Whew! We crammed a lot into one day. The Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and Gougan Barra. I slept good that first night of the tour at Gougan Barra hotel. Gougan Barra is situated in the Shehy Mountains which I thought was pretty cool considering my wife’s maiden name was Sheehy. From there we drove to the town of Bantry, on Bantry Bay and saw Bantry house and garden. And from there it was on to Glengarriff. It is also located on Bantry Bay in Southeast County Cork. At Glengarriff we took a boat to Garnish Island, or Illnacullin in Irish.
Garnish Island is a 37 acre rock in Bantry Bay that was transformed into massive Italian gardens. Tons of top soils, stone and trees, and plants all had to be carried over on boats. It was actually pretty amazing. On the way there we found seals basking in the sun on small rocks jutting out of the bay.
We drove through the Caha Mountains and the scenery is just amazing. The entire Southwest of Ireland is all mountains and rocky Atlantic coast. At the town of Kenmare we found the Kenmare Stone Circle. We were told that there are 180 stone circles all over Ireland. There are a lot of theories but no one seems to know exactly what they were for. More than likely they were for religious purposes as they predate Christianity by a couple thousand years. The one we saw at Kenmare is estimated to be 4500 years old. Not only was Ann raised Catholic but she was very much interested in and attuned to a spiritual side that could only have come from her ancient history as an Irish woman. The Kenmare stone circle would have found her meditating in the middle of it. I left the rest of her ashes that I brought with me under the alter stone.
Alter stone at Kenmare
We stayed in Kenmare that night and had a feast at our hotel while listening to traditional Irish music (Trad). You can find Trad all over Ireland, probably more for the tourists than the locals.
One of the things I noticed about the smaller towns I visited was how clean they were. No trash in the gutters, no broken signs or crappy abandoned buildings or houses. Clean and tidy. And though everyone drove as if their butts were on fire, I didn’t see and banged up cars. The only American vehicles I saw were Fords and Harley Davidson motorcycles. All other cars were either Asian or European. I even saw cars from the Czech Republic and Romania.
It is interesting that when you travel outside the U.S. you find that people are much more, “worldly” than Americans seem to be. I’ve known many people who knew almost nothing about U.S. government, or current events or even our own history. They are concerned about their immediate lives and families and not much else. With the small amount of travel I have done I find Europeans are much different. They seem to know much more about their own history and what’s going on in the world around them. And they seem to care. They have an opinion on everything and are willing to discuss and even argue their point of view, over a pint of course. It’s refreshing. The U.S. is isolated geographically from every country except Mexico and Canada and a lot of people think of Canada as just another state. This could be part of the problem. We have a tendency to think of the rest of the world as so far away that they don’t really concern us. In Europe, many other countries are just a couple hours away and many people know more than one language. The concerns of other countries are much more close and immediate and in that respect are their concerns also. I wish more people could travel. It really helps open your eyes to what is happening in the world. Well in the next article, I’m on to Killarney National Park.