I had always pictured Ireland as quaint. Growing up in the 80s, you couldn’t turn around without a Lucky Charms or Irish Spring advertisement. These helped provide my mental picture of Ireland, which is totally different than what I was expecting. In fact, it was one of the rare destinations that exceeded my expectations on every front. It was clean, the roads were fantastic, the people were friendly, the airport was easy to navigate, the food was good and the scenery…oh the scenery.
We flew into Cork, which is in the south of Ireland. Our plan was to drive to Killarney, visit the Killarney National Park, then do a driving tour of the famous Ring of Kerry the next day. We in London on business and only had the weekend in Ireland. I would have loved more time there. The drive from Cork to Killarney was scenic and easy. County Cork is more quaint houses and rolling hills, like my mental picture of Ireland. After crossing into County Kerry, the scenery became much more majestic. I was surprised by how large the mountains were.
One of the first things we did after arriving in Killarney was take a driving tour of the Gap of Dunloe, which is a narrow mountain pass between MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (west) and Purple Mountain (east) in County Kerry. It is about 11 km (6.8 mi) from north to south. It provides some incredibly scenic driving. Some of the roads do get pretty narrow, so if you are uncomfortable driving in those types of situations, you might want to consider one of the many tours available. Some of the tours are done by horse-drawn carriage. There were some amazing views on the drive, this was one of my favorites:Later that day we visited Ross Castle, which is inside of Killarney National Park. Ross Castle sits right beside Lough Leane and is the ancestral home of the O’Donoghue clan, though it is better known for its association with the Brownes of Killarney who owned the castle until more recently.We spent the night at a farmhouse-style Bed and Breakfast near Killarney. After spending the week in the hustle and bustle of London, it was nice to get out into the nice quiet Irish countryside. The following day we decided to take a driving tour of the Dingle Peninsula as well as the Ring of Kerry. It quickly became obvious to my why these are considered world-class driving routes. We were rewarded with one amazing vista after another. The Slea Head Drive along the Dingle Peninsula was especially breathtaking. The view of the Blasket Islands is something I will not soon forget: