My time in Dublin had been nice. I’d spent hours getting lost in the museum absorbing all the history. I’d walked for miles, stopping to admire amazing architecture and eat at yummy vegetarian restaurants. But it wasn’t until I was on the bus out of there that I really started to relax into the trip.
I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but the cows in the fields looked happier than they do in the UK. Everything seemed just that little bit softer. There was hardly any traffic, and I imagined how awesome it would be to come back on an epic road trip. For now though, I was very happy not to be driving, and drifted in and out of sleep, listened to music and day dreamed about what was to come.
We passed through some gorgeous towns that I would love to visit one day, and then we began the approach into Killarney National Park. The scenery became more rugged, and I finally felt like I was on an adventure again. I’d felt excited at the airport, as I always do, but Dublin was so much like home that it didn’t really give me that holiday feeling.
Even while I was still on the bus it felt easier to breathe in these wild surroundings. As we emerged from the forest into the small town I saw some serious walkers with all their outdoor gear, obviously about to tackle some of the surrounding peaks. There were horse drawn carriages to take tourists wanting a less physically demanding holiday around the park. I was somewhere in the middle. I intended to do lots of walking, but no mountains this time!
My hostel was an idyllic haven, truly a home away from home. The people were lovely and welcoming, and all the rooms were named after animals! Everything inside was made out of wood, which combined with the fresh country air to create the feeling of being on some kind of retreat.
I met the most wonderful guy from Canada, whose eyes lit up when he talked about his time in Ireland. He had an almost Irish sounding accent, as he was from a very isolated part of Newfoundland where there were a lot of Irish immigrants. Maybe that’s why he felt such a strong connection to this country.
I love meeting people from all over the world, especially when they have such different lifestyles to mine. There is something really special about people who live away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. They radiate such a gentle calm presence. I don’t think I could live in a rural area (I need good vegan pizza and all my friends near me!) but I feel such a strong pull towards that simpler way of life.
From what I had gathered from my conversations with other travellers, everywhere in the national park was extremely beautiful, and I could easily spend many days walking and exploring here. I was excited but tired, so took a nap and just spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the town, preparing for an adventure the following day. I felt like I was already settling into the slower pace of life that Killarney invited.
On my first full day there I took a walk along the shores of the vast lake to Ross Castle. A German girl I’d met in Dublin had recommended the route, so I followed in her footsteps. I was not disappointed. Almost immediately I spotted a grey heron as I walked along the river that led to the lake.
When I reached the lake I basked in the stillness, taking in the shimmering water and majestic hills that surrounded it. I imagined people hundreds of years ago experiencing that same feeling of wonder as they stood on these very shores, gazing at the beautiful landscape. I continued my walk, sometimes next to the water, sometimes deeper into the forest, surrounded by wild flowers and lush green leaves.
Just as my feet were beginning to ache, I caught a glimpse of Ross Castle between the trees. Seconds before I took this photo, a ray of sunlight shone through the parting clouds, illuminating the castle. Obviously, as soon as I got my camera out the sun disappeared, but it was a magical moment!
The castle perfectly reflected the drama of the landscape, creating an otherworldly fairytale scene. It was a strange feeling to reach the castle and be surrounded by people again, who had come by car or horse and carriage. There was something extremely satisfying about arriving on foot, as I drive almost everywhere at home!
I decided to walk back along the road, which was long and boring, because my legs couldn’t handle going all the way back around the lake! When I reached the hostel, I immediately collapsed on my bed for a snooze, cooked a huge bowl of pasta, and psyched myself up to do it all again the next day!
I had a vague plan to explore the area around Muckross Abbey as I set off on my next adventure in the national park. The sun was shining, and the lake looked stunning. The soothing sound of the lapping water made me want to lie down on the pebbles and take a nap, but I had a lot of ground to cover so I kept walking.
Eventually I reached the abbey ruins, and took my time exploring every nook and cranny. Suddenly the clouds came over, and it looked like it was about to rain, creating an eerie atmosphere. The sun soon came back out, and I avoided getting wet, but thought I should probably get a move on in case the weather changed again.
The path got more and more scenic, luring me further along until I reached Muckross House and gardens. Arriving in the gardens was like stepping into some kind of paradise after the long walk. The beautifully designed gardens were so soothing, and completely distracted me from the blisters on my feet, hunger and general exhaustion! I was only at the half way point of my walk, but felt totally revived by the heavenly surroundings.
The return journey was a lot easier than I’d imagined, but I still fell asleep again as soon as I got back! I felt very content when I woke up, which was lucky because my tranquil retreat had transformed into a noisy hub of activity. It was a bank holiday weekend, and there was a huge car rally happening in the tiny town.
I could understand why, with such amazing roads around the lake and surrounding hills, but it was a bit of a shock to be woken up that night by revving engines and car horns! I can sleep through almost anything though, so although a little confused, I still got plenty of rest.
The next day I had a lazy start, and took a gentler walk along a circuit where I could see herds of red deer, and more magnificent views. I had planned on taking a day trip to the Dingle peninsula, having heard amazing things about it. However, I decided to prioritize relaxation over trying to do absolutely everything in a short space of time.
On my trip to Costa Rica last year I got sick twice (I rarely get ill at home) because I pushed myself to do more than I genuinely wanted to. I met some great people who were packing in all of the sights, and although I enjoyed days out with them, I much prefer to go at my own pace. So I learned my lesson, and passed on the fabulous sounding tour. It felt really good to honor my own feelings though, instead of thinking that I ‘should’ be doing more.
So Dingle is another place to add to the list for a future Ireland road trip! It’s exciting to have a country so nearby that I have barely begun to explore. I’m not sure when I’ll go back, there are so many more adventures to be had in new countries before then, but with my tent, a car and some friends, it will be a completely different experience!
I headed back to Dublin feeling relaxed and invigorated, ready to enjoy some more good food and tourist attractions before heading home. Even with the crazy boy racers, Killarney had been the perfect relaxing break in the countryside that I’d been hoping for!
Have you been to Ireland? So many people I met recommended Killarney to me, and now I see why! Where in Ireland would you recommend going?