An Anglo-Irish(-Uruguayan) Summit

We woke to sunny blue skies, had another wander around the standing stones and said good morning to the local farmer.  We had a bit of a drive ahead of us because we’d decided today we’d head for the Ring of Kerry.  It was two years ago now that we’d been walking the Old Man of Storr, one of the classic routes on Skye and got chatting to a couple of Norwegians who’d recommended the Ring of Kerry to us and it had been on the todo list ever since.

Stones

Mrs TomTom was asked to get us to Kenmare where we’d pick up the Ring.  The route was fairly straight forward to begin with but soon became more interesting as we made our way over the Caha Pass.  Steep, windy and in places narrow, we steadily made our way up, regularly having to pull over to not only admire the view, but to let faster traffic past.  Driving over a mountain pass is probably not the best way to to run a rebuilt engine in, but it performed well.  We stopped at the top for a break and then it was time to head down the other side, the test of the engine turning into a test of the brakes.

Caha Pass

The Ring of Kerry is a circular tourist route around County Kerry.  Just over 110 miles around it follows the coastline for much of the journey, turning inland to take in the Killarney National Park.  Many people do it in a day, but we decided to take things a little slower.  We headed around in a clockwise direction, against the suggested direction for coaches.  In truth, the road is not difficult and there are only a few places where large vehicles would not be able to pass.

Stopping in the pretty village of Sneem it is immediately obvious how popular this part of the country is.  Coaches lined the roads, offloading hoards of visitiors to peruse the numerous gift shops.  But despite this, the village still retains it’s charm.  The brightly coloured houses and shops and clean streets make it an attractive place.  Back home a location like this would have attracted premium parking rates and a coin eating turnstyle would have been installed at the entrance to the public conveniences, but that all remained free.  We got off the main street and headed down towards the river before following the path back through a sculpture garden and past the local campsite.  When we found a shop advertising homemade ice cream we were unable to resist and sat by the river enjoying our cones.

Sneem

River

Traffic began to build up behind us as we negotiated the roads.  Maybe we should have gone the same way around as the coaches?  The speed limit on much of the Ring is 80km/h, but we were averaging 50 at best.  We spotted a sign for the Staigue Iron Aged fort so turned off the main road, much to the relief of the other traffic, and went to investigate.  The circular structure was remarkably well preserved, a testament to the building skills of old.

Fort

Having run out of water we looked for a campsite, finding Wave Crest just before the village of Cathair Donall.  It was a lovely campsite and we chose a pitch next to the sea, opened the gin and lit the barbie.

Idyllic

Earlier in the day we’d spotted another VW, but what had caught our attention was the FL badge on the back.  By coincidence they were camped at the same campsite, so as the couple wandered passed we asked them what it stood for, because they didn’t sound Finnish which had been our guess. In fact, he sounded German and she sounded English.  After a bit of a game of ‘guess the principality’ we learned that FL stands for Liechtenstein.

But not alone

A peaceful night passed, listening to the waves lap against the shoreline just a few metres away from the van.  With good weather forecast we headed inland for some hill walking.  As always, finding the start of the walk would prove to be the hardest part.  After around an hour of following ever narrowing lanes we could go no further.  A few things matched the description in the guide book we had, so we made a start to see where we ended up.  The day was hotter than expected and the mountain offered no shelter from the scorching sun as we headed up the steep climb.  It was as we rounded a rocky outcrop and started the grassy climb to the first summit of the day that Rosana let out a chilling scream, the sort of scream that says “I’ve found a body” or something of equal gravity.

Dan stared at the frog.  The frog stared back and tried it’s best to pretend it wasn’t there.  “It jumped”, she explained.  “Erm, yes, they’ll do that”.  Dan poked the frog to confirm his assertion.

Views

Calmer, we carried on.  We were met with fantastic views in all directions.  The day grew hotter and our water supplies dwindled.  Over the years we’ve got into the habit of not to carrying huge amounts of water, relying on a decent quality water filter and filling up bottles as we need.  It’s a practice that has served us well in areas such as the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Peaks but today we never found a water source.  By the time we’d crossed the second summit and descended a massively steep shoulder (which the book had failed to mention) we were soaked in sweat and gasping for water.

