“My” Ireland

I’ve been four times in ten years now. I am trying to make it mine.

I know there are people who take “big” trips every year, but I’m not one of them; when I was a young married we didn’t have the money for such things, and then I was a single mom and really didn’t have the money for such things. So four visits to Eire in a decade seems miraculous to me, and I have wrung every possible thrill from them. 🙂

Already more trips are in the planning stages. And I’m thinking about what I want to see. Because things are always changing and evolving.

Recent changes were a bit of a surprise:

• At Brú na Bóinne, Dowth isn’t on the Knowth tour anymore. You can drive to it, if you desire (and can find it on your own; I always seem to get lost over in Meath). I don’t know what to make of this; is Dowth unimportant now?

• The National Gallery has been completely rearranged and modernized (since I saw it in 2006). Actually, the reburbishment is still ongoing, and as a result, there are certain key works that may not be available—like Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ. Missing it last September was a huge disappointment. Also, to be frank, I loved the old-fashioned creaky floors.

• The Rock of Cashel has a fancy brickwork sidewalk and a paved road now; in 2003 it was much more rustic. I didn’t mind the old rough path; it felt authentic. However, I also didn’t mind that nice new bench at the halfway mark. 🙂

• There is a little car park at the Drombeg stone circle now. It used to be that you simply drove to the end of the lane, parked, and slipped through a break in the hedgerow—and there they were, the stones. These days you park a hundred yards or so further out, and walk. It’s nice, I guess, but just more evidence of modernization where none is needed. I mean, it’s from the Bronze Age, y’all.

• The bayside cemetery just outside Bantry town has a memorial now, with that spooky sculpture of drowning people. I didn’t like it much, and that has nothing to do with my resistance to change.

• When I stepped outside the graveyard at the cathedral at Kilfenora—to see the West Cross out in the field—I was shocked to see that some farm buildings had been built to the south and the field itself bisected into several cattle pens. The farmer can do what he wants with his land, of course, but it was still a bit of a disappointment.

• I’ve seen the Cliffs of Moher go through three iterations. In 2003, we parked in a field on the same side of the highway as the cliffs and walked about fifty yards out to the edge and looked over. Seriously, there was barely a handrail. The gift shop was a tiny shack. In 2006, they’d started the renovations, including moving the car park to the other side of the road; it’s a bit of a hike now (though in 2006 and 2012 I had pneumonia, so it would feel like a hike, I guess). O’Brien’s Tower was closed in 2006. Now, good Lord, the whole complex is like Disneyland—all bricked and curbed and gift-shopped to death. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm; I know it makes me sound like an old fart. 🙂

Glendalough has been subjected to the same Disneyland treatment, I’m sorry to say. The entrance is completely different; you no longer walk through the sanctuary gates first. In fact, I felt like we were coming in through the back door and was very, very cranky about it.

All of this changing and renovation is inevitable, I guess. And it won’t deter me from revisiting places (or seeing new sights). For example:

• I’d love to go back to Cork when I don’t have pneumonia. There’s a lot there I haven’t seen. I particularly want to go to the English Market and, you know, eat my way through it. 🙂

• Glandore village is calling my name. I want to check in to one of these places during the off season when it’s nice and quiet, and take all my meals in the pub so I can watch the water while I eat.

• I’ve grown to love Kilkenny and the surrounding area. I’d love to visit the farm shops around Mileeven Honey in Pilltown, and I definitely want to stop in at Nicholas Mosse again, maybe take the tour this time.

• Farm shops in general are something I’d like to make a tour of. There’s the Red Stables farmer’s market, Saturdays in St. Anne’s Park in Dublin, for example. And Sonairte, on the Laytown Road in between Julianstown and Laytown. And of course there are specialty food shops all over Dublin. OMG, now I’m thinking about cheese.

• I’d like to have a quiet vacation on one of the eastern beaches. Portmarnock, maybe, or someplace in Wicklow.

• I’m also very fond of Lahinch. It’s both small enough and big enough and I love everybody at Kenny’s Bar. I prefer the off-season, frankly, when things are down to a low roar. Late fall, say.

