Not far from the village of Waterville you may leave the well-known " Ring of Kerry " and go on driving the " Ring of Skellig " - a rather narrow road ( restricted to small cars with less than 3,5 tons ONLY )
You will see some great views of the Skelligs in a distance and you will see also this small water-castle - most probably you will be the only tourist-car there, as most of the tourists simply rush through the big Ring of Kerry !
Watch out for the signpost "Ring of Skellig" at Waterville in order not to miss this really scenic road !
Gap of Dunloe is one of the best-known tourist-attractions in the area of Killarney.The Gap of Dunloe is a small valley that was formed by glaciers millions of years ago and today you see a small river and a few small lakes in a breathtaking mountain-scenery.
Tourists will mostly enter the Gap of Dunloe at Kate Kearney's Cottage,where they may park their cars and go on walking or rather horseback-riding or in a horse-carriage. In fact it is not easy at all to tell the local people, that you do not want to go by carriage, but prefer to walk...
The first 10 minutes of walking are quite boring, but the rest of it is really great !!
The road through the valley is closed during the day for private cars, but in the evening you may go there, when all the carriages and tourists are gone.
I entered the valley from the upper side and left it again at Kate Kearney's Cottage , the road was quite bumpy, but not dangerous.
Dunbeg Fort ( An Dun Beag ) is the best-preserved of the Irish Forts dating back to the Iron-time. Dunbeg Fort ( An Dun Beag ) is about 6 km west of Dingle-town, when you drive on road R559 ( the Slea Head Drive).
On my picture you may see one of the small doors leading from one of the rooms into another, the stones are just heaped upon each other, but in a perfect and absolutely wind-proof way. At some places these walls are 1 meter thick.
Muckross Friary is one of the best-preserved franciscan friaries in Ireland. This beautiful friary dates back to the 15th century and was finally destroyed by Oliver Cromwell's troops in the year 1653. You may visit Muckross Friary nearby the Muckross House and the most interesting details are the church with a huge belltower, several tombs and a great gothic arches and arcades. In the centre of the innercourt you may still see an old yew-tree, that you may see on my picture !
You may visit Muckross Friary freely and without restrictions during the day.
Not far from Gallarus Oratory I saw this interesting stone-age village , consisting of several houses, also called clochans These buildings are quite usual in that area and they were built by heaping up stones and rocks of all sizes, forming a flat and narrow house, only the roofs are missing today, obviously they had roofs made of straw. There is a fence around these buildings, BUT of course you may climb over it and take a closer look at this great remains !
The Blasket Islands are in the west of Dingle Island and the biggest of the islands Great Blasket was still inhabited untill 1953.
Nowadays you may take a ferryboat from Dunquin in order to explore the Blasket Islands. You may still see the remains of the church and several houses there.
In 1588 the Santa Maria de la Rosa, a ship of the spanish armada sunk in that area around the Blaskets.
You may click here in order to see the Blasket Islands on a map :
Staigue Fort is an old fortification, a giant stone-ring of an unknown age. The whole building has a diameter of 27 meters and is more than 5 meters high. The walls are 4 meters thick, consisting of chambers and steps and all of the stones were piled up without any cement.
Staigue Fort is 13km west of Sneem : When driving on the "Ring of Kerry" follow the sign-posts at the small village of Castlecove, and be careful, when driving there , because the road is quite narrow and sometimes there is a lot of trafic, including big tour-buses, and so it is the best to always remember the places, where you may go back in order to let the buses pass by.
Directely at the fort there is a big parking, where you have to pay a small fee, the monument itself may be visited freely and without restrictions any time of the day.
When you click on my picture you may see the giant ringfort in comparison to some visitors.
Beehive-huts are another great attraction that you may see in Dingle Island : These buildings date back hundreds of years, but the exacte dates are unknown.
When you drive on Slea Head Drive - the circle-road west of Dingle-town, you will pass by many of these buildings. They are all built on private land and so you have to pay a small entrance-fee, when you want to enter there. Mostly it is just 1 Euro, that makes still quite a good side-income for the local owners.
You better carefully watch your step !!Most of these beehive-huts are situated on meadows with plenty of sheep, who never care a lot, where they powder their noses...
