Ireland Day 8

Ginger count: 8 regular gingers, was too busy sightseeing to determine super status.

The day’s agenda: visit Muckross House in Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry, and laundry time.

My alarm went off at 06:30 so I could get up and do fabulous things with my morning. As it goes, Dani had to threaten me to get me out of bed 08:30. What a lass. Our twin beds are situated awkwardly close together in the suite (about four inches are separating them), so I’m just relieved that she didn’t decide to whale flop on me as she did in Kinsale. That was terrifying.

We went and grabbed breakfast and then drove for Muckross house. Our route took us onto the Ring of Kerry between Killarney and the house, where I drove crazily off the side of the road to take pictures. This happened many times. Dani never got used to it, although Seamus O’Toole the Wonder Golf took it like a champ.

I have also decided that Irish drivers are either fearless or completely mad. Some of the speed limits on these narrow, windy backroads with blind curves are 100kph (about 60mph). I wouldn’t even be brave enough to take these at 80kph (about 40mph), but the locals go careening about without a care. And this, mind you, is coming from a woman who typically drives around like her butt is on fire.

We finally got to the Muckross house, which may have been the most tourist-trappy of the places we visited so far. I don’t know why I feel that way, maybe because the grounds were altered so much to allow for a bunch of people, they had a “heritage farm” and carriage rides. Or perhaps I was just cranky. Any of those is a viable possibility. We had a tour of the 19th-century house scheduled, but Dani was disappointed in the fact that you were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the house. I thought the house was neat and all, mainly because it had like eighty bajillion chimneys jutting off the roof. It was seriously that many, I counted. The house had a charming view, though.

I guess Queen Victoria stayed there for two days once. (the one who was afraid of fire, being poisoned, and wore mourning clothes for the last forty years of her life after Prince Albert died suddenly.) Apparently, the family that originally owned the house pretty much bankrupted themselves trying to woo the Queen into granting them a title. Their plan failed spectacularly. What’s that saying about betting all your money on one horse (or whatever it is)?

After Muckross, we continued around the Ring. I was excited to see all the pretty landscapes, but Dani ended up feeling carsick (but no blowing chunks, thank goodness) and wasn’t feeling it. Poor dear. I, on the other hand, was excited enough for the both of us, and then some.

When we were hungry for lunch, we stopped at some place called The Red Fox. Next to it was a Kerry Bog museum that we checked out after eating. The museum grounds had Kerry Bog ponies, which were critically endangered in the 1980s but saved almost singlehandedly by an older gentleman whose name now escapes me. They were super cute and looked a lot like Shetland Ponies except not as hairy.

There were also some restored cottages from the 18th century on the property. They were quite a bit roomier than I expected! I just had to watch my head as the doorways into the cottages were a bit low. Dani and I both agreed that we would be willing to live in one of the cottages when we get old and gray and senile. Or when we decided this adulting thing is no longer worth it and rage quit on life.

We drove around some more, and I found one of many picturesque sea strands down sketchy side roads to explore. Being a child of the Atlantic, gallivanting off toward the ocean made me super happy.

Yay ocean! Yay pretty views! I’m pretty sure Dani wanted to kill me at multiple points in our journey.

The weather started gray and overcast, became sunny for a bit, and then was dreary and damp and kind of awesome after all the sunshine we’d been having. At times there was cool fog/mist on the mountaintops that made for some fun pictures. We even got rained on! We were both excited to experience some “typical” Irish weather finally.

I think my favorite stop of the day’s adventure was at the Derrynane sea strand. It was windy, but not storming yet (although at every beach we explored people were swimming). See, the Irish might be a little bonkers. Or just made of much tougher stuff than I am. The beach itself was beautiful, featuring an abandoned abbey jutting off one end of the beach and several large boulders resting in the water, the tops of which were covered in seagrass even though the rocks themselves were no longer part of the shoreline.

Being the person I am, I had to climb out as far as I could on the rocks to the point where I was pretty much standing right over the ocean. The sea air was clean and super refreshing, not a fishy smell to be found. The sound of the waves crashing at my feet and the slight sea spray in my face drowned out all other sensations. I felt that, even though I knew a few dozen people were occupying the very beach behind me, I was all alone. It was just me and the ocean.

I think at that moment I finally released my hold on all the stressors of my life that have been dragging me down for months, if only for a few moments. Those moments, however, were incredible. I felt like you do when you see someone who truly loves you-whether a parent, lover, friend, or other family member-sees you again after a long separation. I felt that same feeling you get when you see that look on their face and know that you are loved and accepted. At that same time, there was the feeling you get when you are winding up through an alpine forest, never seeing more than a few yards in front of you, when suddenly the road opens up, and you find yourself overlooking an unadulterated valley. That sense of awe, finding that hidden gem that you feel, at that moment, is for your eyes only. I felt as one with my surroundings and utterly content.

Tears came to my eyes at the pure beauty of my surroundings and the bliss of the moment (no surprise really, I cry at everything). I could have stood there forever, but knew that I needed to return to the car. I will try to hold that feeling within me, and will probably end up chasing it for the rest of my life. I have a feeling that there will be a backpacking trip along the Kerry Way in my future.

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I’ll leave you with one last picture. What’s more idyllic than a cottage surrounded by sheep in a gorgeous valley?

We returned to Kenmare, found a laundromat, and did some much-needed laundry. However, *rant alert* I could believe that it cost FIVE BLOODY EUROS to run the washing machine! And then three more Euros to run the dryer! Per load! And our clothes weren’t even thoroughly dry! We spent almost twenty Euros washing and drying two loads of laundry! What a racket! *end of rant*

After that, we returned to the hotel for our last night in Kenmare. It’s off to Ashford Castle in Cong tomorrow.

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