• I want to go back to the National Botanic Garden in Glasnevin, Dublin. I only had sixty minutes to spend there, which means a lot went unseen. There are plenty of parks and gardens in Dublin I haven’t seen, in fact.

• There’s still a lot I’d like to do in Dublin. The Temple Bar Book Market, for example. Marsh’s Library. The James Joyce Centre and the Dublin Writers Museum. I’d like to revisit the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle.

• Finally, I have yet to see the Aran Islands, and I’d like to spend more time in Co. Donegal. Last time we sort of rushed through.

It’s a worthy list, don’t you think?

A Sunday Drive

Day 13 / Sunday, 23 September 2012

We were up and in Olive’s capable breakfast hands by nine o’clock. We were leaving Cork—we’d all loved it—but had a delightful day ahead of us yet.

Olive is a hoot. So personable, so generous, always smiling—and it’s clear she truly enjoys people.

I can’t tell you enough how much we all loved our stay at the Auburn House. It’s exactly what you look for in a B&B: comfy, quiet, reasonably priced. And Olive and her husband are just swell. I walked down to the car park to bring the car around and realized—go ahead, laugh—I didn’t have the car keys. So I huffed and puffed back up the hill and Olive took one look at me and sent Kieran off to do it.

Did I mention they’re good sports too? Margaret and I stayed in this room.

Everything was ready and waiting at the curb when he got there with the car. (Margaret’s photo.)

By this time I thought I was familiar enough with Cork—and the map of Cork—that I could get us to the highway but … I was not. We got a little lost. (It seemed so simple!) So finally we relied on GPS Emily, who did get us out of town. We were going to take a leisurely drive along the N71, a repeat of the route Gerry and I had taken, also on a Sunday, back in 2003. As then, our destination was Kenmare, taking the much-less-direct scenic route; I remembered this as a leisurely day, with plenty of time to stop, take pictures, and so on. Go ahead and pull it up on Google Maps—you’ll see.

And we hit the road, first heading due south out of Cork, with gradual tweaks to the west … through Bandon (pop. 6,640) … Clonakilty (pop. 4,150) … Rosscarbery (pop. 936). We were headed toward Glandore, and the Drombeg stone circle; right around Rosscarbery we left the N71 for the R597, thinking we were on our way.

But we weren’t, actually. I have searched and searched and searched Google Maps, trying to figure out where we ended up—but no joy. (I’m not kidding when I say I spent at least an hour looking at Google street photos, “driving” up and down the coast trying to determine the location. Something has changed, I guess.)

We ended up here, at a little beach. There was an empty lot, we pulled into it, got out, and crossed the road to this.

There were a couple people there with their dogs, but otherwise it was just us. And the rocks.

Most of the beach was this: round-ish, flat-ish rocks. (Margaret’s photo.)

Gosh, it was lovely. Misty, quiet. There were houses scattered around, but there didn’t seem to be a town, per se. We spent quite a bit of time there, taking pictures and picking up rocks (the two I picked up are sitting on the bookcase in the living room).

A few houses scattered around … and this is their private beach. (Margaret’s photo.)

It was pretty scenic. Lots of photos being taken. 🙂

Did I mention the rocks?

This is the sort of thing I never get tired of.

I’m always fascinated by shapes and lines. This is the dune grass. Don’t forget you can click on these photos to enlarge them.

I was intrigued by the gulls, floating on the water in a small flock. Waves were coming in at a good little clip, and they’d ride one until it was about to crest, then flutter up into the air—and settle back down again once it was past. Over and over. I walked back to the car to get the long lens and took several shots.

The seagulls: float, fly, settle, float, fly, settle, float, fly, settle.

Finally I asked one of the dog-walkers if we were on the road to Glandore. Nope! But he gave us directions and off we went, taking pictures along the way.

It’s pretty country. That’s the sea in the distance on the left.

