The farther apart we get

the longer we’ll stay together.

If you’ve never hiked with Rebecca, you might not understand this country song.

Anyway, today we had a short drive to Killarney. Believing the weather forecast, we opted for walking to Killarney National Park rather than driving.

We found our way to the park via a road that passed a Ross Golf Course. I thought maybe it was a Donald Ross design, but it was named after the castle.

The park is the first national park in Ireland. It is noted for three big lakes, mountains, blogs, old trees and red deer. We didn’t make it to the mountains, but we did slog through some boggyness.

Rare red deer

A long walk later we found our way back to town, where we found an Irish pub (imagine that).

I have a new favorite sport: Hurling. Hurling is like lacrosse rugby. The players wear helmets and no other armor. They run around with a large wooden spoon and crash into each other a lot.

The most amazing aspect is they will be running with the sliotar (a ball that looks like a baseball), then they’ll toss it up and smack it with their spoon at more than three hundred feet, as often as not through a football-looking goalpost for a point. There’s a soccer goal-looking target worth three points, but I did not see it scored (watching on the tele).

Bonus coverage:. Here’s a view of the Murphy Pub from the Dingle Docks.

Murphy Pub is the cream-colored one.

Advertisements

Conor Do Not Pass

Today’s drive from Miltown Malbay was relatively easy. For most of the coastal route we passed through cow country, with wider, flatter, uncrowded roads.

We even shaved a long chunk of roadway by taking the ferry across the Shannon estuary.

Funny thing about Ireland. Most of the inland is gently rolling hills at the extreme, but when you get to the west coast it’s quite mountainous. The last leg of our day’s journey took us through the Conor Pass.

Signs at the foot of the mountain warned trucks and campers to find another way across. For most of the adventure up to the 1500-foot-high pass, the highest in Ireland, the going was not too difficult. All the bicyclists were going down.

Irish waterfall approaching Conor Pass

Then we came to the last switchback, maybe a kilometer below the road’s summit, and it narrowed to a single lane. The last stretch was hewn from a sheer rock face. Think Going to the Sun Road, but one skinny lane.

We met one car coming down toward us, forcing us to back up a few dozen curvey feet until we could snuggle up against the rock side. Just before the top we encountered another, who fortunately backed out of our way.

It’s the second scariest road I’ve ever driven, bested only by a gravel road that switch-backed 1000 feet up the sheer face of a Utah mesa, with no guard rails. Even that Utah ascent accommodated two-way traffic.

When we arrived at Murphy’s Pub in Dingle, we were told they did not have our reservation. Fortunately they were concerned rather than dismissive, and eventually we ascertained that the reservation with no associated name was ours, and we checked in.

For the remainder of the afternoon we got back into the car and explored the Dingle Peninsula by way of the Slea Head Drive. Another narrow coast-hugging road bordered by mountains, Slea Head Drive offers beautiful scenery along with several ancient stone building sites.

Rebecca in the Beehive

I found the “Beehive” complex to be especially fascinating.

Sheep within ancient rock walls.

Tonight there is live music here at Murphy’s, so the odds are good we will finally hear some native sounds. Intriguingly, we’re told fiddle music is hard to come by around here.

Yes we did. One of three bands we saw, and we even found a fiddler.

Cliffs of Mohair

I was fully expecting the cliffs to be made of some kind of woolly substance, but alas, it’s Mhothair, or more commonly Moher, and they are stone, like the rest of Ireland.

Like every drive in this country, the trip from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher took twice as long as expected. It’s like the kilometers are miles. A lot of the road was lined by hedges, only it was really walls covered in vegetation. We only had to stop twice to avoid oncoming tour buses.

Along the way we came upon Dunguaire Castle.

Dunguaire Castle

We also drove through a range of mountains made of stones. It was as though they took the rocks left over from their wall-making and piled them up into a bunch of mountains.

About 15 minutes from the cliffs’ visitor center, Rebecca said, “We’ve really been lucky about the weather.” Now, Rebecca can worry away a hurricane. We assumed Alaska would be rainy while we were there, and we had the clearest weather in the state’s climatological history. So of course it started raining five minutes after her comment.

But after one shower it cleared up, and we had a beautiful day at the cliffs, where Rebecca eclipsed the hiking speed record. Th cliffs is over 700 feet hight at it’s tallest.

Near the hiking turnaround, an hour along the cliffs’ edge, there’s a place where they are quarrying the stone that comprise the cliffs from the back side, to within fifty feet of the cliffs face. I would suggest excavating stone in Ireland would be akin to taking coals to Newcastle, but it turns out there are more than one Newcastle.

They even build stone walls next to the cliffs.

We are staying the night at The Spanish Point House, just outside Miltown Malbay. This is one of the finest places we have ever stayed. We have vowed to see live music tonight.

Room with a view of the shore.

Turns out Spanish Point has its own cliff.

Bonus coverage:

Spanish Point Golf Club

Galway

One’s first impression on approaching Galway might be less than favorable. After quaint villages like Roundstone and Clifden, Galway looks like a big, confusing, traffic-snarled city.

Then again, when you think you’ve made three wrong turns yet when you look up you see a sign for Eyre Square, and there’s the hotel just down the block, it’s a good sign.

Once we got over the shock of dense population and a hotel room around the corner from a major renovation, we went for a walk in the city and discovered it is quite fun, if not exactly charming.

There is a chunk of the old city walls, dating from the 1600s (most of the wall was destroyed by a tsunami resulting from an eighteenth century earthquake in Lisbon – who knew?), and a huge cathedral.

Mostly there are a lot of young people and long stretches of streets closed to traffic, lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. You really can hear Irish spoken as you walk the crowded streets.

We wound up dining at Dail Tavern, where we sampled a Taste of Galway.

There’s alleged to be live music all over town, but we still haven’t lasted long enough to find out.

There’s a big vote in Ireland this week. Sentiments appear to be strong, judging from the signs strung about. There’s a definite urban-rural divide. You can probably find out more on this issue via NPR.

Walls make interesting roads

Kylemore Abbey

There are lots of rocks here in Ireland, and somebody over the years has stacked up a lot of them building walls.

There are a lot of sheep, too. (See Thurber, I’ve got sheep like other people have cats … I can’t tell if you’re asking for advice or just bragging.) In some cases the sheep seem to stay within walled confines, in others they simply wander the roads.

When those walls reach the roads, it can make for interesting passenger-side riding.  As I said to Rebecca after she complained about how close things were on her side, “Things were coming at me right and right.”

The road along the Connemara Peninsula is extremely narrow. Think Sheets Gap Road, paved at least, but with the occasional tour bus coming your way. For some reason they built some of those walls right next to the road, making for a tight squeeze, especially when the road is already less than two lanes wide.

It is, however, a spectacular drive, with mountains, a sea inlet, a bunch of vivid yellow gorse, lots of sheep, and thankfully little traffic.

It took us a lot longer to get from Westport to Galway than we expected. Driving 50 kph can do that.

Sorry there are no walls or sheep pictures.  They’re in the other camera.