West Cork: Summer-time And the Livin’ is Easy

Hello all! Another month, another story!

I’m a few days late, my apologies! Also, how is it May already?! I am being completely side-swiped by how fast this year is going.

So, for this story-time adventure, I thought it would be nice to maybe talk about Ireland. Since, ya know, I spent most of my time there. I have a lot of great stories about living in Cork, but absolutely cannot put all of them into one post. For now, I’m just going to focus on one week’s worth of adventures and follies.

In June 2018, during a rare, beautiful, amazingly long summer (for Ireland anyway – they typically have about six-weeks of “real” summer), my boyfriend and I went on a week-long tour through parts of Waterford, West-Cork, and Kerry.

We have our birthdays in June, so it was kind of a birthday-spree for both of us.

Getting our spree on. Picture Source

Day One:

To kick things off, we went on a day-trip to Waterford County, to a small little village called Ardmore. Though small, it certainly doesn’t lack culture. The town boasts a beach, cliff walks, and a historic round-tower and church/monastic ruins.

We went to view the ruined cathedral first. It’s now a cemetery around the ruins and has historical markers about those who used live there, as well as a memorial for a tragic shipwreck that happened off the coast at Ardmore.

We had talked about spending some time there, before walking up the road to a trail that led to a historical well, as well as said cliff walk.

Things were all well-and-good for a hot minute. We were looking around and wandering at our own pace, not really paying attention to each other much. And then, suddenly, Patrick was gone. Gone. Not just around a corner gone, waaay gone. As in me shouting his name and birds songs being the only response I got, “gone”.

^Me, being like, “Where’d he go?” Picture Source

So, here I am wondering if the rapture just happened, and then, in comes a FaceTime call.

From Patrick.

Who just so happened to leave the churchyard without telling me.

That’s right.

My beloved, my hunny, my dear left me.

…I was a little salty. But he came back for me, so I guess that’s what really matters.

So, off we go into the wild together.

[I would really recommend this walk if you’re ever in Ardmore. It’s a 4km(ish) walk just bursting with beautiful seascapes, wildlife, and history. The whole route takes about an hour and isn’t at all strenuous. It’s a great space to be out in the open, among nature and the beauty of creation.]

Also, there are great “perching” places along the cliff for, what I like to call, “Yeah, Mom, we’re doing fine” pictures:

“Yeah, Mom ❤ we’re doing fine” 😉

After we finished our walk, we left Ardmore and went on to Lismore, which boasts beautiful churches and the Lismore Castle and Gardens. The castle is actually occupied and/or can be rented for private use (how neat!), so general visitors are not allowed in the castle itself, but are free to wander at their leisure through the beautiful garden grounds.

So, despite being left at a church (hmph!), it turned out as a great day.

One of the best parts of the day, wonderful as it was, had to be Patrick’s driving.

I’ve heard his driving described as “dangerous” before, and I wouldn’t say that I necessarily agree with that… I’d just say it’s unpleasant. The word “whiplash” comes to mind. However, he’s always gotten us where we want to go (And if you’re reading this, I love you)!

[I didn’t do any of the driving, because, in Ireland, you have to be 25 to rent a car without having outrageous insurance fees. So, the honor of driving was all Patrick’s.]

Day Two:

We stopped back in Cork for the night, picked up Patrick’s fold-able canoe, and went on our way the following morning.

[If you noticed that I casually mentioned “fold-able canoe”, you read that correctly. Patrick happens to be a fan of start-up companies, and this was one of his many start-up finds.]

The next part of our trip took us from Cork to Killarney, with a few stops along the way.

One place we stopped was in Ballyvourney, which is a “Gaeltacht” village. It’s one of the designated places in Ireland where their traditional language is spoken as their primary language.

In Ballyvourney, there’s a famous well, as well (see what I did there?) as the remains of a monastic settlement, attributed to a St. Gobnait, who happened to have an affinity for bees. Behind the old churchyard where the ruins are situated, there’s a small bit of forest that looks appealing for exploring. However, when we were there, it was raining. A lot. And I, being wet and cold, was not in an exploring mood.

