Unforgetabble Ireland : Kerry (Part2)

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry is a circular scenic route on Iveragh Peninsula. Via N70 and N71 it rims around the peninsula connecting Killarney and many waterfront towns that make attractive stopping points, including Kenmare, Sneem, Castlecove, Cherdaniel, Derrynane, Cahersiveen and Killorglin.

We dedicated our first day in Kerry (Tue, Jun 16th) to Ring of Kerry and choose to travel clockwise to avoid the tour buses that usually start out of Killarney and travel counter clockwise. The traffic was however unexpectedly light and we crossed paths with big tour buses a few times only. The self driving tour worked out well for us and it is what I’d recommend. Driving our own car allowed us to hop on and off freely. Plus a big bus simply would not be able to get to some sites such as Staigue Fort, accessible only through tiny little roads that are impossible for buses.

Ring of Kerry exceeded my expectation. It is evidently one of the most scenic and intriguing routes on earth. Sometimes the road winds inland through villages, sometimes it takes you to the edge of water. Almost every turn brought about a wonderful vista. There were so many inspiring views that I stopped frequently for photos. Driving on the left put me on just the right side of the road and I often videotaped while my husband drove on. Between these photo ops, we visited Sneem, Staigue Fort, Derrynane and Cahersiveen.

To top it all, we ended the day with what turned out to be an adventurous undertaking, venturing our way back to Kenmare through Ballaghbeama Gap.

Between Kenmare and Sneem

N70 lies close to Kenmare Bay at this spot

N70 lies close to Kenmare Bay at this spot


Out of Kenmare, N70 ran through inland villages but here it brought us close to the edge of Kenmare Bay briefly.

Sneem

Sneem is a lovely village between Kenmare and Waterville. Sitting on the estuary to Kenmare Bay with River Sneem flowing through and being surrounded by rolling green mountains, Sneem is positively tranquil and picturesque.

The name of the village, “Sneem”, means “Knot” in Gaelic and there are different versions of explanations about the origin of the name. One is that water swirls like knots at the estuary down the village, another, a bridge connecting the two main village squares looks like a knot, and the 3rd, it is a knot on the Ring of Kerry and therefore is also known as “The Knot in the Ring”.

Traffic was light on that day and we easily found a parking spot on the main street. We did some shopping and then walked around town taking the route recommended by the lady shopkeeper at Erin.

Erin is a gift shop in Sneem’s colorful town center

Erin is a gift shop in Sneem’s colorful town center

Dog in front of a house, looking dozy

Dog in front of a house, looking dozy

Sneem’s Garden of Senses

Sneem’s Garden of Senses

Houses were sparse between river and mountain

Houses were sparse between river and mountain

Swanning Sneem River

Swanning Sneem River

Sneem Parish Church atop the hill by Sculpture Garden

Sneem Parish Church atop the hill by Sculpture Garden

Pyramids in Sneem’s Sculpture Garden

Pyramids in Sneem’s Sculpture Garden

Modest Parish Church

Modest Parish Church

Between Sneem and Castlecove

A beautiful spot on N70 between Sneem and Castlecove

A beautiful spot on N70 between Sneem and Castlecove

Staigue Fort

Not far from Sneem, is Castlecove, a small village from which a path leads to Staigue Fort. It is easy to miss the path to Staigue Fort. You have to be looking for it to find it. Once on the way, a 15 minutes drive on a narrow road follows. At one point, the quiet road is well screened from the surrounding by dense, tall shrubs but for the most part, it traverses through open area covered with lush greens. Gently rising up, the road eventually ends at a clearing surrounded by hills.

Staigue Fort

Staigue Fort


Built of stones without mortar – between 300 and 400 AD by closest estimate – Staigue Fort is an ancient marvel and its advantageous location, heightens its appeal. Erected atop the raised clearing surrounded by green hills, the stone ring dominates the center stage of this natural amphitheater, overlooking open sea to the south.
Flowers around the fort

Flowers around the fort

Baa!

Baa!

A few houses on the western hill along the road and many sheep all around the fort

A few houses on the western hill along the road and many sheep all around the fort

 The circular wall survived

The circular wall survived

Atop Staigue Fort Ring

Atop Staigue Fort Ring

Derrynane

5 minutes west of Castlecove is the village of Caherdanie, home to Derrynane. Derrynane is a collection of attractions sprawling across the unique shoreline of Derryname Bay, including Derryname House- home of Ireland’s Great Liberator Daniel O’Connel, Derrynane Beach and Derrynane National Park.