Before we ran out of water...

Our plan had been to wild camp for the night before heading down to Portmagee in the morning where we had a boat booked for the Skellig Islands.  We felt it would be unfair on the other passengers if we didn’t take a shower, so with that in mind we headed off to find a campsite for the night, settling in to another waterside pitch at Mannix Point.

Mannix Point
 

The Tourists

Sometimes you just have to do what everyone else does.

We had a plan in our heads to go walking but the weather forecast said more rain and the cloud looked low, so not a great day to be in the hills. We looked at the map. It was time. We instructed Mrs TomTom to take us to Blarney Castle.

Blarney

There have been buildings on the site since the eleventh century, starting with wood built buildings and evolving over time until it became the castle we see today in the fifteenth century. As castles go, it’s not the most spectacular or interesting that we’ve ever seen, but that’s not why people flock here by the bus load. It’s the Blarney Stone that people come for, specifically it’s to kiss the Blarney Stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to give the kisser the ‘gift of the gab’, ‘the power of flattery’, ‘great eloquence’. In short, kiss the Blarney Stone and never be lost for words again. Dan looked at Rosana. Was this wise?

The stone is set into the battlements at the top of the castle. During the day the queue stretched down the entire length of the steep staircase, out the door and along the approach to the castle. We went for a walk around the grounds. The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and in all honesty these were the highlight of the visit. Separated into distinct areas, such as the rock garden with it’s mystical witch, the pinarium, the poison garden with some fairly surprising plants and the fern garden, which feels like stepping back into the land of the dinosaurs. As we walked through the woodland area we found yet more wild garlic. Well, there was still room in the jar of pesto, so we went to work, receiving more curious looks from passers by.

Ferns portrait

Tree

rosana tree portrait

Ferns

ghost house

Mr Bean

roots

watergarden

rosana bush

As the day passed, the weather defied the forecast and steadily improved. The queue to the stone subsided as the tour buses picked up their passengers and we headed up. There are just some things you can’t leave Ireland without having done. It would be like not drinking the Guiness. If you stop and think about it, kissing a rock that’s been kissed by thousands, more likely millions of other people is probably not very hygienic. It’s best not to think about it really.

castle

selfie

The Blarney Stone is not easy to reach. Getting to it involves laying on the floor, hanging onto some iron bars and leaning down into the abyss while a young chap hangs onto you. But we did it. We didn’t get the official photograph, that would have been a step too touristy.

Oh oh

revenge

As we made our way back towards the coast to look for somewhere to spend the night we stumbled across an ancient stone circle at Drombeg near Rosscarbery and stopped for a look. It’s hard to pin down what it is about these circles that draws us in and we’ll probably never truly understand them, but there was no denying that the place felt peaceful. The evening was becoming quite pleasant and the parking by the stones was quiet and out of the way so we decided to stay there for the night.

Stoned

With another few handfuls for wild garlic, Rosana got to work creating more pesto, while Dan started on dinner.


Betty’s Recipe of the Day

Wild Garlic, Mushrooms and Chicken in Cream

Ingredients

A handful of wild garlic, washed and chopped.

An onion, roughly chopped.

A handful of mushrooms, quartered.

Two chicken breasts, diced

Creme fraiche (or cream, or yoghurt) 125ml

Flour (enough to coat the chicken)

Mixed herbs

White wine or cider

Method:

1. Fry the onion in a little oil for a while.

2. Add the mushrooms and fry for a short while.

3. In the mean time, mix some dried herbs and a little salt into some flour.

4. Coat the diced chicken in the herby flour mix.

5. Add the chicken to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes.

6. Add the wine or cider and the garlic.  Not to much liquid, 100ml or so should do it.

7.  Continue cooking until chicken cooked through.

8. Add the Creme Fraiche, just enough to bring everything together .  Maybe 125ml or so.

Serve with rice.

You can alter this recipe easily by adding a teaspoon or two of something to the cream,  Soy Sauce, Worcestor Sauce or Mustard will work.


Camping spot