Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tourist Trails, Scenic Routes and Election Posters

I decided to come home from last week's Irish Nurses Organisation conference in Killarney via the scenic route of Kenmare and Glengarriff, as it was a lovely warm and sunny day. This was an opportunity to see Killarney's amazing mountain and lake scenery in all its glory, and I wasn't going to miss it. The road from Lismore via Fermoy and Mallow is pretty uninspiring on the stretch from Fermoy to Killarney, and is in appalling condition, with more potholes than the worst roads in Africa, so the tourist trail I took was a pleasant alternative. Kerry is one of Ireland's prime tourist counties, with the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney being the main draws, not to mention the rather dated pageantry of the Rose of Tralee. I have plenty of Kerry blood in my veins, so I can take some proprietal pride in the county.

I dropped into Muckross Gardens just outside Killarney and walked down by the lake and the house, though I didn't go in, it has guided tours and I did that at the last conference there 18 months back.
Here are some nice photos of the house and gardens, overlooking the lake, somewhat similar to Belvedere House in Mullingar which I wrote about here.
Muckross seems to be the base for the jarveys and their jaunting cars that take tourists around the lakeshore drives, and I was nearly mowed down by a few enthusiastic horses! I climbed to the top of Torc Waterfall which has more steps that the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and nearly as crooked and disorientating, and realised how unfit I am, so it's time for a summer exercise programme of plenty of walking!

I had coffee at Lady's View overlooking the Lakes of Killarney, and dropped into that bastion of yummy-mummy-ness, the Avoca Shop and Café, at Moll's Gap near Kenmare. Certainly no recession in evidence there, with prices to match the quality of the wares. Most of the shops in Kerry have an abundance of shamrockery - Aran sweaters and scratchy Tweed scarves vie for space beside keyrings, mugs and glassware adorned in shamrocks and leprechauns - and are very tourist-oriented, which is understandable given that the season is so short but it does reinforce Ireland's well-earned reputation as a pricey place to visit.

Glengarriff looked positively Mediterranean in the evening sunshine, and it has a balmy climate - believe it or not Ireland's south-west has lots of sub-tropical plants as it rarely freezes there thanks to the proximity of the Gulf Stream and its warm air. The first time I visited Glengarriff in 1974 on a hitch-hiking trip around Ireland with my best friend from nursing student days it lashed rain in August - just after Nixon's resignation - and we squelched around Garnish Island in soaking jeans and trainers! I hadn't been along this road for about six years, when we went to Kerry for a weekend, and what I had remembered were the tunnels in the mountains between Killarney and Kenmare; I thought there were a lot more of them and that they were longer, but they are quite short and some are just like sea-arches only on the road.

Ireland really has some spectacular scenery and while Lismore has very lush and wooded landscapes, Kerry is very wild and rugged, and the mountains are barer than our Knockmealdowns - more like our Comeraghs. A trip like this reinforces my appreciation of our lovely scenery, and while I moan a lot about the political mess we're in as a nation, and all the economic doom, we do have a lovely country and if it was blessed with decent weather - why, we might even stop complaining about everything else!

My only other political comment on this post is a mention of the blight on the lovely landscape of the election posters. There wasn't a pole untouched in all of Cork and Kerry, and even Waterford has a few, though Lismore has a local agreement whereby none of the candidates for the town council - hubby included - will put up posters in the town. That won't stop all the county and European candidates and I spotted the first European one in Lismore today, much to my disgust. Labour's county candidate, John Pratt, and the South's European candidate, Alan Kelly, have both agreed to the Lismore Council's decision and won't be seen on a pole within sight of the town, though it remains to be seen whether the other party candidates will comply.

What is extremely noticeable by its absence is the near-invisibility of the government's Fianna Fáil name and logo from their election posters. (Just try to spot the FF party logo on this European Election poster at a Cork roundabout! Yes I thought so too, not easy - have they something to hide?)
This has been noted by media pundits as well as the opposition, much to their amusement, as it is seen as a ploy to distance the local candidates from guilt of being tainted by association with the party that has sunk the country through bad governing over too many years. It struck me on the way to Killarney how many Labour and Fine Gael posters there were and that I was seeing no Fianna Fáil posters, till the penny dropped! They are thin on the canvassing ground as well, and it is becoming a point of much hilarity to spot the elusive FF candidate on the stump. They are like the sightings of the first cuckoo, much anticipated and reported in the letters pages of the Irish Times!

