Friday, May 27, 2016

May 27

Today we traveled through the Gap of Dunloe. Neither words nor my iPhone photos can even begin to capture the breathtaking views and the feeling of awe at our diminutive presence amid these majestic mountains. 

We splurged on an inclusive tour so that John could take a break from driving. The road into the park proved this a wise decision--pony carts, cars, bicycles, tour buses on a winding road that in the US would not be wide enough even for a residential cul-de-sac!

The bus brought us up to Kate Kearney's cottage (restaurant, gift shop, staging area for ponies and carts) and from there we connected with our driver, Johnny (age 75+) and pony, Daisy. It was a bit of a tight fit, but we made it work. (Some of the younger drivers walked along side carts with 4 people and/or stood on the rear step. Pretty sure Johnny was matched with us because with the kids' smaller size he could still have a seat.)

In a few places, we were encouraged to get out to walk to enjoy the beauty and to ease the burden on the horse on the uphill climbs. Johnny assumed I'd want to continue riding and kept asking if I was OK as we walked. He may have been scandalized when a "delicate" woman scrambled up the off-road path after the boys, who of course could see no reason to stick to the paved road!

Once again, an absolutely gorgeous day. Edward was keeping his eyes closed before photos due to the bright sun and promising to open them when I counted to three. (Also, Gram, they were wearing hats and sunscreen, but hats block faces in photos!)

At the end of the pony road (which was also used occasionally by cars--Johnny said about 20 families live in the valley below the gap, tending the sheep who were "baa-ing" at us from the mountainsides) there was a small snack shop for a sandwich before boarding an outboard-motor boat for a trip through the Lakes of Kilarney, Kilarney National Park. 

Again, stunning, but the camera doesn't do it justice. 

This part of the tour took longer than we were expecting. The lake was quite low--about 6 feet below where it was even a few days ago, boatman Tim reported--so there was even a short section under a bridge where we had to get out and walk along the shore a bit so that the boat could pass without our weight pulling it too low. Unfortunately this meant very little time to scramble through the ruins of Ross Castle, our ending point. Our castle connoisseurs were placated with memories of the three castles we've already seen and the additional one (Blarney) on tomorrow's itinerary. 

The bus brought us back to town by about 4. John took a nap while the boys and I ran a load of laundry at the shop next to the hotel (too much vacation, not enough underwear!) We used the time to scout restaurants for our dinner. 

I never take food pictures, but delicious Guinness beef stew in Ireland at the end of a day hiking in the mountains seemed worthy.