Just to orientate us, this photo shows Glen from the top of the Connor Pass. At one side of the Connor Pass is Dingle and the other side is the Owenmore Valley , Cloghane and Brandon. Connor Pass is high on every visitor's itinerary but most people travel on through Cloghane, bypassing this splendid landscape. At the bottom of Connor Pass are signs for Dingle and Brandon. Follow the Brandon signs and in turn the sign for Cloghane. As you drive into Cloghane there is a left turn just where the houses begin. Take this left turn, drive two miles and you are in Glen. You will cross over two bridges and a right turn on the second one will bring you up a track to a farmer's house. I read this description in a book earlier today and was very amused becasue the 'track' is what we call the Boreen ( Irish word for small road) up to my grandmother's house and their neigbour on the other side of the river
The house you can just barely see to the left of the photo has a cluster of trees nearby. Behind these trees is my mother's family home, now occupied by one of her nephews. Up in the mountain is Lough Cruite, one of two lakes on their land.The second photo shows Cloghane's position on the sea at the foot of the mountains and the third gives a close-up look a the rocky terrain, climbing down from Connor Pass
Most of the land is mountain or bog but what could be grassed has been snatched back from the mountains and laid out as marshy often rock-strewn fields. All of them are bordered by these traditional dry-stone walls, stone piled skillfully upon stone, built by hand. The fields are used for cattle to graze on and sheep when they are brought down from the mountain for dipping or to be brought to one of the local fairs or Patterns as they are known in the area. When I was a child the biggest excitement of the summer was when the sheep were brought down from the mountain, to be dipped at the dipping pen, across the river. During my mother's childhood the farmers from Glen would herd the sheep over the mountain to Dingle to sell them at the Dingle Fair. Each farmer's sheep are identifiable by the colour marked on their coats. The photos show what the land looks like on the lower slopes of the mountains and some sheep, clearly marked with red, grazing by the roadside. The last photo shows the enclosure where the dipping tank used to be. Scene of noisy over-excited dogs and miserably maaing sheep who were caught and flung into the tank of disinfectant by their owners.
Directly behind the house, the track to the mountain begins. This track is now part of the Kerry Way walking route and you can drive as far as the first lake in a four-wheel drive. For the people who live there this route is taken when 'going to the hill', which they do to tend their sheep. The track runs along the side of the Owenmore River which tumbles down from the lake above and provides a few dramatic waterfalls. As you go, you will meet sheep and the occasional ferocious looking ram. There are rocks to scramble on, timid mountain flowers to admire and boggy patches you can slip into if you're not careful.The walk is open to all but it is essential that people remember to close each gate as they go through it. The track ends at the first lake and from then on the tough climb begins.
There are two lakes in this part of Glen, both very fine examples of Corrie lakes. As you can see from the photograph, at the top of the track the land dips down and in the hollow is the first of the two lakes, Lough Avoonane. As a child I used to come here often and sit a little nervously by the edge. I never ever put one foot into it though because my grandmother had filled our heads with stories of the Girleen of the Lake - girleen meaning a small girl. I don't think I ever really believed it but the atmosphere there is so rare and magical, the solitude so complete, that there is a vague feeling that anything could happen. What is certain is that you are unlikely to find many places in the world as perfect or as breathtakingly beautiful. Just picture it: a lake in a dip in the mountains, nothing and nobody for miles, only sound, the lonely bleating of sheep. To the right and over another ridge is Lough Cruite, bigger but because of its higher and more exposed position, not quite as lovely as Lough Avoonane.
The mountain directly behind my grandmother's house is called Brandon Peak. This should not be confused with Mount Brandon, the second highest mountain in Ireland which is about two miles away. Above Glen different mountain peaks soar, the highest being Drom Na Muiche and Brandon Peak. You can climb Brandon Peak from behind Lough Avoonane. The first stage is a steep grassy slope then a series of ledges, rock faces and much huffing and puffing towards the top. I should say here that I am not a mountain climber but it can't be too difficult a climb because I did it ( once) at the age of 12, with my brother, sister and cousin. Looking at it now, I can't imagine a group of children, unsupervised up here but those were different times. There have been tragedies though and one of my cousins once found a body while he was checking his sheep. If you decide to climb all or part of it you will be rewarded by panoramic vistas in all directions and a massive sense of accomplishment. I should also point out that when I climbed it , it was with my cousin who knew the whole area like the back of his hand and I wouldn't advise doing it unless you are a professional.
Glen is not the end of the world. Not quite. If you hadn't turned off the bridge leading towards the farm you could have continued for another two miles and here you definitely come to a full stop. This is Mullach, where you either turn round and come back or else, leave your car and climb over the mountains to Dingle. This two miles between Glen and Mullach is utterly delightful and another world from the one you normally inhabit. There's little or no vegetation, giving an uninterrupted view of the mountains on both sides and the bog stretching off in the distance. Along here is my cousin's stretch of bog. The whole farm consists of 666 acres, almost entirely hill and bog. The bog is used for cutting turf and the air has the most pungent smell of peat and heather. Cows graze on the grassy bog and spill casually out on the road. Twice a day they have to be collected for milking and then brought back again but with a good dog, that's not much of a problem. The road, barely the width of one car rises and falls rhythmically, until finally Mullach comes into view.
The village of Cloghane is two miles from Glen and four miles from Mullach and it's impossible to visit either place without passing through it. It's not a large village but it's position on Brandon Bay, beautiful beach and proximity to Mount Brandon, has made it very popular with hill walkers, mountaineers, anglers and visitors who just love the beautiful scenery and laid back atmosphere of the village. At nights there are good music and traditional Sean-nos singing sessions in the pubs and the people who live here are incredibly friendly, warmhearted and articulate. Kerry people have a long oral tradition and the telling of stories and anecdotes is still widespread. Have a drink and a chat with any local in a pub and I guarantee you, you will not be bored. There's one small hotel, O'Connors, but most of the local houses offer B&B as well. The photos show the local school where my mother was a pupil and the local churchyard where my grandparents, uncle, aunts and three little girl cousins (who died as babies) are buried in the family vault.
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