Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ireland, Day 5a: Leaving County Kerry.

Back to the painfully slow and delayed travelogue:
Our last morning in County Kerry started with watching from our living room the sunrise over the Maharee Islands in Brandon Bay.
We'd made blackberry jam from the blackberries we'd picked on our walk the day before and had it on some of the bread we'd bought at the little village market, along with cheesy eggs and coffee. Americans that we are, we still had coffee every morning.
We drove down to An Clochán to the cottage of Maura, our landlord. When we mentioned the lovely weather, she urged us not to get "too good an impression" of Ireland! We talked about the rest of our trip and she tried to talk us out of going to the Cliffs of Moher, insisting that they were too touristy and not really any better than the cliffs along the coast of the Dingle Peninsula.
Before leaving An Clochán, we drove up the tiny road past the church to see the old church ruins and the graveyard.
And then it was back in the car to drive along coast to Trá Lí, then through County Kerry farmland along the Stack Mountains to Tarbert.
We got to Tarbert just in time to drive on to the 11:30 ferry across the Shannon Estuary over to County Clare.
It was a twenty minute trip, which gave us time to make fun of the guy with a selfie stick taking endless photos of himself. We'd planned to go straight to our next cottage in Ballyvaughan, but since we had a little time, we drove up along the coastal road.
We stopped at the Cliffs of Moher, which Maura had advised against. It was indeed touristy and we were reluctant to shell out the 12 euros to enter. Particularly when we saw the fake castle, O'Brien's Tower, built in 1835 as a tourist attraction. There were hundreds (thousands?) of people spilling out of tourist buses and milling around and taking photos of themselves at the tower.
But we'd already paid, so we veered away from the crowd and walked along the cliff-edge path that lead away from most of the other visitors. It took us onto land owned by a farmer, with sheep fields on the other side of the fence.
It was very windy along the cliffs. I'll tell you up front that I'm a little skittish with height and I did NOT like the wind. I was certain a gust of wind would carry me right over the edge to the abyss below.
But oh my God, it was beautiful. The cliffs stretch for 8 kilometers and reach a height of 720 feet, and soon we left the fake castle and crowds behind.
Some 30,000 birds from over 20 different species make their homes there and we watched them flying in and out of nesting sites in the cliff walls.
Did I mention that it was windy and we were close to the edge?
We sat down and inched our way to the very edge, to dangle our feet above the ocean for a bit before walking back along the pathway to our car.
From there to Lisdoonvarna, home of the matchmaking festival.
That apparently is a real thing, which started when area farmers would bring their daughters to town for dances and help from the local matchmaker. A matchmaker still works there and the festival attracts thousands of singles. For the last three years there is even a matchmaking event for the LGBT community.
We had lunch - a gooey brie, pesto, sundried tomato and roasted onion panini and a couple of pints of 9 White Deer beer - Stag Bán for me, Stag Rúa for him.
As we headed out of town to continue our journey we watched an older couple waltzing in front of the Ritz hotel. I think that will be us some day.

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