I hope you like the photos and I might make a slide show of the better ones from this trip - the long way round - Irish style!


Irene said...

That was a very enjoyable journey with some great photography. Do make a slide show.

Jeannette StG said...

The first building is extremely beautiful, as well as the landscapes. You gotta be kidding, more potholes than in Africa?:)
Also had to chuckle about your phrase "the long way round - Irish style."

Catherine said...

IRENE - thanks for your kind comment and glad you enjoyed the photographs, I will indeed make a slide show. I got your email too, thanks! Hope all is good with you, I will check out the blogs more often, I have too much to do to have time during the week to be on blogger as much as I'd like!

Catherine said...

JEANNETTE - Thanks for the comment, and I am not really kidding about the potholes, they are pretty awful - compared to Africa, there are some tar roads there that are worse no doubt but that slight hyperbole is justified I feel by the amount of money that the NRA (national roads authority) spend in Ireland on the national roads - as opposed to the regional roads which are the responsibility of the local authority = the county council. So that is why I get mad as they are making a packet out of the tolls on the new motorways and toll bridges. The money we pay on our car taxes should be ring-fenced for road maintenance as was originally the purpose of car tax, this doesn't happen so we get very cross!
That building is Muckross House, it is lovely, an old family home that is now in public ownership of the state, like Belvedere House that I referred to in the post. The formal gardens are in Muckross too and it is all part of the Killarney National Park. I will put up a slide show in the sidebar of all the photos I took that day.
I suppose Irish style has to be a tad ironic, we are good at doing lots of things in a roundabout fashion!

Jeanne said...

Beautiful country aside from the political poster.

Reader Wil said...

How beautiful Ireland is! I've never been in Ireland, but many times in Britain. I should go to your country before I am too old to travel. Thanks for sharing this scenic route!

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine, I have not had time to do much blog visiting recently so am trying to catch up now!You took some lovely photos of Killarney, I love Glengarriff, the trip over on the boat to Garnish Island passing the seals who always seem to find a sunny spot to bask in! The bamboo gardens are worth a visit if you are ever that way again.The entrance looks very touristy and out of character but the gardens are lovely and go right down to the sea shore where you can sit and relax.I think everyone has seen the diminishing Fianna Fail logo by now!

Catherine said...

JEANNE - thanks for that comment -I agree Ireland is lovely apart from the political posters blighting the landscape at this time! of course I am partisan as hubby is a local election candidate for Labour but has no posters! There's no need to plaster our town with them when he is known to all and he has flyers distributed to most of the houses. I actually spent last Saturday canvassing with him and the county candidate and the MP, it was a lot of fun! Keep in touch, though I haven't posted in a week.

Catherine said...

WIL - you're never too old to travel! So do come to Ireland sometime, it is not the best for weather but it is lovely to travel around off the beaten track. You need a car though as public transport is abysmal. If you are very fit a bike is fun! Well in a small area it is fun to hire one and take off for the day. Glad you liked the scenic route. The slide show is a good way to condense everything and I like the Picasa Web Albums, they are a good storage facility too! Britain has lots of historic places too, don't forget our colonial past means there is a huge influence from England here in our pre-independence history. Thanks for visiting and I must try to blog more frequently and consistently!

Catherine said...

Hi PEGGY - thanks for visiting and I agree about Garnish, it is well worth revisiting and I just was too late that day though so I will have to go back! I saw the gates for the Bamboo gardens and they did look tempting - is that Garnish Island entrance too? Yes the area there is lovely and not too hard to get nice photos. I haven't been blogging much either lately so have a backlog as well. There's too much else going on, with conferences and weekends full up - this weekend off to Dublin for another AGM and the local elections looming means hubby is under pressure to get on the stump as much as possible, as I said to Jeanne above I am doing my bit for his local town council campaign!
We then have Immrama and that is going to be great this year - check the website (in my sidebar of fave weblinks) and see the programme.
So a busy month ahead!
Keep in touch!

Living said...

What a gorgeous house!

Catherine said...

Nice house, Muckros in Co. Kerry and owned by the Irish govt. now, call by again Living!