“Why you gotta do me that way, rain?” Picture Source

So, my vote was to drive on.

However… Patrick has never seen a trail that he did not follow (it’s like he can’t leave them alone). So, he was of the camp to follow the trail.

Soooo, I got left at a church. Again. For the second time in two days.

Only this time, I knew it wasn’t a second coming.

[I can’t be too bummed about being left alone, though. We both have a tendency to wander off, alone or together. Case in point, we stopped on the side of the road later that day, specifically because we saw a field (It was very pretty. There were trees, and flowers, and cows) we wanted to look in. So, I guess we wander alone, but trespass together…]

The trespassing field

After all that jazz, we got back on the road to Killarney.

Killarney, of County Kerry, is (in my opinion) pretty perfect. There are woods, there’s water, a castle, ruins, and good pubs! It’s one of my favorite places that I went to while I was in Ireland, and I went there a lot.

Our plan had been to take some time in Killarney National Park and go on a tour through Ross Castle. We got slightly side-tracked, though. Upon arriving at Ross Castle, the weather had turned, the rain was gone, and it was extremely sunny.

And we had a fold-able canoe.

By a giant lake.

With an island, with a ruin, in the middle of the lake.

I think it was a pretty obvious choice: we decided to canoe to the island.

[Before we could do anything, though, we had to get a day-license from the local Park Ranger. The process involved power-washing off said fold-able canoe to get rid of any possible contamination from Zebra Mussels and taking the receipt from the power-wash to the Park Ranger, with the canoe for inspection. He was pretty skeptical about the trustworthiness of our canoe, but very kindly (and after a few jokes) gave us our permit and our good-to-go. So, off we went back to Ross Castle to get our canoe-on!]

We parked in the Ross Castle parking lot, which was the farthest in we were able to drive, and changed clothes. After changing, we hiked (yes, hiked) in swimming suits to Library Point, a limestone rock formation on the shore of Lough Leane. Not only that, we carried everything-and-the-kitchen-sink for this fold-able canoe. Not a small feat.

At Library Point, we then spent about 20-minutes putting the canoe together. Let me tell you, it’s not that easy to set up a canoe. Teamwork is essential, and it really shows you how well your communication game is going.

Canoe unfolded. Safety vests on. Ready for anything.

After finally getting the canoe together, we launched into the lake. At which point, we realized it might be kind of difficult to actually get the island/ruin, because the lake was actually quite choppy.

After fighting the wind and…waves (I’m not sure if I can still say “waves” about a lake?) for a solid half-hour, we got pushed to the opposite shore of the lake.

By that point, we had given up on the ruin and were just trying not to get blown over by the wind/wave situation.

We ended up at a rocky outlet, but we needed to walk the canoe around to the opposite side of the outlet to a more sheltered area, which would get us out of the choppy part of the lake and allow us to paddle the canoe back closer to where our car was.

Getting around the rocks proved to be a literal “sore” spot.

Our plans having gone pretty-well askew, neither of us were in the greatest of moods (mostly because we spent half an hour with the wind trying to dump us out into the freezing water) and stress was definitely a factor in our lives. Patrick, lovingly and practically, suggested that we wear the shoes we had with us in the water, so that we could move the canoe more quickly and protect our feet. I, however, did not want to sacrifice my brand new shoes to the water.

So, he went off with the canoe around the rocks, while I gingerly hobbled along slowly, and we didn’t have much to say to each other for a minute. But we got through it, my shoes stayed new, and nobody died of tetanus.

After we got the canoe around to the other side, and the water had literally chilled all of our emotions out of us, we paddled to shore again and ended up finding a great spot for swimming (really great, like sandy and warm kinds of great). So, we spent awhile swimming, and then, we packed up the canoe for the long walk back to our car.

When we finally made it back to the car, we decided to drive on instead of staying in Killarney for the night. Our new destination: Glengarriff, Cork.

