DAY 3: THE BURREN AND OVERNIGHT IN KILLARNEY
We were very sorry to leave our beautiful house near Bell Harbour.Despite the scenic beauty we had seen, this area had a loveliness of its own,with the wonderful contrast between harsh rock, bucolic emerald green fields and neat little villages situated on sea inlets.
We were booked into a one night B&B in Fossa, Killarney, so had a good 2.5 – 3 hours driving ahead, but it gave us the morning to explore a little of the Burren itself. We certainly did not do this area justice and in retrospect, I wished we had focused on some walking above Fanore with its coastal views.
Hazel Mountain Chocolate Shop
First stop, Hazel Mountain Chocolate for a sample or two (or even ‘tree’) of their chocolates.We hadn’t really expected a mini tour of the place and the process but the guy there clearly had a job to do! Bought 3 chocolates – hazelnut praline I think they were.Nice but nothing special.(They need to take leaf out of Cocoa Mountain’s book, the chocolatier based in Durness in Northern Scotland.The flavours they create there are outstanding.) It did look an excellent place for coffee however, with some great home baking on display in the cosy, charming cafe next door.Attractive location too.
This looked beautiful from the hill road we’d driven yesterday en route to Galway but up close it was a little disappointing.Dating back to the 12th century, I’ve never felt disappointed in any Abbey I’ve visited before – and we’ve visited a lot – but this just didn’t hit the mark for me.It seemed lacking in the grandeur I’ve come to expect from ruined Abbeys elsewhere.
A stunning burial site, very evocative. 5,000 years old.Free entry.There were some guys dressed up in ‘ancient’ clothes selling jewellery at the entrance and playing music, but thankfully, no hassle to buy. A lot of limestone pavement all around and also marsh orchids and other beautiful wild flowers.
Despite it being the heart of the Burren, the area around Carron and Kilfenora wasn’t nearly as attractive as further down the valley or at the coast. So we decided not to do any walking as such and instead, just head for Killarney. Had a brief stop in Kilfenora itself, to see the Doorty Cross and other high crosses which we both love, but they were only mildly interesting. I don’t like saying it but we have such fine examples of these at home, that those on display here were underwhelming.
Kilrush to Killarney
We decided to take the ferry over the Shannon estuary, which looked like a quicker but more interesting route to Killarney than via Limerick (I’m not sure if this was the case, it wasn’t a scenic journey from the Burren to Killarney as such.But the Limerick route didn’t seem ‘better’ for scenery as we took that route on the way back to Shannon airport. I did enjoy a stop in Adare on the Limerick route, a pretty small town which does get thronged with visitors certainly, but is an attractive place.)
Stopped in Kilrush, a pleasant town, and had some lunch – just ok vegetable soup for me but with excellent soda bread. A good panini for Chris.Chatted with the young guy serving us who spoke at a 100 miles an hour; barely made out every 10th word he said.God knows what he made of our accents, given the slightly puzzled look on his face.Still, the feelings were mutually warm I believe.
The ferry which leaves from Killimer, a short drive from Kilrush, was quiet – not a scenic crossing though it was enlivened by the possibility of seeing some of the dolphins which hunt in the estuary. None seen unfortunately. Then we had a drive on a reasonably fast road – again, with little of scenic interest – to Killarney. We now realised that a fair amount of the Wild Atlantic Way is not actually within view of the Atlantic, as such, nor do those sections feel very coastal. However, it was an easy journey from Tarbert to Killarney itself and the Macgillicudy’s Reeks were looking very impressive indeed as we approached the town.
I’d thought Killarney was the worst sort of tourist trap town when I’d first visited it nearly 25 years ago and it still looked overly touristy and horrendously busy but overall, better in appearance.Still, it wasn’t the kind of place we like to base, an endless succession of pubs, outdoor shops, restaurants. A shame because the whole setting is so lovely by Lough Leane. ( In fact, we had cause to visit the town early the next morning as I had to buy a walking pole and when quiet, it was all quite pleasant.) But at 4.30pm in the afternoon when we arrived, it was HEAVING with traffic jams and hundreds if not thousands of visitors, wandering aimlessly – or so it seemed – up and down Main Street. We drove through part of it looking for a parking place as we were a tad early for getting into our B&B so decided to have a quick wander and see if any restaurants or pubs appealed for dinner later on.They didn’t. So, we escaped back to the car.
Musing on Irish/Scottish Tourism
I don’t think we’ve got anything quite like that sheer crush of visitors and cars in a smallish town at home. Ireland must get far more visitors than we do.Tourism seems much, much more developed than in Scotland and better organised and supported overall I would say. We could learn a thing or too – both positive(mostly) but also what to avoid perhaps. Killarney had Edinburgh’s Royal Mile crowds compressed several times over into a small country town.
The Europe Hotel
I just wanted to get somewhere scenic and loch-side and peaceful and – a LOO! We were headed along the Fossa road when I spied the impressive entrance and gardens of the 5 star Europe Hotel and Resort. Chris always worries that we look like a couple of scruffs and I could tell he didn’t want to go in, but I’ve got more brass neck; plus, our money’s as good as anyone’s 🙂 So, in we went and what a great choice it was too.
Very corporate looking, not an inspiring exterior (apart from the gardens) but what a wonderful location. The interior however was truly stunning , a bit of a wow and the huge terrace, overlooking the calm waters of the lake, was top notch.Chris was ready for a drink ( I drive him to it sometimes, no doubt) so ordered a glass of Sauvignon and we couldn’t resist a big plate of Nachos which also came with a helping of excellent bread of various kinds. OK, 13 euros but it was super-tasty and we had THAT view, far from the madding crowds.
In fact, if you eat before 6.30pm, there is an affordable Bistro menu which we decided was as good as anything we’d seen in Killarney PLUS we were outdoors, on a beautiful terrace, admiring the sun lighting up the impressive mountain backdrop. Stunning toilets to ‘enjoy’ also with top of the range hand wash etc (so sad, but I do love a posh loo.) The main dining restaurant that I passed en route was quite something also though with prices to match.
So, a pretty good Chicken Caesar Salad for me (plus more helpings of great bread) and a good old steak and chips for Chris.
Our 5 star Fossa/Killarney Airbnb
Satiated and delighted at enjoying the beautiful Killarney landscape in such comfort, it was time to head for our accommodation at 7pm. Our hosts had offered to meet us outside Fossa’s church, (Fossa is only about 10 mins drive from Killarney) from where we followed their car up to a house, the likes of which I last saw in Sopranos episodes. It was in a kind of ‘Millionaires Estate’, our home for the night being the largest of all and surrounded by acres of garden.Views to the Reeks too.And all for £79 a night total, including an excellent breakfast.Wow.Very nice people running it too. We were happy just to relax here for the rest of the evening, catch up with family on What’s App, send photos and updates and go over our options about which hike to do next day.
Maybe a slightly disappointing day all round, not one of the best we had in Ireland, but bizarrely, that terrace meal overlooking the Lough and the mountains, ended up another highlight of our week.
Next day: An Easy Hike up Torc Mountain and The Ring of Kerry IRELAND’S WILD ATLANTIC WAY (A Killarney Hike and The Ring of Kerry)
Previous Days IRELAND’S WILD ATLANTIC WAY(Cliffs of Moher/The Burren)