After Northern Ireland tour, we went to Republic of Ireland from Belfast to do Ring of Kerry tours. When my friend told me, the tour costs only 20 GBP, I did not believe her in the first place. On the other hand, I thought service might not be good. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the tour is very good with nice coaches and good tour guide. I booked via trip adviser and needed to pay extra 2 GBP (22GBP ) . It is still very worthwhile. The same tour can be done from different towns and the price is more expensive if you start Ring of Kerry tour from Belfast.
First of all, we took the bus from Belfast to Dublin . It was around 12 GBP per person, then we went to Killarney from Dublin by train which cost us 24 GBP per person. As you might have been already aware , the earlier you can book for the train, the cheaper the price will be. To make you understand, I will post the picture of the train route.
As you can see above photo, we can not directly go to Killarney from Dublin by train. We have to get off at a town called Mallow and have to change another train to Killarney.
Kilarney is a charming expensive tourist destination with lots of horse wheel carts etc. All hotels are run by local and there is no hotel chain . I notice a lot of nice restaurants there . I assume most hotels are originally houses, transformed into inns by owners . As a result, you feel like you are staying at a local Irish house. We booked a motel named Kilarney Inn. It cost us 100GBP per night without breakfast. If you browse booking.com or agoda, you will find out the price can go up to 500 GBP per night for some hotels. The staff are nice and welcoming at Killarney Inn and they cater delicious breakfast too . We need to walk around 15 minutes from town centre to Kilarney Inn.
The next day we went to the Killarney town center to catch a tour bus for Ring of Kerry tour . The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry. Its 179km-long, circular route takes in rugged coastal landscapes and rural seaside villages
When our tour started , our tour guide stated that Johny Cash wrote the song “forty shades of green” based on Irish scenery. We have seen lots of green mountains and trees along the way.
In the beginning, we passed through River Laune and a beautiful town called Killorglin .
I will write our stops with headings because those places are ones I could really see and walk around.
1) Kerry Bog village
It is a Irish traditional village composed of thatched houses. The Kerry Bog Village is set at the foot of the Mcgillycuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range . You can see almost extinct Kerry pony and Irish hounds ( the world’s largest dogs ). The hounds were once used to hunt wild boar, wolves and Elk. It was also regarded as royal dogs and general population was not allowed to own them. They can be as tall as 90 cm and as heavy as 70 kg. Nowadays, not many people can rare Irish Hounds as they are difficult to maintain and very expensive. At Bog village, they looked unwell and tired. They were kept in the cage in the sunny area.
There was also history about potato famine. When potato blight ( fungus ) invaded Irish farms in 1845 to 1849 , a lot of potato and tomatoes were damaged leading to death of many people because of starvation . As Ireland main food is potato, a lot of people suffered financially and physically. At that time, typical Irish family had many household members and children living in such small dwellings .
Infant/ maternal mortality rates were disturbingly high in Ireland during 18th/19th century and average lifespan of people living in these times was on average 45 years.
Among other things, I also learnt that the reason the windows are so small in certain cottage was due to tax purposes. Under the laws of the land in Ireland, people paid more for having larger windows, as it was seen as a luxury to have more light. It is believed that such a tax was the reason for the half doors, as light was allowed in the top half of the door when needed and this was not taxed. It was this tax that started the famous phrase ” daylight robbery”. ( information from pamphlet distributed at Bog village )
Cottages did not have toilets like we have today. Instead they had to make use of a p’o ( a special pot usually placed under the bed ).
Farmers had to loan money with interest from wealthy people to do plantation . When they could not pay back the loan, the loan sharks could confiscate the farm and houses. I also found out people were forced to leave their house by loan sharks by legal orders as well as mechanical restraining . Sometimes people died inside their house as the authority threw fire into the chimney when the house owner resisted to leave.
There is a Red Fox inn at Bog village and they sell delicious Baileys coffee. I was eager to try baileys coffee and I got severe gastritis after that. ( It tastes so good and you should try if you have strong stomach ). By the way, Bog village entrance fee is 6 Euros per person for adult and 4.5 Euros for a child.
2) Iveragh Pennisula /? Dingle Bay
I hope I am writing this correctly. The bus stopped at the scenic location around Iveragh Pennisula called Dingle Bay.
The place is breathtaking. I could recall the area had traditional celtic musician playing pipes and Irish folks selling handcraft items.
I took above photo from the bus and believe that that is Kells Viaduct who was last used in 1960. The trains used to come from Dublin to Caherslveen by Dingle Bay via Kells Viaduct .
3) Brendan Ferris Sheepherding Demonstration
The highlight of Ring of Kerry tour is sheep dog demonstration. It is such a marvelous show and only cost us 5 Euros per person.
Kells Sheep Center is run by Sheepdog trainer Brendan Ferris. It is located on the Ring of Kerry on the N70, halfway between Cahersiveen and Glenbeigh. Brendan trains Collies around 20 minutes per day to become excel in sheep herding . Training period takes more than 1 year and trained dogs can be as expensive as a car. Our tour guide said we can go back home with the conviction that if dogs don’t listen to us, they are just merely lazy or pretending to be naive.
