"" Writer's Wanderings: Ring of Kerry

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ring of Kerry

Was it really Day 9 of our trip around Ireland? After an overnight stay in Kenmare, we set out early in the morning to drive the Ring of Kerry which is actually a scenic tourist route on Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland. According to our Rick Steves guide, we were supposed to go in a counter-clockwise direction. Our problem was that we were not going to complete the circuit and we wanted to end up in Dingle. It was more to our advantage, even if it meant meeting up with large tourist buses on small roads to go the opposite direction. Actually, it wasn't all that big a deal.

Along the way, we found some truly beautiful spots but much of the road traveled was not only narrow but edged by thick hedges and/or stone walls. One of the most common repairs needed on rental cars is the replacement of the side mirrors. Pass a few cars on a road like that and you can understand why. Each close call was answered with, "We still have the mirrors!"

On our way down a narrow road, we were met by a herd of sheep coming down the middle of the road straight at us. We stopped the car and waited and a few seconds later, the shepherd came around the curve in the road--in his van--with the sheepdog nipping at the tires. Modern day shepherding, I guess. By the way, you'll notice in the picture that the sheep have bright colors on them. This is the way the owners can tell which sheep are theirs. Each owner has their own colors and design. Most of the sheep we came upon throughout our trip were not behind fences but roaming wherever the grazing was best.

One of our stops along the Ring of Kerry drive was a stone ring fort. There are a lot of these in Ireland and it is kind of a seen-one-seen-them-all experience. This was our first and we found it interesting enough. We parked along the road that ended in a farmstead. A gate across the path to the fort had a homemade sign next to a coin box that asked for one euro entrance fee.

While the fellas were fishing for euro coins in their pockets, I kept hearing a the sweetest chirp of a bird. It sounded so close to me. Just about the time I was ready to break out in a rendition of one of the Disney princesses' songs, I spotted the little bird in the bush. He cocked his head in several different poses as he looked me over and chirped away. Only when I got really close with my camera did he fly away. Later I would learn that the bird was an Irish robin and was as tame as a wild bird gets.

We explored the Staigue Fort, a round fort made out of stones that have no mortar to hold them together. It is said to date back to the early centuries AD before Christianity reached Ireland. The walls were about eighteen feet high in the tallest parts and were about twelve feet thick. It was only about 90 feet in diameter but was said to hold the chieftain's family, guards, and servants. I couldn't imagine too many people concentrated into that small an area. I think there may have been some living space inside the walls but not much. It is amazing how perfectly it has survived though.

The fort was interesting but I found the skies held my focus even more. Ireland seemed to have such dramatic skies. Clouds raced across them at times. They were constantly changing. Sunny and blue one moment and dark and foreboding in the next. The reason Ireland is so green is because it rains--a lot. Although most of our days had at least some rain, usually drizzly, there were always long periods that were dry and sunny.

Everywhere we went we found bright red and purple fuchsia bushes. Hardy bushes with thick sturdy branches. They formed many of the hedges we drove past. Somewhere along the way, we found a sign that told us the fuchsias were originally from Chile and took well to the Irish climate. There was no denying that. And at least they were a little softer to brush against with your side mirror than a stone wall.

On our way back from the fort along the very narrow road with a grassy middle to the main road we were bouncing along and up a small incline. Suddenly as we topped the hill, we were met by another car coming straight at us. My brother-n-law followed his natural instinct and veered right. (Remember we should be driving on the left.) At the same time, the other car veered sharply to his right. We sat a bit and laughed hard at our near miss. We'd obviously met another American driver--thank goodness!

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