went to Galway five years ago and we loved it, but this time we decided to stay in the southwest so we wouldn’t have to drive as much.

From Glengarriff, we headed south toward Skibbarreen, where we had booked the cheapest B&B in Ireland, or at least the cheapest we could find. It was definitely the least luxurious, too, but the hostess was talkative and super nice. The water sometimes didn’t work, like just as we were getting ready for bed. But we made do with the pitcher of water the hostess had left in our room to make tea with.

Just outside Glengarriff, we stopped at a chocolate shop. It was one of the rare impulse decisions that Eileen and I make, and boy was it a good decision. The storefront was tiny; it was run by some Eastern European woman, who made the chocolates in the large, mostly stainless steel kitchen that occupied the majority of her rental space. She gave us a sample of toffee that was basically like pixie-dust in that it opened our eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. We bought five euro’s worth of chocolates and spent the next three days seriously considering driving completely out of our way to return and get more. Top two or three chocolates I’ve ever eaten.

Inch Beach
Here’s my favorite picture of the beach at Inch.

Tim in the dunes
And here are the dunes

Typical scenery at Killarney
Here’s a typical scene from the bike path of Killarney National Park

The meeting of the waters

And here’s a nice picture taken at the south end of Lough Leane, where the lake joins up with a smaller lake, named Muckross Lake. The place has the very fairy-lore name of “The Meeting of the Waters.”

Foxglove
These flowers are all over the place in Ireland. When we came home, we learned that they’re Foxglove, which puts another song in my head.

The river at Glengarriff
Here’s the river at Glengarriff’s nature reserve. We thought it might be a nice tubing river.

The river again
But here it is an hour later.

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