I’m continuing our journey across Ireland with Sue and friends Joe and Renata from Czechia; today we are heading along the south coast before heading north towards our next destination of Muckross, just outside Killarney, a journey that is to prove a bit of a surprise to us all.
But, first let’s sort the car out. As promised, Volvo Assist sent their local guy out to check over the car, which proved to be an experience in its own right.
Having coasted the car back to the village, I waited patiently for the tow truck to arrive. After all, if I’ve got a coolant leak, it’s going to be a tow to the nearest service station.
So, a little surprised to say the least when a guy turns up in a battered old Renault and asks what the problem is. By now, there’s no sign of leaking fluid, apart from some residual moisture around sill under the radiator.
The mechanic can’t see any leaks, so tries to manually pressurise the car, but none of the caps in his cardboard box fit the tank, so he ran the engine a while without a cap (which was never going to work) then suggested I just carried on my journey and called into a Volvo centre if I was still worried…
That wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but seeing as there was actually no visible loss of fluid, we decided to press on.
Our next planned stop was Baltimore, a coastal fishing village that Joe had visited a few times before and was eager to re-visit, and we could see why:
After our short stop we continue along the “Wild Atlantic Way” coastal route back into the little town of Skibbereen.
We had planned lunch at the Castle Hotel in Castletownsend, but on arrival we found it closed for the season. So we headed back into the town; It was a murky day and we attempted a walk around the picturesque streets, before eventually plumping for a light lunch in the very nice Benedict’s cafe on North St.
As the rain grew heavier, we made a hasty retreat to the car before heading for our next way-point, the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, just a couple of streets further up the road.
If like me, you don’t know much about the Irish potato famine of 1840, then this small but poignant museum is an essential stop. Joe and myself had been discussing such a stop and had considered the famine ship in Dunbrody, but this I think was a better experience.
By the end of the short tour around the displays, we were all quite stunned by the event, described as “the worst humanitarian disaster of nineteenth century Europe.”
We were all quite appalled at the part, or lack of it, that the UK had to play in this awful event, and it was an eye opener to understand at last the mass immigration of Irish to the USA. I am actually amazed that this historical event never featured in the UK school history curriculum when I was at school. I wonder how many other such events I am blissfully unaware of?
Feeling a little sombre, and with the rain subsiding it was time to hit the road and head for our next port of call, Muckross.
And here started our next surprise – what an amazing series in changes of scenery in such a short two hour drive!
Leaving the coastal roads behind temporarily we head across County Cork to our next way-point, Bantry where we suddenly found ourselves skirting a beautiful little bay, popular with cruise liners – in fact, one is at anchor in the bay as we drive through.
Onwards through the beautiful, colourful little town of Glengarriff, then we cross into county Kerry. Still on the N71 we cross the spectacular double arch span bridge built in 1933 over the Sound of Kenmare, with beautiful views out over Kenmare Bay. From here we suddenly and unexpectedly found ourselves leaving behind the coastal views and climbing steadily into the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains on the “ring of Kerry” route. We unfortunately won’t be completing the full “ring” on this visit, as it takes us too far west. Maybe next time.
As we climb, the weather gets cloudier and misty while the roads get narrower with steep drops to the side – Ok until a luxury coach hurtles over the hill towards you! Soon we find ourselves going through “Moll’s Gap” before descending back down towards Killarney.
On the way down, we pass the popular “Ladies’ view” vantage point with wide open views over the Killarney National Park and the Upper Lake. A few miles further on and we skirt the shores of Muckross Lake, passing the Torc Waterfall attraction (another stop deferred for another visit) before entering into Muckross proper.
Worth noting, just as you pass Muckross House you will see a spot where you can grab a ride on a traditional horse and carriage, and then through a few hotels and restaurants before heading on into the town of Killarney.
For us, it was a quite difficult search for our stay at Gallan House – discretely signposted next to the Gleneagle Hotel – to the point where it was easily missed, directing us down a road that seemed to be taking us into the hotel car park, and poorly documented on the booking.com website, after a couple of calls to the owner we eventually landed at our home for the night – a pleasant, understated house in a very quiet – might I say remote- location off the main road.
After dropping off our bags we headed back to the Gleneagle Hotel for dinner in the very pleasant Backstage Bar, where we had a nice meal while watching (believe it or not) my first full football match on their giant screen – Liverpool v Barcelona, 4-0!!! Not a bad introduction into the world of football.
For us, this has been an amazing day full of variety and unexpected surprises. But there is more to come.
Footnote: No more radiator leaks. We are now fairly sure that the car park at the Shearwater Country House was so steep that the coolant in the expansion tank actually reached the overflow outlet, and poured hot coolant into the sill below, which then slowly found its way onto the road while we parked at the restaurant. On return to the UK, I had the car checked over by Volvo and they were confident everything was in order.
We visited Ireland in May 2019. Watch our Irish Tour video on Youtube.