Doing The Ring
We woke to overcast skies this morning, but decided to continue with our plans to “do the ring” today nevertheless, keeping fingers crossed that it might brighten up later.
But for the time being, the main brightness was in the glorious hydrangeas which line the driveway to our hotel. In a range of rich pinks, blues and every shade in between, they really are spectacular.
The first landmark along the way was King Puck, the goat of Killorgin, whose fair took place just last week here. Today, the town had returned to its sleepy normal self and there was hardly a soul to be seen. Maybe everyone was in church?
Both driver and co-pilot were actively engaged in working out our route, for although this is a well trodden path around the peninsula, in one or two places there were options – and where the option might be to avoid the coaches, then that could be a good move.
Not that we had seen any coaches yet.
Though the leaden skies weren’t lifting as quickly as we’d hoped, they added a different tone to the landscape and a kind of broodiness, I thought.
Our next stop was in Cahersiveen, where a monument stands to Saint Brendan the Navigator. Here we came across the first clutch of coaches of the day – not admiring the fine monument here with us, but a little further down the hill, paying homage to Daniel O’Connell, the politician. Whilst we’ve come across a few local, Irish coaches touring these places, the majority are European and some are becoming rather familiar. I think we are following a similar itinerary to a particular red coach from Belgium, de Zigeuner – the Gypsies – and sure enough, there they were.
Shortly afterwards, there was an opportunity to take a route that was unsuitable for coaches – let’s do it! A quick right turn took us on the Skellig Ring where, yes, the roads were narrow but empty. What’s not to like?
One of the first things we came across was the “cliffs experience”. We parked the car, followed the instructions and reported to reception because of course, even though there had been no mention of the “t” word so far, we had to buy tickets.
4 Euros per person.
There were those who turned back at this stage, even though they had come this far, 4 Euros was just too much, it appeared. We paid our money and began to walk along the level, well maintained road thinking that it must take quite a lot of maintenance to keep everything safe and secure in this remote place and that even a few hundred paying visitors wasn’t exactly going to make the owners a fortune.
Over to our left was a rather interesting shape. A long straight wall was like a seam joining two grassy pieces of velvet together, ending in a smooth curve high above…what?
We had no idea what to expect here but the prospects were looking good.
Another little distraction on the right: Three beehive huts, reconstructions of course, and yes, the birds on top are artificial (suits me just fine).
Finally we reached the edge. The fence. Do not go beyond it….as if!
As we took our photographs of the layered, striated cliff faces, we commented that later, we’d think that we hadn’t held our cameras quite straight. So, we took special care to do exactly that, to use the digital level and so on to get a straight image.
But it wasn’t easy.
It was spectacular though! 4 euros? A bargain!
We walked to the highest point, to get a great view in both directions and most of all, to see that green velvet field we’d seen from the pathway and the smooth curved edge where it ends high above the crashing sea.
I was especially appreciative of the secure fencing too.
From here, we drove a little further, ascending to the summit from where, on a clear day, the views would be rather better than today. But hey, I think we were happy enough!
From time to time, we’d come to a small collection of houses, wondering who lives here and what brought them. Were they people leading simple lives, earning a living from renting holiday cottages or running tea rooms? Were the farmers or smallholders, eking out a living in whatever way they can? Or are they high tech business moguls, taking advantage of high speed internet to run global organisations from a small cottage in western Ireland? We have no idea, but we are always curious!
We stopped for a breath of fresh air by the beach, watching one lone surfer chasing the waves. Well, not much chasing to be done today, much more waiting around. We smiled as a couple hugged and kissed on the sand, then felt bad when he noticed us and backed off, embarrassed.
We left them to it and climbed back in the car. We had other fish to fry.
Skelligs chocolate was a popular place today and the cafe was full of families seeking refuge from the damp and un-summery weather in St Finians Bay. We joined them for hot chocolate and carrot cake, watching groups arriving and tasting chocolate before going over to give it a try ourselves.
Mary Kate was the most delightful guide and we spent a happy ten minutes in her company as she fed us chocolate! Having done so, she scooped up the rest into a bag for us to take home…together with our purchases, of course It was so good to see such a thriving, well run business out here on the edge – we loved it.
Look, still no coaches!!
Making the most of the last part of the Skellig Ring before rejoining the “big road”, we felt – hoped – the weather was lifting. Maybe we’d see some scenery after all?
Or was it enough to appreciate what we could see? A misty, rather soft landscape with just a hint of islands and far flung hillsides on the horizon?
I think it was. Who needs brilliant sunshine?
We returned to the main road and passed through a couple of small towns overcome by coach parties and parked cars. If there had been any doubt, here was confirmation that we’d seen the best already. We’d already travelled over Molls Gap on our way here yesterday and seen the small loughs which feature in the last stages of the Ring. We’d explored Kenmare at the fiar yesterday too. So, thinking that this was not the best way to experience the remainder of the route, as soon as we could turn left and take an alternative road home, we did. Thankfully the fifteen camper vans in front of us (yes, really, fifteen) all continued straight on as we headed for Killarney and our hotel.
Another great day, topped off tonight with dinner in the brasserie here and believe it or not, Father Ted on the TV as I type. With an extra night here tomorrow, we have a bonus day ahead of us in the morning and a few plans up our sleeves. I think that perhaps a boat and at least one horse might feature. Oooer.