By Christine Smith, Global Escapes Certified Travel Associate
Upon arrrival in Dublin, Phillip and I headed straight for the car rental counter to pick up our tiny road rocket and begin our grand Irish adventure. And it certainly got off to a roaring start–driving on the left in heavy traffic is not for the faint of heart! But self-drive is one of the best ways to see and experience Ireland, so we gritted our teeth, ignored the irate horn-blowing directed our way, and set out for southeastern Ireland. Though we didn’t have time to see and do everything in this wonderful place, we were determined to at least hit the high points while we could.
Our first stop was Cobh, a tiny port town just south of the larger city of Cork. It was from this historic point that the Titanic made her last stop before heading out to see. Of the 123 passengers who boarded in Cobh, only 7 made it back alive. One of the more interesting stories of this port is the Englishman who worked aboard the Titanic who disembarked, leaving his position without warning, because he had a premonition of the ship sinking. Must have made quite an impression on him, as everyone else believed the ship to be unsinkable. After touring the historic port and the White Star line ticketing office, we enjoyed the colorful shops along the waterfront and the town’s massive cathedral, soaring above the town’s roofs, before we continued on our way.
Climbing the steep hills and narrow streets out of town, we set out for Blarney, just on the north side of Cork, home of a stunning castle and the famous Blarney Stone of Irish folklore. The stone is said to bestow the “gift of gab” on all who are willing to kiss it, and I couldn’t wait for my turn to pucker up. We climbed the incredibly narrow, steep and uneven steps to the top of the keep, and I soon found myself bent over backwards, entrusting my balance to a total stranger, as I leaned out over open space to kiss the stone. The act itself requires a bit of faith, as you are required to literally dangle upside down over the stone floor of the castle, many feet below, and strain outward to press your lips to the outer wall where the stone is lodged. Despite my pleas, Phillip steadily refused to kiss the stone as well. Must be evidence of his inner germophobe, or perhaps he simply feels confident in his current skills of gab.
Leaving Blarney behind, we set off for County Kerry, home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and culture in Ireland. I must admit that, after all the praise I’ve heard of this area, I fully expected to be a bit underwhelmed; however, as I stood at the pinnacle of the windswept Ladies View outlook over the lakes of Killarney, I was delighted to be proven wrong. Not only are the vistas found in the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula stunning, but they are as varied as they are numerous.
As we drove along, we experience a wide range of climates–waves crashing violently against steep cliffs, lush woodland forests, sleepy fishing villages, and windswept mountain passes. Each one had a beautiful wildness to it, feeling both tame and natural all at once, as though it had been unchanged since the beginning of time.
Perhaps the most delightful aspect of this area is not the land at all, but its locals. They are warm and friendly, always ready to lend a hand or tell a great story. Being born and raised in the tradition of southern hospitality, I must say that I’ve never visited another country that reminded me so much of home, and in the best possible way. As we head north to the wilds of Connemara, we take with us the warm feeling of home, as if we’ve just been among family. And I think that’s just how the residents of County Kerry would wish it to be.
Ready to start planning a trip to Ireland? Book an appointment with Christine today!