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Friday, November 30, 2007

IRELAND--DAY 6

We began the day with a jaunting cart ride through Killarney National Park. It rained, but that didn’t dampen our spirits one iota. Of course it cleared up just as we left the great outdoors. Then off to other adventures before returning to a second night in Killarney.

The highlight of any trip to Ireland must be the Ring of Kerry. (I realize I keep using the word “highlight,” but there are wonderful experiences every day which I wouldn’t want to miss. It’s a glorious country.)

From Killarney we drove the Dingle Peninsula with its magnificent harbor; then up through the mountains and wild country. Limestone juts from the rough and still wild earth. Cattle and sheep graze, and we are treated to eye-popping natural beauty—most untouched by man. There is the Atlantic Ocean warmed by the Gulf Stream. There is a resort town where Charlie Chaplan vacationed and where there is a statue to his memory. We descend along Corkscrew Road back to Killarney, stopping to take in the elegant Lakes of Killarney from another vantage point. We drive through Adair and see the thatched rooves on the homes there.

Tour companies, other than the ones from France and Germany, have agreed to travel the Ring of Kerry by driving in one direction. We soon found out why.

The roads are so narrow that two coaches cannot pass each other going in opposite directions—neither can trucks, nor even full-sized cars. There were times when a truck came from the other direction and our coach as well as the truck came to a virtual stop; then they inched forward until they cleared their side view mirrors. Then they knew they had a few inches between them, so they proceeded cautiously. Car drivers were not nearly so prudent, and we had several near misses as cars careened around the curves and suddenly found themselves in the path of a monstrous coach! Oftentimes a car had to pull onto a narrow shoulder to allow the coach to pass.

Remember that the Celtic Tiger is relatively new! Electricity did not come to some of these areas until the 1970s. Today there are second homes here, but road building covered what were once basically buggy cart paths. The area is special. It’s beautifully wild and rugged with towering cliffs plunging into deep valleys, and it’s stunningly, mesmerizingly, and naturalistically breathtaking. It is a land of graceful lakes and rugged coastal cliffs. This is the Ireland I wanted to share with Rob. This is the Ireland I remembered.

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