June 7th - DAY 3. Today we went on up towards Killarney. Although cloudy, that was a beautiful drive, up the N1 to Bantry and Glengarrif, then through the woods of Glengarrif and up, up, up over the Caha Pass towards Kenmare. This route takes you along a winding way that must be hundreds of years old, rife with gorgeous scenery and spectacular views. I'll say here that my one complaint with Ireland is that they have so many scenic places and so few safe spots to pull off the road. You hear that, Ireland? You need more vista points and viewing areas! :)
A special treat atop the Caha Pass is a roadside stop called Molly Gallivan's, a 200 year old cottage that is now a café and a tiny shop crammed with local crafts and woolen stuff, plus it also offers a tour of historical things on the property including the ruins of a Famine-era cottage and a Neolithic standing stone. We didn't take the tour but it's still just a wonderful step back in time and lovely people running the place. I saw a dozen things I wanted to buy, from sheepskins to pottery to little bottles of poteen (Irish moonshine,) but I held off for the time being and we moved on.
After Kenmare the road climbed up into the hills again, taking us over Moll's Gap. It's a wide, wild, desolate country with beautiful views and spectacular vistas looking out and down towards the Lakes of Killarney. The only down side to the whole thing were the danged tour buses we kept meeting - those twisty little roads were NOT meant for behemoths of that size!
At the mountains' feet lay verdant forest and many blue lakes, as well as the town of Killarney, but we didn't spend any time in town. It looked like a big, modern place overrun with tourists, so we just got gas and left. We did stop at a local attraction, Muckross House and Gardens. A handsome mansion built @ 1843, it's a treasure-trove of antiques and period life, but it is by guided tour only. Celebsul and I were reminded forthwith that we are really not guided tour types. Our guide was well-versed and thorough in her descriptions of each room in the house - almost too much so, as it took a solid hour to do what we would have done in maybe half that time. Ouch, our aching feet. ;) Still, it was an interesting look at another age and the only way we were going to see the place.
A colorful local feature are the "jaunting cars," horse drawn carts for hire to carry tourists about the area. Apparently the "jaunties" as the drivers are called have been doing this for generations, a sort of family business. Carts and horses parked both near the house and near the falls like ranks of taxi drivers, while their drivers slouched waiting for the chance to hail passing tourists in hopes of drumming up some business.
Muckross House is the center point to the Killarney National Park, so we had lunch in the modern café, glanced in the gift shop and then turned back towards "home." We stopped to visit the Torc Waterfall, a sweet, woodsy tumble of white water amidst tall trees, and stopped again at Lady's View, once more overlooking the lakes and wide open country. Not much out there but sheep! Well, that and the bus load of tourists who suddenly appeared, and with them a local lad who sat down among the rocks with his set of uilleann pipes, where he played Irish songs to the snap of shutters and the clink of coins in his case. Obviously the jaunties are not the only locals quick to prosper from the tourist trade.
On the road again, the views along our way were once more nothing less than stunning - and the sun even endeavored to peek through the clouds. Once back at Castletownshend, the sun beamed on the water and we made our way up to the local pub, Mary Ann's, where I had a Guinness and Cel a dram before toddling down to bed.