We backtracked and followed the signs and all was well. Gerry and I just happened on the stone circle back in 2003; it wasn’t a plan. So I was a bit shocked to read in Wikipedia that this site is “one of the most visited megalithic sites in Ireland.” It is a one-lane road that takes you to Drombeg, and on that sunny day in 2003, we drove the last two or three hundred yards or so on a cart track, with the fuchsias lining the lane brushing the car on both sides. Let me tell you, I am genuinely glad we didn’t meet someone coming the opposite direction from this most-visited site.

Which is why, apparently, they’ve installed a little car park, right where the road goes from one lane to cart track.

This is the little cart track. I don’t remember the stone wall, only walls of fuchsias. (Margaret’s photo.)

Fuchsias—they’re everywhere in Ireland. And they come in a rainbow of colors.

So we parked, and walked up the lane. It’s a nice little stroll, listening to the bees buzz in the fuchsia. As always, Jill and Alli were long out of sight up the lane, but then I looked around and I was alone. Margaret wasn’t with me. Margaret? I called. Margaret? I walked back. Margaret? Then there she was, coming around the curve looking very self-satisfied, with a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin—she’s been picking and eating wild blackberries. 🙂

And then there we were—step through a hedge, and there is a Bronze Age circle.

Drombeg stone circle. It’s right there. Here the two prominent stones in the foreground are the portal stones; on the right-hand side of the photo toward the back is the recumbent altar stone.

The recumbent stone, known as Druid’s Altar, can be glimpsed on the left, just to the right of the leaning stone. (Margaret’s photo.)

I kept trying to show you the altar stone, which I’d failed to get a good shot of. But here it is in all its glory! (Jill’s photo.)

I kept trying to show you the altar stone, which I’d failed to get a good shot of. But here it is in all its glory! (Jill’s photo.)

This is the stone in the center of the circle. Some little offerings had been recently left.

Just west of the circle are the remains of two prehistoric huts and their cooking pit, called a fulacht fiadh. This is how the ancients cooked: the pit was filled with water, perhaps diverted from a stream. A fire was built next to the pit; stones were heated in the fire, then dropped into the water, which then came to a boil—and cooked the meat placed in the water.

The cooking pit. (Margaret’s photo.)

When cooking was finished, the water was allowed to run out of the pit.

What’s left of the two huts, which were conjoined.

Back in the car, we continued on the R597 to rejoin the N71. This would take us through the village of Glandore. We stopped along the way, of course, to take photos! Lots of photos!

On the R597 headed toward Glandore, which is arranged along the right side of this bay, mostly out of view here. But look for the grey church (steeple on the left), down near the water. (Margaret’s photo.)

Looking the other way, this is the mouth of Glandore Harbour. (Margaret’s photo.)

Now we’re in Glandore. See the mouth of the harbor? Those two islands are called Adam and Eve (although I don’t know which is which). Instructions given to sailors are “Avoid Adam and hug Eve”! (Margaret’s photo.)

Same spot, looking the other direction. The church I mentioned earlier is just out of frame on the far right.

As we came through Glandore, we realized Alli needed her morning coffee and it was noon and we were all ready for something to eat. And there was a pub … so we stopped. I don’t mind saying we would have a very memorable lunch here. 🙂

I’ve always been in Ireland during the off-season, so I only hear about things like the regatta held here every August. Glandore Harbour is large, long and narrow—perfect for such sailing events. The village itself has a population of less than a thousand, but several nice restaurants and pubs (although there are no shops).

This is the main street in Glandore. I don’t even like to think about what this tiny street is like in the summer months!

It’s a pub. (Margaret’s photo.)

The Glandore Inn looked nice and we went inside. And even though you’ll have noticed how overcast it was, even though there was a considerable amount of mist in the air, we decided to sit outside. Because all in all it was a very nice day—and there was that spectacular view of the bay.

Deciding what we’ll have for lunch, but it was hard with that view distracting me.

Here’s that church again, just a little way down the road from where we sat.

