Sorry about the delay, dear readers. My hostel in Killarney did not offer free internet, the losers, and even now that I’m currently wrapping up my first day in Dingle, this new hostel doesn’t even HAVE internet! I’ve located a moderately priced internet cafe just down the road, and I’m paying precious euros to get on here what I’ve written in the interim.
This is only two days of my Killarney trip, as I was too lazy to write about my third day. So tonight I will write in my journal of that day and today in Dingle, so that tomorrow I may get those blogs to you as well. Enjoy!
Apr 3 600 pm
Today was a bit of a bummer, but still a good day I suppose. The bad part was the constant clouds and drizzle that came with me from Cork. Killarney is a lovely Irish town, very full of life, and ridiculously aimed at tourists. The bus here was uneventful and though the countryside was still pretty, it rained the entire time.
Killarney is easy as sin to navigate. It’s impossible to get ost here, there’s only eight small roads criss crossing to form a town center. I couldn’t check into my hostel just yet when I arrived due to it being so early, so I went down to the tourist office. They subsequently handed me four different free maps and brochures (every place I’ve been has had free maps…why anyone ever purchases maps in Ireland is beyond me) and bombarded me with all the information I didn’t even need to ask for. They’re so helpful here, lol.
I popped into the bike hire across from the TI to ask him the strange question of whether or not he stocked bikes with back pedal brakes rather than hand brakes. He proceeded to force me into the parking lot with a bike (with handle bar brakes) and made me ride it. Thus, proving to me it’s not hard to do. So I’ll be returning either tomorrow or Sunday to get a bike for sightseeing in the National Park.
I stopped into a gift store and got my sisters another postcard and mailed it. I picked up a pair of sweatpants in an outlet mall (all my pants needed washing and I couldn’t be running around in my underwear) Then I went back and checked into my hostel.
My hostel is adorable. It’s all finished oak panelling and floors, very light and airy with skylights in each room. Of course, I chose the top bunk right under the skylight, the better to read my book under. The desk attendant was really nice, it’s clean, though it gets a little cold in my room. I’m completely enamored of it. Once again, I get free breakfast in the morning. Unfortunately, no free internet and it’s very highly priced.
After I threw my stuff on my bunk, I headed into the national park. Ross Castle is about 4 miles (total distance, in and out). It was still misting rain, which seems to be the way rain comes down here most often, and it was very cloudy. On the other hand, the birds were singing and it was all mossy trees and gravel forest paths which took me there.
The castle sits right on the lake, supposedly surrounded by mountains, but they were hidden behind heavy, low hanging clouds. The castle has been completely restored over the past twenty years, and only open since 1994. Inside and outside it is a complete representation of what the castle might have resembled in the fifteenth century. More than any of the other castles I’ve seen thus far, Ross taught me what castle life was like in medieval times.
People see castles as these lovely, romantic places (myself included!) when in fact there’s nothing remotely romantic about living in one. Castles were originally built solely for defense against invaders. They weren’t built for luxury. The walls were whitened with lime (as we know now, bad for people), the rooms scarcely furnished and nearly devoid of light due to the slit-like windows built specifically for archers. Cold and damp throughout the year, expensive to build and maintain, with only fire places for warmth and tallow candles for light; the people who lived in these fortresses were constantly sick, forever in bad health.
My tour guide taught me all that and much more that I can’t remember after a Captain and Coke and a pint of Bulmer’s Cider here in this pub. After my tour it was still cold and raining, so I began walking back. I detoured to the Knockreer House and gardens…nothing really to say about them. The house isn’t spectacular, only dating from the 1950s and currently being used for Killarney national park research. It’s too early in the season for the gardens to be alive.
I walked into town once more, my knees in pain, and found a little coffeeshop. I settled in with a hot cup of coffee and began to read one of my Killarney guides. Lo and behold, the god damn sun came out. As it’s at least a forty minute walk from killarney town center to the lakes (where you can view the mountains) and my knees were groaning, I just finished my coffee and returned to my hostel.
I hung around there for a bit before tramping out to find somewhere to eat. I just ate a delicious salad with smoked chicken, which was probably the healthiest thing I’ve eaten since I’ve been in this country. Between the alcohol and being surrounded by a bunch of people who know each other (makes me feel that much more alone) I don’t think I’m going to stick around for the live band. It’s time for bed.
Apr 4 800 pm
I’m about to fall apart, my body is complaining. VERY loudly. I spent the majority of the day on a bike in Killarney National park. My morning started out really shitty to be honest, and I’ll spare you all the details. Suffice it to say, I’d reached a point of severe homesickness, it was raining on the day I’d wanted to bike in the park, and it was that certain point of the month when I’m extremely emotional anyway. Little things kept going wrong, but of course they were devastating and life altering in my state of mind. I ended up completely losing it and crying into my phone to my very wonderful boyfriend who is a saint for letting me sob into his ear.
I did manage to calm down. I had bought a souvenir teddy bear (wearing an adorable knitted sweater that says Killarney Ireland in green) and Andrew was the one who named him…’Crisis’. yeah, I kept that name. Finally, salvation came. I stopped for a late breakfast in a little restaurant where I was given FREE coffee with the purchase of my sandwich. And a free chocolate bar. Then as I was eating, the sun came out. Crisis averted.
I rented my bike around noon and started the long trek to Muckross.
Muckross Abbey was just the typical ruined abbey I’d seen many times already. The one thing to really set it apart from those I’d seen so far was the court yard. It had a central courtyard, planted with a gigantic yew tree, flanked by four walls of roman columns. It was really quite lovely. There was also a full cemetary that I traversed for quite some time.
Muckross House was just as perfect as I’d hoped. It rises majestically from perfectly manicured lawns in the shadow of Torc Mountain, with the other mountains in the background. The driveway leading to the house comes straight towards it, and the full effect of riding the bike up and watching it loom at you, all gray spires and creeping ivy, large windows and GREEN, is just not something that’s easy to put to words.
Dating from the 1800s, the guided tour led us through rooms so beautifully restored you might have thought the original owners were still living there. Each room was full of 18th and 19th century furniture, including lovingly made wooden furniture set with inlaid art, created here in Killarney a hundred years ago. Waterford crystal chandeliers graced each of the large downstairs rooms, Italian silk curtains hung alongside portraits and sketches of the area done by the Lady of the house, and a dining room sideboard took an entire wall, dark mahogany that took three years to carve. I didn’t even want to walk on the floors, so much in awe of the place I was. It was very very magical to wander those rooms and imagine the dresses and the parties, the children playing in their bedrooms, the happy couple embracing while they look out their bedroom window to the mountains…I was just struck by it all.
It was HUGE. Only a small portion that has been fully restored is open to the public. The majority of the home is still being renovated. That small portion I saw still took an HOUR, lol.
I walked from the house to Torc waterfall, which was very pretty, but after you’ve seen Niagara Falls, it’s hard to be impressed by anything else. Like another American said to me, though, ‘You could at least have a picnic next to this one!’
I rode around a bit more, but I was wearing thin. I hadn’t been on a bike since I was ten or eleven years old…my age and lack of athleticism was showing.
The national park is serene. It’s full of families and bike riders, gawking at the scenery, because you just don’t come across places like this everywhere. I’ve only seen two small parts of the park (Ross Island and Muckross area), I didn’t even make it up into the mountains and the Gap of Dunloe, which is supposed to be stunning.
The mountains are magnificent, taller than the Wicklows, very green, very rocky. Today the sun shone off one mountain in particular, making the grass and foliage sparkle like the facets of a diamond. Set over the lakes, the mountains couldn’t have been more pretty than they were under the blue, clear sky today.