Posts Tagged ‘killarney’

Day 8: Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, Jaunting Car, Killarney National Park

I’ve been dragging my feet blogging about our last day, because I’m not ready for the reminiscing to be over! However, as anyone who follows me on Facebook may know already, I’m plotting a new book set in Ireland (historical, which is something new for me!) and so will just have to make another trip again soon. The new trip will be a lot less touristy, but a lot more intensive and will, I hope, steep me in the history and heart of the country. Can’t wait!

In the meantime…our last day in Ireland started with fairy flowers right outside our B&B.

Don’t they look like little fairies? Aren’t they amazing? I don’t know how I’ve hit my ripe old age without ever seeing fuschia (which is what I learned they were), but through the magic of Ireland (and Facebook friends), we are strangers no more.

Next we were off to Muckross House and a walk around the grounds. Again, we weren’t sure that we’d have time for the full tour, not with so much else on our agenda for the day, but… Well, where a mansion tour didn’t convince us to slow our pace, the idea of taking a jaunting car to see Muckross Abbey and the scenic Killarney National Park and Torc Waterfall did. The driver (coming up in a moment) called Muckross a “year house” — a window for every day, a chimney for every week.

A jaunting car is a horse and carriage. I missed our guide’s name, but he told us that our horse was named Pascal and that he was part Clydesdale. When I asked him about the other half, he told me he was “Irish draft” and that Pascal was a “typical Irish horse—works one day, drinks Guinness the next.” Our first stop was Muckross Abbey, which the “Kerry Gems” guidebook we’d picked up at our B&B called “Holy but haunted”. I don’t know about that. For me it was amazing and maybe even a little spiritual. I felt like we’d saved the best for last, at least in terms of abbeys. So much of this was still standing, and the peace and serenity could still be felt. According to the guide, it was built in 1448 as a friary for the Observantine Franciscans and contains the tombs of Gaelic chieftans. And where I felt tranquility, the writer of this blurb found “eerie chambers, gloomy staircases and a yew shaded cloister”. The yew tree, which grows right up through the center of the courtyard is said to be as old as the abbey. The story is that it was grown from a clipping taken from a yew at Innisfallen Abbey. Ciaran McHugh Photography has a great picture of the tree, and a note that Bram Stoker himself was a regular visitor to the area and was likely inspired by the abbey. The write-up there says, “An old local ghost story called ‘The Brown Man’ tells of a mysterious stranger who is found by his newlywed wife alongside a freshly dug grave at Muckross Abbey feeding on the corpse within – a story which bares some ghoulish similarities to Bram Stoker’s own epic vampire horror novel.” So, literary and historical and entirely worth seeing. Unfortunately, Cromwell’s soldiers did their best to destroy the friary in 1652, killing monks, looting and burning.

There are so many amazing stories centering around Muckross Abbey, like the secret wedding of Florence McCarthy and his cousin Lady Eileen McCarthy, and this Rip-van-Winkle-esque tale of a monk who never returned to his home monastery at Innisfallen after going to Muckross for an emergency supply of wine! When I come back, I’d love to spend more time in the Killarney area, which has SO much to see, and to go out to the ruins of Inisfallen.

We didn’t realized that we’d picked marathon day for our jaunt, and Pascal was a little disconcerted by the runners coming for him head on, especially the ones so in the zone they didn’t see our horse and carriage until we were practically on top of them, despite our driver’s shouted warning! We weren’t going quickly enough that anyone was likely to be hurt, but still…   One of the best moments of the jaunt came when we hit one of the checkpoints for the marathon and our driver called out to those picking up discarded water bottles, “Got any Guinness for me horse?” One of the men cocked an eyebrow and offered, “Whiskey?” to which our driver responded, “Nah, me horse is a Guinness drinker” and we moved on. Poor horse never did get his tipple!

Torc Waterfall was next and was seriously, seriously beautiful, as you can see from the pictures. We were saddened as our driver, who’d told us all about various trees and sites along our jaunt, pulled back into the lot in front of Muckross Abbey, but then, at least we had Blarney Castle to console us!

Ah ha, there’s so much here already, I can draw things out just a touch more by posting that part of our trip later today.

