Traveling through the UK solo reminded me how much I love doing so, the freedom to go where I want, eat what I want and sleep where I want, but upon landing in Ireland it was time for me to switch gears. I had promised my brother that I was simply along for the ride, instilling my confidence in him, a role reversal from our previous travels together in Korea and Cambodia where I played hostess. An early morning flight from Glasgow, surprisingly without any delays on Ryan Air, brought me to Dublin just shortly after the arrival of my brother, Katie (his fiancé) and Beth (her sister). They were ready to go by the time I made it through arrivals and after a quick hug and hello we were packed into our rental and ready for a week of adventure.
My brother had a grand plan for the whole trip and I was happy to be able to just ride along for once. It was kind of weird for me to have plans a whole week in advanced, not only accommodation but also what we would do every day, although I guess that's more of a necessity when you have a limited amount of time in a country. The weather was less than welcoming on our arrival, windy cold and rainy, and in getting to our rental car alone we were all soaked. We were planning to end the trip exploring Dublin, so we didnt' give it any attention on day one, instead opting to get on the road. On our first day we had to get all the way to Tralee, where we were planning to base ourselves for the first two nights, but there were some stops along the way.
As we drove through sheets of rain I was extremely grateful, as were the rest of my travel mates, that my brother decided to pay the extra for an automatic rental car. Having little to no experience driving manual he realized this would make the trip much less stressful and infinitely more enjoyable for the rest of us. In order to break up the drive we chose to stop at the Rock of Cashel, the plan was to tour the rock and grab lunch, but that didn't all happen. Rain was still pouring and the small umbrellas we had on hand didn't do much to keep us dry, we walked to the entrance and took a few pictures, but decided to the price of admission wasn't worth it, already my budget ways were rubbing off on them. The town was small and options for lunch were between a few townie diners, the bars not yet open for business. I felt as if we had stepped back in time, straight into my Grandmother's dinning room 20 years ago, both from the decor and clientele. Lunch was short and simple, but we didn't stick around for long, ready to be done driving, settled into a room with beds and warm showers.
My brother had booked rooms at the Castlemorris House in Tralee and he did an amazing job, the house is an 18th century building and comes with one of the friendliest owners I've yet to meet. We arrived in the late afternoon and were given time to rest before being presented with tea and loads of information about the area. Our only mission for the night was dinner and putting together a rough plan of events for the following day, and of course some much needed sleep, all of us coming off a long day of traveling. Dinner options were few, but the Italian restaurant in town came highly recommended from our owner and it did not disappoint. There were a few pubs with music in town, but none of us had energy for that, bed was calling.
As if the beautiful house, friendly owners and cute rooms weren't enough, the spread presented to us for breakfast was unbelievable. There was a full buffet lined with fruits, scones, cereal, meat and cheese , but there was also a menu from which you could order a prepared breakfast. Between us we had a few veggie omelets along with a full Irish breakfast and a few of the buffet items, and by the time we were in the car I was confident I wouldn't be eating again until dinner. The plan for the day was to drive around the Ring of Kerry and fit in as many sights as possible, but we feared the rain might prevent us from doing so to the extent we had hoped for.
We drove counterclockwise around the ring, and while we made numerous stops I only caught and/or recall the name of a few. Most were brief roadside pullovers, where we stopped just long enough for a look at the scenery, through sheets of rain and gusting wind. The one time we got out to really explore was at the Ballycarbery Castle, however our visit was cut short due to fences and 'No Trespassing' signs along the entrance. Part of me really wanted to climb over and explore, but I was eventually persuaded against doing so. We also pulled off at the Valentia Island slate quarry, but I didn't go far as I was less waterproof than the rest of them.
Despite our spread at breakfast, lunch was still happening, although it did take place around 4 pm so maybe more of a linner, or is it dunch? My three travel companions went with goulash or something of the sort, but I opted for the seafood chowder, which was one of the best decisions I had made all day. I may never have had a proper chowder so I guess I picked the right place to start because this one was amazing. We were full, again, something I learned would be a theme of this trip, but the adventuring wasn't over yet. Next was one of our more eventful stops of the trip, a drive up the Ring of Kerry lookout. Thanks to the thick clouds hanging low in the sky we didn't expect much of a view, but decided it was still worth a stop. As we drove up the hill we could feel our little car fight against the wind, and getting out was proving to be a challenge. I struggled to get my car door open while my brother on the opposite side nearly had his ripped off. Windy was an understatement, there were a few gusts that genuninly concerned me, fearing I was about to turn into Marry Poppins and blow away.
Safely back in the car and down to the main road, all of us were beginning to grow tired, of both the driving and sightseeing. We had a few short stops, most of which were accompanied by more wind and rain, and a few where I decided the car was a better option. The final stop of the tour was at Ross Castle and despite a day full of wind and rain, we did get a few minutes of sun and a dose of warmth. I tried to tell myself to be impressed and explore, but the days of travel, a festering head cold and lack of movement were making me sleepy. The castle grounds were beautiful, but before long I was grabbing the keys and back in the car, waiting in it's warmth for the rest of my companions, the day had worn me out and I was ready to go 'home', thankful that we had such a nice one to return to.
The home and Guinness, potatoes and the Blarney Stone. Ireland was never exceedingly high on my travel list, despite my Uncles passionate endorsement, but upon further investigation I discovered there's a lot to be said about this small, often rainy, country.