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June 23, 2006

We're in Ireland!

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Bunratty Castle

We arrived in Shannon, Ireland at 7:30 am on Friday. “I can’t believe I’m in Ireland,” Kelly said in the taxi. She picked this walking trip and is especially excited to visit Ireland for the first time. The countryside around the airport was flat but very green. We spent our first night near the airport at a small guesthouse in the village of Bunratty. Since we had arrived so early in the morning, we decided to lie down for just a few minutes… and the next thing we knew it was 1 pm.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park was a fifteen minute walk down the road. We had a late lunch/early dinner at Durty Nelly’s Pub across from the castle and then enjoyed several hours at the castle and park. This was a “real” castle, built in 1425. We climbed the twisty stone steps up to the top of the turrets and explored the hidden rooms. The folk park was especially interesting: a reconstruction of Irish culture and architecture from 100+ years ago, including a village street, a country manor house, two mills, various farmhouses, and livestock.

June 24, 2006

Killarney and the Harley HOG

A shuttle bus picked us up in Bunratty at 11 am on Saturday and we traveled 2-1/2 hours into County Kerry where we will spend the next week. Our week-long walking trip on the Kerry Way begins and ends in Killarney, a picturesque town of about 10,000 people.

We were surprised to find the town filled with motorcycles—close to 10,000 of them! We left Knoxville during the annual “Honda Hoot” motorcycle rally and arrived in Killarney just in time for the "Harley-Davidson HOG". Bikers have come to Killarney from all over Europe, the sounds of their motorcycles echoing across the countryside. There were at least ten motorcycles parked in the small parking lot of our guesthouse. We will be interested to see what Killarney is like when we return a week from now.

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Harleys in Killarney

June 28, 2006

Along the Kerry Way

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On the Kerry Way

It's now Wednesday, and we have a “rest day” after three full days of walking on the Kerry Way. The Kerry Way is a 135 mile circular walking route around “Ring of Kerry” in southwest Ireland. We'll walk some 50 miles of the route during our week. The walk is very front-end loaded, and we’ve racked up over 36 miles in our first three days.

The countryside in this part of Ireland is absolutely beautiful with quite a bit of variety. After leaving the motorcycle-sounds of Killarney behind, we walked along the shores of a peaceful lake, past the ruins of a 15th century friary, and then through the landscaped grounds of the 19th century Muckross House. We are surprised by the subtropical climate. We hadn't expected to find palm trees in Ireland! Rhododendrons are also abundant in the countryside.

After a steep ascent by the Torc waterfall, we found ourselves away from tourists and in much more desolate countryside surrounded by mountains. Twelve miles later we ended a long first day at the Hillcrest Farmhouse at the edge of the Black Valley. We had a wonderful homecooked meal of hot soup, roast chicken, and apple pie at the farmhouse.

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June 29, 2006

Rain, Wind and Bogs

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In our raingear at the Foilmore Church (mapholder around my neck)

We expected rainy weather in Ireland… and encountered sunny, surprisingly hot weather our first three days of walking. Day Four (our rest day) was cooler and a little overcast, but the rain finally came on Day Five. But what’s a walking trip without some rain? We hauled our raingear all this way—shouldn’t we get to use it??

Today’s walk was eleven miles from Glenbeigh to a very remote area near Kells. Our path took us around a mountain on a forest path, then out along the cliffs overlooking the sea. On a clear day we would have had absolutely beautiful views across Dingle Bay, but we struggled with rain, wind and quite a bit of mud. It was a very challenging day, especially working our way across the exposed mountain pass and through the many boggy sections.

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June 30, 2006

Not Quite Ready for the End

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On the way to Caherciveen (photo by Kelly)

Our last day was a short one—and fortunately another beautiful day. We walked just six miles to the village of Caherciveen, on the River Ferta, hiking this last leg with our British friends Tim and Linda. We had plenty of time for lunch and some exploration of Caherciveen. Kelly visited the Heritage Center in the old police barracks, while Charley and I took a nap out in the sunshine. Then we were picked up for our ride back to Killarney. We had walked almost sixty miles over five days; the ride back to where we started took only an hour and a half!

This was our fifth long-distance walking trip in Europe. We continue to really enjoy our this type of vacation, though we definitely weren’t ready for this walk to end. After an initial struggle, we had found our stride and were really enjoying the walking. Our last two walks were much more substantial (190 miles on the England Coast-to-Coast walk and 100 miles on the Alpine Pass walk in Switzerland). We would have liked to continue walking and experience more of Ireland. Kelly is already talking about wanting to come back and see more of Ireland.

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July 1, 2006

A Complicated Travel Day

Today was a very complicated travel day. I spent more time planning and fretting over the details of today’s transportation than I spent planning the entire rest of our trip!

The walking tour company provides a free shuttle back to Shannon Airport on Saturday mornings, but we didn’t think the shuttle would get us to the airport early enough to check-in for our Ryanair flight to France. After considering numerous possibilities, I finally decided to rent a car in Killarney for the drive to Shannon. We left our guesthouse in Killarney at 7:15 am, and the trip to Shannon took us about two hours. Charley quickly refreshed himself on how to drive on the other side of the road. We queued up at the Ryanair counter two hours before flight time and checked in numbers 45, 46 and 47. We had read that Ryanair was very strict on baggage weights, so I was especially relieved that we had packed well—Charley’s bag weighted 19.7 kilos and mine was 19.6. Just under the 20 kilo limit! (Of course, I ended up wearing my heavy hiking boots on the plane to get my bag under!)

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Trail's Our Thing in the Ireland category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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