Large and durable napkins softer than a bed sheet were just one of the many things we loved about County Kerry, Ireland. There was also, of course, the beautiful scenery, rolling green hills, jaw dropping coastline, mild January weather, high tundra-like mountains, amazing seafood and thousands of years of history to take in as well.
We decided on Ireland because it was one of the travel destinations on our short list which had affordable (very cheap!) flights and good weather. The winter in Germany has been the worst in four years with temperatures below freezing for most of the past month, and therefore partly cloudy and 50 degrees sounded about like summer to us.
The start of the trip from Frankfurt Hahn to Kerry Ireland was a little rough to say the least. Snow and high winds that morning made the drive through the mountains difficult and we had to carefully pass though several snow drift areas. Flights were grounded that morning from Hahn so there was a backlog and delays for departure. Parking was an absolute adventure, as the P1 parking area was literally an ice skating rink due to the blowing snow inside the garage. We watched people sliding all over while exiting the garage, so instead we chose P2 and the freezing family walk up unplowed streets and sidewalks. All was well, finally, when we took off about an hour late and arrived to Ireland safely.
We stayed the holiday weekend in Killarney, a beautiful city of about 10,000 set against the backdrop of the mountains and a great hub to explore the coast. Killarney has dozens of restaurants in the downtown area and is home to more hotel beds in all of Ireland with the exception of Dublin. During peak summer season we heard that restaurants are packed every night, but in January we often had the places all to ourselves especially during the “early bird” 5-7 PM time before the girls were ready to hit the bed. Our personal favorites were the seafood (chowder, fish/chips, and these yummy salmon wrapped avocados), mashed potatoes, and pancakes…lots of pancakes! What made it better were nice amenities we don’t usually get in Europe such as pitchers of water, ice, and of course nice napkins!
Dingle Peninsula. We started our tour of Dingle with breakfast at the Coast Guard restaurant just outside of Dingle town and enjoyed the great food and view. From the town, we headed to Slea Head Drive, traveling counter clockwise as advised. The views along Slea Head get better and better as you approach the Blasket Islands passing beautiful vantage points and historical bee hut sights. The highlight was the Dún Chaoin overlook where you can see water on all sides with a steep drop off to a gorgeous beach below.
We drove on to the rest of Slea Head drive passing a few small towns and signs about the filming of the next Star Wars Movie. Back in Dingle, we walked around and did some shopping, picking Indi and Dagny up stuffed Lambs and a t-shirt to bring home. We also had a true “Irish Pub” experience at Murphys. The food was so delicious and you could not beat the atmosphere inside.
Heading back to Killarney (about 1 hour) we saw some incredible rainbows along the way and got a few pictures.
Kenmare and Killarney National Park
Day 2 took us south to Kenmare, where we started with Breakfast at Mick and Jimmys. After a crab sandwich and pancakes (delicious!), we walked off breakfast in the town. Kenmare is small, just a few downtown streets, but very picturesque and what you would imagine an Irish postcard street would look like.
The drive back took us on the famous ring of Kerry and through Molls Gap and the Mcgillcuddy Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland. Heading into Killarney National park we saw lakes, mountains, and lots of sheep! Some were even in the roadway which makes for a fun driving adventure (especially while driving on the left!)
Day 3 we visited the grounds of Ross Castle and Mucross House which were very green even in January.
We certainly enjoyed Ireland and all it had to offer. Though there were many reminders of American culture, the Gaelic references and signs (it’s the second language) made it still feel very different and European. The scenery, food, and people were all wonderful and we are looking forward to visiting again and seeing more sights someday.