Ireland: Killarney National Park

I briefly mentioned in a previous post that during our time in Ireland we stayed in a town called Kenmare. From Dublin, we drove to Cobh for lunch and then headed to our B&B in Kenmare, the perfect home base for exploring the areas of Ireland we wanted to see most. Our first full day in Kenmare was actually spent driving the Ring of Kerry (you can read about that adventure here), and our second full day was spent in Killarney National Park and the Dingle Peninsula. That may seem pretty ambitious, however the loop around the Dingle Peninsula is only 30 miles and our itinerary for Killarney National Park involved three stopping points. We intentionally didn’t jam pack our agenda because we wanted to enjoy this trip, not be wiped out from it.

But like I’ve said, one of the great things about Ireland is the “pull over!” stops, and this day, like everyday, ended up having them. I decided to split this full day into two posts, focusing on the locations. So, today’s post is about the first portion of our day where we drove through Killarney National Park, before we made our way the Dingle Peninsula. Dingle was incredible – it’s a post you won’t want to miss!

Our B&B in Kenmare was only a 15-20 minute drive (hello perfect homebase!) to the entrance of Killarney National Park. It was morning, and the fog hadn’t lifted from the top of the mountains just yet. It wasn’t terribly cold, but it was wet and gloomy. Oddly, even with the rain and gloomy weather, the people in Ireland are so up-beat and joyful. It’s difficult not to see the beauty in even the gloomiest of weather. We pulled off to the side of the road while it was still foggy to check out the view and snap some photos.

Our first planned stop was Torc Waterfall, but of course we made last minute stops on the way there. Who wouldn’t stop at the sight of an abandoned castle? They are everywhere. The castles we stopped at were closed off to the public. I’m sure you can guess what happened next: My rebellious husband convinced me to trespass…again. Considering what he does for a living it doesn’t make any sense, but I will say our lives are memorable because of him. We walked the ground of the castles, always trying to figure out what was what.

Is this a staircase? What would it have led to?

Fireplace?

Dining hall?

Scout tower?

The wonder of it all gives these castles a magical feel to them. Not to mention, the skyscraper trees – they not only make you feel small but you wonder with Ireland’s history if any of these trees were significant meeting points for people. Was any blood shed here centuries ago?

After trespassing for the third time on this trip, we jumped back into our car and finally came to our first planned stop: Torc Waterfall. I had never seen photos or really looked into where the waterfall was, but based off our tour book it was a nice short “hike” with a beautiful waterfall. And by hike I mean a ten minute stroll. We walked through a wooded area that was nothing but green, with moss covered branches and tree trunks and came upon this waterfall. It was beautiful and simple. It wasn’t grand in terms of size, but it was grand because it was intricate and detailed. The water flowed in different directions, making its way over dozens of stones. It was quieter than a crashing wave but louder than the small trickle of a creek; the perfect balance. All the other people were so patient and kind while I was taking images of the waterfall. I spent a few minutes in the “prime” spot and as I begin to apologize to the people behind me, one said, “I’m just watching the professional at work!”

Chase, who says he’s not a photographer, asked me so innocently to take “the cool photo where the water is blurred.” Anything for you darlin’.

It’s one of his favorite photos from our entire trip.

After spending just a few minutes enjoying the sounds of nature at Torc Waterfall, we made our way across some small bridges and came to a spot where we saw some people fly fishing. If there was one piece of clothing I would recommend packing for Ireland, it would be rain boots. I packed my Hunter Boots and they were perfect for this trip – I wore them almost every.single.day. Almost everything we did – planned or unplanned – was not strenuous on our feet so comfort was never lacking, even in rubber rain boots.

We didn’t talk much to the people fishing but since I was wearing my Hunter Boots, I was able to walk into the lake and get exactly where I wanted to snap some photos. I walked into the lake until the water was about halfway up my shins. Chase was chatting with one of the men who were there, and I did one of my favorite things: listened to the accents. If I could have any accent it would be an Irish one. They are just so cool, and don’t sound pretentious. 

We continued our drive through Killarney National park and stopped at Muckross House. This home boasts of the Victorian Period and was lived in until 1933. Back in the 1800s, Queen Victoria stayed in this house, and the homeowners almost bankrupted themselves preparing it for her visit. Fun fact: Killarney National Park was established when Muckross Estate was donated to the nation in 1932.

The grounds were stunning as the house had lake views, beautiful architecture, and its own manicured garden. We didn’t go inside because it required a guided-tour and we had other “must-see” things on our list that we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for. There were also buggy rides available throughout the grounds, but since we were spending lots of time in a car we were happy to walk. We ended our walk in the garden, and had someone snap a photo of us because I wanted to make sure we got photos together. One thing Chase did on this trip was constantly remind me to get the shot I wanted without hesitation, whether that was asking him to get one of me, asking a stranger, or forcing him to get in front of the camera. I’m so happy he encouraged me with that because I don’t have shots I “wished I had taken.” Well, maybe one, but I’ll share that in another post because it has a good story with it.

Our next adventure would be my favorite in the entire park: The Gap of Dunloe. This was one of the most scenic areas we saw in Killarney National Park. It had a single road, just wide enough for one car, that went through rugged grass-covered mountains and over stone bridges. And sheep. I loved the sheep.

Lots of people were walking the road, which required us to drive slowly and steadily, but we didn’t mind because there was so much to take in. In the end, we were happy with our decision to not walk the road because it was fairly long, and at one point it began to downpour. We came to the Wishing Bridge somewhat soon on our drive through the Gap of Dunloe; legend has it that if you make a wish at this bridge it will come true. I don’t know about wishes, but we definitely made a new furry friend while photographing the bridge. I think he was more fond of Chase since I was focused on getting photos…big shock. I always tell Chase he is the fun and cool one and people are so easily drawn to him – apparently dogs are drawn to him too.

Every once in a while the sun popped out to say hello, which made for some neat scenarios when it came to capturing the landscapes. I have various shots of harsh sunlight, overcast light, and “spotlight’ effects on mountainsides because the weather changes frequently. It just became part of the excitement of the trip. We never knew what to expect, but we had a handful of moments when perfect lighting came at just the right time for the shot I wanted.

It was density…I mean destiny. (Name that movie!!).

After reaching the end of the road, we made our way back to the start of the Gap of Dunloe and headed out to Dingle for the second portion of our day. I want to share so much about Dingle, but I will save it for the next post. Stay tuned!

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