Ireland 2019 Day 10


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Europe » Ireland » County Kerry » Iveragh Peninsula
September 5th 2019
Published: December 26th 2019
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Stone CircleStone CircleStone Circle

Kenmare, Ireland
The weather looks promising this morning. Today we are headed for another beautiful Atlantic peninsula, the next one south of Dingle: the Iveraugh Peninsula and its famous RIng of Kerry drive.

As usual, Tony entertains us on the drive with an endless stream of information and stories. He spends some time talking about Ireland's trees. Native species include ash, beech, oak, hawthorn and yew. Pretty much all conifers were imported to the island. With native trees under threat, there have been efforts to reestablish native species. But one experiment failed miserably, as ash trees imported from Norway turned out to have a fungus that almost completely wiped out the remaining ash.

Tony tells us about the tradition of poitin (usually rendered as potcheen in English). This is Irish moonshine, made in small batches, traditionally from malted barley in a copper pot. Like other regional moonshines (such as Polish spiritus and Newfoundland screech), it has acquired a certain respectability and is now available commercially.

We've talked several times on the bus about Brexit and what it means for Ireland. Tony is quite pessimistic. He feels the UK will likely crash out of the EU with dire consequences for Ireland.
Outdoor shopsOutdoor shopsOutdoor shops

Kenmare, Ireland
First, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will likely have to be monitored in some fashion, which is well nigh impossible. Second, investments and property elsewhere in the EU will be thrown into turmoil. And, most worryingly, since Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, Irish nationalists will see this as an opportunity to "reunite Ireland" by reclaiming the nine counties of Northern Ireland, leading inevitably to strife and violence. On the positive side, Dublin and other cities in the Republic are benefiting from a migration of money and corporations out of Britain in order to remain in the EU.

As we enter the outskirts of Kenmare, our first stop is an ancient bronze-age stone circle, one of the largest in Ireland. Lovingly preserved in an idyllic park setting, the circle comprises 15 large boulders of various sizes arranged in a slightly elongated 50-foot circle. In the centre is a large flat-topped stone resting on another low flat stone. This is thought to be an ancient gravesite. The placement of the encircling stones is believed to have astrological significance. A beautiful example of such circles, which are found all over Ireland.

Kenmare was founded
Church of the Holy CrossChurch of the Holy CrossChurch of the Holy Cross

Kenmare, Ireland
in 1670 and is known for lace making. It is the hometown of Tom Crean, who participated in several expeditions to the Antarctic, notably Shackleton's ill-fated expedition that ended up stranded on Elephant Island. Tom was a member of the crew that made the perilous journey in an open boat from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island to seek help. This story resonates with us because we saw both islands on our Antarctic cruise (q.v.).

And now for something completely different: Kenmare is also the hometown of Big Bertha, the world’s oldest cow, who died here at age 38.

We have some free time to explore the town. The weather is beautiful (finally!), and we revel in the sunshine as we explore the Main Square, crammed with cute little shops, sidewalk vendors and restaurants/pubs. A ways up one of the side streets is the unusual Church of the Holy Cross, finished in 1864. It has a wooden roof with carved angels in the interior. Stained glass and mosaics make for a beautiful, peaceful environment. Next door is an abbey built in the same style. Another intriguing building is Rose Cottage, coloured as you might expect, and surrounded by
Kissane Sheep Farm: white spots are sheepKissane Sheep Farm: white spots are sheepKissane Sheep Farm: white spots are sheep

Ring of Kerry, Iveraugh Peninsula, Ireland
exquisite gardens. Even a quick glance reveals several type of butterflies perched on the blossoms, as well as bees buzzing contentedly about. They're probably relishing the nice weather, too.

Back on the bus and on to the the Ring of Kerry, a famous circular route around the peninsula and up into the mountains. As we climb the narrow winding road, the surroundings become increasingly rocky and barren. Soon there are virtually no trees, only shrubs and bush. Few signs of people but lots of sheep, nonchalantly grazing along steep stony slopes. We negotiate through a pass named Moll's Gap to reach Black Valley, an area once considered so remote that it only received electricity in the 1970s.

Finally we reach our primary destination: the Kissane Sheep Farm, the home of some 2000 Blackface Scottish Mountain sheep. We are herded (pun intended) to an elevated viewing platform to watch a sheep herding demonstration. Evan (human) and Kate (border collie) show us how it's done. Kate responds to Evan's voice and whistle commands instantly, racing far away up and down the stony slopes to round up the wandering sheep. We have seen similar demonstrations on TV but live it is
Kissane Sheep Farm: Sheep on the moveKissane Sheep Farm: Sheep on the moveKissane Sheep Farm: Sheep on the move

Ring of Kerry, Iveraugh Peninsula, Ireland
so much more impressive. The energy burned by Kate is incredible. She is so focused on her task. When the sheep are finally all gathered together, she actually counts them and realizes that there is one missing. She scours the countryside and finds the miscreant behind a large rock. A great performance.

Next is a shearing demo. The fellow expertly demonstrates both hand and electric shears on a series of unenthusiastic sheep. At least the animals are handled humanely, if not gently. I've witnessed timed sheep-shearing contests where the safety of the animals is not a high priority.

A stroll through the obligatory gift shop and we are on our way again. A 10-minute ride to the top of Moll's Gap brings us to the Avoca restaurant, where we enjoy an excellent home-cooked lunch with some unusual food combinations. The only unfortunate thing is that the restaurant appears to be unprepared for the onslaught of a bus-full of hungry tourists, so the wait is long.

After lunch, we gather outside to admire the view from this mountaintop location. The mountain range we are looking at is called MacGillycuddy's Reeks. It is truly spectacular. Then back on the
Kissane Sheep Farm: Kate brings them homeKissane Sheep Farm: Kate brings them homeKissane Sheep Farm: Kate brings them home

Iveraugh Peninsula, RIng of Kerry, Ireland
bus and heading back down toward Killarney. We have another photo stop a bit further on at Ladies' View, so called because Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting admired it so. From here we can see the Killarney Lakes from the opposite side. While there are clouds in the sky, the sun is breaking through and the vista is gorgeous. What a beautiful country!

Back at the hotel we have a brief rest and pit stop before boarding the bus once again to nearby Muckross Farm (a.k.a. Quill's Farm). This is a working farm employing circa 1920 technology. That means no electricity or running water, although period steam engines are acceptable for threshing. Our host takes us on a tour of the facilities, explaining the tools and techniques typical of the time period. Heating is provided by peat moss, of course. Along the way, we meet two enormous Irish wolfhounds and two even more enormous Clydesdales. We enjoy a demonstration of butter making and a couple of our crew gets to try their hand at churning.

The tour is followed by a traditional Irish meal of the period, consisting of blood pudding, lamb stew, potatoes, and bread pudding for
Ladies' ViewLadies' ViewLadies' View

Iveraugh Peninsula, RIng of Kerry, Ireland
dessert. There is copious wine and Irish coffees, plus toe-tapping Irish music and lively repartee provided by two sisters. We have an absolutely great time and leave the farm stumbling slightly and humming "Black Velvet Band".

Early start tomorrow, as we're leaving Kilarney and heading east to County Cork.


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Main buildingMain building
Main building

Muckross Farm, Killarney, Ireland
ClydesdalesClydesdales
Clydesdales

Muckross Farm, Killarney, Ireland
Peat moss ready to burnPeat moss ready to burn
Peat moss ready to burn

Muckross Farm, Killarney, Ireland


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