Today we rode the iconic Ring of Kerry, a 120 mile loop around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwestern Ireland. Yesterday we enjoyed bright blue skies, but that type of weather doesn't last for long in Ireland and today we were thrilled that we didn't need raingear as we rode under cloudy skies.
N71, N70, and N72 are the 2-lane paved, mostly narrow and sometimes really narrow roads that comprise the Ring of Kerry. We road counterclockwise starting and ending in Killarney, with views of the mountains on one side and often the Atlantic Ocean to our left.
Our first stop was the Torc Waterfall in the Killarney National Forest. The waterfall itself is beautiful, but what really struck us were the moss covered trees. We expected a leprechaun to jump out and start dancing around us at any minute.
Soon we were climbing through Moll's Gap, named for Moll Kissane who ran a small pub, or shebeen, during construction of the road in the 1820's. She was popular for selling home-brewed whiskey to the road workers, and the Gap was named in her honor.
We rode this way yesterday in the opposite direction on our way from Kinsale to Killarney, and it was fun to see sheep once again in the middle of the road and on the hillsides.
We continued on into Kenmare, turning onto the N70 and heading west along Kenmare Bay past Sneem where we stopped a few times to let the views of the coast and mountains on the other side of the Bay sink in.
Everything I read said that the section of the Ring between Caherdaniel and Waterville is considered the most beautiful, and we have to agree. We looked out over the beaches and the Atlantic Ocean, imagining life here centuries ago.
After Waterville, the road cuts across the peninsula. Instead of mountains and ocean views, I was mesmerized by the brilliantly colored bushes and flowers that lined the road.
We were warned about heavy tourist traffic, and especially tour buses, but mostly had the road to ourselves except for one close encounter.
We stopped in Glenbeigh, on the northern side of the Iveragh Peninsula, for lunch at Rumour's Bistro where we enjoyed local mussels in white wine sauce that tasted like they had just been plucked from the sea. The next time you're on the Ring of Kerry, make this your lunch AND dinner stop - the food is that amazing.
We hit the worst traffic of the day as we rode into Killorglin, where the annual Puck Fair was taking place. Legend has it that the fair started in the early 1600's, although many people believe it's far older. Puck is actually a wild goat, who is crowned King Puck by a local school girl who is the Queen of Puck. We've been to numerous street fairs in different parts of the world, and this one easily was the largest we've seen, with people parking over 1 mile away to walk to the festivities. We didn't see this year's King Puck, but we did see his statue as we rode past.
We enjoyed the shorter yet absolutely beautiful ride today, yet it's bittersweet because tomorrow is our last day on our Ireland motorcycle tour. We walked around busy downtown Killarney, listening to street musicians and savoring our last evening in County Kerry.