Ring around the Kerry

Weekend trip to the Ring of Kerry through the Ring of Kerry Hotel Heritage Weekend Oct 16-18

This post may be a month overdue but it’s fun to look back on my travels as I share them with all of you!

The Ring of Kerry Heritage Weekend trip was first advertised to us at orientation upon arrival at UCC. A friend of mine who studied here in Cork during the spring had told me in his list of advice that the Ring of Kerry trip is a must. So, Megan and I registered in September and were signed up to go for the middle of October. The trip came at that perfect mid-term time for us and caused us to reminisce on our Early Start class field trips. The Heritage Weekend isn’t just for students but it’s “designed with students in mind” so it had a very similar feel to our field trips from August. It was also a really nice break from planning our own accommodation, meals, activities, etc after our exhausting weekend in London. Really there’s nothing much better than free food – at least the feeling that it’s free since we already paid for it.

We left in the afternoon and journeyed from Cork to Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry with a stop in Castleisland, Co. Kerry to tour Crag Caves. We also made a quick scenic stop for pictures of the sunset and looking over at the Dingle Peninsula across the way. One of the best perks of this trip (beside the delicious food and stunning views), was the fact that we actually stayed in a hotel instead of a hostel, buíochas le Dia! Megan and I had a room to ourselves; nice beds, private bathroom and all!

After dinner, our group had a presentation/demonstration from a couple local Gaelic footballers. They explained the rules and showed us a few tricks before corralling all of us over to the open space in the room and starting up drills. We practiced passing the football which is similar to a one-handed bump in volleyball, except you shouldn’t make the mistake I kept making by using your forearm instead of your fist. Gaelic footballs are a lot harder than volleyballs so passing by hitting it with your fist is the best way to go. 12168311_10153274033898507_15354152_oThe guys then made us stay in our two lines and began a very small 4×4 scrimmage. It got intense really quickly so we steered clear of those involved to avoid getting hit. (Note: One girl got a little overly aggressive and ended up with a bloody nose. It was that rough.)

As we all grabbed some water, a traditional Irish band began setting up for our next activity: Celí dancing. Celí is basically the Irish version of square/line dancing and considered a type of speed dating since you switch partners during some points of the dances. One thing I can say about this dancing is that once it starts, you’re in it for the long haul. The music will continue to play on and on and you just keep dancing your heart out, dizzily spinning in circles with your partner while trying to not to step on each other’s feet. In summary: everyone was sweaty and we were exhausted, so we headed up to our room to prepare for the next day’s adventures.

Breakfast ended up being a classic scrambled eggs and bacon type hotel breakfast but still great. The sourdough rolls from dinner were out again so Megan and I laid claim on a few of those (we love bread, ok?). Our day began with a drive over to the Skellig Island Experience. Skellig Island is an ancient monastery off the coast of the Ring of Kerry peninsula. For you Star Wars fans out there, filming took place on that island for both the new Episode coming out this December as well as the following one, so when you see little beehive-like rock huts now you know it’s not just some Hollywood constructed set! We watched a short film about the island’s history and looked around the exhibit a bit. My favorite part was probably the astounding number of Puffins that live near Skellig.

Then we climbed a mountain. Ok, it wasn’t as exciting as scaling the side of a cliff or anything, we just walked on the road up to the top but it got steep FAST. However, after a few stops to take in the views along the way, we made it to the peak! The scenery surrounding us was absolutely breathtaking. It was quite windy as well so we were practically crying from the beauty of the hills and water around us. A bonus to this was all the while we were climbing, sheep roamed the mountain too!

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The tour continued around Valentia
Island including Ballycarberry Castle which was used in the filming of Leap Year (a highly recommended Amy Adams chick flick/comedy about love & Ireland & Irish humor – also includes that one guy from Parks & Rec; yup, that one).  We also stopped at a stone fort which I – surprisingly – had zero hesitation climbing up to the top ledge. Arriving back in Cahersiveen, we had some free time to check out the pubs and shops in the little town before heading back to the hotel to learn some traditional pub songs and a trivia quiz!

Although Team Scamallach – Megan, our new friend Jeremy, this one German guy, and I – failed to win first place in trivia, we managed to claim third place! Additionally, Megan and I won complimentary drinks from the hotel bar for having a conversation in Irish (and people said learning Gaelic would be useless) so I’d say the night went well!

The next day we continued around the Ring of Kerry and stopped at the Derrynane House & Beach in Caherdaniel. The cemetery at the beach is unique because it’s only accessible during low tides, otherwise the stretch of beach up to the gate is covered by water. We had a good long while to walk around the beach and cemetery which I took the moment to sit and meditate listening to the sounds of the waves hitting the stones on the shore. It was a very relaxing and much needed few minutes to stop and just be. My zen mood was ruined later when we were walking back to the house and I fell on a giant slippery rock, deeply bruising my left hip. I can say, however, that it was handled with grace and laughter (with silent pain). 12169245_10153275976388507_1225332242_o

12171059_10153275508828507_51364632_oOur lunch was picnic style as we all grabbed sandwiches from the bus and sat outside at Ladies View. Aside from the cold wind, it was a spectacular backdrop of mountains and streams. Our last stops were in Killarney National Park with a walk up to Torc Waterfall and roaming the grounds of the Muckross House & Gardens.

All in all, the Ring of Kerry is a stunning must-see if you travel to Ireland and I highly recommend the Heritage Weekend trip to students studying abroad at UCC. I had a fabulous weekend exploring the beautiful landscapes that drew me to Ireland and sharing laughs with new friends. 🙂

 Buíochas le Dia! – an Irish Gaelic phrase meaning “Thanks be to God!”

 

 

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