We visited Derrynane House,now a museum open to the public. The admission included a video, or rather a slideshow, of Daniel O’Connel. Lunch at the café was nice.

Derrynane Beach is not far from the house but as soon as we set out that way, it started to rain so we decided to return to our car and get back on the road.

Craggy shoreline

Craggy shoreline

Glenbeg Caravan and Camping Park on the edge of water

Glenbeg Caravan and Camping Park on the edge of water

Glenmore Valley is the origin of Caherdaniel parish

Glenmore Valley is the origin of Caherdaniel parish

Derrynane House

Derrynane House

The triumphant chariot

The triumphant chariot


This ornate chariot was created to greet Daniel O’Connell when he was released from prison on Sep 7th 1844.
Path to Derrynane Beach

Path to Derrynane Beach

Coomatloukane Viewpoint

A few minutes back on N70 from Derrynane House, we came across Coomatloukane View Point, a large viewing area with paved parking lot sitting on the southern tip of Coomakista Pass, a Kerry Way cycling and walking trail. On its east N70 brushes by and twists on. On the west, a foothill backs it like a sturdy wall. On the south it opens to a beautiful view of Derrynane bay and Atlantic Ocean. In its center is a statue of Mary.

Looking up to the peak of the foothill, I noticed two moving specks on top. I imagined the view would be more spectacular from up there as the two dots came into focus and I realized they were a couple of people. I was tempted to get up there myself but it was not to be on that day. The storm that had been forming back in Derrynane was by now stronger. It was completely overcast and the wind blew in gusts. I craned my neck to look again, the couple had disappeared. I surmised they went down from the other side. Another car cruised around but did not stop. I hastily snapped a few photos and got in the car the moment rain pelted down.

Scariff and Deenish Islands

Scariff and Deenish Islands

Derrynane Bay

Derrynane Bay

Statue of Mary

Statue of Mary

Cahersiveen

Cahersiveen was our last stop on Ring of Kerry. We were there to visit Daniel O’Connell’s memorial church, the only Irish church dedicated to a non-saint person or a layperson.

Colorful buildings on Church St

Colorful buildings on Church St

Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church on Church St. Cahersiveen

Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church on Church St. Cahersiveen

Church’s crossing and chancel

Church’s crossing and chancel

Nave of the church

Nave of the church

Ballaghbeama Gap

After Cahersiveen , we continued northward on N70 but instead of completing the entire circle, we veered off at Glenbeigh and embarked on a “scenic” short cut, Ballaghbeama Gap. Ballaghbeama Gap, however, turned out to be more intimidating than scenic to me on that day.

It was between 6 and 7pm, and raining. In minutes, environ changed completely. The familiar landscape of open green space vanished and we found ourselves driving on a desolate defile serpentine through bare and craggy mountains with nothing else in sight. The deeper we moved into the gap, the more the surrounding closed in on us and as we climbed up girdling the hillside, heavy, livid clouds came down lower and lower. As though that was not disquieting enough, I looked out the window and found our car inches away from the edge of a deep ravine. 30 minutes into it, the same threatening surrounding persisted relentlessly and there was still no sign of civilization.

I felt so trapped in the middle of nowhere with no way out that not even the peaceful sheep, which showed up occasionally here on the road and there on the hillside, could relieved me and I panicked: “We have no cell phone. We have less than a quarter tank gas left. How much longer will this go? What if the car breaks down?”

My dear husband behaved as if he was not worried, but excited. His encouraging words sounded to me blind optimism at that moment… We plowed on and another 30 minutes later, a house loom in the distance, then more houses came in sight. Eventually we were out of the gap and back to civilization. Only when we had returned to Kenmare safely, I was able to laugh at myself.

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2 Responses

  1. Hello. I was wondering if you know what the pedestal of the Mary statue in Coomakista says? It was in gaelic and may have been a dedication to sailors from what I was able to read. I did not get a close up picture of it when I was there in ’08. It has been difficult to find a picture & translation of the base. Thanks in advance for any info you may have.

    • Hi Lisa. I was quite taken by the image of the statue in that lone place on that quiet day and did try to understand the inscription. But I did not get it. Googling did not yield much result either. You actually had found out more than I did. Thanks.

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