Sunday, May 9, 2010

Relations and the Ring of Kerry: Day Trip with a Difference

We have had visitors for the past week when thirteen of hubby Jan's family came from Holland for a week's holidays. We had a lovely time, as I took the week off work, and we made sure they made the best use of the short time they had by planning a day trip for everyone as well as being their personal trip advisor for local sightseeing. The Vee, Fota Wildlife Park, the Jameson Experience and Blarney Castle were all taken on board, as well as our own Lismore Castle gardens, and they thoroughly enjoyed these trips.

On Tuesday we hired a minibus and took off to see Co. Kerry, and to do the famous Ring of Kerry tour, which is a 112mile circuit around the Iveragh Peninsula, starting and ending in Killarney in our case. The roads are very narrow and twisty and they have instituted a one-way system for coaches and buses who must go anti-clockwise around the ring, or they are liable to have a standoff that could get nasty! There is no way two buses would pass each other on some stretches of the roads, and one would have to blink first and reverse.

We went from home to collect the family who were staying in Redbarn holiday cottages development outside Youghal in Co. Cork. This is a relic of the Celtic Tiger years, where similar developments sprouted like weeds all over the country, and many are now getting a bit run down and shabby looking as they are lying idle. My memories of Redbarn are of the eponymous dance hall of my teenage years - one of the original "Ballroom of Romance" halls where Ireland's young and not-so-young decamped every weekend to dance the night away in alcohol-free zones to the live Showband music of the era. All gone now, Redbarn's capacity was over 2000 punters, and sadly it burnt down (not on a dance night thankfully) in 1977. That was around the end of the Showband era, and disco became king thereafter.

We arrived in Killorglin, home of the famous goat-themed Puck Fair, around 11a.m. and stopped for coffee, and then continued on around the Ring road, passing Cahirsiveen and Valentia Island where you can get a boat to Skellig Michael, one of the ancient monastic hermitages of Ireland which is a world heritage site, and is a day trip in itself. We had lots of stops on the way and took plenty of photos, and even though I'd been round the Ring of Kerry a few times in my younger years, it was over 30 years since I'd been there and enjoyed it immensely. The day was overcast but dry, something good in Irish weather terms.

We stopped for lunch in Sneem, home of one of Ireland's Presidents, Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh, and while I found monuments to a wrestler I'd never heard of (but the bus driver knew of him) and Charles de Gaulle (who only visited on a holiday) I didn't see any of the former President, though it's there somewhere. He should be remembered there, even though he controversially resigned after the then Minister for Defence Paddy Donegan called him a "a thundering disgrace" when he wanted to refer proposed anti-terrorist legislation to the Supreme Court to test its consititutionality.

We had a delicious lunch in a little restaurant in Sneem, the Stone House, run by an Irish woman married to a Dutchman (like me!), a serendipitous encounter. The seafood was fresh, yummy, very reasonably priced and we didn't have to wait forever. After lunch we went back to Killarney via Moll's Gap and the Black Valley, famous for being the last place in Ireland to get mains electricity in 1976. We enjoyed Lady's View lookout over the famous Lakes of Killarney, and went home via Macroom and Cork where we dropped off Shayne and Sofia. She had been a wonderful traveller, not a whimper all day as she either slept in her car seat, or enjoyed all the attention she got from everyone.

It was good to see the enthusiasm among the visitors (who all live below sea level in Holland's Polder country in Schouwen-Duiveland in Zeeland) for the nosebleed-inducing panoramas they experienced on the Ring tour. In the time-honoured tradition of the annual essays on "What I did on my Holidays" from our childhood schooldays - "we all went home tired but happy" after a memorable day in one of Ireland's premier beauty spots.

The photos show some of the day - people and scenes - and the group family photo (William is missing from this one, as he is in college doing finals)
  • Map showing Ring of Kerry/Iveragh Peninsula
  • Sofia and me in Killorglin
  • King of Puck Fair statue, Killorglin
  • Group photo of family - Dutch and Irish
  • Road sign on Ring of Kerry
  • Teenagers climbing the rocky mountain near Waterville
  • Overlooking Dingle Bay near Cahirsiveen
  • Postcard of Sneem
  • The Stone House Restaurant/B&B
  • The Black Valley
  • Lakes of Killarney


Stephanie V said...

Ah, memories, great memories.

SusanC said...

Sounds great Catherine and very organised. Having a plan like that in place means that Jan's family got to see and do a lot and will have great memories going home.

Irene said...

It sounds like you made very sure that those Dutch people had a nice time in Ireland. It's so kind of you to make sure they saw so many things. I'm sure they had a wonderful time.

Ann said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip. Memories for all. I remember RedBarn going there on the bus from town. Oh the memories of summer Saturday nights and young love!!! Then there was the showboat. Saw Thin Lizzy there!

Ann said...

Oh forgot to say, your grand daughter looks beautiful and she has gotten so big!

Catherine said...

Thanks for all your comments - I thought I had replied already - sorry about that as I usually respond to post comments fairly quickly.
STEPHANIE V - I hope you get back to Kerry again in another holiday - and even to Waterford! There are so many nice places to see and go in Ireland.

SUSAN C - Thanks for that - hope the family have good memories of their holiday and trip - we organised it well in advance and it went a dream.

NORA/IRENE - As you know, Dutch people like planning - so we had to make sure the trips were well prearranged, and they did all have a good time, the feedback was very positive! And we should get a retainer from the Irish Tourist board!

ANN - We did enjoy our week's activities with the relations - the Kerry trip and the barbecues, and the birthday party. And Redbarn - indeed, what memories it evoked for me going down there, but it was sad as it is so unrecognisable. There is a dreary holiday development there now, beside the Quality Hotel which has a leisure centre, and the holiday homes were obviously built at the height of the boom and are not filling up at all as holiday lets now, some are long-let. I remember hitching to Redbarn on Sunday nights, and home again (Though it was always better if one of us "got off" with someone with wheels!That guaranteed a lift home for the gang - which could number up to 7 or 8!) I didn't really go to the Showboat though I remember it. I remember the night Redbarn burnt down, I was babysitting for friends who were at the Hunt Ball in The Hilltop and they watched the blaze over the headland. I saw Thin Lizzy in Tralee in the YMCA disco before they were famous (1969 - how ancient is that!)

All the best - Catherine.

diane b said...

You have been having a very busy happy time with family. Good for you.