Ring of Kerry Tour: Now with 100% more sunshine!

Avid readers may recall (probably not) that on last year’s visit to the Ring of Kerry we had some of the worst weather of our entire program. Although Ireland can be atmospheric on a gloomy day, the Ring loses a lot when you can’t see the scenic vistas and beautiful landscapes that are its main attractions. The Ring is a 176km/111-mile circular tourist route in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. It takes you through medieval towns, historic landmarks, and some of the most beautiful scenery in this generally beautiful country. And this time around we could actually see it all, thanks to blue skies and so much sunshine that several of us got sunburned.

Our home base was the Castlerosse Hotel, where we arrived Thursday afternoon/evening for dinner and some time to relax before setting off Friday morning. I love the Castlerosse. The rooms are comfy, the food is good, and the view can’t be beat:

The view from the Castlerosse, which has a golf course. One of our students actually brought his clubs!

The hotel’s dining rooms and bar look out on that gorgeous view, as do several of the bedrooms–including mine this year (lucky me).

Driving the Ring of Kerry makes me laugh a little because it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d have hated as a kid. I’m a little sorry my parents will never get to see it. They were always interested in a “scenic drive.” Our first stop was the Kerry Bog Village, a recreation of an 19th-century village of turf-cutters:

Kerry Bog Village

The remains of an 18th-century cottage whose inhabitants were evicted during the famine of 1845-52.

Irish wolfhounds. The picture does not quite do justice to how enormous they are.

Inside one of the replica village dwellings

The little horse on the right is a Kerry bog pony.

Alongside the Bog Village is a pub that serves hundreds of Irish coffees a day. It’s impressive just to watch the staff make them.

How to make a lot of Irish coffee in a hurry.


We went on to visit and revel in all the most gorgeous places on the Ring. Along the way we got to meet some extremely cute animals. Enterprising locals have figured out that the only thing better than a scenic view is a scenic view where you can pet a goat or hold a baby lamb. Our students took every opportunity. [Even I held a puppy for a minute–but only because it was about to run out into a parking lot.]

I am not going to remember the names of all these places. This might be Cahirsiveen?

This is Waterville, where Charlie Chaplin once lived and the Chaplin family still owns property:

This is the place I only know as the “Viewing Point.” On a day like yesterday you could see to the Skelligs and look for Luke Skywalker on Skellig Michael:

It’s the right-hand island waaaaay in the distance.

More animals to pet.

In fairness, the puppy was extremely cute.

The real name of the Viewing Point.

Our next stop was Darrynane, where Daniel O’Connell was born. O’Connell is a major figure in Irish history: he was a campaigner for Catholic emancipation and Irish independence. One of the main streets in Dublin is now named after him. He also lived next to a gorgeous beach. You only have to look at this country to understand why the Irish wanted to govern it independently.

Experiential learning: we learned that the sun may be warm, but the water is not!

The O’Connell house, seen from the path to the beach.

Our last stop of the day was the Ladies’ View, so called because Queen Victoria and her ladies-in-waiting decided that it was the highlight of the Ring of Kerry. I do not feel prepared to differ with Her Majesty.

When I write it out this all seems a little abbreviated or rushed. The Ring of Kerry is definitely something to see for yourself. There’s more than is possible to photograph and it’s even a little hard to describe. Being immersed in it is the best way to go.

Today (Saturday) we made our way back to Waterford via Blarney Castle. I am a fan of the outside of Blarney Castle. I’ve never been inside and never kissed the Blarney Stone. It just photographs so well:

Giant alliums. I love these flowers.

And here’s why I’ve never been inside the castle.

Foxglove is everywhere in Co. Kerry, including in the Poison Garden at Blarney Castle.

If I had gone into the castle I might have learned why there are granny squares over some of the windows!

I’m pretty proud of this shot.

We are now back in Waterford to catch our breath, wash our clothes, and go to our classes for a couple of days before we head out again. We’ll leave for Dublin on Tuesday afternoon.

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