Monday, August 04, 2008

Ireland: Day 7

Today we drive the Ring of Kerry, which is, of course, all about the scenery. On our drive, our guide Michael gave us lots of Irish history. In fact, most of our drives were filled with tidbits of Irish history - from the beginning to present day with all kinds of little unrelated tidbits thrown in for fun. I can't say I've ever learned so much as I did on this tour!

That being said, I'll keep it interesting & germaine to the photos I've included in the slideshow. First point of interest is the annual King Puck festival in Killorglin. Each year, the villagers catch a mountain goat & bring him down into town & crown him king for the day. At the end of the day, Michael swears they let him go & he climbs back up the mountain. At any rate, the village continues to party for a week or two in honor of King Puck. Basically, it's an Irish version of Mardi Gras and draws quite the crowd of revelers. "Any excuse to have a party," Michael would say.

Our first photo stop (and break from the winding roads) of the morning was overlooking the Bay of Dinghle. If pictures only did it justice! Absolutely breath-taking views from here. But maybe that was just b/c it was brisk that morning.

We learned a bit about Daniel O'Connell who was a famous Catholic leader of the 1820s rebellion. O'Connell was raised by his rich uncle and afforded an excellent education in France. In 1798, he became a lawyer, moved home to Ireland, and formed the Catholic Association. It cost a penny a month to join the Association and everyone was welcome. The CA gave the Irish people a voice in a time when they were suppressed by the ruling British government (and their Penal Laws, which forbade Catholics from worshipping in public, forbade them from educating their children, and basically stripped them of all rights whatsoever). Thanks to the work of the O'Connell and the CA, he was elected to a seat in British Parliament but was unable to take it until 1829 when Catholic Emancipation was granted. Naturally, O'Connell is a true hero of the Irish people. And he is the only lay person for whom a church has ever been named.

We stopped in Waterville - home of one of Ireland's most famous golf courses (also on the PGA tour) and favorite vacation destination of Charlie Chaplin. We had lovely views of the Atlantic from here. We drove up the mountain for a view of Cork and the Skalleg Islands before lunching in Sneem - multi-time winner of the Irish Tidy Towns competition (more about that here) and home of Michael's favorite homemade ice cream. (Yep, it was good!) (Side bar: I will say that Ireland has the cleanest public restrooms ANYWHERE thanks to Tidy Town!)

From Sneem, we wound our way back down the mountains lickety split (and uppity chuck...almost) to Lady's View. This beautiful vista in the national park was Queen Victoria's favorite spot to bring her ladies for picnics, tea, entertainment, etc.

We ended our winding tour of the Ring of Kerry (none too soon for me!) with a stop at the Torc Waterfall. It's Ireland's highest waterfall at 18 meters (60 ft). A long trek up a wide, but slippery, footpath brings you to the crashing falls.

After dinner, we had the opportunity to attend a show at the local theatre. It could be compared to a small Broadway production - combo of music & dancing. It was presented in the traditional Irish Gaelic with traditional Irish dancing. It told the story of the potato famine from a very personal perspective. The show was very moving and we were all thankful for the opportunity to attend.

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