(Apologies for this wrap-up taking forever to finish - work has been very busy since getting back.)
Leaving Cobh, we made our way back to one of the few major highways in Ireland to drive to County Kerry and Killarney. The first half of the drive was gorgeous - the sun was breaking out from behind the clouds and everything was just very green. We drove through a lot of pastural land and some cute towns including Macroom which had an old castle as the center of town. I can't really tell you what the rest of the drive looked like because I passed out cold. Oops.
Arriving in Killarney we made our way to the main tourist office to see if they had any recommended walking tours (similar to what our DK Eyewitness guidebook had for Kinsale) but they just gave us a big map of the town. At first glance, Killarney is pretty adorable. And then you look closer and it's just a bunch of shops that I'm pretty sure are geared toward the tourists and not the locals. Some where high end, some were very low end and it all looked a bit fabricated. Unlike Macroom mentioned above, Killarney is definitely not a town that looks like it's been there forever.
First we tried to make our way to Ross Castle, one of the places I was most excited about visiting during the trip. Alas, the lakes had jumped their banks and the road to the castle was completely flooded to the point that there were men in wet suits and zodiak boats out on the water. Okay, scratch that one off the list. From there we decided to visit Muckross House and perhaps drive to Kenmare. After we parked the car the skies opened up and just drenched us ... again. We were going to take a tour of Muckross House but they weren't doing another one for over an hour so we decided to look into going to Kenmare instead. Only, oops, that road - through Killarney National Park - was washed out too.
Originally we were supposed to stay at the Cahernane House just outside Killarney Town, on the shores of the lakes of Killarney National Park, but a few weeks before we left they canceled our reservation so we ended up rebooking at theBallyseede Castle Hotel in Tralee. Thank goodness we did! As we drove away from Muckross back through Killarney town, we passed the few hotels along that stretch of road - including Cahernane - and the water was all the way up past the hotels to the road. I can't imagine getting flooded out from your lodgings!
A few miles outside Killarney and once again the skies changed and the sun started peeking out from behind the clouds. We had no idea what to expect of Ballyseede or Tralee as we didn't really do much research on each but as we approached we were very happy to not be staying in Killarney given what we'd just experienced.
Blue skies! Green fields!
Ballyseede, while extremely old, cannot really compare to the likes of Ashford or Dromoland in sheer size and grandeur. It's not the opulent castles one thinks of when they are going to "stay in a castle in Ireland." Rather, while from the outside it has the appearance of a small castle, it's more akin to a minor lord's country house on the inside. And it was absolutely perfect for us!
Because we'd booked so late in the game - and got a fabulous rate from Expedia - I didn't expect that we'd get one of the nicer rooms upstairs. As predicted we didn't, we got a nice room pretty much in the basement but it had the single best bathtub of any hotel we stayed in during the trip. See?
The other great thing about Ballyseede Castle are its resident greeters, Arthur and Einstein. If you're not a fan of dogs, this is not the hotel for you because these dogs live onsite.
Einstein is my new best friend. Because Arthur is an Irish Wolfhound, he's a bit more impressive in size and stature. Einstein, however, is the personality behind the duo. He will show you around the castle, take walks with you around the grounds and bring you rocks in exchange for belly pets. I wanted to bring him home with me. Sadly, the only pictures I have of Arthur that show just how big he is are from my iPhone and I've been told they contain incriminating evidence that cannot be posted for public consumption. Let's just say they're very "Lord of the Manor" and leave it at that.
That night we went into Tralee for what we were told would be live music around 8 p.m. at the Kelly Brogue Inn. When we told our cabbie where we were going he had no idea what we were saying. Apparently, we were pronouncing it more like Brogan so he just dropped us off in the middle of the town and pointed us in the direction of the pubs. We found the Brogue Inn and learned that music "might" be starting around 10:15 or 10:30. We also found the food didn't sound very inspiring and we needed dinner and had time to kill. We wandered around Tralee for a bit - cute town - before stumbling upon a cute pub that was serving delicious sounding food and showing some rugby matches. It was here that I was served quite possibly the world's largest seafood platter. It could have fed an entire family. All of the food - and beer! - was delicious but dear lord, I'm only one person!
We were going to attempt to visit another pub we saw that said it was playing live music but I was pretty exhausted (food coma?) and when we went outside we were drenched with what was probably the single worst rain storm we saw our entire trip - ten seconds in and my jacket and pants were completely soaked, not to mention my hair, face and hands. I'm happy to report that despite the deluge, my new Dansko shoes kept my feet completely warm and dry.
This was another one of those days where nothing ever really came together and we sort of had to make do with what we could do. It wasn't a great day, but our hotel and the food definitely made it better than it otherwise could have been. I mean, what's not to love about taking a hot bath in a gorgeous room while it's storming outside? I want that tub for my house now.