We had a really, really nice lunch. I chose parsnip and blue cheese soup (it was wonderful) and Margaret is still raving about the fish chowder she had. It even rained on us once, but such was the charm of the day that no one panicked, no one rose to take cover. This was Ireland, after all; we just carried on. And the rain passed after a few minutes. We lingered and enjoyed the moment. There was a little dog that belonged to the owners of the B&B down the road … but who was apparently a regular at the pub, as she had her own bowl just outside the door—although her preference was for treats from the patrons (Jill slipped her a few goodies).

Parsnip and blue cheese soup. It was MAH-velous.

But Kenmare was waiting, so we followed the road back up to Leap (locals pronounce it Lep; the population is fewer than one thousand) then turned west onto the N71. Through Skibbereen (pop. 2,000) … and then we spent a little time trying to find the Baltimore Beacon, although we eventually had to turn back without success. Those tiny roads can get confusing, and the afternoon was wearing on, and we still had a way to go to get to Kenmare. And that way isn’t always easy driving.

So … onward, N71. Turned sharply north at Ballydehob (pop. 810) and headed toward Bantry (pop. 3,309), which has a spectacular bay. The road drives right alongside the water, and has many places to pull over to admire the natural beauty.

An early look at Bantry Bay.

Just before you get into Bantry town, there is a bayside cemetery that really grabs your attention. Gerry and I had stopped here in 2003—before they turned it into a tourist attraction. Bantry Bay is quite large, and has been the site of more than one maritime disaster—now memorialized in a small park just next to the cemetery (which seems to house local residents, not disaster victims). This turned out to be a theme on this trip: things have been “improved” … but I mostly don’t care much for the improvements.

It’s quite crowded, this cemetery just outside Bantry.

But then … this. I know it’s intended to be all beautiful and hopeful (see next photo) but honestly, it spooked me.

In remembrance of those who lost their lives in Bantry Bay.

Perhaps you see it as the spirit of love? Looks too much like drowning people to me. (I should add that drowning is a personal freak-out fear of mine.)

And then back in the car! We must keep going! Except, of course, when nature calls in Glengarriff (population 800). We popped into a gas station to use the facilities. Next door, a massive hotel. Across the street, still, the bay.

This is the Glengarriff Eccles Hotel.

Walked across the street to look at the beautiful bay. See those mountains? We’re about to drive through them.

As we drove through the shopping district in Glengarriff, some shops piqued our interest, so we stopped again. The most interesting thing (although one shop had some nice sweaters, with a good selection and prices—and if you’re in Ireland, a sweater is a good souvenir to buy) turned out to be the garda (police) station!

It’s pink! And look at those magnificent hydrangeas! They were were fading, nearing the end of their season, but still lovely, I thought. (Margaret’s photo.)

When Gerry and I were making our way to Kenmare nine years ago, he warned me that those last twenty miles into the town are … exciting (even with the pause!), and I did try to warn my traveling companions how wildly beautiful it is, the pass through the Caha Mountains … in the late afternoon … in the rain … through the tunnels. I have tons of photos of this stretch of the road from that trip. I have no photos from this trip, as the mountain road was a little too exciting for some members of the party. So we just didn’t stop. 🙂 However, I want you to see this—so here’s a little video that I am thrilled to have located. And it was made on a pretty, sunny day.

At last we arrived in Kenmare (pop. 2,175). In the pouring rain (although it did stop, finally). Both times I’ve been here it’s been late in the day without any time left on the schedule to explore … and what was on the schedule today was dinner at Tom Crean’s, a locally celebrated restaurant. (We also lodged here for the night; there are a few rooms upstairs, though it is not a B&B, as no breakfast is offered.) It’s named for Kerryman Tom Crean, who enlisted in the Royal Navy at the age of fifteen and in 1901 volunteered to join Robert Scott’s Antarctic expedition. He participated in four major British expeditions to Antarctica, including the one led by Ernest Shackleton.

A view of Tom Crean’s restaurant and accommodations, on the corner. Parking must be found on the street. You check in inside, but then must come back outside and walk around the corner to go up to the rooms. Interesting. Our room was on the corner. (Margaret’s photo.)

View (to the left) from our window—yes! And Margaret actually got to visit. (Margaret’s photo.)

