Hmm…there seems to a be a theme going on with the last few posts…
The flight from Glasgow to Cork was super quick and convenient even when on a tiny puddle jumper. Customs and passport control were a breeze as we seemed to be the only flight that had landed. We were greeted by an art compilation of photographs of ginger folks. On every wall – literally – there were portraits of random folks with one common trait: red hair in every shade. Even Irish setters were thrown in which one of my friends pointed out could be conceived as a tad rude to the human counterparts (and even ruder to us Irish Terrier owners because I spied nary a Dori-dog!). Land of the Gingers – we had arrived!
It was exciting to be here for the first time (well, second if we count Adam’s work trip from a few years back, but I don’t) especially as we had recently discovered/confirmed that roughly half of Adam’s DNA (his mother’s side) is Irish! Zeke was just as excited to be somewhere new and his favorite activity in our very frequent city movements was to have everyone guess what color door we would have at our new apartment. He was only slightly disappointed to see that the cows here were of the regular variety though he was equally pleased to see that there were sheep in abundance.
Our drive to the first stop on our itinerary, Kenmare, was a breeze with only one wrong turn due to being distracted by the beautifully green scenery. Our adorable apartment was right above an art gallery the owner worked at and it was quirky, spacious and in the literal heart of Kenmare’s Main Street surrounded by various pubs and shops. Perfection.
We chose Kenmare due to its proximity to two drives we were hoping to take – the well known Ring of Kerry with an added off-shoot to visit the Kerry cliffs and the Ring of Beara, a less well traveled drive chock full of standing stone circles. Once again in our preparations we’d read how tricky the drives can be with the extra narrow roads, single-track fun with the added pleasure of dodging tour buses.
The morning dawned bright and clear which was incredible as the coastline comes into view quite quickly on the drive allowing us the see the jagged cliffs, winding turns and scores of islands and massive rocks just past the coastline. Which brings me to Star Wars.
Apparently that hike we took in Skye, the Old Man of Storr, well that wasn’t the closest I would be getting to Rey’s discovery of Luke Skywalker. No, no. Off the coast of the Kerry Cliffs are the Skellig islands, one of which was the literal film spot for that iconic scene where Rey is climbing thousands of stairs to deliver Luke his lightsaber. (yes, I said iconic. Come at me.).
The Skellig Michel island was originally inhabited in 500 AD by a super isolated sect of monks who built those beehive style huts (that, yes, you can also see in the movie!) and is open to a limited number of tourists per day. Unfortunately for us the tours wouldn’t open until the following weekend and weren’t recommended for kiddos as there have been deaths over the years due to the stairs with no barriers going straight up and down cliffsides. We had to be appeased with the views from a distance.
But what views they were! The cliffs were remarkable, being granite they were beautifully dynamic with stripes breaking up the cliff line topped with that wonderful array of mossy green grass and smattering of flowers. The walk along the cliffs is well organized encouraging folks to start at the right and end at the left, definitely saving the best views for last. Thanks to the clear skies the Skelligs were perfectly visible the entire time. The barriers are very apparent but don’t impinge too much on the scenery, particularly the sections that don’t have a million signposts warning of danger if you are an idiot and decide to hop over. Perhaps maybe just offering a Darwin Award in lieu of the signage? No?
We spent several hours admiring the views before heading down to Portmagee for lunch. Portmagee is the lucky town that plays host to the only departure point for boats to the Skelligs. As such they played an important part in the filming of the Star Wars films and boy have they leaned into it. It was kind of endearing that instead of trying to maintain their separateness from the phenomena that is Star Wars (and it’s rather rabid fanbase, myself included) they embraced it wholeheartedly with almost every restaurant and shop proclaiming their connection to the film and even the houses with street-facing windows adorning themselves with Star Wars action figures.
If you’re going to be known for a place, might as well REALLY be known for it.
We finished the day with a leisurely drive to complete the Ring of Kerry stopping at the strangest little beach café which felt more like a tropical island than Ireland (minus appropriate temperatures, of course) before returning home to Kenmare. Dinner that evening was a lovely pub meal across the street where we had snuck Zeke in the night before to hear some live music. Unfortunately for us the music ended early this time but we had a lively conversation with a local couple who, if they read this, would immediately correct me that while they’ve lived in Kenmare since 1971 they were, in fact, FROM about 20 miles south thank you very much and were not locals at all.
One of the many reasons I already love this place.