Monday, August 10, 2009

Kenmare, Ring of Kerry, and Muckross Farms

Our days have started with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and we have learned that when they say 8 in the restaurant, they mean 8, not 7:55. It has become a bit of a joke that no one wants to tick off the waitstaff as they have been quick to chastise us for taking juice from the buffet before our time!

This is one of the jaunting cars going by the hotel in the morning. Each cart will hold 8 people and they tour you around for about an hour for 13 Euros.

Here is a picture of our group, all Canadians except for one brave soul from Florida. Aren't we a lovely looking lot?

We headed into the town of Kenmare and the first thing we did was visit the Stone Circle. Unfortunately, you are only in the town for a short period, and there is a lot you want to see, so we paid our 2 Euros, quickly read the sign, took a picture and rushed off. It was quite funny actually. The Stone Circle is the biggest stone circle in the southwest of Ireland where about 100 examples exist. Stone circles were built during the Bronze Age (2200 to 500 B.C.) for ritual and ceremonial purposes. Some studies have indicated that they were oriented on certain solar and lunar events.

Another beautiful flower bush...they looked like lilacs, but they didn't smell like them.

The row houses in Kenmare all have different colour trim, to help differentiate one home from another.

The church in Kenmare...

Lots of pretty shops...

A quaint street with lots of touristy shops....

Guinness...loved by the Irish, maybe not so much by everyone else!

This one's for you, Heather!

A menu in a typical restaurant...scallops and noodles for 31 Euros...yikes!

This border collie was hanging around the butcher shop. I'm not sure if his master was inside, or he was just hoping for a treat.

Try to read all these signs while you're driving!

After last, no, no Irish coffee!!

We looked at some ads for real estate. This was quite amusing...a run down "cottage." Would need a complete do-over; electricity "located nearby." Asking price 200,000 Euros!

Going around the Ring of Kerry. The topography changes to steep rocky hills.

The land is really only suitable for grazing sheep...

Quite often the Gaelic words seem to have no correlation with the English words. Thank heavens for signs in both languages...

The Black Valley...sun rarely shines on the bottom of the valley. Peat moss is harvested from the valley bottom, and is dried, formed into blocks, bagged and sold.

Trying to snap photos on the fly in the bus was doing nothing to show the true colours of the landscape.

Lots of sheep grazing...the sheep are marked using a type of wax that won't wash off in the rain. The different colours are used to determine whose farm they belong to.

A view of Killarney Lake in Killarney National Park...

A new bridge which is wider (and still isn't that wide!) than the old one. They kept the look of the original bridge.

Our last stop of the day was at Muckross Farms, also part of Killarney National Park. The house and gardens are one of Ireland's most popular tourist attractions. The working farms recreate and portray the original farming methods, and way of life, of a typical local, rural community of the 1930s.

We were greeted by two Irish wolfhounds. They are really gentle giants.

Our first demonstration was traditional butter churning. Mary, on the right in traditional Irish dress, completed the churning, added salt, and thickly buttered the fresh soda bread. It was delicious...very salty, but very good.

This was our view when we turned to leave the demonstration. I am sure they receive their fair share of bread from the visitors!

We are in what was a large farmhouse. The farmer would have owned about 100 acres and would have been considered quite well off. We were treated to large bowls of soup and sandwiches.

This was the kitchen in the large farming house. All of the rooms had high ceilings and were decorated nicely. They would have used wood in the fireplaces, rather than the cheaper peat moss.

The outside of the farmhouse...

One of several Clydesdale horses on the property....

One of the many fuschia bushes on the property lining the paths. Fushia bushes in Ireland are very common. They line the roads forming thick hedges...functional but pretty at the same time.
How can you resist this face? They were really hoping for snacks...

The next farmhouse we visited was a medium-size farmhouse. The farmer would have owned 40-50 acres, used for mixed farming producing vegetables, meat, and eggs, turkeys and chickens for sale.

Inside, the woman of the house was making traditional soda bread or bannock over an open fire in the kitchen. Quite a change from the previous farmhouse.

Kittens! Two adorable kittens, Tom and Jerry, sleeping in a box by the warm fire.

This was a small farmhouse where the farmer would own about 20 acres. It looks bigger, but it is because the animal stalls are attached to the house, rather than being separate buildings. This type of farmer would have done some dairying and tillage.

Inside this farmhouse, the woman of the house was also making bread but with a more primitive fire using peat moss. She would put the bread in the iron pot to bake, hang it over the peat moss, and then add clumps of burning peat moss to the top of the pot to give it even heat. This farmhouse was quite smoky and smelly with the peat moss fire.

The large sow with her many piglets outside the farmhouse.

A labourer's cottage...the term cottage was applied exclusively to a dwelling house built for a farm worker. Other dwellings, no matter how humble or small, were never referred to as cottages.
The inside was very plain, although it did have one room upstairs.
A list of the things you might see and do while visiting the farms...

The Muckross House, the fourth house that had been built on the Muckross farm. It was built in 1843 for Henry Albert Herbert and his wife, Mary. The Herberts later got into debt and in 1899 the house was sold to Lord Ardilaun of the Guinness family, who used it for fishing and shooting parties. It was later gifted to the Irish people as part of the National Park.

After spending several hours at the farms, we headed back to Killarney. Some people chose to get off at the hotel, while others went into town for more shopping.

We met at 6:00 for dinner and then left at 7:30 to see a show by the National Folk Theatre of Ireland. The show was called the Clann Lir (or the Children of Lir) and depicted the journey of four children who are doomed to spend 900 years in the guise of swans, but are allowed to keep their beautiful singing voices. The play was entirely portrayed in Gaelic singing and traditional Irish dancing and was excellent.

Tomorrow it's off to Blarney...

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