View straight out of our window. We had breakfast here the next morning. (Margaret’s photo.)

Beautiful downtown Kenmare! I love how wide the street is, actually. (Margaret’s photo.)

As noted, Tom Crean’s has quite a word of mouth reputation for fine dining, and we were looking forward to it—even more so because Gerry knows the owner/chef. He had called and made these reservations especially for us. And as it turns out, this may have set the bar for our expectations too high.

I’m sure the restaurant is very nice. Lots of folks have left glowing reviews on TripAdvisor and such. But it wasn’t good for us. Jill and Alli declined to eat there, and they may have been right to do so. Again, the service was very, very slow. We’d had slow service at the Shelbourne for tea, it was slowish at the Pearl Brasserie in Dublin, it was very slow at Paradiso Café, the vegetarian restaurant in Cork. And it was extremely slow at Tom Crean’s.

Again, I think this is must be an Irish thing. I was checking the review of Tom Crean’s and found this, from the owner/chef: “As regards the bill, I have warned the staff to allow guests to relax and enjoy their evening and not present the bill until requested.” So clearly this is a cultural difference from the States; we are brought a bill, usually with a cheerful “don’t rush!” and we sit there until we are ready to get up. No one feels pressure just because the bill is lying there, nor do we feel pressured if the bill’s been paid and we’re still sitting there chatting. So that’s an illumination, for sure, about how to dine out in Ireland.

But get this: we were seated at 6:30, and the restaurant wasn’t busy, just a couple people in the dining room. It had been a long day, and we were ready to eat. Bread was brought, which we devoured, but the water didn’t come with it; we weren’t brought water until after 7:00. The starters arrived at 7:30. (Mine was French onion soup, but thickened, and not all that special; I’ve had better out of a can, honestly.) Again, the dining room was quiet; this was Sunday evening. The menu is predominantly fish and seafood, which is not good for me; I ordered the one chicken item on the menu, and it was unmemorable. Although I did eat it, because it didn’t arrive until after 8:00. That’s ninety minutes before the entrée arrived. And yes, we waited and waited and waited for the check; it was 9:30 before we were released from this award-winning (and expensive!) restaurant.

I should note that not all the service was this slow: the man at the next table came in long after us and was served before us. He was eating his dessert by the time our entrees arrived. So not only did we not get any sort of acknowledgment (“Oh, you’re the Yanks Gerry called us about!”), we actually got worse service than others in the room. I really hate to give a bad review, especially to a place I’d really anticipated with excitement. I hate to say it, also, because I checked the reviews online as I wrote this, and while most are enthusiastic, a few folks had the same sort of experience we had—slow service, so-so food, and high prices—and in every case, the owner responded very defensively (at least to these American eyes).

I won’t recommend this as a place to stay either. There’s no parking; you park on the street (good luck with that) and then roll your luggage up the hill. And you enter the accommodations from outside the restaurant. The wi-fi didn’t work; I called and asked what I was doing wrong but got no sympathy other than “It’s slow for us too.” Our room was freezing, with three single beds squished into it; the light in the hall was on all night; the rooms had ridiculous antique keys that were difficult to use every time. There was also a sharp point (the end of a nail, hammered up from the bottom) sticking up on the tabletop; I became aware of it pretty quickly but a person could hurt herself on that. The tiny cheap duvet cover barely covered the top of the bed; I had to tuck myself in like a sleeping bag to stay covered. I don’t think they’re particularly interested in the lodging part of the business, frankly. Which is fine; I don’t think I’ll ever go there again. Good night!

Today’s Image

The man seated at the table next to us in Tom Crean’s seemed to get a meal from a different chef in a different kitchen. He relished every bite. Then he chose the cheese tray from the dessert menu—and I truly lusted after it. There were four different cheeses, with fruit, artfully arranged. I could have easily made a meal from it! Yum!

Unexpected Beauty … Everywhere

Today we’d see how the geography of a country no larger than the state of Indiana can change dramatically from old, rolling mountains to stark cliffs towering over jewel-blue seas to pastureland, wetlands, bogs … The terrain constantly reinvents itself, and it was this ever-changing scenery that took my breath away, every day.

