8 June 2011
Doolin, Ireland

I am writing this in a pub on the coast of Co. Clare, just North of the Cliffs of Moher, which C and I will see by boat tomorrow evening. There is a small band playing traditional Irish music, but I would like to cynically note that I’ve only ever heard Irish folk music played in bars filled with tourists.

We left Killarney this morning (eventually) after three nights, two full days there. The first day we walked the mile and a half to Ross Castle, which actually offered a pretty nifty tour. I learned new things and found the craftiness in the design of the castle quite brilliant. For example, the way they tilted the inside window ledge so moisture would pool into a spout that would shoot the water back outside. Or how they used the ammonia from the latrine to “dry clean” their clothes. Not to mention the murder hole right above the main entrance of the castle.

After the tour, we took a boat first to Inisfallen Island to explore the ruins of an abbey that dates back to the 600s. We took the same boat onwards to Muckross Estates, the center of the Killarney National Park. Muckross “House” from the mid-nineteenth century was our next stop. The random tidbit I left that tour with was that the original owners spent three times the cost of their house in preparation for the one night Queen Victoria stayed there, an expense that bankrupted them and forced them to sell their home.

(On that note, I’ve started a Victorian-era kick. I’m currently reading The Victorians by A.N. Wilson and I’m about to start a novel that takes place during the Crimean War.) After Muckross House, we walked to Muckross Abbey, some 15th century ruins with a beautiful yew tree in the center. The yew has always been there – the courtyard was built for it. The ruin is in pretty good shape for one that doesn’t have a museum and such attached to it.

In short: we spent the day rambling through ruins and learning cool things. We even got some exercise in, with all that walking. Which is good, because the next day we got less exercise as we did a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. It wasn’t bad, for a bus tour, but every time I sign on (or suggest) one of those things, I seem to forget how much I don’t particularly enjoy the lack of control over what we stop (and don’t stop) for, nor do I like how cheesy most of the stops or my fellow bus riders are. But sometimes, when you are carless and want to see a lot of things in one day, your options are limited. Ireland, more than any place I’ve been thus far, is prone to the phenomenon of a circle of the clouds parting and the sun illuminating a cottage, or an island, or a particular cliffside. Probably because of the frequency of the rain clouds, this is a very common sight here. Common does not make it any less beautiful and I spent most of my time on the bus admiring these moments.

There’s another Murphy’s ice cream in Killarney and I’m not ashamed to say that we went every day. A scoop of dark chocolate and a scoop of Irish whiskey ice cream is an option: can you really blame us?

When we went to leave Killarney for Doolin, we missed our 10 am bus. It wasn’t because we weren’t there – we were, we stood right in front of it and watched it go. This bus had arrived with “14 Killarney” on it. That sixth sense you get from traveling was telling me that this was the bus, the 14 Limerick that we wanted. But when the sign changed, it changed the the number “280,” so I ignored that sixth sense. We waited for another ten minutes before I went to ask about the 14 th Limerick – confirming that I should have listened to that nagging feeling of mine.

When things like that happen, you can choose to be upset about it.
Or you can choose to spend your additional, unplanned, two hour wait time drinking espresso and eating more Murphy’s ice cream.

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