Saturday afternoon at Stansted airport found nineteen of us eager to leave these shores for a week away in Ireland. Once landed in Dublin with hire cars sorted we began the long drive to Killarney, stopping briefly in Kildare for an evening meal and provisions. The group began arriving at the hostel at 00:15 and by 01:00 we had all arrived. The hostel was impressive, the rooms were large with high ceilings, the facilities great and the staff both friendly and easy on the eye.
Sunday: Having collected Dublin resident Simon from Killarney coach station we all proceeded to head to the Dingle peninsula area. Kim, Jackie, Katherine and Jenny stopped at Castle Gregory and walked six miles along the beach. Jonathan, Barry, Richard and Russell made their way to Brandon, undertook a walk and then headed to the south of the peninsula via Conor Pass. Steve, Julian, Simon and Martin spent the day walking to the summit of Brandon mountain, whilst Patrick, Kerry, Abde, Sadia, Jeff, Mick and myself began the walk to the summit before deciding to turn back to spend some time on the beach. Those who turned back (except Abde and Sadia) met with a local couple called Aiden and Sheila Mulcahy who invited us to their home for tea. We arrived at a lovely bungalow, the rear of which looked out over Brandon bay. It transpired that Sheila had written a book titled, 'A Gallant Barque - The story of the Port Yarrock'. The Port Yarrock was a ship that met a grisly end in Brandon Bay on 19th January 1894. If you want to read more about this event click here. After drinking tea and chatting for over an hour we had to leave as Abde and Sadia would be worried about us (apologies to you both). Once back in Killarney, appetites sated, we sat up chatting to the early hours as tends to happen on HAWOG trips.
Monday: The day consisted of walks and a cycle trip. Julian, Mick and Simon cycled around the bottom of Loch Léin before heading up and down the Gap of Dunloe and then returning to the hostel in time for Simon to leave for home. Patrick, Abde, Sadia, Kerry and myself decided to reach the summit of the highest point in Ireland, namely Carrauntoohil at 1039 metres. The remainder began a walk from the hostel to the Gap of Dunloe and then on to Loch Léin. At the loch Kim, Jonathan, Barry, Jeff, Martin, Jenny and Richard boarded a boat across, before walking to Muckross House where most took a pony and trap to Killarney centre to watch the England v Croatia game. Those who decided against the boat trip continued to walk along Kerry Way, missing the football game before reaching the town centre and getting a lift back to the hostel. All were pleased to be back, particularly Katherine whose feet had blistered due to new walking boots.
Tuesday: The rains came and did not let up all day! Jeff and Richard spent the day in Dingle and Tralee, finishing at the aquadome for a swim. Julian, Kerry and myself took the car to Sneem, stopping on route so that Julian could buy a flat peaked hat made with brightly coloured squares of material. Sneem is a small town with many brightly coloured buildings, and even more brightly coloured Americans alighting from coaches that seem to clog up the roads. Maybe it was just the miserable weather getting to me but these Americans managed to annoy me with their incessant rambling about how Irish they were or how Irish coffee was their new favourite drink!
Most of the others also decided to stay dry and drive around the Ring of Kerry. Steve, Patrick, Abde and Sadia decided to walk, finally being picked up near the Gap of Dunloe. The rain had taken its toll, Patrick's mobile phone stopped working when it became waterlogged, Sadia's boots fell apart and Abde somehow managed to drown his waterproof watch! In the evening Kim and Jackie cooked for the group, a chicken roast and pasta option followed by apple pie and custard. When everyone retired to the lounge the practical jokes began and things got so frisky, Kim's knickers ended up covered in Steve's custard (she was not wearing them at the time I hasten to add).
Wednesday: This was the day we had to leave Killarney and head for Cork. We took different routes, some direct, others deciding to drive along the coast visiting places like Mizen Head, Skibbereen, and Cobh. Cobh is a small town famous for its connections with HMS Titanic and the Lusitania.
Thursday: Again the group undertook a variety of activities, many centred around the Kinsale area. Patrick, Julian, Kerry and Martin cycled in Kinsale, Richard went horse riding nearby and Pauline and Jonathan took a ferry ride from Kinsale harbour. Abde, Sadia, Steve, Jackie and I went for a short walk near Glengariff before driving to Skibbereen to watch England v Portugal (which depressed us all).
Friday: Since there was a festival taking place in Killarney, many of us decided to revisit this town. The exceptions were Abde and Sadia who decided to see Cork city centre. Eight left Cork early, headed for Blarney castle to kiss the stone before driving on to Killarney. Nine of us headed for Reen Pier near Union Hall where we had a three-hour kayaking session booked with Atlantic Sea Kayaking. We explored a little of the area but were unable to head too far out to sea because of the conditions. After the session had ended we raced to Killarney since Kim, Martin and Richard were to meet with some others who had tickets to see Bryan Adams and Simple Minds in concert. Those not attending the concert visited local restaurants or pubs which had traditional Irish music playing live.
Saturday: Our holiday was near an end. We packed and left Cork hostel making our way to Dublin, many of us stopping at Kildare for a meal. Once at the airport Steve and Pauline left us to continue their Ireland adventure for a few more days. The rest of us relaxed or spent our remaining euros before boarding the plane bound for Stansted. For some of us this was our first trip to Ireland and I think I can speak for all when I say we had a great time. Thanks must go to Steve for organising the trip.
Report by Gary
Gap of Dunloe - Photo by Jackie
Blarney Castle - Photo by Jackie