Ireland has been an American tourist destination for as long as I can remember… of course I’m not quite 40 so it’s possible my memory is short lived. For what seems like forever, though, is this notion that leprechauns and pubs dot the Irish landscape, beckoning any American who claims to be any sort of Irish. And so, just like all the other tourists, we found ourselves in County Kerry.
Technically, Dingle is also in County Kerry, although you wouldn’t know it by the vast change in landscape, and even the tolerance of the townsfolk. You would know, however, by the radio station, Radio Kerry, in the Kingdom of Kerry. As we passed from the bays of the Slea Head Peninsula, through the sunsets of the Southwest coast, and into backyard of Kerry National Park, we felt a change in atmosphere. We could feel it even as we breathed in the night air.
The town of Killarney is rotten with tourists: overflowing buses, bustling restaurants, and over crowded pubs displaying large busty signs that read “live music.” Unlike the genuine nature of the bartenders of County Clare, the well tipped showmen of Killarney learn early to upsell, fake a smile, and cheer “slainte!” on demand. The food is also less Irish, and more American in style (however late 1990s).
Within town center lives a lot of traditional Irish bands, mostly familial in nature, with at least one man playing flute. Men. Flautists. Superb.
We relished in the masculinity. And the fact that most pubs had a second floor electronica dance club.
In the morning we found ourselves in front of Ross Castle, and lavished in the romantic possibilities of times past.
Staring into the gateway of Killarney National Park, we soon climbed into a two-seat cart being pulled by a horse named Sylvester. Pat, our guide, was well versed in the history of the area, the countryside, the republic, and the spirits of the grounds. And there were many spirits…. especially in 12th century abbeys.
With large lakes, mountains, and green forests in the backdrop, we arrived at The Muckross House, a well known site for those wanting to explore Ireland of the 1800’s.
We strolled through the gardens and climbed back into the cart to made our way to the waterfalls. The scenery was magnificent.
Pat sang the graces of the Irish clans and told tales of the civil war. My heart sang out to the nature before me, and right then I promised The Universe to spend more time outdoors, basking in the wisdom of Mother Earth.
Far too soon, Sylvester clogged his way back around the lush green countryside, and we found ourselves back where we started. Alas, we were sad, as it was time to depart. Afterwards, DJ Emils and I both agreed that the tour through Killarney National Park was one of our favorites thus far.
We avoided the Ring of Kerry and its tour buses. Onto Blarney, however, ….. and other tourists.