One of our major goals of our study abroad was to get to Ireland and do some hiking and we have certainly accomplished our goal with three long days of traveling, hiking and Irish music. When we arrived we discovered that our hostel was situated above one of the best restaurants for traditional Irish music in all of Dublin, so of course we had to go.
The environment was so lively and friendly. People were singing and dancing and there was a band playing with a fiddler and guitarist/singer. Fortunately we had prepared for the trip in Valladolid by laying out on the beach and listening to some traditional Irish music. So when the opportunity arose we were able to join in, singing and clapping along to songs like “Galway Girl” and “Whiskey in the Jar.” Amid the festivities we met a girl from Ohio, three guys from New York, another from Canada, and a bunch of rowdy Irish folk. Because we had to catch an early train in the morning and we thought it was 1:00am, we headed off to bed.
We arrived at the train station at 6:30am for our train to Cork at 7:00am, but upon arrival found out that we had hopped timezones and were there an hour earlier than we had thought. The train station was not even open yet, lesson learned. When we arrived in Cork at we only had 10 minutes to get to the bus station, so we literally sprinted through the streets and thankfully caught our bus in time to travel to Kinsale. After 5 hours of planes, trains and buses we had arrived at our first destination, the quaint port town of Kinsale. We wandered through the tiny town of brightly colored buildings until we found our hostel where we met Sophie, a young Canadian girl traveling around Europe.
Once we discovered we had similar plans for the day, we decided to explore together. First thing that we wanted to see was Charles Fort. After a hilly 40 minute walk with scenic viewpoints, we found our fort. We spent a while exploring every crack and crevice of the old, ruined fort.
Apart from seeing the weaponry, storehouses and barracks, we were also able to see the ocean views and our next destination, James Fort. Two hours of walking later we arrived at a grassy hill and just beyond was James Fort. Just as we get to a clearing we saw a vivid, full rainbow cresting over James Fort.
We couldn’t get into the fort, but we still explored the area, got stuck on the ruins of a house, and got a beautiful view of Kinsale from afar. We walked back to town for dinner and another not quite as fun, but equally as interesting night of traditional Irish music. We enjoyed freshly baked muffins for breakfast and saw Sophie off before going to see a castle that overlooked the town.
After wondering back to the bus stop we discovered two things: Ireland has sporadic weather patterns with hail one minute and blue skies the next and that Ireland’s bus website is less than reliable. Although our bus tickets were bought for that specific day, at that specific time, to that specific location, the bus does not exist until summer time. When the normal bus through Kinsale arrived, an hour later, the very nice driver told us this vital information and gave us a ticket for 3 different buses to Kenmare (instead of our 1). Despite our stress and struggles, we arrived in Kenmare only a half hour later than expected.
Upon arrival, we had to navigate to our Bed and Breakfast, without a real map and with no idea where we actually were in the town. It was raining when the first short journey began and after asking 2 people for directions and finding the correct road, the sun brightened up our walk. We walked up and down the steep rolling hills and admired the mountains and scenery surrounding Kenmare, a very tiny town. We found the Bed and Breakfast, a thatched cottage in the middle of no where, only to find out they did not have a reservation for us.
Thankfully, the owner had a room for us and we had no problems with our stay. Even though we were tired and hungry, we set out to hike a part of the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’ trail. We found one of the highest peaks (on a trail) in Kenmare and were able to see the whole town and the lake beyond. However, we were not content with sticking to the road and decided to do some wandering. We hopped a fence and proceeded up a golden hill, but we soon discovered it was nothing but a swamp. With soaking and muddy feet we pressed on to the top with occasional leaping and jogging to avoid larger puddles. At the top, we had a perfect view of the surrounding landscape, where we took plenty of pictures before heading down the mountain.
Our way down was even more interesting and adventurous. Again, we were not content with the makeshift mountain trail we’d taken up, so we decided to make our own trail on the way down. We jogged down the mountain side, attempting to tread lightly through the boggy water. We climbed under, through and over barbed wire and many tiny hills before arriving at a bigger obstacle in our path. Before us was a five foot deep and 3 foot across gulley with a small stream at the bottom. After a bit of mental preparation we leapt across the troublesome gap. Then we stumbled through some tall and thorny shrubbery and found a little running creek, where we jumped in to wash off our muddy shoes only to step in a puddle of mud 5 steps later. Shortly after we climbed out of the wilderness and up to the road back towards the town. All the town had was a fancy restaurant, so we tried our luck and ate pizza awkwardly surrounded by families wearing suits and dresses, doing our best to hide our muddy shoes. We were exhausted so we headed back to the B & B, along a pitch black road, with perfectly visible stars, and took nice warm showers before an early night for rest.
The following morning we had our first real Irish breakfast. Laid out for us was fruit, granola, yogurt, OJ, and then our hostess (Caremel) came out with tea, hot plates of Irish bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and toast.
Needless to say, we were stuffed, but it was the best breakfast in Europe so far. They gave us a ride to the bus stop, where once again we had a dilemma with the buses. We realized that the specific bus doesn’t run on Saturday out of Kenmare and we were stranded, with another traveler, once again. Thankfully, this man had a friend who called a cab, and going against our better judgement of walking to Killarney (only 15 miles), we took it with him so he wouldn’t have to pay the whole fare. In Killarney we were happy to find out that our train would definitely arrive later that evening. So, we set off, without worries, through on and off hailstorms to Killarney National Park. From there we took ever path and side path that we could to get amazing views of the lake and the snow capped mountains on the other side.
After we tired of walking we made our way back to town to do some souvenir shopping and to eat. Later we boarded our train, to head back to Dublin, found our hostel, once again without a map, and went to sleep to prepare for a long day of traveling back to Valladolid. We both still insist that some day we will return to Ireland, but there is no way that we will do it without a car.
Juliana and Steve.