From Island to Ireland – Things to do in Killarney
At some point in their life, everyone has that time when their friends or partners friends are getting married. My time is now.
Not long after the Ibiza invite landed, I was informed that my former housemate Martin, was going to be marrying his long (long) term girlfriend Emma, in Ireland. Less than a week after the wedding in Ibiza.
I’d never been to Ireland, but my initial thoughts were probably quite typical of most English person: “Rainy, green, a pub on every corner, some scenic views here and there” – But ultimately, I didn’t really know what to expect.
The wedding was being held at The Dunloe, just west of Killarney. If you are planning a few days in Killarney, then read on. If you’re not, but want some amusement none the less….. Continue regardless.
No more than 48 hours after landing in Luton Airport, it was time to hop on another flight for the second wedding in 6 days. This time the destination was Ireland – Killarney to be specific. You can fly to Kerry or Cork depending on where you are flying from, but Cork, whilst further away, was easier and had better flights.
This time my travel companions were Sarah and Callum, whom, along with the groom (Martin), I shared a house with at University.
The fun and games started long before we even smelt the fresh Irish air. However, the culprit was not one of us three for a change.
I appreciate the job of Airport Security is extremely tough, and can be very unrewarding (considering you are effectively keeping millions of people safe as they travel worldwide each day), but we were greeted by a special kind of person.
I was victim number one. My tray (which you put your valuables on and anything metal before heading through the scanners), was the first to be seized. I might have understood if it has been my first tray – The one with my bag, and pretty much everything else in. But no…. It was the tray with 3, very obvious items in. An iPad, a belt, and my watch.
Whilst that was strange in itself, the chap who dealt with it was on a whole new level. It was the iPad he was interested in (swab test) – Personally I think he just wanted to have a play on Angry Birds…. But who knows. As he walked away to perform the test, I took the opportunity to put my hoodie and belt back on. I never knew, my hoodie was akin to Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, because when the guy returned (from literally 1 metre away from where we were), he had completely lost me! The 6ft 4 giant of a human, who was standing in exactly the same place, was now completely invisible. Amazing. He looked left and right, and in the end had to call out “Whose iPad is this?“…… We all felt extremely safe knowing nothing could possibly slip through this mans grasp.
Sarah was next in line, but this time for self inflicted reasons. Think of any gel or liquid you can, and Sarah had this in her hand luggage. I guess the 150 signs we passed weren’t quite enough for her to realise that she should probably take them out before getting to security. Even still, our good friend “The Search Baffoon” still didn’t find the mass of liquid, only a stick of lip balm. Top work all around.
We were flying with Aer Lingus, and the flight was due to take off at 08:35. However, it seems that prompt timings, are not part of the Irish dictionary – A theme that was going to be more prominent as the trip went on.
I was fully expecting the plane to be small – The seating arrangements were 2-2 after all. But I hadn’t fully appreciated just how small it was. This thing was only a few feet off the ground! Heck, it even had propellers. Having never flown on anything other than a semi big passenger plane (complete with an actual engine), I can’t say I was brimming with confidence. But, the Irish built it, what could go wrong?
Well, it turns out that the inside is pretty roomy! It had a low ceiling, so I was crouched quite a bit when boarding and departing, but the leg room wasn’t bad at all. Perfectly adequate for a few hours on a plane.
The flight went very smoothly on the whole. The pilot did decide the best way of slowing us down was to bounce our way to a standstill – But I suppose that’s the pleasure of flying a plane which is only a few feet off the ground.
With bags in hand, and car keys at the ready (we hired a Peugeot 3008), we were off on our merry way to Killarney.
The Long and Winding Road
Unlike last week, this Peugeot did not come complete with it’s very own Sat Nav – Shame. Luckily, there aren’t many roads to navigate in the 90 minute journey, and Killarney is well signposted.
The further out of Cork you drive, the more beautiful the landscape becomes. In some ways, the silhouette is actually quite similar to Ibiza – Rolling hills in the distance, greenery everywhere, Ireland was indeed a picturesque place to drive through.
