Travel: Ireland

By Mike Yardley

Elegantly hugging the southern flank of the Emerald Isle, the Ring of Kerry is a spectacular coastal route that the Irish tout as displaying a million shades of green.

Most explorers depart from the tourist honey-pot of Killarney and head towards Killorglin.

Keep an eye out for Bog Village, just before Glenbeigh, a rural attraction where all the houses have fully restored thatched roofs. Next stop is Waterville and the fabulous Butler Arms Hotel, which has an extensive photographic wall. Charlie Chaplin and his family spent several summers in Waterville and one of his daughters loved it so much that she settled there permanently.

What makes the Ring of Kerry so rewarding for me is the glorious range of historic and spiritual structures. Make time to visit the circular stone fort, Staigue Fort, near Castlecove, which is 2500 years old.

When passing through the cute village of Sneem, visit the Church of the Transfiguration, built in 1810 and which displays a salmon as a weather clock.

The church cemetery is the burial ground of Irish president Cearbhaill O'Dalaigh.

Head up the hill to Coomakista for a knock-out seaward view, high above the peninsula. Come back downhill to Moll's Gap and you are greeted by a vista of the Black Valley. Verdant rows of rhododendrons climb the mountain slopes of MacGillycuddy's Reeks, mixed with occasional stands of ancient Irish forests with their saline oaks, yews, mountain ash and holly.

The pass through the MacGillycuddy's Reeks is magical and is called Gap the Dunloe. A historic coaching inn, Kate Kearney's Cottage, is a quintessential photo-stop.

My favourite sequence of scenery is to be found in the irrepressibly photogenic Killarney National Park, which is home to herds of red deer and sika.

Muckross House, and its expansive gardens, is a magnificent Victorian mansion and leading stately home.

The rooms are elegantly furnished, reflecting the lifestyle of the period. The gardens are a triumph of unblemished beauty.

There are three separate working farms with a selection of poultry, Kerry cattle and traditional farm machinery.

These are still working farms where you can observe the daily routine of the many craftsmen carrying out their specialised trades.

A short hop from Muckross House is the Blue Pool, one of the region's best kept secrets. This nature reserve throbs with wildlife that includes badgers.

- Hamilton News

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