Killarney is a bit of tourist hub for Ireland – think Orlando without the theme parks. Instead of roller coasters and water parks, Killarney boasts of castles, wooded trails, scenic roads, and a fantastic area of shops and restaurants.
When we arrived at the hotel, Killarney Royal, we were immediately overwhelmed with the hospitality of Ireland. We received a warm greeting and the staff went out of their way to provide us with an entire list of ideas for our first evening – including an awesome nearby playground. This level of hospitality continued throughout our stay. www.killarneyroyal.ie
While many families spend a week in the area, our whirlwind trip only allowed us three nights in the area. There were several sights that were on my cannot miss list.
KISSANE SHEEP FARM (www.kissanesheepfarm.com)
Along the Ring of Kerry between Killarney and Kenmore sits Kissane Sheep Farm. The farm has been in the beautiful conservation area near Moll’s Gap for almost 200 years. To help support the farm financially, the family began hosting sheep herding demonstrations in 2005. The demonstrations are held several times a week from the spring through fall. Check out their website to find a time when you are in the area.
In the rocky terrain, it is critical for the farmers to find their sheep among the rocks and crevices in order to evaluate health and prevent their coat from getting unhealthily thick. Kissane has a team of sheep herding dogs to support this effort. The team of dogs is trained and cared for by John.
We had the opportunity to observe John demonstrate the skills of four of the dogs. The team lead and drove a large group of about fifty or so sheep from one of the valleys up the rocky terrain to a pin just near the observation area. This was done with minimal guide words to the dogs. The amazing part was the speed at which the dogs responded.
To top off our visit, we got to meet a couple of the lambs that were less than a week old. Goose (six-year-old) and Chicken (almost four-year-old) even got to hold a lamb. “Lamb season” begins in early March and lasts through May. The fields and valleys may not be green this time of year, but you are treated by meeting very cute lambs (and less crowded roads, but that is another topic).
When the hotel concierge described Torc Waterfall, we were told it was home of the fairies and leprechauns. She was correct! Right along the Ring of Kerry is a small parking lot that is the start of trail to Torc Waterfall. The waterfall itself really is not the most spectacular that I have ever seen – maybe not even the top five. It is beautiful, but the truly special part of Torc Waterfall is the moss covered trees leading to the waterfall. Goose loved skipping across the rocks – while nervously told him to be careful.
As beautiful as the area is, it is absolutely covered with tourists – us included. When I say covered, there were even tourists in the waterfall. Keep in mind, the air temperature was about 50 degrees, so the water temperature was much, much colder.
Up to this point, all of our visits to castles in Ireland had been self-guided. I generally like self-guided tours – mostly because I do not like being told what to do and when. However, without the benefit of a guide at some of these locations, you end up wondering around and staring at a window going – why is there a window there? or what is that hold for? Worst of all, sometimes you do not even see the really significant elements of a sight.
Thankfully for Low Key and me, a guide is required at Ross Castle, one of the best-restored tower castles in Ireland. We enjoyed learning about why banquets were held on the top floor of the tower – to protect guests from invaders. And why there were so few bedrooms – everyone slept in the same room. Learning about the direction that the spiral staircases turned was also cool – of course, you need to a hold a sword in your right hand and balance with your left when charging down the stairs.
However, as much as we enjoyed learning so much history, Goose was mostly annoyed about the guide (and Chicken was mostly passed out in Low Key’s arms). The only part that Goose enjoyed – as any six-year-old boy would enjoy was learning where the people “went potty.” He was fascinated by the communal bench with a wide hole many stories above the ground where the residents would sit when nature called. If you asked him about the castle today, he would tell you that it was over six hundred years old and then explain how the people went potty.
THE STRAWBERRY FIELD PANCAKE COTTAGE strawberryfield-ireland.com
Not far from Kissane Sheep Farm and almost to Kenmare, The Strawberry Field Pancake Cottage is perched upon the top of a mountain overlooking the valley leading into Kenmare. As the name implies, pancakes are their specialty. These are not American-style pancakes (thankfully). Their pancakes are more akin to crepes. Savory, sweet – and some in between. Every pancake imaginable was on the menu. But for my kids, this was not what they had in mind – though Chicken was very impressed with the strawberry themed toilet!
By this point in the trip, two things became evident:
- Chicken had been sick for several days. It is a part of life when traveling with kids. They get sick.
- Goose was loosing his appetite – which to this point in the trip had been quiet healthy. That should have been a sign to us. Alas, we missed this indication.
Next (and final) Ireland post – what to do when your trip with kids falls apart?