Sunday, July 13th. Waking up in our hostel. 7:15 am.
After a night of several rounds of drinks and cover band songs, our group is in varying degrees of hungover-ness. Some didn’t drink, some drank enough, and some drank more than they should’ve, later than they meant to. I push myself up in the bottom bunk and look around at the sleeping state of my companions. We have all stripped down as far as we dare, suffering in the oppressive heat of the small room. 7 of us, plus one nice stranger from Canada. I could have easily slept forever but the need to pee, the horrible heat, and my pounding headache forced me to vacate the room.
Almost an hour later we have all assembled downstairs ready to go.
Well we are there.. Ready is a relative term.
Once we were on the Happy Tours bus, we set off on the hour plus drive to Killarney. Commence sleeping…. (If you have read my previous post about our tour bus, you will need no further explanation).
Our first stop was at the Gap of Dunloe, Dún Lóich, meaning “Lóich’s stronghold”, which is a passage between the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain, along the Ring of Kerry. At the start of the walk we passed an array of carts and horses with their owners, waiting for tourists to use their services to travel down the path.
We walked the 20 mins up the mountain pass to the Wishing Bridge. The walk was, incredible to say the least. The weather that day was mercifully cooler than the day before and a light gray fog sat over the tops of the mountains. To me it was perfect, because my camera was getting tired of blazing sunlight and dark shadowed scenery. The even gray light touched everything so softly, details were rich and clear.
We were surprised by a few sheep grazing very close to the edges of the path!
After many group photos and detail shots, we headed back down the path to the bus. I lagged behind a lot taking more photos. I also made some horse friends at the end.
Back on the bus, our next stop was near Killarney center where we boarded our jaunty carts for a ride into the Killarney national parklands. Our group scored a cart just to ourselves and our tour guide, Troy eventually joined us as well.
The ride was very cool. We passed open fields scattered with velvety black Kerry cows, before entering thicker trees. Our jaunty carts took us to a clearing where a small castle stood.
After our horse cart ride we were taken into Killarney center for lunch. We decided to try the Failte Hotel restaurant. Lunch was really good, a step above average pub fair, despite being ambushed by several Irish men out on a stag. (Bachelor party) They were enjoying their drinks a little too much for 1pm in the afternoon, but it was a celebration so understandable.
Our next stop after lunch was to the Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Parklands. The bus parked in the dirt lot at the base of a trail and we started to walk up the trail into the trees. After walking only two minutes or so we were enveloped in forest. I immediately felt at home, it reminded me so much of the woods in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Just like that, I was 12 again, hiking along a stream up to a rocky waterfall with my family. The trees were covered in a deliciously light green moss and ferns and other plants carpeted the rocks and ground around them. It was dim within the trees, only thin strips of hazy sunlight slipped through the branch fingers; the kind of light you only see in the forest.
Being there, I finally felt like the beautiful scenery I was experiencing was real. The endless fields of green and rolling mountains thus far had been incredible, but they have seemed to good to be true; they felt more like a glamorized movie, not actual places. Killarney National Parklands was familiar to me, from the first moment. I knew this kind of nature and I fit in it. It was like a little part of my home, hidden away and intensified by Ireland’s charm.
I could’ve have stayed there for hours, but we were soon leaving, and I found myself alone on a path, having not realized everyone was already back on the bus. Hopefully the photographs I took with my film camera will make my tardiness worth it.
Our final stop of the day was to the Muckross House and Gardens. Muckross house is a mansion that was built in 1843 for Henry Herbert, a Member of Parliament for Kerry. The estate and land was eventually given to the town, on the condition that it be open to the pubic to enjoy. And enjoy it we did. We didn’t tour the mansion because it was currently under renovations, but the outside of it and the land surrounding it was definitely impressive enough. We all just wandered around the gardens and down to the lake, enjoying the sun for a little while. It was all quite beautiful, and a very peaceful way to end our tour.
After that we journeyed the hour and a half back to Cork, where we quickly walked to the bus station to get on yet another bus to travel three hours back to Dublin. I think I can speak for all of us when I say I was really sick of sitting on buses by then. Despite the confusion and heat of Saturday, I consider the weekend to be a success and I’m very glad we went.