An hour and a half later, we pulled into Killarney Lakeland Cottages – Our home for the next few days.
Our first impression was just how much space there was – Each cottage was very spaced out from one another – I rang the doorbell of the reception, and it patched me through to the owners mobile – He informed me that he would be back in about 45 minutes, but we were booked in cottage 2, and the key was in the door…… You wouldn’t find that type of relaxed service in England, but it worked out extremely well.
We found cottage 2, and proceeded to explore. It was a very big 3 bed, 4 bathroom cottage, with a large living area and decent sized kitchen. Each room had a double and a single bed, so in theory, you could house up to 9 people here! We all agreed that the cottage was absolutely superb, and would definitely come back again.
By now it was past 13:00 and we needed to get some food. We headed back past the 100 or so hotels (that have taken advantage of Killarney’s recent boom in popularity), and parked up near the town centre.
I dutifully paid my 2 Euros for the Pay and Display ticket, only to be met with a faulty machine, which refused to give me my money back!
Enter…. Crazy, helpful Irish man – A local appeared out of nowhere, and saw me repeatedly jarring the machine to get my coin back! We had a good 3 minute conversation, about what, I can’t be sure. This is because I probably said a handful of words to him, whilst he recited his life story to me – In a language that I can only guess was very very strong Irish – All in all, I made out only a couple of words, which were to the effect of “Don’t worry about the ticket, you’ll be fine for a few hours”.
With complete confidence in the Irish parking system…. We headed off for food. If you believe that Ireland is simply full of pubs…. Well, you aren’t far from the mark! They are everywhere!
We didn’t get too far down the road, before we settled into The Failte Bar and Restaurant – It felt very much like a local pub for local people, but the food was superb and the service very friendly.
Half a stone heavier, we meandered towards Tesco to stock up for the next few days. Sarah, who had been cultivating her culinary skills in the 7 years since University opted for the calorific “Pasta Bake Ready Meal” – Only a mere 98% of her daily allowance of pretty much everything. Thankfully, one of us decided to actually “cook” rather than pre heat their food, so I bought a bit extra to feed her as well – The irony is, she used to mock my microwave “Rustlers” burgers whilst at Uni…… How the tables have turned!
Once back at the cottage, we decided to test out the “Games Room” which was a short walk from our cottage.
There was a table tennis table with some derelict bats, and a pool table with more of a slope than Lords cricket ground. That being said, it was very well received and passed an hour or so.
The rest of the day flew by, with nothing to report, and bedtime was a very welcome sight!
With little time in Ireland (especially considering the entire Saturday was going to be taken up by the wedding), this Friday was the only time we had to really explore – So we wanted to make the most of it.
We headed down the road to the aptly titled Rent-a-Bike for when they opened at 09:00. We were greeted outside by a few Germans who looked raring to go for some bike action – I’ve never seen that much lycra so early in the morning.
However, whilst the Germans are known for their efficiency and punctuality, it’s safe to say the Irish are not. 09:15 came and went, and by 09:30, it was getting a bit of a joke. The Germans wait for no man, and headed off to apply their lycra elsewhere. Meanwhile, I called the main office and whilst they were surprised it wasn’t opened, assured me “Dave”, wouldn’t be long.
Well, at 10:00 Dave arrived to open up – It’s worth noting that the Irish have a way with words….. Particularly the “F” word – It drops into most conversations as easily as anything!
Dave wasn’t apologetic in the slightest. He simply blamed the traffic (he must have been coming from Scotland to be an hour late). Either way, he looked like someone who would sabotage your brakes if he didn’t like you, so none of us were particularly forthcoming with our complaints – How very English.
The plan was to cycle around the National Park, and then get over to Ross castle in the afternoon for 3 hours of Kayaking.
We’d already lost an hour due to Dave’s inability to drive/tell the time, so we headed off as soon as we could.
The route was relatively simple – We were planning to cycle around Muckross Lake, which was one of the smaller lakes in Killarney National Park, but it was still a good 20km from start to finish.
