One of the attractions of Ireland are its small towns. There’s nothing quite so charming as the small Irish town, with its pubs, bed and breakfasts, and the occasional farmer’s market. These towns were definitely a great stop off point for lunches as we drove in the area.
One of these towns we stopped at was Adare. It’s in County Limerick, in the south. The moment we drove into the main street, we knew why it’s been designated as one of Ireland’s prettiest towns.
The lovely colorful buildings, the tatched cottages with perfect little gardens out front, and the cosy tea rooms along the side of the road immediately make you feel welcome. The very first thing we did, of course, was find a suitable restaurant for lunch – there were quite a few to choose from.
There are historic tours you can do of the town, but we didn’t really have the time to do them, However, it was enough to simply take a stroll around the town and soak in the atmosphere.
The vibe was very relaxed – it was one of those rare hot days in Ireland after all. We mostly enjoyed walking around in shorts, eating ice-cream, and imagining how nice it would be to live in any of the quaint homes in the city. I suppose it would have been nice to stay the night in one of the lovely bed and breakfasts here.
Another town we drove past was Abbeyfeale. It’s another smallish town of two thousand inhabitants. Although twice the size of Adare, it’s still pretty small and worth stopping in for a look around and a cup of tea if you are in the area.
There’s quite a lot of scenic panoramas in the countryside around Abbeyfeale which we didn’t want to miss out on, so we drove around a bit before dropping into Abbeyfeale for some tea.
A really nice place to visit in Abbeyfeale is Tea & Tales. It’s called Tea & Tales because you can get a nice cup of tea and purchase a book here. There’s nothing quite like settling down to a delicious hot beverage and a good read, especially on a rainy Irish day.
I really enjoy the countryside, but the highlights for me each day were exploring the little cafés in all these lovely towns. But no surprise there, I suppose, Ireland is after all known for its friendliness and hospitality. At least that was my experience!
Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe was one of the most beautiful things we saw on our trip. It’s a narrow, wooded mountian pass that runs through County Kerry, seperating two mountain ranges – MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountain Group. The scenery here is truly epic.
The day we were there was a little on the gray and windy side – the default for Irish skies, I suppose – and this added an epic-ness to the land. The blowing wind combined with the rugged verdant landscape made it feel as if there was magic brewing in the air.
The Gap is old, formed 25,000 years ago, about the time the oldest permanent settlement was built (this settlement is in the Czech Republic). The Gap was formed in the last ice age, by a glacial breech, when a glacier broke through the land below it, carving it out into its present shape.
There’s something really, truly special about the land here. Being here, you can kind of understand why Ireland is still a country filled with myths that last even into current times. The scenery here is so wild and so untamed, and there aren’t very many people around – nature in all its varities dominates here.
I haven’t explored many temperate forests outside the Mediterrenean basin, so the plants here were all very different for me. Also the forests are wetter, greener and richer as the slight warming from the gulf stream of the island makes it relatively easy for plants to grow. It might be too cold and wet for what I’m used to, but the plants certainly love it here.
The Gap of Dunloe is certainly not to be missed. It’s a very special place, and we enjoyed taking our time walking in its forests.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is definitely a tour that any visitor to Ireland has to do. It’s part of the Wild Atlantic Way, and the magnificence of the land in this area cannot be overstated.
The road that makes up the ring goes through some impressive nature, most of it along the coast, making for some incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
There’s a large variety of things to see and do here. We didn’t manage to do any of the speciality activites, like horse-riding or fishing, but we did manage to get quite a bit of walking in. We certainly enjoyed taking lots of photographs of the stunning scenery, lit by the dramatic light coming in from the ocean.
It’s mostly about nature, but along the way, you’re also likely to spot a ruined castle or two here and there. Maybe they were not castles, just small forts, but nevertheless. These old buildings do contribute a great deal to the sense of mystery that can be felt when you are in the area.
For someone like me, from Singapore, where everything is new and shiny and anything historic is sacred, these abandoned stone structures, be they castles, forts or whatever else, were a constant source of amazement. They were all historical records, a memory of the past worth preserving – but because there were so many of them, only a selected few could be chosen to be restored.
We stayed in a couple of bed and breakfasts here, which we really enjoyed. Our Irish friend Greg, who joined us on this trip, booked us into the Mill’s Inn, in Ballyvourney, halfway between Cork and Killarney. It is a cosy inn that’s been around since 1755, in an Irish speaking area, and is steeped in tradition.