Updated: Sep 24
We set off from Ballyseed castle in the morning for the Ring of Kerry drive.
The counterclockwise drive was recommended so you don't get stuck behind tour buses going in the clockwise direction. But the tours had just reopened after the pandemic shutdown and so we didn't see that many buses on the road anyway.
Our first stop was Cahersiveen town where we wandered the streets looking for breakfast/brunch. The French pastries and baguettes from Petite Delice was glorious, my croissant was filled with cheese, mushroom, and spinach and totally justified skipping breakfast at the hotel.
A little bit beyond Cahersiveen was Valentia island. We took the ferry from Renaard's point across to Knight's town and headed straight to the Skellig Experience museum and visitor center. There was a little bit there for everyone in our family. From the Vikings invasion history for the Book-of-Kells (the movie) fans to the Celtic culture gift shop, from the puffins island preserve for the naturalists to the Star Wars connection for the sci-fi fans, every one felt more relaxed and happy there.
There were multiple stops to visit on Valentia island if we had more time. The lighthouse was temporarily closed but there was the therapod footprints, the Grotto or old slate quarry (which explains why all the houses on the island were built out of slate), the Geokaun mountain and cliff views, St. Brendan's well, and the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable field. We opted for the walk at Bray Head for some exercises and the view was well worth the 1 mile hike.
The fog rolled in and out during our walk so that sometimes it seems like we were floating on a cloud.
We crossed the bridge at the far end of Valentia island back to the mainland at Portmagee and continued our Ring of Kerry tour.
The town of Waterville was just large enough to have several groceries markets and a very nice gift shop. It was quirky enough to have oceanfront murals, public art sculptures and private fairy gardens.
Alison, Cameron and Fiona had finished the prosciutto and salamie that we bought the night before last and was hankering for more while Eric was really happy with the St. Tola creamy spreadable goat cheese; so we bought some more fresh bread with cheese and prosciutto and had a picnic at the oceanfront park in town.
It started to drizzle by the time we drove past Caherdaniel, Castlecove and Sneem; picturesque seaside beachtowns which reminded me of Central California. By the time we got back on the N71, it was pouring, and by the time we got back to Tralee, it was dark.
We parked in the public lot and walked past the cathedral to get to dinner at Cassidy's restaurant in Tralee, looking for lamp stew. After scanning our QR code, seating us, and taking our order, the staff completely ignored us for an hour and forty minutes. Only after multiple other patrons in the room had already eaten and left, and Bruce asked what happenned to our order, did they apologize profusely and brought out our food. Even though we were the only Asian people there, I will chalk it up to personnel issues and not anything else. They also didn't have any lamb stew, so I ended up with the smoked chicken salad which was actually very good.
After a long day of driving and visiting multiple towns, it was a relief to get back to our comfortable rooms at the Ballyseed Castle hotel.
The next morning we went down to breakfast, toured the castle and the grounds before checking out of the hotel. Alison took the opportunity to practice on the piano in one of the sitting rooms.
It would have been nice to stop at St. John's castle in Limerick and the Bunratty Castle Park on our drive up to Galway but the sky was heavy and dark gray so my seasonal affective disorder was kicking in. I was tired and wasn't feeling or thinking very well, so Bruce just drove straight through Galway, stopping by Shannon for lunch, and checked in to our seaside cottage in Barna.
We again searched around in vain for a restaurant serving lamb stew, calling around to all the Google suggested restaurants. We ended up stopping by the local supermarket, bought some fresh lamb, potatoes, carrots, garlic and herbs so I can make my own lamb stew. The kids were so happy to have a homemade meal finally, with a proper kitchen and dining room, that they all came into the supermarket to pick out their breakfast and their dinner the next day.
The next morning, we headed for the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and explored the Burren Geoparks. We had lunch at the Rock Shop and Cafe where we can geek out with gems, and got back to the cottage early to do our laundry and prepare the paperwork for the next leg of our journey in Iceland.