Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Traveling around Ireland

Before I describe my travels around Ireland I would like to do an update on my last post to give some information on the Temple Bar. The Temple Bar is not only a bar but it is also and the name of an area in Dublin where numerous bars and restaurants are located and is a very lively area full of music and fun seekers in the evening. The name Temple dates back to the 1600's when the bar got its name from Sir William Temple who purchased land in this area. Although he was Sir William Temple he was often linked with sleaze, corruption and greedy land speculation damaging standards of morality and politics in Ireland.

Traveled from Cork to Killarney to catch a 6 hour tour of the Ring of Kerry (costing $18 - who says Ireland is expensive). I could drive the ring of Kerry but decided to enjoy the views and take advantage of someone else driving and beside gas is about $2 a liter here so it would probably cost me more than $18 to drive. Almost immediately the landscape changes when leaving County Cork and entering County Kerry (where Killarney is located). Gone are the lush green rolling hills for more rugged mountains (well mountains by Ireland standards) and a lot less greenery.

The Ring of Kerry is a tourist trail in County Kerry, south-western Ireland. The route covers the 179 km circular road, starting from Killarney, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. First stop was overlooking Killarney to get some fabulous photos above.

Kerry Bog Village - In Ireland two factors contribute to the existence of peat lands (soil made up of the partially rotted remains of dead plants which have accumulated on top of each other in waterlogged places for thousands of years)- high rainfall and poor drainage conditions. Bogs are very acidic. It is this acidity that helps preserve the excellent condition of 'bog bodies' (human bodies discovered in bogs, usually victims.of ritual sacrifice from long ago). Peat resources can be used for fuel as well as insulation- originally 17 percent of Ireland was covered with bogs! I avoided seeing any bog bodies but I did tour through the village laid out as it would have looked in the 1800's.

Between 1845 – 1852 famine devastated Ireland. The great famine was in fact one of the worst famines in modern history. A large portion of the population died or emigrated. Such was the drastic effect of the famine that many historians refer to Ireland as pre-famine or post-famine. Potato blight meant the potato crop failed and as a result left many Irish farmers and households without food. However, the potato failure alone did not cause the famine. It was a host of political, social and economic factors which all contributed.

An astonishing amount of food, animals and materials were exported by force from the country, at a time when it was needed most by the natives. The great famine was undoubtedly the darkest time in Irish history. Starvation, disease, emigration and mass graves were all prevalent during these awful years.

What village might have looked like . . .

No barns - animals were kept in the house

Note the small windows and doors - people were taxed on the number and size of windows and doors.

Single person home most likely a local laborer
Family home
Pile of peat

A real bog pony - were close to extinction in the late 1980's - today the breed is back to healthy numbers. These ponies were used for transport and farm work such as bringing home turf from the bog, seaweed from the beach and bringing milk to the creamery. They were useful as people carries too and because they were smaller than horses they eat less and take up little space. I think Hannah would like one of these in her San Francisco back yard!
Naturally there was a pub on the site of the village and their speciality is Irish coffees. Ok, it is only 11am but I needed to do a taste test! Yummy!

The following are pictures of the landscape we got to see while travelling the Ring of Kerry.

Yes the sky is really this blue - we are so lucky as often there is mist in this area.

The colors are amazing from the blue sky to lush green hills to the spectacular green and blue water. The last time I saw water this color was in the Caribbean.

Charlie Chaplin had a home in a little town on the Ring of Kerry - his family still has a home in this area

Simply stunning views - like no where else that I have visited

Taken through bus window while moving!
Beautiful beach I did not expect to see in Ireland

Honestly I did take these pictures
The water is actually this color

Another section of the Ring and such a change in the landscape
Town where we had lunch
Again a different area of the Ring

You must watch for sheep when driving. Although there are lots of rock walls to attempt to keep them on their owner's property they are often found walking down the middle of the highway - I almost hit one! Farmers dyes a color spot on the back of each sheep to identify which ones belong to him as these little guys tend to visit each other.
Old abandoned church.

Seems there are deer issues here too!

My B&B in Killarney

Downtown Killarney - population 15,000

A few things I have noticed about Ireland:

1. The friendly people

2. Extremely clean - towns, villages, highways, yards - everyone takes pride in their home and community

3. It is not nearly as expensive as I was led to believe - no more expensive than Victoria and in some cases less - B&B above was $55 for the night - could not get that in Victoria!

4. Very easy to drive around Ireland - well signed, although Sally sat nav (GPS in NA) is helpful except for a few hiccups! Drivers are very polite. You look at the map and think it will not take long to get from a to b, however most highways are not 4 lane freeways but rather two lane (or less) roads that wind their way through numerous towns - which is great for those of us sightseeing. There is also endless road construction. I did see one interesting sign it had a gas pump with a circle around it and a cross through it, next to it was a bicycle with the slogan 'burn fat not gas' - great advertising.

5. You do see some stone houses but most have been abandoned - most homes are fairly new, modern and large which reflects the booming economy up to 2008. Now some of the new developments have not been completed and a number of businesses are for sale.

6. It is sad to see signs pointing to a Famine Graveyard - but a good reminder of how this country was affected.

After a night in Killarney I made my way to the Cliffs of Moher - the weather was more overcast and much cooler as I reached the coast. Walking from the parking lot to the cliffs was quite a challenge trying to fight the strong winds.

The Cliffs of Moher are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They rise 120 metres (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 metres (702 ft) just north of O'Brien's Tower, eight kilometres to the north. The cliffs receive almost one million visitors a year.

O'Brien's Tower is a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien to impress female visitors. From the cliffs and from atop the watchtower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south.









Leaving the Cliffs of Moher I traveled through the Burren area towards Galway and the on to Clifden. The rolling hills of Burren are composed of limestone pavements with criss-crossing cracks known as "grikes", leaving isolated rocks called "clints". The region supports arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants side-by-side, due to the unusual environment. The limestones, which date from the Visean stage of the Lower Carboniferous, formed as sediments in a tropical sea approximately 350 million years ago. The strata contain fossil corals, crinoids, sea urchins and ammonites.

The entire area is picturesque and was exactly how I imagined this part of Ireland to be. The lovely little towns, fields divided by endless rock walls with limestone hills in the background.

Cannot figure out how they build these rock walls with no cement between the rocks

One of the roads I traveled on coming out of the hills is called the corkscrew - incredible scenery but I opted to keep my hands on the steering wheel. This charming landscape is truly unique to Ireland. Hope you enjoy!

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