[I'm warning you now, this will be a picture heavy post.]
After hemming and hawing about whether or not we wanted to drive the Ring of Kerry ourselves or take a tour bus, we decided the best thing to do was go with a company that would know what to do if the roads were flooded or what have you. We'd spent a few trying days on the road and so we decided it'd be nice to have someone else stressing about the weather conditions for once while we just enjoyed the ride. We couldn't have made a better decision!
We made our way back to Killarney to the Deros Tours office and checked in. The original group was so small that originally we were going to go in a Eurovan but a few minutes before takeoff time, an Australian and French girl showed up so we moved to a bigger bus. I was actually secretly happy because this meant I'd have a better view (and I was able to jump on the bus quicker than anyone else and grab the best seat)! So hate me. The other great thing about this tour was the driver - he was very knowledgeable about everything anyone asked him, ranging from the local villages to why there were random forests planted on the hillsides. Oh, and he brought his dog Boo who I just loved to pieces.
The size of our group turned out to be really great. It was us, the girls, a man from Barcelona and a family from Pittsburgh's North Hills (where we lived before moving back to California nearly 8 years ago), including their son who is teaching math in Cork. We spent a lot of time talking to the couple from Pittsburgh as they were really interested in Alan having gone to Carnegie Mellon and what we were now doing in CA. They were young, retired teachers and it was interesting to hear from them how the area has changed. For instance, the mall I worked at when I graduated college and couldn't get a job (thanks dot com crash!) is now super high end with luxury brand stores whereas before it was just your regular old mall with Macy's and Pottery Barn (where I worked) being the most fancy.
Our first stop was the Kerry Bog Village Museum and the Red Fox Inn. We were the only people who decided to visit the museum since there was the promise of warmth and coffee at the Inn. According to our information, the museum is Ireland's only thatched village and is a National Herritage Award Winner.
We made a lot of scenic stops along the route before lunch, and as you'll see, the weather was complete crap. This was the first day I wore the sweater I'd purchased earlier in the trip and I'm so glad I did because in addition to it being nice and cozy, it was also incredibly warm and kept me pretty dry.
Around noon we stopped at a seaside village where both Charlie Chaplin and Charles de Gaulle spent their summers. It was insane! The waves were pounding the shore and the winds were upwards of 80 mph. It looked like a hurricane approaching the New England seaboard to put it in perspective for Americans. The pub we stopped at had another tour bus come in before us and unfortunately they got the last of the Irish Stew. Our group was left to choose between cottage pie and pasta bolognese which we really just the same thing, fish & chips and vegetable soup. As you can imagine, nothing was especially good, except the warmth from the fire.
As we approached Moll's Gap and Ladies View the weather became really foggy which made for less than impressive views. Still, you could see that on a clear day in its full greenery the landscape would have been amazingly gorgeous.
After we finished up the tour we made our way back to Ballyseede to take a nap, shower and get ready for the evening. We saw a few places in Killarney that promised to have live traditional music that night so we wanted to go back into town (only about 20 km away) to see what we could make of it. As we approached the first bar, we saw the two young girls from the tour earlier in the day already camped out by the fire. Based on their recommendation, we had dinner at another pub down the street that had amazingly good food.
We had fried brie (!!!), crab claws and a succulent lamb shank that just fell off the bone. We also tried their sticky toffee pudding after our expeirence with it in Kinsale. This one was made with a heartier oat cake and wasn't as good but was still rather tasty. Oh, and what's a cold night without a hot toddy to keep you warm?
We made our way back to the pub where the girls were and sure enough, there were the musicians setting up for a night of live music. They were really great and the longer they played, the more crowded the pub got. It was rather strange to me because people were showing up dressed to the nines - I'm talking girls showing up in short glittery holiday dresses and high heels, ready for what looked like a night on the town. As far as I could tell though, that WAS the nightly entertainment, at least in Killarney. Much to our surprise the couple from Pittsburgh also showed up and we sat with them for an hour or so listening to the musicians and making fun of the dressed up girls.
I made a video of the band but it was super dark and you can't really see anything so nevermind. As the bar got really full and our view of the band became blocked by people standing in the space in front of the musicians, we decided to head out for the night as the next day we had a long drive in front of us to get to Ashford Castle.