Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Around the Lakes of Killarney

There won't be any recipes in this post. We have been eating simply (aside from the Daring Bakers' lovely Bakewell Tart) with lots of fresh fruit like the ollaliberries down by the road, served plain or with plain yogurt, fresh local corn and squash and strawberries, plenty of simple green salads...delicious but not really things with recipes.

Instead there will be the next installment of the Ireland journey.

The days left in Ireland are winding down, but we have a few more places to see. We leave Dingle town and drive around the southern edge of the peninsula and past Inch beach, watching the people walking down it being buffeted by the fierce wind.

The map seems to show that driving to Kilorglin and then from there to Killarney is our best route. Once we arrived in Kilorglin we discovered that we had passed the turnoff for Killarney, but there was a delightful café where we enjoyed some coffee and some fine art magazines and a chat with the owner. Down the road was a gorgeous old bridge across the Laune River.

We retraced our path and found the correct turnoff.

On the way from Kilorglin we see signs for the Kerry Woolen Mill in Beaufort. We’ve seen their outlets in other places in Clare and Limerick Counties, but follow the signs because this seems to be the actual mill.

When we arrive at the mill we notice that the retail part is in a very old whitewashed building. Inside the tables and shelves are crowded with the most beautiful woolen sweaters and coats and hats and scarves, blankets and throws.

Sweetie even found himself a fine tweed cap.

The buildings in the complex are the original 300 year old woolen mill buildings.

There is even a machine in a back hall that (I think) was once used to measure out woolen yardage for sale. I love that sort of artifact.

We continued on to the town of Killarney in the Killarney lakes region. Driving through the town is a bit confusing, but we eventually found our accommodations, Ashville House. Although we enjoyed the charm and warmth of our previous B & Bs, this was a Guest House and more like a hotel in some ways. Everything was just a notch more elegant and the service was particularly good and very professional, although still friendly. It was a short walk from the center of town, so we took a stroll.

That evening we ate dinner late enough and at a pub, Mac’s of Main Street, where traditional music was played, so we were able to stay right where we ate to hear the music, although, as luck would have it, we were seated at the front and this group had set up loud speakers. After about 40 minutes of good but loud music, we headed back to Ashville House.

The following day after a particularly fine full Irish breakfast, we headed to Muckross House in the National Park not far from town.

This past spring when it was my birthday, we visited Filoli in Woodside, an estate south of San Francisco that I had wanted to visit for years since they have gorgeous gardens. The gardens were spectacular, just coming into bloom and full of daffodils, but we also took a tour of the mansion and discovered that the original owners had presented their daughter and her groom with an Irish estate as a wedding gift. When the daughter died of pneumonia in the early 1920s, the parents, The Bournes, and her husband, gave the estate to the new Irish Republic as the first national park. That estate is Muckross House. You can see that having just heard about it and knowing that we would be in the area, that we absolutely had to visit once we were in Ireland.

The gardens here are equally beautiful to the ones at Filoli and also remind me of the ones at Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, Canada.

The house itself is quite imposing,

built in 1843, on land purchased by the Herbert family in 1770 after leasing it for 200 years and has something like 55 fireplaces. The servants must have had a time of it hauling coal and peat for so many fires! The Herberts later sold it to the Bournes, who added modern bathrooms.We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, but the tour guide pointed out many original antiques, including a carved sideboard that was created for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. It took four years to make! Muckross House has one of the Killarney lakes, Lough Leane, at the foot of the lawn
and a very good café for a cup of tea and a scone. I think I took 40 photos in the gardens!

I also spotted a jaunting car, which is a horse drawn cart with side seating. Looked uncomfortable to me, although I’m told that the jarveys (drivers) give interesting tours and can spin good tales.

Once we drove back to Ashville House, we decided to take it easy and just relax and read, noshing on food we had purchased in town on the way back. You can see that eating out at fancy restaurants wasn’t high on our list of things to do in Ireland, although each time we did we had spectacular meals.

The next morning we took a walk into town, bought some scones in the bakery (the best we had the whole time we were in Ireland.

I particularly liked the fruit scones, stopped in at a car parts store to buy batteries (far cheaper than at most other stores),and visited the Gothic revival cathedral, St. Mary’s, which has a spire so tall that you can see it from all over and which has glorious stained glass windows and a carved altar.

More walking took us past the boys and girls schools and through some lovely residential areas. Glad we visited Killarney, which seems like a nice, quiet town, except for the part out by Muckross House which has large hotels, big tour busses, and a lot of traffic.

Next we head a bit north, a bit east, to Limerick city where we discover the National Self Portrait Gallery…which wasn’t easy to do.


  1. Ooh, that's it. We need to go to Kilarney. Not only for the gardens -- D. wants Sweetie's hat (we bought a Harris Tweed hat here, but he likes the flatter Irish caps... he doesn't want to look like he's eternally golfing), and we both are intrigued by the scale/clock looking thing. Very cool.

    I've never seen sideways seats on a horsecart like that. Huh. It does look uncomfortable, but the whole idea of sidesaddle anything seems a bad idea to me!!

  2. Suzanne11:00 AM

    My friend and I actually took a jaunting car ride at Killarney National Park and the ride was NOT uncomfortable! We didn't have much time to explore through the park so we hired John and his horse Sally to take us on a 1-hour tour to Ross Castle. As you mentioned, his stories were absolutely hilarious and the ride was very scenic. It cost us 20 euros apiece for the ride but I thought that it was absolutely worth it!

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  4. Great blog Sweetie's hat (we bought a Harris Tweed hat here, but he likes the flatter Irish caps... he doesn't want to look like he's eternally golfing), and we both are intrigued by the scale/clock looking thing. Very cool.Thanks for sharing...........

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