- Gap of Dunloe
- Ring of Kerry
- Moll’s Gap
- Ross Castle tour
- Muckross House
- Muckross Abbey
- Torc Waterfall
- Ross Castle closed; but pictures taken in the rain with only ducks as fellow visitors
Your plans can change just like *that* and luckily, my little family is always prepared for things to go differently than planned. After a sweet night in Killarney window shopping and watching the city put up Christmas decorations, and a visit to St. Mary’s Cathedral where we caught the end of mass and lit prayer candle, thick local butter on Irish brown bread – THIS is why Ireland and I have a thing. I mean, breakfast cheese? Who does that? And yesterday, one of the selections on the breakfast menu was “assorted cheese selections” and “potato waffles.” Yes please, Ireland – you were meant for me.
After breakfast, we checked in with the Gap of Dunloe tours as it rained pretty hard over night and early in the morning. Although the sun was shining, the tours had just ended for the year – so on to plan B. The heavy rain started again so we decided against the long ring of Kerry drive and Moll’s Gap, and instead planned on hitting Ross Castle (supposedly open, according to the internet.)
We decided due to a little break in the weather we would go a little farther than the castle, travel a bit along the ring and hit Muckross House in the Killarney National Park, a super interesting home that had at one point belonged to the Guinness family. The big thing we had promised little with Gap of Dunloe was the pony carts and we knew Muckross had them. I’m so, so glad we did! Due to the time of year and few tourists, we bartered down (unknowingly and unaware) the price of the “jaunties” as they call them. We asked how much for a ride and it went like this:
“50 euro for the carriage, 40 minutes. 50 euro for all three of you. Okay, 40 euro. 40 euro, 45 minutes.”
Me: Okay. To the waterfall? How do we get to the abbey?
“40 for the waterfall, 40 for the abbey. Okay, I’ll do 30 for the abbey if you do the waterfall. Okay, the season and all, 25 for the abbey if you go to the waterfall. No, 20 is what I will do. 40 and 20 for the waterfall and the abbey, one and a half hours.”
I’m not good at bartering. This was baffling and if I had been allowed to say a word during the whole thing, I would have been good at 40 and 30. So we tipped well.
What a carriage ride it was! We rode past the middle Killarney lake bundled in woolen blankets, seeing a herd of red deer in a field and wind rhododendron to the Torc Waterfall, where we jumped from the covered carriage and hiked VERY QUICKLY to avoid being soaked. The waterfall was lovely. We then traversed the property over to the abandoned Abbey. If you know me, you know I’m a little obsessed with a specific time in history and the Abbey was immediately front and center when the carriage driver explained that the “hanging tree” we drove by was not called that by its shape (my assumption) but by
what Oliver Cromwell did to the local men. And it was Cromwell himself that destroyed the Abbey. He destroyed so many that I don’t know all of their names – it was over years and years. So it was fascinating to learn about the history. The Muckross Abbey was by far the highlight of our trip for me.
The ancient trees, the Celtic crosses in the graveyard, how all of it was being swallowed by the yew and cedar trees and rhododendrons. The light came through the barren winter trees and made the empty windows look like they had stained glass. It was breathtaking and something everyone should see.
We headed to Ross Castle next and the rain really began to hit. We ran as fast as we would up to the entrance of the castle, only to discover it was closed. We decided to check out the exterior of the castle and the towers before it was just too cold and too wet and we retreated back to the warm hotel room for laundry and warmth.
We decided the best choice was to give up and stay around the hotel. We picked up some sweets from a sweet shop and bought Christmas presents at the Aran Woolen store. We had a wonderful, rich Italian dinner (remember, always ask for advice. This place wasn’t even listed in travel advisor or yelp!) and everyone was asleep by 8. Well, not me – I’m still up typing this but won’t be up for too much longer. Another adventure tomorrow!