Today had three main focal points: Blarney Woolen Mills, The Gap of Dunloe, and Killarney.
Shopping at the Blarney Woolen Mills was a dangerous endeavor for everyone on our tour. We all came very prepared to shop, and Lord we sure did! To be fair, they told us that if we spend over $250, then it would be free to ship what we bought home, so many people planning on getting a few items just went all out. Some people went more than all out. But it was hard to resist since everything was locally produced, internationally renowned, beautifully created, and so comfortable. For myself, it was easy (for the most part) to resist buying any of the super warm sweaters and shawls since I am soon to be living in the humid and hot Mississippi. However, I did find a few jewelry pieces and a scarf that I couldn’t resist. I also found a woven woolen beret that was almost exactly like the one I loved to wear when I was a small child, so the sentimental side of me insisted I get that as well. Mom and Dad both found a few sweaters, so we easily hit the $250 mark and a bit more, so we shipped all their larger items home, while I kept all my pieces with me since they were small.
From there, we were off to the Gap of Dunloe for a little hiking, lunch, and hopefully a few good views of the mountains. We stopped for about two hours, which was not enough time to make it to the highest point, but mom and I decided to keep an eye the time and just see how far we could make it up, and enjoy seeing what we could along the way. We stopped quite a few times along the way snapping a few pictures as we went. I actually took quite a few that I was surprisingly proud of, so head on over to Instagram if you want to see how they turned out. Before too long we were halfway through our allotted time and came across a stone bridge over a river of rocks, with a babbling brook flowing along with it, disappearing under the stones before reappearing a few feet away. Quite a few of the views were enough to make me stop and catch my breath a bit. America has some gorgeous places to be sure, but being in Ireland touches a place in my soul no view in the U.S. has ever gotten close to.
Next stop: Killarney! Sometimes, when you’re traveling, it is the little things that mean the most, or make for moments of happiness. I am very relieved to be at this location for the better part of three days and three nights. We will be able to spread our stuff out in the room a bit, sort through things and reorganize. It will be nice not to have to get up every morning, picking what to keep on the bus and what to store below, what to wear, how to keep everything together. With all that being said, we did arrive knowing that we have a very early morning tomorrow. 6:00am wake up, breakfast by 6:45, and on the bus no later than 7:30 so we can head of for the Ring of Kerry tour. With that in mind, about a third of us went to explore town for a bit and find a bite to eat before calling it an early night. I stuck with mom and dad for this first night since none of us were planning on staying out super late. We looked in a few stores as we passed by, and stopped at one of the tourist service centers. One of the men behind the counter was able to give us information on a kayaking excursion that is available from one of the nearby castles on the lake. Since everyone in my family enjoys kayaking (we are even part of a kayaking group that travels all over Ohio to “float” together), my father has been talking about finding a place to get on the water for weeks. With a little more looking around after that stop, we found a restaurant whose menu boasted many of the traditional Irish recipes that I had been wanting to have. The food was delicious! I had the Cottage Pie (also known as Shepard’s Pie), a side salad, and to go with it…. Ice Water! Dad was so excited. He and I both prefer our drinks to be icy, especially our water, so it has been a struggle for him to get used to on this trip. A nifty perk of the restaurant we chose was that their logo had an image of a man pushing a woman with a look of terror on her face into the water. As curious as we are, we had to know if there was a story behind this (because it is Ireland and the Irish people have a story for everything). And of course, there was! Long story short, it comes from a true story about a young woman, only sixteen years old, named Colleen Bawn, and how she was murdered by order her husband just shortly after they’d eloped. A longer version can be found at this link for anyone who would like to read a bit more about her story, for it is rather a sad but interesting tale. (http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/people/bawn.htm)
After dinner, my parents and I each decided to go our separate ways. I was overly full from dinner and was looking forward to a relaxing night spent at the hotel, in the sauna and jacuzzi at the spa, reading my book and watching Netflix before an early bedtime. And that is exactly what I did. Minus the Netflix part, which hasn’t happened yet due to typing up this blog post. But now it is off to bed in the hopes of having a good nights sleep before the early call to breakfast.