Monday, October 1, 2012

Discovering Ireland: Part 4

This is going to be a good day. I slept so soundly the night before. My hostel roommates had the lights out by 10:30, and all was quiet. Finally. Just what I needed to feel a little bit like myself again. 

This day, three of us (traveling companion/classmate, a sweet girl from Quebec who I met at the hostel, and I), took a bus tour around the Ring of Kerry, and our tour guide, John, was just a barrel of laughs. The morning started out bleak with heavy rain showers and left me little hope for good weather. I had to do the touristy thing at our first stop at a little village, (where we saw these Irish Wolfhounds) and purchase a rain poncho. I used it for all of an hour, but it kept me dry and warm. The village at our first stop had typical representations of houses from the famine days. This meant that peat was burning in all of the houses....oh, the realistic recreation...choke, choke. I didn't take any pictures of the houses because it was raining so heavily.
Our next stop was at a border collie herding demonstration. It was really fascinating to watch these dogs at work, herding sheep by the commands of their shepherd, on a steep hill in Ireland.
It is hard to tell from this picture, but the hill was quite steep and quite long. The sheep are in the top left corner of the field. The dog is ready to go to work!
I apologize for the quality of the pictures here. It was raining and I was taking quick shots. The dog is moving the sheep down, as per the commands from the shepherd, left to right, right to left, with breaks so the sheep don't tire out.

 Now they are coming forward!
 To the right!
Forward again! Down, down, down the hill.
At the bottom, at last. The shepherd showed us the herding using two dogs, then with three dogs. He explained to us that each dog has it's own set of commands, for instance, for "down," one dog is told, "Lie down," the other "Sit down." He also showed us how he can separate sheep from the herd using the dogs. He separated two sheep, then two more. It really was incredible to watch the coordination of the shepherd's commands and the actions of the dogs resulting in the desired outcome. The pictures just don't do the demonstration the justice it deserves. This was one of my favorite moments on the trip.
Something incredible happened when we stopped to take pictures - the sun came out! All of my worries about a miserably rainy day were gone. The rest of the tour was absolutely picturesque.

 I think that is the Dingle Peninsula on the other side of the water. We were also able to see the Skellig Islands at one point during the tour.

The view from the restaurant where we ate lunch. I had seafood chowder and bread and butter pudding. The view here is supposedly the best view in Ireland with it's tropical feel. It was quite nice.

 I took so many pictures, again, it's hard to decide what not to post. They all have their own, unique beauty.

 There's even a campground on the Ring of Kerry! John the driver grumbled about the campervans going the wrong way around the Ring. "They think they know everything, but they will meet every bus that comes around the Ring today!" (Spoken in a jolly Irish accent).

 So, so pretty.
Rain? What rain? It wasn't raining earlier, was it?
Our last stop was at the quaint store, Avoca, which I fell in love with. Had I had any extra room in my backpack for souvenirs, I definitely would have made a purchase...or two...or three.

We were greeted by a rainbow when we walked out of the store. :) How perfect!

 The fence kind of takes away from the beauty of this picture, but the hills looked so pretty.

I had to laugh when I overheard someone else on the tour bus talking about how his friends were just going to be thrilled to see another picture of a hill, and, oh look! Here's another picture of a hill. They really were spectacular sights to see, and I hope you are all enjoying my pictures of the hills.

 Driving back through Killarney National Park.

 John described the moss growing on the trees as a "fairy wonderland" and I absolutely agreed. I didn't get any pictures of that because we were on the bus, so let your imagination run wild!
A fellow tourist told me that this is how people break their necks. Way to ruin my happy, peaceful portrait in the park, ya jerk! (The rock was maybe 18" high...and I wasn't exactly on a cliff edge. He maybe would have crapped his pants if he saw what the people at the Cliffs of Moher were doing for the sake of getting a good picture...)
I was left wanting more when the tour was over because it was just that good, but it was around 5pm and I was getting tired. It was burgers for dinner at a restaurant that was close to our hostel. When I got back to my room, I chatted with one of my new roomies for a bit and found out that her mother lived in Howell, NJ and that she was from Hazlet. Small world. 
Off to Kilkenny! I began the journey by turning into oncoming traffic. Whoops. I had gone so many days doing so well with the driving. I think getting to Kilkenny was the most confusing route, but eventually we found it and we found our hostel with the 15' door that weighed 1,000 pounds, and the unisex toilets, unisex showers, and of course, the shared towels for hand drying. Blech. Thankfully there were only about 5 people staying in the hostel the night we were there, so it really wasn't that bad - but I could imagine it could have been much more awkward with more guests. They did have hand held shower heads in the showers, which was an amenity that surprised me, seems they were lacking in so many other basic areas. I was wanting more and more to move in to my flat in Glasgow with each hostel we stayed in.
Kilkenny Castle was right in town, very easy to find. It is massive and was restored to its 18th century style, even though its origins date back to the 11th century. So, it was the oldest castle that I had seen, with the most modern interior furnishings. I really enjoyed walking through this castle. They had a considerable amount of information about the extensive renovations to read about. Again, no pictures allowed inside, but I took a few of the outside.

 View of the town from the castle.

 This was the view to the left from the window in my room at the hostel.
And the view to the right.
 I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Kilkenny taking pictures and stopping in little shops. I ate an early dinner at a cafe and had a turkey (real turkey - I was impressed), swiss and cranberry panini (I love the bread they use here - it's so soft!) which came with a lightly dressed mixed greens and chopped vegetable salad, potato salad, and coleslaw. I thoroughly enjoyed it and enjoyed people-watching as I ate.

 Kilkenny Castle is in the background.

 Kilkenny was another adorable town that I had fun exploring.

 The clock tower.
I just simply love this alley.

I will post about the remainder of my Ireland trip soon. I hope you all enjoyed reading this post!


  1. Just so you know I am loving every moment of your glad you are having a good time :)

  2. Thanks, Lisa! I'm trying to enjoy every moment of being here!

  3. Your blog is great! Gives us an idea of your full experience. I especially loved the wolfhound picture and the herding pictures and story. Terrific!