Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ireland: Day 6

Today we're up early for our trek to County Kerry and overnight in Killarney. Our first sight of the day was a small community of "tinkers." Travelers, or tinkers as they're known to the Irish and gypsies to us, gave up their homesteads and land during the Great Famine and began traveling the countryside, setting up camp wherever it was most convenient. While many went back to settle homes when prosperity returned, a small portion kept the traveling lifestyle. The Irish call these people tinkers b/c they were known for their skill in working with tin.

Our first stop of the morning was in Adare - "Ireland's prettiest village." Adare was built in the 1800s by the Dunraven family during English rule and is thus in the English style, or a planned gridlike community, as opposed to the Irish style of "higgily piggily." It truly was a lovely stop on our morning drive.

Just outside of Killarney, we took a detour to Aghadoe while there was a break in the morning drizzle. Prounounced ahg-hah-doe, it's a beautiful community atop a hill with breathtaking views of Killarney.

Killarney is Ireland's biggest tourist city and known for its friendly people, terrific scenery, and Ireland's tallest mountain. It's also home to Ireland's largest national park, part of which was bequeathed to the state by the Bourn family. In the middle of the park is Muckross House, a lovely estate built by Henry & Mary Herbert and designed by the great Scottish architect William Burn. The Herberts ultimately went bankrupt (after preparing for Queen Victoria's visit in 1861 (and subsequently not receiving the lord & ladyship they anticipated)) and had to sell the estate. Ultimately, the Bourn family purchased it for their daughter Maud upon her engagement to Arthur Vincent.

We gave our first outdoor concert at Muckross House. And quite frankly, it was abysmal. We survived and I don't think we left anyone too scarred by the brief concert. We then lunched and had time for shopping - Muckross had the most fabulous woolen products (and on-site mill).

We then left for our jaunting car ride through the national park - via horse and carriage no less. Our guide had promised us an interesting and entertaining tour with our jaunting car driver. Interesting, perhaps. Entertaining, not so much. We got a dirty old man we ultimately decided was a gypsy who couldn't speak much English. Ah, whatever, the scenery was still lovely. As we finished the ride, it began to rain quite hard so our group opted to return to the hotel and forego afternoon shopping.

This had to have been the most - um - interesting hotel of the entire tour. Turns out, it was a "family resort," which basically meant every Irish family came here to party with other Irish families while leaving their kids to fend for themselves in whatever ways they pleased. Let's just say that those kids were all still up & running around when we closed the hotel bar at 2 a.m. while their parents were passed out in various corners and lounge areas. Lovely. Not our favorite place to stay, obviously.

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