Our first notable stopping point was Muckross House which looked phenomenal. We didn’t have time to stop and look around, but we had just enough time to stop and admire the scale and beauty of the place.
We then headed down a 1 way system which hugged the shoreline for 8km or so. If you have less than a couple of hours, I’d probably recommend you do go somewhere else, unless you want to close your eyes for the duration of the ride!
Every corner produced another glimpse of specularly scenery – We got to the point where we simply couldn’t stop to take any more photos because we wouldn’t have got back in time.
I’ve never been to New Zealand, but snow topped mountains aside, this was exactly how I pictured New Zealand!
The water was crystal clear, the hills were endless, and there was a calm about the area that you only get with remote locations in the wilderness.
We left the tranquility of the lake side, and headed back down the one way system towards Torc Waterfall. We could have very easily stopped numerous times in those few kilometres, as every opening produced another breathtaking view.
Around half an hour later, we arrived at Torc Waterfall, and there were a number of people who had parked up, with a steady flow of people coming and going – Clearly it was a popular destination!
That being said, we climbed (steep walk) the 200 metres or so towards the waterfall, and whilst impressive…. It was not as spectacular as I’d hoped – There were steps that took you further up into the mountain, but we headed back to the bikes as time was against us.
By this point, it felt like a million leprechauns had been doing the Irish jig down below, and getting back in the saddle was an excruciatingly painful experience. However, with words of encouragement from my companions such as ”Man the hell up” and “You are such a baby” we headed back towards Muckross house (having competed the circle), which would then lead us home.
It’s been 3 days since the bike ride, and I can finally sit down you’ll be pleased to know. Even with the lingering pains, getting around Killarney National Park by bike, really is the only way – You could cover a fraction of it by foot, and none of it by car (other than driving through it, but you’ll miss the views).
Given it only cost us 10 Euros each, it was exceptional value for what will be lifelong memories (for both the eyes and the muscles….).
Kayaking to Innisfallen Island
We had booked the 15:00 trip to Innisfallen Island, which was a 3 hour guided kayak tour of the largest lake in Killarney National Park.
The tour started at Ross Castle, which was impressive in itself – However, if you are a castle aficionado, you’ll be disappointed – It isn’t a patch on the types of castles you find in Wales. That being said, it adds to the backdrop of the National Park once you are on the lake.
We were on a tour with another couple, similar ages to us 3 – I was paired up with the tour guide, which left Sarah and Callum to navigate the waters on their own – It was more “Titanic” than “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and even Callum’s 70” calves couldn’t help this time.
I’ll start by saying this was the best 3 hours of the entire holiday – If you ever get a chance to come to Killarney, you absolutely need to make an afternoon for kayaking on the lake.
There are a few mini islands in the lake, but our destination was Innisfallen Island, the largest of the lot.
It took around 45 minutes before we reached the shore, where we were able to get out, and the tour guide proceeded to fill us in on the history of the island.
Bizarrely, there are absolutely loads of Sika Deer on the island – Introduced many moons ago by some Baron of somewhere…… Take the tour if you want to find out more about it!
We continued around the island, stopping off at various points so the tour guide could fill us in on the history. Just like the morning bike ride, everywhere you turned you were met with a spectacular view – My favourite of all views came at the pebble beach on Innisfallen – Looking across at the mainland with the rolling hills, it really was absolutely breathtaking.
The island tour lasted around 30/40 minutes, and it was then time to get back in the kayak. Depending on the ability level of the people on tour, you’ll either head straight back the way you came, or you will go around the island, and back the other side.
We were all pretty fit, so heading around the island was a no brainer – It offered more of the same panoramic views, all be it this time with some rougher open water.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the weather in Ireland can change in a heartbeat – One minute it’s sunny, then huge clouds roll in followed by rain. We were lucky that it didn’t rain on us, but I’ve never seen clouds come and go so quickly!
We headed back towards Ross castle at around 17:45 – By this time, the lake was completely void of human life, and the water incredibly still – There is something very surreal about sitting on the vast expanse of water, with barely a ripple in sight – It was part heaven on earth, and part “Jaws”, waiting for something to pluck you from your boat!
