Our visit to the Muckross house took us through Killarney National Park – a beautiful forest, pungent with fresh greenness and dense with trees arching overhead. As soon as we arrived at the national park, we regretted that we wouldn’t be able to spend more than a couple hours there before heading onward to Kenmare. It’s renowned for having wonderful hiking, and you can even take a horse-drawn carriage tour across the Gap of Dunloe.
Muckross house itself was a sprawling estate with gnarled trees and its own lake. In retrospect, the vast, sweeping grounds are vaguely reminiscent of something out of Downton Abbey.
There were gnarled old brown trees with smooth trunks and low branches, perfect for climbing.
Willows overhung the lake, their tendrils skimming the surface as if the trees were daintily trailing their fingers in the water. Brightly-colored dahlias lined the paths, and a greenhouse nearby was filled with the rich, warm scent of the earth and greenery.
We wandered the grounds for a little while, but didn’t end up going inside the house – we were suffering from castle burnout (a serious condition), and were feeling especially budget-conscious that day after a couple expensive dinners in Dingle. Plus, we promised our next B&B hosts that we would be there to check in by 4, and it was already getting close to 3. Though Muckross house was about 40 minutes away from Kenmare, we had lingered at both Inch beach and in Killarney.
So, after a bit more time walking the peaceful Muckross grounds, we continued onward to Kenmare. Our drive took us past “Ladies’ View”, a scenic overlook along the Ring of Kerry that has a sweeping view of a valley and the Lakes of Killarney.
We took a quick stop at the gift shop at Ladies’ View, appropriately named “Ladies’ View Industries”, then hopped back in the car. To our surprise, Kenmare ended up being quite small, not just in contrast to Killarney, but also relative to Dingle and Doolin. We’d read that Kenmare was more quaint than Killarney, but the difference was like night and day – the town is basically a single loop road lined with shops and restaurants.
After arriving at our B&B, we walked the loop, stopped in a couple stores, and checked out a few menus posted outside restaurants, but nothing struck our fancy. Kenmare is often cited as having some great dinner spots, but we were still feeling a bit stingy, and also tired. It had been a very full vacation so far. So, we swung by a grocery store, picked up some bread, cheese, olives, and salami, ate in our room, and then turned in for an uneventful, early night in.
…Or so we thought! What we had hoped would be restful night to catch up sleep became the opposite. Because it was a Saturday night, hen and stag parties (the Irish equivalent of bachelorette and bachelor parties) were hooting, hollering, breaking glass, and just generally caught up in revelry all throughout the night until about 4 am. It sounded like they were right outside our window. We didn’t get much sleep.
Groggy and grumpy the next morning, we were glad to be done with Kenmare and relieved that we had only opted to spend a night there. But, who knows? Perhaps we should have made reservations at one of the nice restaurants there – budget be damned. Or maybe we didn’t do enough research to find out what else there was to do. Did we not give it a fair chance? I’m not sure, and still wonder that today.
Ah, well – lesson learned. Next time we’re in Ireland, Killarney is definitely on the list. Sorry, Kenmare!