Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

London and Ireland Trip, October 7: Ring of Beara

Our plan for Monday had been to drive the Ring of Kerry, whose scenic beauty makes it famous and very popular with tourists. But in two different events, our host at the B&B and another diner at the Lime Tree recommended we drive the Ring of Beara (around the Beara peninsula) instead; “It’s less touristy.” And my own superstitious quirks are such that I would not ignore such a double recommendation. So we drove the Ring of Beara.

It was a pretty drive under louring grey skies. But here’s the thing: “It’s less touristy” is apparently code for “the roads are so narrow and twisty that a tour bus would end up looking at its own license plate.” There were many beautiful scenes that we couldn’t photograph, because we’d have had had to park in the middle of the road and worry about blind curves.

I really regretted the theft of Lori’s phone this day. I use one of our phones as a GPS; I would have used another phone to take time-lapse videos, as I did in the Midwest in 2012.
Beara Peninsula Beara Peninsula
Beara Peninsula Beara Peninsula

This is not the best rainbow we saw in Ireland, but it was one of the few we were able to photograph.
Rainbow, Beara Peninsula

We stopped at Derreen Gardens, an old estate planted into a luxurious subtropical rainforest garden with many exotic plants in the late 1800s. We paid our 7€ at the honor box, and ended up regretting it. The paths were wild and wandering, and there was no portable map and few signs. So we did not feel we could walk a loop and reliably get back to our car. We encountered no other people except the sounds of a flute from the manor house, so it was a strange lonely place.
Derreen Gardens Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens Untitled
Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens Derreen Gardens
Derreen Gardens Derreen Gardens

The name “King’s Oozy” sounds like something the king should see a doctor about.
Derreen Gardens

More pictures from our circuit of Beara.
Beara Peninsula
Beara Peninsula Beara Peninsula

We had plans to visit a cheesemaker in Eyeries. We found the tiny town of Eyeries, but didn’t find the cheesemaker. The brightly painted houses of Eyeries were very typical of Irish small towns.

This tree of roadsigns in Castletownbere was also very typical.
Road sign, Castletown

We ate a bland lunch at Murphy’s Restaurant: stuffed ham and turkey roast for Ralph and ham, cheese, and tomato toastie for Lori.
Murphy's Restaurant
Turkey Roast Ham, Cheese, and Tomato Toastie

A Beara landscape from our stop at Molly Gaffigan’s gift shop:
Beara Peninsula

Our last stop on our circuit was at Bonane Heritage Park. I was interested in stopping, because the park had a prehistoric stone circle and we had not managed to visit Stonehenge. Lori was not so interested, because the scowling clouds that had been with us all day had now gathered into a dripping rain. If we had had two cell phones (and effective cell service), she might have stayed in the car, but since we did not, she wanted to stay together. It’s good that we did stay together; we spent much longer at the park than I had predicted, and she would have been very nervous if she had been alone.
The honor box asked for 4€, but we had spent all of our small cash for the honor box at Derreen Gardens. I regret this, because we enjoyed Bonane much more - particularly because Bonane had good signs and clear routes.

Near the parking lot was a reconstructed crannog. I had never heard of a crannog before; a crannog is a dwelling on an artificial island in a lake, with a path of stepping stones under the water providing access for people who knew the secret.
Crannog, Bonane Heritage Park
Crannog Sign
(full size)

At the top of the hill was a ring fort. In the famine times, it had been used to try to grow potatoes, despite deep superstition prohibiting farming such sites. That gave me a new appreciation for the depths of the Famine, because this was such a high remote site that cultivating it would be a big challenge.
Ring Fort, Bonane Heritage Park
Ring Fort, Bonane Heritage Park
(full size)

A panorama from the center of the ring fort:
Ring Fort, Bonane Heritage Park

The Dromagorteen stone circle at Bonane is much less impressive than Stonehenge, but but it still requires a monumental amount of labor to lug dishwasher-sized rocks to the top of this hill. And the astronomical calculations and delicate adjustments must have required both labor and care.
Stone Circle, Bonane Heritage Park
Stone Circle, Bonane Heritage Park
(full size)
Stone Circle, Bonane Heritage Park
(full size)

Near the stone circle was a fulachta fiadh, a pre-pottery cooking pit in which hot stones were dropped into a pool to heat water. My impression is that the actual cooking pit was much smaller, but the raised ring comes from the piles of used cooking stones.
Fulacht Fiadh
(full size)

Lori suggested a selfie to confirm that we were viewing archaeological sights in the steady rain. Here we are, soggy and bedraggled but having a good time.
Us at Bonane

I quite enjoyed Bonane Heritage Park; I wish we had had more time to spend there.

That evening, we went to Foley’s, the other pub in Kenmare, to seek dinner and Irish music.

The brown bread was as good as ever.
Bread, Foley's

We shared the crab and salmon cakes for an appetizer; they were tasty, but very homogenous; the opposite of the big lumps of crab found in some Baltimore crab cakes.
Fish Cakes, Foley's

I had the stuffed pork chop, which was nicely prepared.
Pork steaks, Foley's

Lori’s steak and Guinness pie was quite tasty, but the presentation of serving it on top of the mound of colcannon was a little odd.
Beef and Guinness Pie, Foley's

Our dessert was a sticky toffee pudding that was only okay.
Sticky toffee pudding, Foley's

The music in the back bar that night was Dan O’Sullivan playing rousing Irish-music-for-tourists. We had a great time listening to him. We bought one of his CDs, and we stayed listening until the bar closed. But all the listeners were tourists, and the songs were tourist songs; it was like a performance at an Irish bar in the US transplanted to Ireland.
Tags: roadfood, travel
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