Monday, September 15
Kinsale, Co. Cork – Kenmare, Co. Kerry

Our hosts at the Dooneen House B&B had been in Dublin for the hurling match, but we’d heard them return home the previous evening near 11pm … and they were up bright and early to cook us breakfast. Gerry is a sports fanatic, and he smoothed the way wherever we went with intelligent sports “small talk,” as he did that morning. Cork having lost (to Kilkenny), the homeowners were, in their words, shattered.

This was to be an easy day: our final destination, Kenmare, was less than 100 miles away, but we were going to take the scenic route, meandering along the Irish southern coast. We went from Kinsale to Inishannon to Bandon to Timoleague to Clonakilty to Rosscarbery to Leap, where we stopped and bought a paper, the Irish Examiner. We were going to stop in Glandore (“glanDOOR”), or near Glandore, to see the Drombeg stone circle.

I am fascinated by antiquities, always have been, and Ireland is an ancient land. We arrived without a single wrong turn—I was learning to spot the signposts and Gerry had become by this time an excellent navigator—and parked, and hiked in from the road.

We drove up this lane, the fuchsias brushing the car on both sides, the bees a-buzzing. To Drombeg, 2003.

We drove up this lane, the fuchsias brushing the car on both sides, the bees a-buzzing. To Drombeg, 2003.

Wild fuchsias, Co. Cork, 2003.

Wild fuchsias, Co. Cork, 2003.

The stone circle is a bit out of the way, and we had it, that morning, almost entirely to ourselves. Dating back to 150 BC, this circle of standing stones is thirty feet in diameter; at the winter solstice, the rays of the setting sun fall on the flat altar stone that faces the entrance to the circle.

Drombeg ston circle on a pretty day in 2003.

Drombeg ston circle on a pretty day in 2003.

Come closer; we won’t bite! Drombeg, 2003.

Come closer; we won’t bite! Drombeg, 2003.

The site also encompasses a well and water trough that was used to cook meat (by dropping hot rocks into the water!), and the remains of two stone huts, all from the Bronze Age. Wow.

The cooking area, water trough at center, which was heated to boil meat.

The cooking area, water trough at center, which was heated to boil meat.

Foreground left, remains of a hut; the cooking pit is on the right. The stone circle can be seen in the background.

Foreground left, remains of a hut; the cooking pit is on the right. The stone circle can be seen in the background.

As was always the case, the scenery was majestic, and mind-blowing. We were just on what I’d call back-roads, puttering along, the windows open, listening to talk radio (a conversation with the biographer of Iris Murdoch, a British author whose novels I’ve actually read, in addition to her husband’s lovely biography), and a general feeling of well-being.

Along Glandore Harbour, 2003.

Along Glandore Harbour, 2003.

We’d pull over in turn-outs and lay-bys to take photos; a turn-out is a wide spot on a road with no shoulder, large enough for one or two cars, while a lay-by is an actual parking lot, maybe five to ten cars, where there is a particularly scenic spot. (This saves people from doing what they would do otherwise, which is pull off onto the hard shoulder, if there is one, or—why not live a little?—pull as much onto the shoulder as is possible, leaving the car half in the road. Other drivers simply drive around it, as if that’s perfectly normal and natural. At first this horrified me, but then I began to do it myself.)

Like here. How could I not? I leaped out of the car to take this shot, and it’s probably my favorite.

Like here. How could I not? I leaped out of the car to take this shot, and it’s probably my favorite.

From the stone circle we drove to Skibbereen, where we stopped, shopped, and walked around, just to stretch our legs. On our way out of town, we happened upon a “famine memorial,” so we pulled over. Skibbereen was particularly hard hit by the repeated failure of the potato crop in the 1840s: over 10,000 people died locally. In all Ireland lost a million of its citizens to starvation and disease caused by malnutrition; another one million immigrated to avoid death. This two million souls was half the population of the island at the time, and the Republic has never fully recovered.

Famine memorial, Skibbereen, 2003.

