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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.