Thankfully, the only disturbing of the water was Callum and Sarah, raring off ahead like Pinsent and Redgrave, only this time there was no gold medal at stake – However, just like telling a child “It’s the taking part that counts”, they weren’t really listening, instead opting to “finish first” in this non-race….. Go figure!
The tour ended, we said our goodbyes, and dragged our absolutely soaked feet/trainers to the car – Dinner was booked for 20:00, so we only had a short time to get home, change, and get back out again.
Dinner at the Porterhouse
We had been recommended to book this place the night before, which we dutifully did (with no indications it would be particularly busy).
When we arrived at 20:00, the place was heaving! Not a spare seat in sight.
We were shown to our table, and very quickly had our drinks taken. Considering how busy the place was, the service was phenomenal As soon as our drinks arrived, our order was taken – Once our starter had been cleared away, our main arrived within minutes – Say what you want about other Irish people, these waitresses were out of this world!
The service would have been wasted if the food was bad, thankfully, it couldn’t have been better.
It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either – Certainly somewhere you would want to eat if you were here for a few days.
With dessert tucked away, we headed for a bar around the corner called “The Laurels”. Typically, it was packed full of locals, but we eventually found a few seats to chill out in – Thankfully, they were extremely padded, which, considering the bike ride earlier, was very well received!
Once we’d finished up there, we headed back to the cottage for a very well deserved sleep!
Day of the Wedding
The morning of the wedding was upon us and I was up bright and early to chauffeur Sarah to the hairdressers. It appears putting on a “hat” (fascinator), is complicated for girls from Bolsover.
45 minutes later, we were home getting ready to head out for the service which started at 13:00.
Beaufort is about 30 minutes from the cottage we were staying at, and my first thought as we pulled into the parking lot was “Wow, this looks exactly like the church from The Kingsman”. On reflection, it doesn’t look exactly like it, but it’s pretty close!
Film reference aside, the church was set in a stunning location – With Killarney National Park all around, you couldn’t have asked for better scenery (or better weather for that matter).
Thankfully, the ceremony went according to plan, and Colin Firth didn’t come out of nowhere to massacre everyone.
The reception was held at The Dunloe – A very swanky 5 star resort a short drive from the church.
Typically, the views were stunning, and the hotel looked and felt every inch the 5 star resort it was.
The food was un-be-lievable. If you are lucky enough to eat at The Dunloe, you absolutely need to try the fillet steak – Magical.
The rest of the wedding went down a storm – It was the longest I’ve ever been too! Starting at 13:00, we finally made our way out of the door around 02:20, although there were still plenty partying the night away.
Before we left, we had a quick turn at the Photo Booth – A great finish to a superb day.
The Final Countdown
Our plans of making the most of the final day were scupperd by the late night.
Our flight was at 15:00, and with the 90 minute drive, we didn’t want to leave much later than 12:00.
It turned out to be a very unremarkable day with little to report.
We reached the airport in good time, check in was a breeze, and the security in Cork actually have some personality which was a pleasant change.
The flight home went smooth, and I learnt that you don’t even need to go through passport control when entering the country from Ireland.
OK, so if you are heading to Killarney, these are the things I’d recommend:
- Kayaking through the National Park – An absolute must.
- Spending time in the National Park on foot or preferably by bike – The views are out of this world.
- If you are here for a week or so, I’d take some time to complete the Ring of Kerry – If the views are anything like Killarney, it will be phenomenal.
- Take a few hours to walk around Killarney town – You won’t need much more than that.
- Visit Muckross House.
The few days we spent in Killarney weren’t anywhere near long enough – Especially considering we only had the 1 full day to actually see things.
It is somewhere that I will go back to in a heartbeat, and it’s incredibly easy to get to. The experience was over far too soon, and I feel like I could have spent another week there easily.
The views will stay with me forever, and I look forward to exploring more of this beautiful part of Ireland.