Famine memorial, Skibbereen, 2003.

Back in the car, the scenery began to change, to a rougher, rocky, almost harsh landscape. We were very near the sea, on the Mizen Peninsula, and we’d catch glimpses of it as the road swung back and forth between coast and hill, through Ballydehob, Schull (pronounced “Skull”), and Toormore. I saw a lay-by there and pulled over to take photos of the sea below.

The bay at Toormore, Ireland, 2003.

The bay at Toormore, Ireland, 2003.

As we followed the footpath to get closer, we stumbled on a stone altar grave.

Toormore altar grave, 2003.

Toormore altar grave, 2003.

At the site of Toormore altar grave. The mountain you see in the far distance, center, is Mizen Peak.

At the site of Toormore altar grave. The mountain you see in the far distance, center, is Mizen Peak.

Dating from 3000 to 2000BC, the entrance of this tomb directly lines up with Mizen Peak in the far distance (although the little sign posted at the site doesn’t say what the significance of this might be). The altar stone is about waist-high; again, I don’t know what rituals were performed here by the ancients, but they have unearthed burned human bones, pottery and other artifacts on this spot.

Toormore altar grave, also called a wedge tomb. It’s lovely, don’t you think?

Toormore altar grave, also called a wedge tomb. It’s lovely, don’t you think?

The reason it is called an altar tomb is that in the seventeenth century, when Oliver Cromwell turned Catholics out of their churches and forbade them by law to practice their religion (more on this later), the people and priests sought out these ancient, remote holy places, and celebrated mass in the outdoors, using the old graves as altars, since they were just the right height. It was pretty exciting to come upon this so unexpectedly; I was so new to Ireland that I hadn’t yet figured out that these ancient places are everywhere.

Bantry Bay, from a distance.

Bantry Bay, from a distance.

Cemetery by Bantry Bay, 2003. “No ball playing.”

Cemetery by Bantry Bay, 2003. “No ball playing.”

Bantry Bay, 2003.

Bantry Bay, 2003.

We had lunch in Bantry, pub grub served outside on a wooden deck, beside a swiftly flowing creek. We lingered over tea, reading the newspaper … I wish I could adequately describe the feeling of the wind in my hair, the smell of the sea air, the feel of the sun.

As we left Bantry, the country got wilder and wilder.

As we left Bantry, the country got wilder and wilder.

The last twenty miles into Kenmare, as we crossed into County Kerry, were, as Gerry had warned me, “exciting”—extremely narrow (what’s the point, I ask myself, of painting a line down the middle of a road that’s only ten feet wide?) and winding, climbing into rocky hills.

And wilder. We were entering the Caha Mountains.

And wilder. We were entering the Caha Mountains.

There were sheep everywhere. I barely got out of second gear, which was good, actually, because when I say there were sheep everywhere, I mean they were not behind the fences lining the road. Well, ok, some of them were on the pasture side of the fence. And some of them were on the road side of the fence. Some of them were <ahem> in the road. Somehow sheep and drivers manage to avoid mishap.

In the Caha Mountains, approaching Kenmare. I also love this photo.

In the Caha Mountains, approaching Kenmare. I also love this photo.

We arrived in Kenmare (pronounce this “kenMARE”) in midafternoon, and easily found the Brandylochs B&B, which was within walking distance of the town center (this had been advertised for the Kinsale B&B, but was, shall we say, a slight exaggeration). The business was being seen to, that afternoon, by the homeowners’ nineteen-year-old son, while his parents were off on an anniversary trip. This was his last act of filial duty for the season, as he was about to leave for college in Dublin, where he was planning to study law (which he pronounced “lore”) … and I know all this because … well, I do love teen-aged boys, knowing at least one of that species rather well, and consider it my sworn duty to help civilize the ones I meet by engaging them in conversation, whether they want to be thus engaged or not. 🙂

Had dinner that night in Foley’s Bar/Restaurant in town. Next up, the spectacular lakes of County Kerry, so stay tuned!

UPDATE: Brandylochs is no longer a B&B, it seems, but the home can be rented by the week.