Our second city in the week was Killarney, and, being a professional Ireland traveler with four whole Irish cities under my belt, I can honestly say that Killarney is probably the best of the lot.
Mind you, to get there we had to drive an additional few hours from the Cliffs of Moher, and it was a great hardship because we had to keep passing beautiful ruins and be reminded that we didn’t have anything of the sort in America.
In the space of two hours, you’d see upwards of five stone ruins, and that’s just if you kept to the “main” roads without ever following the tempting motorway exit signs that promised an abundance of castles.
Killarney won me over immediately because the hotel had an electric kettle for tea, something which the Galway hotel did not have. As it turns out, the Galway hotel was a bit of an anomaly, because all the rest of the hotels had one as well.
With little cookies and everything. As it should be.
James and I were walking around the town as late as eight or nine at night, and marveling about it. We really didn’t imagine that Ireland would be that much farther north than where we had come from, but it didn’t begin to get dark until around ten and started to get light again around four.
This would have been unbearable for me if it had ever been sunny. Fortunately, the clouds hid me in darkness.
When we were wondering towards the hotel for the night, we noticed that there was a massive church spire of some kind rising over the back of it. It was very eye-catching, because there really isn’t much in Ireland that’s tall in any sense of the word.
So, without any phone usage, we just went looking for the structure.
The back streets of Killarney were cute. And this is about 9:30 at night.
The spire, we discovered, belonged to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was probably my favorite cathedral in Ireland simply because of the spontaneous late-night adventure we went on to find it, chasing the sight of the steeple over the rooftops.
In fact, the spire was too tall for my phone too capture without cutting out some part of it, be it length or width-wise. Beautiful thing, though.
It was too late to go in, but the gates were all open so we circled the thing anyway, because if Ireland really wanted to keep nosy Americans out they’d lock up better.
Killarney was also the first place I tried black pudding, something I’d never wanted to do because, frankly, it sounded gross.
It was gross, but that’s because it tasted like meatloaf, and I hate meatloaf. Yes, even your mom’s meatloaf. All meatloaf, stop asking.
James loved the “full Irish breakfast” option, because it was consistently the most artery-clogging dish to be found.
Killarney had an adorable and very touristy main street from which James and I purchased a great deal of Bailey’s ice cream, which is possibly the highlight of my ice cream experience in life thus far.
But the greatest part of Killarney, according to me, Killarney expert, is the Killarney National Park. At least, I think that’s it’s name.
From the hotel, we could walk around two miles to get to Ross Castle, through beautiful fields and the first real amount of trees I had seen in one place. And there were mountains in the background! Mountains, Gandalf!
Sure, you had to frequently move off the road to make way for one of the horse and buggy tours, but that was nicely reminiscent of Lancaster PA.
On the way to Ross Castle, for no reason that I can think, I started laying a penny out on the forest path every fifteen feet or so, creating a neat little trail of shining copper. Then I moved to nickles, then dimes, then a solitary quarter. I don’t know why, I think I was bored. Regardless, I know I would have been thrilled to find a trail of Euro coins in the woods in America.
Ross Castle, meanwhile, met my low castle standards.
There’s really no telling what it used to look like, because the tour we took of it covered the fact that until recently no one cared what happened to a castle that their family happened to own, and they tore bits down or put new bits up, but the restoration they had done to it in recent years was very good. I couldn’t tell where the old parts stopped and the new parts began.
Along with the tour, you were allowed to climb over almost every inch of the place. No guards or cameras or even ropes to keep us off parts, on the assumption that we’d be respectful and think carefully about our actions.
No pictures were allowed on the tour, which was very informative and surprisingly fun. Our tour guide was very excited that I had a question about the place- namely, which part of the roof had been torn off to avoid paying taxes on the place.
It was the top part.
People will do anything to avoid paying taxes.
I don’t think he ever got many questions on his tours, he seemed notably more energetic after that.
I took a quick picture out of the top window of the castle anyway, for rebellion’s sake.
When we walked back to the hotel, all the coins I had put down were gone.
The next part of our Killarney experience was going to see the Torc Waterfall. We piled into the tiny car and made our way through tiny streets and down tiny winding roads through the very large forest, following our unreliable GPS for Torc Waterfall. At one point, we came across a fork in the road, where the GPS told us to go to the left and all the official signs told us to go right, so we went right and discovered that the parking space for the waterfall was filled to the brim with tour buses.
So, turning around, we went back down the other fork. We drove, and drove, and drove. It was very narrow, and there was nowhere to park along the way and no signs, so when we began to approach the point on the GPS we parked the car on the first tiny flat space we found alongside the road and walked from there.
This was the first place we’d been that was really devoid of people.
It was a bit of a walk, but fortunately, we had brought our newly-acquired Irish whistles with us, to the despair of the local wildlife.
But we passed the point on the GPS with no sign of the waterfall, and at this point we had climbed quite high, so we figured we must be above it. We kept walking for a bit, but the road went on through the trees, so instead we decided to climb down through the woods, something many enterprising people had already done, judging by the widened deer trails.
So, as many stupid young people do before they are lost forever and eaten by wildlife enraged by the sound of poorly played Irish whistles, we decided to cut down through the woods to the other road, and walk to the waterfall through there.
Actually, it was quite nice.
About halfway through we realized it would be Hellish to climb back up, but we figured there was no use in stopping just then, so we kept going. And, miraculously, we came right out into the full parking lot- now obviously mostly empty- and the official path straight to the waterfall.
6/10 as far as waterfalls go, 8/10 because it’s in Ireland.
We were hanging about near the waterfall, dreading the steep hike back up through the woods, when we realized the paved path from the parking lot to the waterfall didn’t end there- concrete steps on the hillside disappeared up into the forest. Figuring we could follow it as far as possible, we started to climb.
We climbed for a long time, and started to veer very off course, which made us nervous. At last, though, the path reached flat ground, and split off in different directions. We took the one that brought us in the general direction of the road with our car.
It deposited us into a parking lot above the waterfall.
The place where we had given up and crashed through the forest instead was hardly two hundred yards down the road, around a bend.
Ireland looks a lot like the Pacific North-West sometimes. Okay, only in Killarney.
To celebrate our stupidity, we went to “Ireland’s only Lord of the Rings themed pub” for dinner.
The fake grass really makes it.
We had read a poor Google review about the place before going, claiming that it was only “vaguely” Lord of the Rings themed, and barely had anything to do with the series at all, but as James later remarked, it turns out they were just mad that the place didn’t directly transport them to Middle-Earth. In reality, it was about as LOTR-themed as a place could get while still being a regular pub.
It was very green, though, and hard to photograph. If you squint, you can see the Elvish inscription on the ceiling.
We spent our last night in Killarney drinking “Hobbit Juice” and “Frodo’s Lager.” John tried a shot called a “Nazgul,” which was appropriately menacing. The live music started around 9:00, and when it was all said and done we walked back to the hotel when it was still light out.
Too much daylight around there, if you ask me.