We went in the summer, and it was very sunny. I was sweating in the crowd. I recommend to bring umbrella if you go there in the summer.
The bus passed throught the town called Cahersiveen which has population around 1000. There is a catholic church in Cahersiveen named after a lay person , Daniel O’ Connell ( very unusual in Ireland as most churches are named after saints ) . Daniel was referred as the liberator who fought for equal rights and religious tolerance of Irealnd in early half of 19th century. He was born from wealth Catholic family and decided to gain the equal rights for Catholic people in Irish parliament which was denied many years. The bus did not stop in Cahersiveen but I could manage to take some photos from the bus.
Another famous person in the town is Hugh O’Flaherty, a catholic priest who saved many lives of Jews and Prisoners of the World War II.
Our tour guide explained that the Catholic priests have involved in politics of Ireland in a positive way.
4) Waterville village
Our bus passed through the Waterville village. It became popular because of American comedian Charlie Chaplin who regularly visited the village and finally bought a holiday house there. There is a statue of Charlie in the center of the town in his memory.
5) Com an Chiste
Our Bus stopped at Com an Chiste around 30- 40 minutes. So we had a time to take photos .
It is a place which is 700 ft above sea level , and regarded as the best place on the planet to view stary skies at night. On a clear, moonless night, you can see over 4000 stars with the naked eye.
From there, you can see Scariff island, where Fr Francis O’ Sullivan , a scholar rebel, priest and wanted man, was caught and beheaded by British troops in 1653.
Another popular destination is Skellig island where star wars movie “The Force awakens ” was filmed. It is UNESCO heritage site because of 6th century monastic buildings. There are day tours depending on weather , but guests are not allowed to stay there and there is no facility such as toilet , water and food supply in Skellig island. Only 180 visitors are allowed to visit everyday and there is no safety measures . The boat trip last 45 minutes and tourists are allowed to stay 2 hours at the island. The steps are steep without rails and difficult to climb. Even when the sea is calm at mainland, the water near Skellig island is turbulent. Our tour does not include visiting there.
6) Scariff Inn
The bus stopped at Scariff Inn, which is well known for Irelands best known view with the meal. The sea food is delicious and as I expected, overpriced. After the meal, we had a few minutes to enjoy the scene outside the restaurant.
Along the way, we passed through a stretch of beach which was spectacular. I just googled and found out it was called Derrynane beach . I am sad that I did not have a chance to walk along that beach as the bus did not stop there. I really recommend making it as a stop.
7) Sneem village
Among all sites, Sneem village is my favourite. I had a very nice vanilla ice cream there. While other people were looking at wool shops, I ventured towards the church and found out little pyramids around the church .
The project of building pyramids was begun in 1988, financed by the Arts Council of Ireland as a result of Sneem winning the National Tidy Towns award the previous year. Using stone and coloured glass, Irish artist James Scanlon and his team have created a magical effect, marrying the natural to the human world.
Actually, the pyramids were created like the way fairies went. I walked around pyramids, sat beside river and listened to the sound of the river, scattered with the calling of birds. It was amazing.
8) Ladies view
Our last point is Ladies view at Killarney National park. It is a scenic point and the most photographed place in Ireland according to Irish Times. It was named according to the time, ladies in line waited for Queen Victoria arrival. To arrive Ladies View, we passed through Gap of Dunloe.
Our guide said the oak woods in Killarney National Park is infested with invasive plant called rhododendron ponticum which destroy diversity of the woodland by rapidly proliferation and replacing other plant species.
Ring of Kerry tour lasted 6 hours and the bus driver recommended us to go and watch celtic dancing show called celticstep at the Killarney race course which is 10-15 minutes drive from town center.
It was an amazing show with a lot of talented dancers and artists who got awards internationally. The way they stepped on their toes and heels made me wonder whether they would develop osteorarthritis at the young age. The sheer pressure on the feet for years might cause wear and tear on the joints. They all look young and fit and seemed enjoying dancing. A lady sang beautifully and all of them are very good looking.
The only annoying thing was a few girls who were sitting behind us carried away with the show and kept on kicking our chairs .
Initially, the tourguide offered us to go there with free of charge transport. The buses came and picked up tourists after the show. Unfortunately, our driver did not turn up and we needed to beg another bus to take us. Instead of dropping us at our hotel, the bus driver only stopped in front of the pub, ( may be intentionally so that a group of tourists would end up drinking over night ). A lot of tourists on the bus protested and became grumpy, but all of us had no choice, but had to got off the bus.
Personally , this tour is just a small part of Ring of Kelly and I am thinking of returning with my partner to drive on our own. If you want to know ” off the beaten track” tour, please read following blog. The writer sounds like he knows Kerry very well. 🙂
Thank you for reading.