We set out shortly after 10am. We spent some time trying to get the car out of Japanese mode, but were stuck on a map of Tokyo on screen and Japanese radio stations programmed in. I managed to connect my phone via Bluetooth but all it did was play music through the car’s tinny speakers. We had good luck with Sixt car rentals in the past, but this one was a real dud!
Our first stop was Adare, a mere 20 minutes from the hotel. It is said to be one of the prettiest towns in Ireland with thatched roof cottages and medieval buildings. However, it was very busy, full of Trump-like tourists, and we couldn’t find anywhere to park, so we just drove on through. We both later regretted not stopping and putting more effort into finding parking.
Killarney National Park
The drive to Killarney was pretty. We drove through charming farmland and very European-looking villages that reminded us of the suburbs in Germany. We stopped in town to walk around a bit, poking our noses into the garden.
The drive through the park had lots of lookouts but little signage. The lookouts just jumped out at you, so they were easy to miss. A couple interesting sites like a castle ruin had no where to park, so we just had to carry on by much to my disappointment.
We stopped at the classic views of Ladies View and Moll’s Gap, but I enjoyed the other scenic views even more with their green mountains, calm blue lakes, and black rocks. There were lots of sheep grazing in the distance and little white farm buildings dotting the landscape. My favourite stop was a boarded up old church next to a bridge over a bubbling brook surrounded by trees.
One of the things I was most excited about this trip was staying in a renovated potting shed at the Dromquinna Manor just outside of Kenmare. It was a gorgeous estate on the bay. We had a good chuckle at all the signage around – warnings for hedge crossings and bumps in the road. The staff was very friendly and made us feel right at home!
While Matt had a nap in our room, I giddily went out to explore the grounds. I felt like I was on a movie set for a period piece! There was a grand White House turned wedding venue, a beautiful boathouse turned restaurant, and the stables and ground sheds turned into accommodations, each with their own patio. It was also family friendly with a little playground even! It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves – not another car parked or person in sight!
There was a swing in an old tree next to some statues of children reading. I had fun swinging, imagining what it would be like to bring our son here. It was so nice just to sit on the swing and look out to the bay or up towards the sunlight coming through the tree leaves.
We had dinner reservations at the Boathouse Bistro. We sat on the patio with a lovely view of the bay, mountains, and the dock. I got the beetroot Wellington and Matt had the fish and chips with crab dip to start. The food was superb and very filling. We had trouble finding room for dessert, but ended up sharing a pineapple panna cotta in the end.
After dinner, we walked along the water from the Boathouse and up to the trail behind the estate. It was a beautiful walk with hydrangeas, holly, and tropical looking flowers growing will. There was a white bench along the trail that we sat on to take in the view, enjoying the birdsong and the sunset.
Breakfast at Dromquinna
We went to bed at 10 and I slept solid until 8:40am. I excitedly got up to check the patio for our breakfast delivered in a wicker basket. It arrived around 9am and I set it up on our little bistro table outside. We had strawberry yogurt and a lemon curd yogurt in glass jars, milk and two freshly squeezed orange juice in glass bottles, fruit danishes, croissants, Bonne Maman jam, marmalade, Irish breakfast tea, and a carafe of coffee. I was thrilled and savoured every bite before we hit the road.
Our first stop of the day was Sneem. The drive into town was beautiful with tunnels of thick trees and view of the water and cliffs. We parked and went for a little stroll, poking our noses in the souvenir shops and purchasing some groceries to have a picnic on the road. We bought our son a toy lamb made from Irish wool and some postcards.
I plugged the Cliffs of Kerry into the GPS and it took us back into the cliffs and countryside. I decided we would use the GPS system to conserve my phone battery today. However, this turned out to be a mistake as it lead us to cliffs in Kerry instead of the Kerry Cliffs, taking us back into yesterday’s route. Unfortunately we didn’t clue in until we arrived at Molls Gap again.
We ate our picnic lunch at Molls Gap, then headed back towards Sneem. I packed up the GPS and turned on Maps on my phone. No more old school GPS system for us. We took the N70 back down, passing our hotel and redid the route we had already taken this morning to Sneem. Thankfully this only set us back maybe 60-90min.
Matt decided to do the speed limit here as he was familiar with the road now, and I had to look out at the passenger mirror to watch the yellow line to reassure myself we were not about to plunge into a stone wall. Matt commented that driving these narrow roads at the posted speed limit was like constantly trying to thread a needle.
Drive to Portmagee
We set Maps to ‘Star Wars Town’ as a recent film had been done in the area. We both hoped to see something of the Skellig Islands and puffins, although we knew it was unlikely. The drive down was gorgeous!
When we turned off the N70, we were almost immediately greeted by a transport truck on a narrow one-lane road. We pulled over as close to the edge as we could, gently bumping the tires against the curb. The truck just squeezed by us, yet on the approach it looked like the same width of the road! The oncoming cars and tractors were nothing after that!
I was struck by the amount of abandoned houses in Ireland – some of these not too old! Real estate also seemed cheap by Canadian standards – you could buy a detached house (not derelict) at €180,000 as applied to $500,000+ back home.
Portmagee was a sweet fishing village turned tourist town. We found a seaside patio of a local pub and each of us ordered a bowl of chowder and pint at a pub on the water. We sat on the waterfront where we could watch the boats go by beneath the mountains dotted with white cottages. On the summit of one we could see the movement to the first transatlantic underwater cable. Matt had visited the other end of that cable in Newfoundland!
There was signage for the Kerry Cliffs advertising they were a mere 2km away. We hohummed on whether to go up there or to Bray Head Loop Walk. Since it was only 2km away we decided to go take a peek. It was originally where I had set the GPS this morning before we got lost after all.
The Kerry Cliffs were €5 per person and well worth it. The views were amazing! We didn’t see any puffins but the cliffs were beautiful and you could see the famous Skellig Islands clearly. It was the highlight of the trip so far!
Continuing the Ring of Kerry/Wild Atlantic Way
We wanted to stay on the major roads on our way home and avoid backtracking as much as possible, so set a route up and over Killarney back down to Kenamare. We wanted to get back before sunset and reduce as much as the stressful country road driving we could. If the speed limit is 100km, it is less likely to be narrow and windy we found.
We drove through Cahersiveen on our way home – biggest Main Street we have seen since Killarney! There was a nice toy store we would have stopped in if we weren’t pressed on time – it had nice toy tractors in the window our son would have liked! I wondered if they had toy puffins…
Our arrival in Kells was greeted by a purple mountain covered in heather. It made for a beautiful coastal drive – and a tree tunnel to drive through too! It looked like a nice place to stay with not a tourist in sight!
Killorglin was another big town that appeared more local than touristy, but still pretty! As we approached Killarney, things started to get very posh with fancy hotels and golf courses. Gas was a decent price, so we stopped to get us up to half a tank – our first time needing gas on our trip using a hybrid vehicle.
The Stone Circle
We parked our car and made a B-line for the stone circle as the sun was setting. It is right downtown Kenmare, built as a Boulder Burial in the Bronze Age. Admission was €2 and the circle was crammed in on a hill with cedars all around it. I was a bit disappointed it was so cramped as I couldn’t get a good composition. It was still a pretty site.
Hungry and tired, we wandered down the street until we found the first pub with food. We both ordered the Irish stew and a beer, which we enjoyed on the back patio with Irish music playing on the stereo and a candy floss sunset above us.
We went for a nightcap at a tiny pub that catered to the locals near where we parked our car, then drove back in the dark. Tired, we climbed into bed and fell asleep sometime after 10:30pm. We had certainly seen a lot in a day!