“The Americans never walk. In winter too cold and in summer too hot.”
-J. B. Yeats-
WE proved Yeats (born in Ireland) wrong! Today’s plan was to visit Killarney National Park. It was about 1 1/2 hours away toward the middle of the country. The much anticipated activity was to be either a bike ride or hiking. We were going to decide which once we got there, but the day dawned very windy and we realized that biking might not be very enjoyable. It is lucky that our luggage arrived the day before because without it we wouldn’t have had the outdoor clothing we needed for today. The drive there, as everywhere, was full of beautiful scenery as we made our way up and over some mountainous landscape. I wasn’t sure what type of terrain Ireland has before I arrived and I was surprised to realize how very hilly it is -many quite high. We drove up into what I would call mountains (being from relatively flat Michigan) and then down into a valley of sorts. We stopped at an overlook on our way down.
The park is situated between two towns, Kinmare and Killarney (although much closer to Killarney). We stopped on our way through Kinmare and bought sandwiches for a picnic lunch. Both Mike and I chose a wrap called Chicken Tikka. I asked what “Tikka” is – with, I’m sure, a suspicious look on my face. I was worried it might be a fancy name for mayonnaise, which I can’t generally abide except in specific foods that I’m accustomed to. The place was busy and the girl at the counter tried to explain -but I still wasn’t sure what it was. In a rush, I just took my chances and went for it. I generally don’t have to worry about Mike -he’s like Mikey…he’ll eat (almost) anything! It turned out to be very good -a bit of spice to it -but not dripping in mayo thank goodness!
The centerpiece of the park is Muckross House, which is situated on the banks of a large lake. We decided to take the marked hiking trails that wound around the edges of the lake, but led to and around a smaller lake that connects to the bigger one. The trail was a mix of dirt/rocky hiking trail and paved bike (and walking) paths. It was a national holiday that day so there were lots of people out enjoying the park -in spite of the really gusty winds and sporadic rain.
Once we found our parking spot and got ready to go, we walked by the big house -quite pretty.
We’re not sure how far we actually hiked. The original plan was for maybe 9 miles – but looking at Yvonne’s map afterwards, Mike wasn’t convinced we’d gone quite that far. It felt like it! We started out going on a more dirt path that diverged from the paved path and more or less had it to ourselves. Much of it was along the lake’s edge or with a lake view, but occasionally we veered into more of a forest environment. As we neared the far end of the lake, we crossed a bridge over the outlet between the two lakes and made the turn back toward Muckross House.
We were ready for lunch, but Yvonne is used to hiking where there aren’t even any trails so she wanted to find a quiet place off the beaten path where we’d sit down. We were walking along on the paved trail one minute and she was going cross-country the next! We ended up under the trees, with a view of the water …just the 3 of us…and it was a perfect spot for a picnic. It also was handy that the trees sheltered us a bit from the rain that started just after we sat down to eat. Luckily it was just a passing shower.
As we continued our walk, we had to go out onto one of the park roads (the one we’d driven in on) for about a mile and that was definitely interesting. It was curvy -so not much visibility for the drivers and very minimal shoulder for the walkers. The drivers were very considerate, so it wasn’t a terrible experience. We were finally able to step off the road when we arrived at the parking area for a waterfall. We walked back a ways so we could see it. Someone was busking -playing a bagpipe for tips- and it was an interesting accompaniment for the sounds of the waterfall. I thought the choice of a bagpipe was a bit odd and Yvonne confirmed it when she said it wasn’t really a very traditional instrument for Ireland.
As we left the waterfall area, we noticed a small underpass for the road we’d just walked on and used it to cross back over and rejoin the path back to our starting point that morning.
To get back to our starting point, Muckross House, we had to walk a section of the carriage trail. They had horse & carriage rides there -but they called them Jaunting Cars. The carriage road was interesting to see because there was a small “ditch” in the middle of the road that I’d noticed earlier but didn’t realize that it had been made by the horses’ hooves until I watched a carriage pass. Before long we were back at our car and heading to nearby Killarney.
Of the two towns, Yvonne prefers Kinmare because she considers Killarney a “tourist town”. We were actually in the only traffic jam of the week going into Killarney. We walked around and looked in a few stores. I took some pictures, but more or less came to Yvonne’s conclusion.
We drove back to Kinmare because it was on the way home and it was also where Yvonne wanted to eat dinner.We had a nice dinner – I had a chicken/pasta dish (Mike called it Spagetti-Os) and Mike had fish & chips.