Dia dhaoibh! Hello everyone!
Last weekend was a clear sign that spring is already with us. Despite the recent drop in temperatures and unexpected cold front during this week, the weather in Ireland has been amazing the past couples of few weeks. Irish people are not as different from Swedes in fact; they all come out at the tiniest sunshine. Making the most out of the sudden warmth and sunlight, some friends and I decided to explore the Emerald Isle. After a bit of search on which county to visit, we booked a weekend trip to Kerry with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organisation in Dublin.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with ESN, it is a non-profit international student organisation that arranges events, trips, gatherings, and similar activities for Erasmus+ students that are living abroad. Although students who become members have discounts and offers, their events are available to anyone interested. They offer an increadible resource to learn from new cultures, bring people together and enjoy the exchange experience to the fullest. Besides, ESN has representation in various cities across Europe. Unfortunately, ESN Ireland’s work has been quite limited due to COVID-19. On the bright side, because the government lifted all restrictions earlier in March, they managed to plan several National Trips for the rest of the semester (e.g., Galway, Cliffs of Moher and Connemara National Park, Cork and Limerick, etc.). Particularly, we signed up for the Killarney and Ring of Kerry trip. Continue reading if you want to know about the wonders that we encountered during our journey!
Adare and arrival to Killarney
The bus departed from Dublin Connolly Station on Saturday morning at 6.30 am. Since I leave quite far away from the centre, and the first Luas is at 6.30 am during the weekends, I had to stay over at some friends place to be able to arrive on time (learn from my mistakes and always check the departure time before booking anything). On the way to Killarney, we had a pit stop in a gas station and a longer stop in a small town called Adare. Adare is considered Ireland’s prettiest village. To our perspective, this statement seemed a bit of an exaggeration. It is well-known by its thatched (hay-roofed) cottages and other buildings such as the Trinitirian Abbey, Desmond Castle, and Adare Manor. It was a nice town to walk around (we saw a small ecological market at the end of the main street). Yet, we found it hard to understand its importance in the Irish heritage.
Once we arrived in Killarney (3 hours and 30 minutes from Dublin), we checked in our hostel and grabbed lunch. Instead of sitting in a restaurant, we bought some typically Irish scones in a cute little café (John M. Reidi) and sat under the sun in the Killarney House Gardens, appreciating the views towards the big mountains in the horizon.
Muckross House and Killarney National Park
In the afternoon, the bus took us to the Muckross House, located in Killarney National Park. Muckross House is a stunning Victorian countryside villa that belonged to different people of English and Irish aristocracy. Although a visit to the interior of the house was included in our trip, we would not have done this if we were travelling on our own. The architecture of the mansion is more impressive than the rooms in itself, but it was cool to imagine how the Irish upper class lived in the late 1800s. It was the whereabouts of the Muckross House that amazed us most. It is surrounded by endless green fields, cute flower gardens and an immense lake to the Killarney Mountains. Of course, some of my friends took some time for a photo session, while others preferred to have a little nap!
Before heading back to Killarney, we had the chance to go see Torc Waterfall. It was nothing spectacular, but the views from the top of the hike we did were breathtaking. Plus, the sun was about to set and the dusk light created a beautiful pastel colour palette in the landscape. Totally recommended! And if you enjoy hiking, the Killarney National Park is full of trails and paths of all kind of levels (beginners, moderate, etc.).
Evening in Killarney
To be fair, we were all exhausted once we got to Killarney (getting up at 5 am is not for everybody). Prior to dinner, we had a quick shower (the coldest shower I have ever had) and got ready to go out. Just as a brief review of Neptune’s Hostel where we stayed at; it was ok for the price we payed, but the bathrooms were a bit scarce. We were in a corridor of 4 rooms of 8 people each, but only had two toilets and two showers for women and the same for men. The rooms were not fancy, but the bed comfortable enough for a night of sleep. Additionally, there was a big common kitchen, which can be a big bonus if you want to cook food yourself.
To finish the day, we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant. The food was very flavourful and the dishes very big. Because I am not used to eating such big portions, my friends ended up having half of my meal, but they super satisfied with it! Except for one, who almost dies out of the spiciness! The last plan was go to an Irish pub for some live music and drinks. Unfortunately, I was so tired I just could not make it. The warmth of the bed caught me instead and I instantly travelled to the land of dreams.
Gap of Dunloe
On Sunday, we started off early, but not as much as on Saturday, so it was appreciated to get proper rest. Our first stop was the Gap of Dunloe, literally one of the most popular places to visit in Kerry. It is situated between the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the Purple Mountain. The best things is to explore this place by foot or on bike. We walked from the Kate Kearney’s Cottage to the Auger Lake (about 45 min, 3.8 km), from where we could see the famous gap. However, the traditional way is to walk out to the Lord Brandon’s Cottage (about 2 h and 30 min, 11 km). What we did was the beginners version of the hike. It was really easy (no steep slopes), but unfortunately, we walked on the road all the time. This would have been annoying if we would have done it later on the day, when more cars are passing by. The nature was absolutely astonishing and the silence felt so peaceful. It was my favourite part of the trip.
Inch Beach and Dingle
After the morning walk, the bus drove us to the Dingle Peninsula. First, we stopped by Inch Beach, a sandy beach that has views over Dingle Bat and the mountains of Kerry. Despite its ironic name, Inch Beach streches for almost 5 km, which offer a truly delightful strand-walk. The weather was so sunny and the temperature so warm that I friend and I even considered having a dip in the sea. Our desire was easily taken away when we saw a couple of tourists freezing and shivering while coming out of the water. Not the best idea maybe!
Dingle was our lunch stop before the afternoon activity. It is a small coastal town sitting on the Atlantic Ocean. Walking around its narrow streets and among its colourful houses was charming. It was quite a same that we had such a short time at Dingle, most of which we spent eating fish and chips in a not that great restaurant. Judging by the tons of Fish and Chips places located by the strand, Dingle seemed a touristy town. Nevertheless, I am sure that, if we would have had time to explore further, we would have found the hidden gems and treasures of the village.
Slea Head and Dunmore Head
Finally, at 15.00, we set off to the edge of the Dingle Peninsula. Driving along the Slea Head Drive was what we were most psyched about. Unfortunately, we were sitting in the wrong side of the bus. Our views to the right showed the rocky wall of the drive. Yet, the left windows offered a mind-blowing scenary of the road cliff and the endless sea. The bus took us all the way to the Dunmore Head, one of the westermost points in Europe. In fact, this spectacular landscape served as filming location for the ”Star Wars – The Last Jedi” movie. The photos speak for themselves!
Sadly, the weekend passed by extremely fast. By the time we realised, it was already Sunday evening and we had to be back in Dublin. Our return left us with bittersweet taste and eagerness of discovering more Irish wonders. Therefore, we are back on the road this weekend. Can you guess where we are heading this time? Find out in a future post!