Apr 272011

Day 6 (April 25, 2011)

Itinerary: Sleep in and leave at noon; Torc Falls, Kissane Sheep Farm, Lady View pulloff, Muckross House tour, wander in the park, dinner and pub in Killarney

Vacations were made for sleeping in and that’s what we did today. Mark and I went for a stroll down the road from our cottage and found many bleating lambs and a few horses. The roads here are narrow without any form of shoulder. The bushes and hedges grow up to the pavement, so walking along the road can be tough. Luckily I have only seen conscientious drivers so far.

At noon we headed out in the car towards Killarney National Park to catch a few tours today. First we stopped at Torc Falls, one of the more popular spots to go walking. The waterfall was less than a 10 minute walk and soon we were sitting with the falls eating a picnic lunch of peanut butter and nutella sandwiches (Mark’s and my favorite easy roadside lunch.) The falls were taller than expected. I really don’t know of too many named falls in Ireland except these. Beyond the viewing area, a steeper trail extended into the woods for loop hikes of 30 minutes or an hour long.

Tour schedules dictated our timing today, so we did not have time to explore and instead sheep dog demonstrations in the spring and will hold shearing demonstrations in the summer around July. The two owners were extremely nice. When we first arrived they were in the process of bottle feeding several lambs in the barn, so we were handed two bottles to help feed the littlest ones. I love this place! I held a bottle to the mouth of what I thought was the cutest lamb there and he hungrily sucked the bottle dry. Meanwhile about 2 other lambs saw what I was up to and started nosing their way into my lap hoping for some food as well. Vacation could end right here and I’d be happy.

However, after bottle feeding, the German tour bus who had originally booked this special demonstration time pulled up and the sheep dog demonstration started in German! We were handed a couple sheets of explanation in English to follow along. This was so similar to various experiences that we’ve had in other countries with language barriers. I guess even in English-speaking countries you sometimes won’t understand everything going on.

The Kissane’s had 2 sheep dogs showing us how they round up sheep. One was only 11 months old and it takes 2 years to train a dog. However, she was pretty good at her job. Both dogs wanted to work. While one was working, the other was tied up, whining and carrying on trying to get out there. While the owners were talking, the dogs would try and round up the sheep on their own. We were especially amused when after the sheep were herded into the pen, the puppy would come in and periodically scare the sheep into submission. She looked like she was having the best time in the world.

We learned that wool does not have the value it used to. These are Scottish black-faced sheep and their wool is only good for carpets and the like. The value is so low that they might only get about 650 Euros a year for their 1000 sheep. Sheep farmers will also raise sheep for food, but this far tends to get extra money by renting out their sheep, or later selling them. Demonstrations like ours bring in 40% of to their money for the year. Also, because conditions are so bad in the winter, with a little snow and just so little grass growth, they have to bring in enough feed for their flock every day in the winter. In any case, we were happy to contribute.

Next stop was the Muckross House. On the way we passed by a viewpoint called Lady’s View with a sweeping view over the lake. Here we also found a Leprechaun crossing sign. We made it in time for the 4:40 Muckross House tour. First we walked through the gardens on the very large estate. There are two ways of approaching the most popular attraction of the park. We came in by car to the car park, but we could have opted to take a jaunting horse ride through a tree-lined path leading to the front of the house.

The gardens were extensive with many different flowers and flowering trees. Springtime is a colorful time in Ireland. Our one hour tour through the house was given by a tour guide who had done this tour one too many times. She had her memorized script and breezed through discussing each piece of furniture or decoration in the room. We did get to hear the history of just about every piece. Some of the more interesting pieces included an over-sized 3-ton pool table! The cues for the table were even longer than standard and the floor had to be reinforced to hold it. The house was built in the mid-1800s and is Victorian in style. An American couple purchased the house as a wedding present for their daughter and these Americans owned the house for quite some time. Many of their portraits still hang. Probably the next most interesting thing was a couple knobs in each room that were connected by wire to 30 bells in the basement. These bells all had a different tone so the servants knew which room was calling for them. The last interesting fact that I’ll bore you with is that the owners of the house prepared for 6 years for the Queen’s visit. Can you imagine spending that long getting ready for a house guest? Or even knowing exactly what’s going to happen in 6 years?

After our tour, we walked the grounds some more to check out the Muckross cows. Mark and Alan started skipping stones on the lake after a little misty rain. Eventually we had to leave as the gates closed at 7pm.

We found a restaurant in Killarney serving traditional fish and chips. I had a traditional Irish stew that was incredibly tasty. Alan had a steak sambo which turned out to be more like a steak sandwich. In any case we were all happy with our food. We retired to the Killarney Grand pub at 9pm for a traditional Irish music session from 9 to 11pm. We didn’t realize how lucky we were to arrive just before 9p and get a seat. By the time the night was up, the place was packed, standing room only with barely any room to enter the pub. The band was lively and very good. With a guitar/vocalist, a flute, fiddle, elan pipes, and an accordion, we were treated to a great evening. In fact we plan to come back and visit again since they seem to have traditional music every night at 9pm.

Great day today! Tomorrow we will head into Dingle to hopefully take a boat ride to the Great Blasket Islands and see some of the Pan Celtic Festival.

(sorry about the lack of photos, but I’m still on a slow internet connection.)

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