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The apparently elusive feeling of delight evoked by a tour of The Ring of Kerry is something really unrepeatable, especially when it is a spring sunny Sunday and you are in a very good company. What is more, you are surrounded by hospitable Irish people who really love their emerald island and are ready to share this love with the visitors.

The schoolyear needn?t be a hum-drum routine and students can be a good company to admire the yet undiscovered for you lands. Impossible? Today I would like to invite the readers on a tour of a little but charming Ring of Kerry in the south-west of the Republic of Ireland.

Everything started and ended in Killarney, the main town of the Killarney National Park with its lakes. Its name comes from Chill Airne, meaning "church of the sloe". Both the town itself and the region have much to offer. Our tour began in the crude but mysterious stony St. Mary?s Cathedral. After a short while something like a pony-drawn carriage rank appeared in front of us. This is a very popular (and ecological!) way of traveling the route to the Gap of Dunloe, a jagged mountain pass on the eastern side of the Kerry's MacGillycuddy's Reeks (the mountain range with the highest top - Carrauntoohil). It is famous for it's rugged scenery, unspoilt landscape and corrie lakes. It just loomed in the distance seen by us through the coach windows. Anyway it was impressive. If we had been in Ireland for longer, not for just a few-day school trip, we would have gone hiking there. All guidebooks advise so.


The coaches touring the Ring of Kerry may go one way round. It is the unwritten law. The traffic is both-sided but it is simply more convenient when those huge vehicles run one after another and do not have to go past in both directions as the streets are very narrow. Therefore our coach went towards Killorglin first. The town is famous for its Puck Fair each August when a wild mountain goat is raised on a throne. The participants of the feast have fun there for three days and three nights. When we were there, early Sunday morning, the little town greeted us with wonderful tranquility and mild murmur of the River Laune. It was only a ?photo-stop? but how rejoicing.


Our coach moved slowly forward. Although the road signs inform about a very strange speed limit ? up to 100 km/h, it is worth driving much more slowly because the roads are really narrow and have no shoulders. The limit seemed very funny to the students as they couldn?t imagine any vehicle running there with such a high speed. It would have been very dangerous and pointless. The best part of visiting Ireland takes place through the coach windows. Therefore slowly and accompanied by the delicate sounds of Irish music coming from the coach radio, Polish visitors alighted again in a little village called Glenbeigh. After visiting The Kerry Bog Village, Ireland's only thatched village with the characteristic smell of pit burning and sound of accordion Irish music in one of the cottages, The Red Fox Inn welcomed us with its Irish Coffee, the local specialty. The drink consists of whiskey (don?t mistake the spelling, it would be Scottish at that time!), coffee and thick cream. A discount is available to visitors who purchase a ticket for the Village and as teachers with a group of students we got it for free.


Cahersiveen. Reading the guidebook before the trip, I was wondering how to pronounce this very odd name. And I learnt it on the spot of course - /ka,ho:rsai?vi:n/. Irish Gaelic is widely spoken in Ireland (if we compare it to Scottish Gaelic which is spoken by only 1% of the Scotts). Irish children are taught Irish in schools and all road signs, public notices etc are both in English and Irish. This website is an interesting one for some ?listening comprehension? or rather ?phonetic drills? in Irish - http://www.irishgaelictranslator.com/ . It is good just to grasp a little bit of Gaelic sounding before one goes to this country. In Cahersiveen there is the only Roman Catholic church in Ireland dedicated to a layman. It is the O?Connell Memorial Church. The name sounds familiar of course. Yes, this is the same O?Connell as in Dublin. The name is famous all over Ireland. Daniel O?Connell (1775-1847) was The Liberator who gained full religious freedom for Catholics.

The guide called us to hurry up as the Ring of Kerry was to be toured just in one day. What a pity. The coach took us along the Atlantic Ocean coast up to Waterville (?The Little Whirlpool"), the ocean resort which has attracted many celebrities through the years including Charlie Chaplin & family . Having dipped the legs in the ice-cold water of the ocean, we went to one of the tavern-like restaurants on the sea front. Irish Stew ? this had to be tasted. The local specialty turned out to be a simple dish made of lamb, potatoes, carrots and some other vegetables. Very nutritious and tasty soup it was. Eating it we were surrounded by the ?trophies? possessed by the restaurant; everywhere on the walls there were pictures of celebrities eating exactly in the place where we were sitting. Their autographs, some gadgets remained there for the next generations.




From Waterville the coach took us further, to see the Skellig Islands. They are three lonely islands surrounded by the Atlantic. On that sunny Sunday they looked like precious gems thrown onto the water. It was just a short stopover to inhale the beauty of the place, a pause before visiting the alluring and colourful village of Sneem, ?The Knot in the Ring, as its website has it because sneem means simply knot. In the past Irish people painted their houses with many bright colours as their life was grayish and sad. They suffered from hunger and poverty that is why the colours of their houses facades were to brighten the sadness and monotony of their hard fates. In the middle of this little village there is a picturesque bridge over the rapid Sneem River. After the short while spent in this romantic place it was time to say ?goodbye? to Sneem and again go on the tour.



Kenmare, called "The Jewel on the Ring of Kerry" which nestles on the sea-shore, at the foot of the Cork and Kerry mountains was another sweet multicoloured town on our route. In this typical colourful Irish town we visited some craft shops. It was almost impossible to decide which souvenirs to choose ? all were perfect and so Irish! Kenmare is situated right in the vicinity of Killarney National Park and Beara Bay therefore the views on the way from Kenmare to Killarney, the town of the beginning of our journey, are even more and more spectacular. The Ladies? View, Mucross Lake and Upper Lake are a must for the visitors to the Ring of Kerry and probably there are no words to express their breathtaking beauty.



I was lucky enough to visit The Ring of Kerry in full sunshine and blossoming trees but I suppose the mysterious misty atmosphere of all these places has also got its charm although the visibility is probably worse. The students forgot about grumbling and took in the changing landscapes. They really can be a good company for seeing such places. Therefore what can enliven you before or after the most stressful period at school is simply a school trip. Being enthusiastic about seeing a new land for yourself, you can ?infect? your students and their parents with a desire to discover one for themselves. And that makes everybody happy.




Paddy Mac?s Ring of Kerry. Pictorial Guide. Printed in Ireland by Killarney Printing Works Ltd., St. Anthony?s Place, Killarney, Co. Kerry. 2004