As I was Going over the Cork and Kerry Mountains.
Well I didn’t meet Captain Farrell, but I did discover a glorious land of misty mountains, lakes, cascading rivers and verdant mossy forests. ‘Discover’ is the wrong word, I know, because I had to share it with half of Germany, so I guess the world had already ‘discovered’ it. Indeed the road I took is from Kenmare to Killarney, two tourist hotspots and on the famous Ring of Kerry.
It was mid June and I was returning from a festival in West Cork; I had spent the night in Kenmare. As cloud and rain set in I was in two minds to go the ‘scenic’ route or just head straight home to Clare. Luckily I was talked into going over the mountain but my hopes were not high. As it turned out my brakes were playing up and when I limped back to Ennis my garage told me that I had done the whole trip with no front discs. I wondered what that noise of metal on metal was.
So on to Moll’s Gap and then beyond; the rain held off though and occasionally the clouds would part and a startling landscape would be revealed.
I pulled into a lay-by not far from Moll’s Gap to let the stream of buses pass and the cloud lifted long enough to get a glimpse of the valley view. But it quickly closed back in.
Before I decided to head off again, I crossed the road for a pee. I know this is too much information, but, in seeking a bit of privacy, I wandered just 20 metres off the road and I found myself in the middle of a ferny fairyland (I think I even found a fairy residence!). Moss-covered trees and boulders. It was primitive and primordial. Vigorous vines embracing trees and consuming them; epiphytes sharing their world and mosses making their hosts unrecognizable. Unlike anything I had seen here in Ireland. I went back and got my camera and spent the next hour attuning myself to this lush, leafy, sylvan Arcadia.
Hundreds in coaches and cars streamed past headed for the spots marked with brown signs, unaware of what they were missing but no doubt with boxes to tick.
Having soaked my fill and hopefully capturing a little of the feeling of the place in my photos, I headed on to join the throng at the next brown sign. This was near the ‘Ladies View’. There was room for half a dozen coaches to park. Sort of.
Indeed the place was swarmed as dozens disgorged, charged up the hill in the by now ‘soft cloud’, as the Irish call it, pulled out their cameras and recorded the complete white out in front of them. The perfect selfy with nothing in the background to distract. I too tried to photograph the scenery but found much more interest in those struggling to deal with the reality of touring Ireland.
Heading down the hill a bit to the real ‘Ladies View’, suddenly the cloud lifted enough to see the valley below. I could now see what impressed Queen Victoria’s ladies so much!
Then I heard the skirl of pipes across the valley. Highland pipes not Uillean. I walked back up the hill to where the sound was coming from and found myself back at the coach stop. The crowds were still there but now they had something to see. And hear. The highland pipes in their natural environment. Well almost. The hills of Killarney are not quite the Scottish Highlands. Derek said he plays the Uillean pipes too but doesn’t bring them if the weather is bad. But it was as if the pipes had scared away the clouds and the cameras this time had something to photograph.
He was very patient with the hordes that wanted a photo record of their moment in the clouds with him.
It didn’t take long though for another shower to come sweeping in. Enough this time for the piper to pack up and discreetly retreat along with the bussers.
Time to move on. Further down the mountain I stopped at a lakeside rest. A serene place which the buses had bypassed. The cloudy, misty atmosphere seemed to add to that wonderful ataraxic feeling. I wished I had more time.
Then I rejoined the multitude at the Torc waterfall. Here again we find ourselves in a stunning forest. Huge trees on steep slopes. Green and lush. Chaotic and ordered. It seemed truly ancient and there was this lovely dark light as the sun suddenly had to battle the obstacles of cloud and canopy, in its efforts to break through.
This little taste of the mountain forests and lakes of Killarney national park was a breathtaking tonic. Hugely different to the Ireland I have grown accustomed to – waves, cliffs and buffeting winds are the norm for me in West Clare. I guess I now understand its popularity.
I will return soon and hopefully the sun will be shining.