This August (2023) we had the opportunity to travel to Ireland for a week-long visit. Judy and I had visited the emerald isle back about 20 years ago when we flew into Belfast and drove a couple hours across to Donegal, the most northerly part of the Irish Republic.
The entrance to our airbnb
Like it was back then this was initially planned as a golfing trip, but as usually happens, it evolved into a more general “see the countryside” sort of visit.
This time we flew into Dublin and made the trip across the island to the county of Kerry.
On the way to our airbnb we dropped in to see Blarney Castle…
Our airbnb was in the hills above the river that eventually flowed into Kenmare Bay. It was roughly a ten minute drive to Kenmare, the largest town within easy striking distance.
Lots of Narrow, Winding Roads
That drive was significant: a winding single lane road through the woods, past several small (well hidden) farms, and up into the hills overlooking the river.
You actually couldn’t see the river, until later trekking down for a closeup look. That’s because the vegetation in this part of Ireland is amazingly thick – probably because of the almost daily rainfall.
In many cases that vegetation comes right up to the side of the road. In Canada we are used to “shoulders” – a bit of open space on either side of the road. But in Ireland “shoulders” are reserved for more heavily travelled roads.
On these, what we might call, “country” roads there is simply no room for wasted space. Even on many two lane roads with a speed limit of 80 kph (and sometimes even 100 kph) there doesn’t appear to be even a foot of space between the edge of the pavement and the ever-present hedge/stone wall.
Needless to say, this takes a bit of getting used to, especially in light of the fact you are driving on the left side of the road.
Sightseeing and Golf
Judy and I kept our sightseeing to a minimum, while Martha, Scott and the kids did daily outings to various places: Cliffs of Moher, hiking at Killarney, the sights at Dingle, kayaking in Bantry Bay. I will post some pics in another post if I can get my hands on them.
We managed to get in our fair share of golfing. We had intended to focus on the nice course at Bantry Bay, but after the first day the consensus was that the hour long, fairly treacherous drive was not worth it.
So instead we found some interesting local courses within easier striking distance: Kenmare, Ring of Kerry, and Castlegregory. This last one (Castlegregory) was the only true links course: right there beside the water, no trees, lots of wind, a bit of rain.
Our last round at Kenmare was on Friday, and as usual in the mornings, it was raining on and off. In fact we played our entire round while it rained softly. We found this to be fairly typical for Irish golf – rain in the morning, clearing in the afternoon. Playing in the rain wasn’t actually that bad, because the temperature always hovered around 18, and the wind wasn’t blowing particularly hard.
This is a stock picture. I didn’t think to take one!
Busy Little Towns
The other thing I found interesting and unexpected was the traffic and near chaos in the towns that served as regional centres. Kenmare was a good example: parking up and down both sides of every main street in town. A single lane of (one way) traffic between the parked cars. People sitting at tables (essentially on the road) outside of the many crowded taverns and pubs. And, in Kenmare at least, live music at the park going on night and day.
I assume it was this busy in the towns we visited because it was in the peak of tourist season.
Yes, it was indeed an interesting visit!