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KINSALE AND THE SOUTHWEST
Kinsale is a lively, artsy town that could be Austin's sister city. There is that feeling of being on permanent vacation. Or mybe my thoughts were just turning to home. We stayed an extra night, enjoying the weather and the seafood.
Next morning, we walked two miles to Charles Fort and two miles back or maybe a little less coming back by a steep shortcut off the point at Scilly. The fort was an excellent adventure. It is a star-shaped walled city on the sea.
We then had the best breakfast of the whole trip at the Blue Haven: poached sole for Craig and fruit and cheese for me, plus excellent coffee and croissants. The nice young man at Cahir told us we would like Kinsale, and he was right.
We drove on to Timoleague by a beautiful shore road. Two rules of the road: do not drive anywhere at night (this we accepted without ever putting it to the test) and absolutely STOP to study the signs at every junction. If you break rule number two, you will pay for it by wandering aimlessly. (I instinctively knew that if we broke rule number one we would end up in a ditch. It was very dark at night on those roads. Absolutely.)
At Timoleague we saw an excellent ruined castle by the water, but no sign of the castle gardens. We went on to Creagh, just outside of Skibbereen. These gardens got off to a slow start, but then we discovered the boathouse, then Sir John's walk by the sea, then the very beautiful Mill Pond and Mill ruin (1700s) with a view of Creagh House (1820).
Craig steered us past a man working in the garden near the house, who turned out to be quite voluble and friendly. He worked for the British Trust restoring the house (Sir John having died last year) and the garden. He asked about our trip, and we sketched our itinerary. We said we planned Ilnacullin next, and Bantry.
Our new friend immediately took charge! He gave us a choice of three places to stay - we chose the Sea View Hotel - and called and made our reservations. He told us to drive around Sheepshead Peninsula and then to walk around Bantry House before going on to Miss Kathleen Sullivan's hotel.
We actually did it backwards. We checked into the Sea View Hotel at Ballilicky first. My, but it is lovely! Then we returned to Bantry for lunch, visited Bantry House, and then drove around the peninsula before returning to the hotel for dinner. Great day. We have now bathed and changed and will soon go down for dinner. Our very choice room overlooks the sea, true to our hotel's name. The room is furnished with huge antiques.
We have finally learned how to behave. We go down to the lounge at 7, order dinner, then hang out in the front rooms until called in. I will be frank: the fish in Ireland has not been memorable. The brown bread and ice cream have been. Also both the pork and the lamb. We adored the ubiquitous sheep, and a plus about visiting Ireland in March has been the number of sweet little lambs in the fields. However, I am afraid we have eaten quite a few of them.
We have had two soups in Ireland: potato and carrot. One is made with potatos and carrots, the other with carrots and potatoes. If this sounds like disparaging the soups, it is not. They were both delicious. I ordered whichever they had wherever I went, and each was better than the last.
We had a near-fatally delicious potato cake for breakfast before leaving Ballilicky. At Ilnacullin we waited about half an hour for the first boat to the gardens, which are on the island of Garinish. While waiting for the boat we got a dog-fix playing with a cute little bearded collie who liked to retrieve sticks by the shore.
On Garinish Island we were dogged by an orange-faced bullfinch. Loved the way the garden dived down to the sea. Reminded me of Yamashita Park (Sankien Gardens) in Japan. A quick hour's walk was enough at Garinish.
The south coast of western Ireland, with its mild climate, is rich with beautiful gardens. From Garinish Island, we moved on to Derreen. At right is the King's Oozy at Derreen. What a wonderful name for a drainage ditch. There was a King's Oozy and a Little Oozy, both just little clean rills of water lined with plants that like wet feet. Derreen is quite a remote spot, and it has very fine gardens. There is a seat (can't remember its special name, the seat of Kilarney, or something like that). I wondered what it would be. It was a bench. But when you sat down, you understood why it had a name. It commanded a perfectly symmetrical natural view of a perfectly triangular hill. It was positively transcendental sitting there. [Thank you, Google: Knockatee Seat.]
The winding road through Muckross to Healy pass was beautiful - great barren expanses which culminated in a sign: Welcome to County Kerry and then a shocking vista of an amazing valley and the sea. We then drove on to Kilarney, catching part of the famous Ring of Kerry. Omigosh. It was so steep, it fell away so dramatically, down one side, up the other...
By now, I was thoroughly carsick from driving through this swooping landscape. Thought food would help, and had a hankering for Irish stew. Ate some. Threw up. Craig went out alone and came back a couple of hours later saying he'd had the best dinner of the trip (of oysters and plaice). He's been reciting back to me all the amusing (I guess - I am not listening) conversations he heard. Craig likes to eavesdrop when he's out alone. I hate Kilarney. It's a tourist trap. But maybe it's just that I don't feel good.
As the trip ends, I'd recommend our itinerary to anyone. We've had a great time. All except maybe that night over the loud band in Kildare. But everything else: Cashel House, the Twelve Bens, Birr Castle Gardens, the National Stud, Sally's Gap, Bray, Dublin, Glendalough, Mount Usher, Rosslare, Cahir, Anne's Grove, Kinsale, Creagh, Bantry Bay, Dereen, Ilnacullin and County Kerry. And now, home.
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