Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In Search of Roots - A Trip Through Ireland and Great Britain
Part 6: Kinsale, Kenmare, and the Ring of Kerry

Map showing trip from Kinsale to Kenmare and then the Ring of Kerry to Dingle
The Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland's great tourist attractions, with great views of the Atlantic Ocean, historic forts, and quaint villages. Most bus tours include the Ring and that's how most tourists see it; from the window of a bus that usually doesn't have time to stop.  Since the ring road is a narrow lane in each direction, the wise tourist that wants to drive the Ring, gets started early; before the tour buses.
As a result, we stayed for two nights in Kinsale, and then moved only a short distance to spend a night in Kenmare, right at the beginning of the Ring.
We spent two nights in Kinsale at The Old Presbytery, a lodging in three adjoining buildings, a block from downtown. After getting directions from our host, I walked a couple of  blocks to the local bottle shop to buy some wine for in-room relaxation. We then went off to Hoby's Restaurant, which was packed for dinner.
Old fort on the road between Kinsale and Cobh
One of the attractions near Kinsale is the town of Cobh, which was the jumping off point for most Irish emigrants to the US and Canada during the early 19th century. It's likely that Pat's Case ancestors took passage for Canada from there.  This was one of the two sloppiest days of the trip as we left Kinsale for Cobh.  We stopped at an abandoned tower along the road, and then drove to Cobh.  From 1849 (Queen Victoria's visit) to 1922 (Irish Independence), Cobh was called Queenstown. The main attraction in Cobh is the Cobh Heritage Centre or "The Queenstown Experience." This  museum contains exhibits of life aboard the ships taking the emigrants and also artifacts relating to The Titantic, which made its last stop at Cobh before its sinking. More about the Cobh Heritage Centre is at http://bit.ly/tmP9DA . After visiting the Cobh Heritage Centre, we returned to Kinsale as it was raining too hard to be outside any more.
An exhibit of an Irish emigrant ship at the Cobh Heritage Centre

The next morning, since we only had a short drive to Kenmare, I walked around downtown Kinsale taking pictures. Because of the weather,  I felt that it was best to take HDR exposures to be able to have some detail in the sky. Here are a few pictures of downtown Kinsale.
Post Office in downtown Kinsale
A small cafe' in Kinsale There are a lot of bright-colored buildings
 I think because of the long winters
Packie's side dishes with two dishes of Culcanon
After walking around and taking pictures we left for Kenmare, stopping at the Leap Inn (in Leap, naturally) along the way for lunch. We arrived in Kenmare in mid-afternoon and made reservations at Packie's for dinner. Packie's is probably the best restaurant in Kenmare. Pat had scallops and I had lamb chops. As a side dish we had an Irish dish called Cullcanon, which is mashed potatoes with diced scallions - delicious. We retired early to be able to get up and get a good start on the drive of the Ring of Kerry before the bus traffic.
Packie's in downtown Kenmare.

The next morning after one of those large Irish breakfasts we started on the drive on the Ring of Kerry. We would see the sights and then end in Dingle, where we would spend two nights before returning to Dublin for sightseeing and the ferry back.
Our first stop on the Ring of Kerry was the small town of Sneem. One of the high points of Sneem was the free public bathroom to use after the plentiful early morning coffee at The Abbey Court, our B&B in Kenmare. Sneem  is a quaint town with colorful houses and a river with rapids on the way into town as you can see in the next two photos.
Colorful houses in Sneem
Rapids of the Sneem River
After leaving Sneem, our next stop was the Staigue Fort.  This is one of three stone forts built between 500 B.C. and 300 A.D.  As you can see in the picture, they were built with no mortar or cement.

Pat and some other tourists at the Staigue Ring Fort
After visiting the fort we went on, stopping a turn offs on the road to take pictures when a vista presented itself. One example are the fields and islands near Derrymane, where we had a great sweeping panorama as you can see in the picture.

Fields and islands near Derrymane on the Ring of Kerry

Butler Arms in Waterville, Ireland
Around lunch time we stopped at the Butler Arms in Waterville. This is a favorite tour bus stop on the Ring as it's one of the few good places to eat. Another reason is that Charlie Chaplin, the movie star used to stay at the Butler Arms and one of its dining areas is called The Charlie Chaplin Room with a plaque.  We ate in the Charlie Chaplin Room, overlooking the ocean. While we were there a busload of Japanese tourists arrived and they were seated in another dining room.
We finished our tour of The Ring of Kerry in good time, never having to wait long for tour buses. We then headed for our next stop, the town of Dingle, where we take up this tale.
Charlie Chaplin Room in the Butler Arms
More pictures of this segment of our trip can be seen at http://smu.gs/oXhbxJ

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