Day 7: Cliffs of Moher in high winds, the Rock Shop, Ross Castle, Druid’s Circle in Kenmare and Baileys’ Cheesecake!

The morning was bright and blustery with gale-force winds, as predicted. Still, we’d only walked along the Cliffs of Moher in one direction the evening before, so we wanted to start off in the other direction today. The crazy winds meant we did not try to overstep the lower, safer path and take the upper right along the cliffs with no barrier whatsoever (the better for taking pictures). We didn’t dare! My hat blew straight off my head at least twice, though luckily not to anywhere I couldn’t rescue it. And we were walking into the wind, which occasionally got up enough power to actually blow us back a step. We gave it up far sooner than I would have liked because the alternative just didn’t seem safe. Still, we got some amazing views, especially on our way back where suddenly it seemed as though small white birds were flying up from the depths of the cliffs…except the movement wasn’t quite right. When we got closer to where the objects had landed, we saw that it was sea foam. The power of the wind and the water were such that it tossed the foam over 200 meters to the top of the cliffs! Incredible!

I convinced Pete then that we had time to visit The Rock Shop. Because…Rock Shop! Yes, it is a store. No, it’s not an amazing natural formation or an incredible historical site. Still it was a high point for me. It merits blogging! I could easily have bought out the store if only I could have gotten it all back to the states. Gorgeous fairies and other ornaments (for the lawn and otherwise), fossils, really amazing jewelry…just about everything your heart could desire. I, um, ended up with just a few things. Presents, a stunning opal ring. Pete bought me an adorable little fairly named Sarah with dragonfly wings and a blue-patina. I got him a claddagh ring… It was over far too soon.

Our next lodgings were in Killarney, and we were lucky to discover that the ferry from Killimer to Killarney was still running despite the weather. I guess the weight of all the vehicles made it safe and steady enough even in the high winds. So, we sort of got our cruise, if not exactly the one we wanted.

In Killarney our bed and breakfast was right down the road from Ross Castle. I can tell you all about when Ross Castle was built and by who (and probably will in a minute, though I’ll have to look it up because they were out of their English guide books and I can’t remember off the top of my head!), but the really impressive thing about Ross Castle is that it’s been restored and provides the best glimpse I’ve had into how the tower forts were arranged and how people lived within them. The tour was wonderful and enlightening. For example, we learned more about murder holes, trip stairs at different heights and with slight tilts meant to trip up marauders unfamiliar with them, spiral staircases in a clockwise direction so that right-handed swordsmen (the majority) would have trouble swinging on their way up, but defenders coming down would have an easier time, and the reason beds were shorter than in modern day. I’d always thought this was because people were generally shorter, but apparently the reason is that the rooms were poorly ventilated and smoky. The poor air quality led to difficulty breathing, especially when laying down, so the nobility would sleep sitting up, propped against the bed’s backboard. Thus, furniture-makers began making the beds shorter to save on materials. The poor children and anyone else relegated to the floors would have to sleep on rushes (rarely changed) strewn on the hard floors and deal with the terrible conditions. I don’t generally refer people to Wiki, but the page on Ross Castle has a picture with a nice cross-section of the castle and a write-up with essentially what we learned on our tour. Oh, and Wiki says, “Ross Castle was built in the late 15th century by local ruling clan the O’Donoghues Mor (Ross)” so there you go.

While there is a ton to see and do in Killarney ( see Day 8 when it’s posted), we went from there to view the stone circle in Kenmare, which according to the flier is “the biggest example of over 100 circles that exist in the south west of Ireland.” As with all the stone circles, it’s believed to have held ritual and spiritual significance and were laid out according to the position of the sun. This one was interesting because the circle was complete, but not nearly as impressive as Stonehenge or Avebury, which you can see in the blog from our trip to England back in 2006. Avebury was my favorite. You just…felt something there. Well, I did anyway. Can’t speak for everyone. We’ve also been to and loved Scotland, and you can see that journal here.

Is it wrong that the high point of our evening was the Bailey’s cheesecake we had for desert at a pub in Kenmare? If I were ranking our Ireland deserts—and I am—this would have been second in line behind the chocolate Guinness cake and right before their whipped ice cream, which is Ireland’s answer to soft serve, but which has a wonderful consistency somewhere between marshmallow and whipped cream!