Can we just talk about Irish dairy for a minute? Every single dairy product I’ve had on this trip has been so creamy and fresh! The cream, the butter, the ice cream… so good! On my mental shopping list for the day I get home, I’ve already added Irish butter and cheese. I’m probably thinking about dairy tonight because (a) I’m hungry and (b) I had the world’s best soft serve ice cream cone this afternoon.
Okay, back to my day. I spent the day visiting the sights in Killarney. I started at the Gap of Dunloe, just outside the town, primarily because there were some breaks of sun in the clouds. You can walk through the gap to Lord Brandon’s Cottage and then take a boat trip through the lakes to Ross Castle. Or you can hire a “jarvey” (driver) to take you through the gap in a horse and trap. Or you can do what I did, which is to walk for a while and then turn around and walk back. The gap is beautiful, but it was socked in with clouds and very windy. I walked about 45 minutes into the gap and then headed back to the car. There are sheep just wandering openly along the narrow road. On my way back, I passed several horse and traps heading up.
My next stop was Ross Castle, built in the 1400s by the O’Donoghue family. The only way in is by guided tour, but I learned a lot and used my Heritage Card for free admission. Ross Castle is a tower house, and is 4 stories tall. The ground floor was used for weapons storage and has very narrow windows for shooting arrows. Above that is the main family room. On the third floor is the bedroom (the entire family shared one room – adults in the bed and kids on the wooden floor), and the top floor was the banqueting room. The servant quarters were in one small room with one small window that housed about 25 servants at a time. I was particularly fascinated by the “murder hole”, a small hole above the main entrance through which objects could be dropped to murder unwanted intruders, and the bathroom, which consisted of one long bench with an open grate through which waste fell into a chute outside. It was one servant’s job to monitor the waste. The staircase in the castle was counterclockwise with uneven steps for two reasons. First, most soldiers were right handed, so coming down the stairs, they had the advantage over intruders coming up. Second, the uneven steps were called “tripping steps” to again throw off would-be intruders who would trip up the uneven steps.
My last big stop for the day was at Muckross House, scene of the aforementioned ice cream cone. I had about 30 minutes to kill before my tour began, so I enjoyed my ice cream in the surrounding gardens. In contrast to Ross Castle, Muckross House is a Tudor style home, fully furnished and decorated. It was built in 1843 for the Herbert family. Later William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian, purchased it for their daughter Maud as a wedding gift. Pretty nice wedding gift! It was used largely as a hunting lodge, and has many animal heads and carcasses on prominent display. I liked it, but I’m discovering I have more of a love for abbeys, castles, and the like.
After all that, I was tired, and I felt a nap coming on. I went back to the hotel and after an hour-long nap, I got my second wind. It was off to Kate Kearney’s Cottage for dinner, music, and Irish dancing! The music was somewhat lively, but the atmosphere felt a little touristy, and the dancing didn’t last long. Since the sun was peeking through the clouds again, I seized the opportunity to drive up to Aghadoe, where one can find the remains of Aghadoe Cathedral, as well as a small round tower. So there I was at 9:00 at night, wandering around monastic ruins in Ireland. Fortunately, the sun doesn’t go down until almost 10PM, so there was still plenty of light. Aghadoe is situated high on a hill overlooking Killarney town and the lakes of Killarney. Simply put, it was a beautiful night and a beautiful view. The weather is calling for more wet weather tomorrow; I’m hoping it doesn’t dampen (pun intended!) my drive around the Dingle Peninsula…