The Journal of a Journey,
UK and Ireland 1999
Day 8Thursday, October 7 - The Ring of Kerry
Mrs. Carroll called a bus tour company to pick us up for the Ring of Kerry tour out of Killarney. The "Ring of Kerry" is a route around the scenic Iveragh Peninsula on the south coast of Ireland. A van arrived shortly after we finished breakfast in the Carroll's lovely dining room to take us to meet the tour bus. It was a less-than-fullsize bus, but quite comfortable and uncrowdedTom and I each got a window seat and a row to ourselves for the 110-mile trip.
The driver was optimistic that visibility would be good across the many bays on the tour, but as we drove on, the clouds lowered and it turned out to be our rainiest day yet. How sad that the one day dedicated to scenery was least accommodating to its enjoyment.
There were several compensations, the first being the Kerry Bog Village Museum, a collection of thatch-roofed cottages in a semicircle on both sides of a sod street. We got to see how peat is cut and, inside the cottages, how well it heats and serves as fuel for cooking and other uses. Implements of pet use and farming were on display. I'd heard and read about such exhibits on my previous trip, and was glad to get this closer exposure to peat, which is called turf in Ireland. There was also a farm on the property with a rare breed of horses, small like Shetland Ponies, but of a different breeding. They were friendly and fun to pat. There was an additional charge of £2.50 for this optional feature of the tour.
Another compensation was an exhibition of sheepdog training on a sheep ranch. We had to stand in the cold damp wind with only a three-sided tin shed for protection from the blustery weather, but it was worth if to see the dog handler put his border collies through their paces. It was amazing how each dog responded to only its own commands and how they were able to move the sheep in any direction, separate out any part of the flock, and "present" sheep on command, all with "body language" without ever touching any of the sheep. Such dogs sell for about £500 as puppies, several thousand pounds as trained young adults. It takes several years to thoroughly train them; they respond to both voice commands and commands made using a whistle that has a different tone for each dog. The sheep ranch was also home to several dozen different breeds of sheep, some bred for lean meat, others for particular kinds of wool. I was surprised, especially in light of how many millions of sheep there seem to be in the UK and Ireland, to learn that sheep farms are primarily a meat rather than wool business.
The farmer/dog trainer said he has traveled to sheep raising countries around the world, giving demonstrations and in competitions. This optional feature also cost extra, perhaps as much as £4 per person.
Although we could tell through the fog and mists how beautiful the scenery must be on much of the tour, photographically it was a washout. As a third compensation that most tours on his busses don't get, as we neared the end of the ring our driver pulled into the Killarney National Park and let us out to visit Torc Falls, a short walk back a trail. Though not spectacular, they were worth seeing and hearing as an ending to our drive around the ring.
That evening we took a taxi both into and back out of town for dinner, eating at a relatively inexpensive "blue collar" restaurant-bar (I believe it was "Stella's") just a few doors from the one we'd visited the night before. The meals were in the £7 range. I wanted to stay in town and take video of the streets at night, taking a taxi back about 11 p.m. on my own, but Tom opposed taking a taxi back at this sole expense, so once again I ended up going to bed earlier than my normal hour and sleeping with some difficulty. Although this B&B was excellent in every way but location, a problem I had almost everywhere was that they use the European-style "comforters" rather than blankets. I was always too hot with one of these over me, but too cold with just a sheet or no covering. I do wish they'd bring back good old blankets.
Next station: Killarney to Rosslare
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