The drive there was only about an hour, so it wasn’t a long drive, but we drove into a pretty thick fog on the way and it definitely made the drive harder (Just kinda going to glaze over that, because we can all agree that having to drive when you can’t see is a terrible decision and nerve-wracking in every way. Right? Right.).

Good talk, guys. Picture Source

After getting to Glengarriff, we checked into a local B&B for a couple of nights and went off to find food and some nightlife. We had a great meal at a place called “Jack’s Restuarant” and learned about a pub that hosts live traditional-Irish (trad.) music every night.

Patrick plays quite a bit of trad. music and had brought his instruments with him, so we collected those and went to join the session. It was a small one-room pub, but had a really great atmosphere. Patrick and the other musicians put on a great session, and though I didn’t do a lot to contribute, the bar-man gave me free pints.

And, I mean, I’m not going to say no to free pints. So, overall, I’d say the day counted as a win.

Day Three:

“Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Haley, happy birthday to me.”

Yes, this was my birthday-day.

We ate a lovely breakfast at the B&B to start the day. From there, we walked to the Glengarriff nature reserve and hiked up to a lookout point.

Lady Bantry’s Lookout

The lookout is called “Lady Bantry’s Lookout” and allows you to see across the bay up to the Caha Mountains. It was a chilly morning, but the hike up chased away the cold. At the top, we were greeted by some pretty blustery winds (see Exhibit A), so we didn’t stay up for long. On the way down, though, we decided to diverge from the trail and got our selves a teensy bit lost in the forest for a few minutes.

Exhibit A – Ma Windy Hairs

After getting back down closer to the main floor of the forest, we took a looped-walked back to Glengarriff town and bought ferry tickets out to Garnish Island. Garnish Island benefits from an unusual, subtropical, climate and is famous for its extensive gardens and grounds featuring flourishing southern hemisphere plants in the middle of the Atlantic.

It is definitely gorgeous, but neither Patrick or I were all that thrilled with the island itself. To me, the main attraction of the island was the seal colony on the way to the island (see Exhibit B).

Exhibit B – The goodest-good seals

After wandering the garden island to our heart’s content, we took the ferry back to Glengarriff and went down the road to Bantry for some am-ma-mazing birthday dinner! Seriously. It was some of the best seafood I’ve eaten in my entire life. Loooved it.

We went back to Glengarriff for more tunes after dinner, and that rounded out a fantastic day-three adventure.

Day Four:

Our last adventure day (on that occasion anyway), we packed up the car early and drove back toward Kerry to visit the Beara Penninsula and Kenmare town.

We drove 109km on the peninsula to Kenmare and then all the way back to the city. It was a lot. I’d say that day was mostly driving, but we did find a few good spots on the way.

We stopped at a random beach somewhere past Castletownbere, waded in the water, and played fetch with a couple of friendly dogs:

The cute doggos on the beach.

After driving on, we found directions to an old Stone-circle site:

Standing in the middle of a stone circle, hoping I don’t get sucked back in time.

Farther along the drive, we also came upon a “Mass Rock.” It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Mass Rocks are stone altar-type structures that were used during Penal times in Ireland, when there was a big move for Catholic persecussion.

Not all of the stones are well-kept, or are even very beautiful, but the place we found was very well cared for, and it had a stunning view of the sea:

The Mass Rock, somewhere on Beara.

The rest of the trip was pretty well uneventful. We drove on to Kenmare from the Mass Rock, had a bite to eat, and explored the town a little bit. There are a few historical landmarks that are interesting, including Cromwell’s Bridge. After we walked around as much as we cared to, we found a delicious chocolatier shop while we were there, gorged ourself on chocolates, and then, drove back to Cork.

That was that. Another adventure-time done and dusted.

Thanks for hanging out, y’all! Until next time 😘

If you’re ever planning a trip to Ireland and/or West Cork, I am happy to share advice on where to go/what to do based on my experiences! So, don’t be shy; I’d love to chat!

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