The morning was not wet neither was it cold. “This is not your typical Irish morning”, said my host as she took down my breakfast choice. Between, the full and the half Irish breakfast option, there was not much of a choice to make, full it was! A wholesome breakfast is a good way to start the day especially when you know that there might be no lunch happening. Of course, at that moment I did not know that nor did I know the portion size of a full breakfast. It took me some time to finish my hosts offering that morning, and when I left, the only sign of anything being wet was my windshield. As the engine started the wipers quickly ran through the traces of the typical Irish morning and the wheels moved towards the direction, Rock of Cashel.
A few minutes into the drive, I rolled down my windows. The scent of the morning had a mix of all that I was seeing around. Driving in Lofoten Islands, Norway, the sea was everywhere not only in front of my eyes but also in my lungs, mixed with the occasional dry cod, here in Ireland on the local road, it was mostly just grass, wet grass. It felt fresh when I stepped out to take a picture of the imposing Rock of Cashel. In the overall leveled landscape a structure like the Rock of Cashel felt like an abode of a ruler back in the times. I did not get to know more of it, as the road that led to the top was shut due to maintenance. Having made up my mind of coming back here with the group, I was thinking that even if the rock was open to visiting, I would’ve skipped it and driven where I was headed, on an impulse. South instead of North West, South to the town of Cobh, on the Atlantic.
With the change of direction came a change of plan. Maybe I would now reach Killarney, my destination for the night, a little late. Late in Ireland was 8 pm, which I realized that night. However, at that point when I was facing the town of Cobh, in the distance over the bay, and using the natures restroom, it felt good to just let go of any plans and see where the next few hours would take me. Cobh was known to have a Titanic museum. The Titanic on its maiden voyage called off at Cobh as the last port in Ireland before sailing to its fate in the North Atlantic. There was a group of people waiting to enter the Museum and I thought walking on the streets of the town was a much better use of my time. I had marked both Cobh and Kinsale on my ‘want to go’ list the night earlier, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to make them both. Here in Cobh, the houses all lined up on the street felt like a good sight but then in Kinsale it felt even prettier. Out of the two, I knew I would come back to only one. I would come back to Kinsale.
I did not spend a lot of time in Kinsale, but it was the kind of town which felt local and touristy at the same time. I like it when in a town, the establishments know how to work in tourism and the people running them get more locals than the tourists. ‘Tourists are welcome but we cater to local tastes’ is what it feels when you enter the café’s, book shops, or restaurants in Kinsale. It also is one of the most colorful towns I have seen in Ireland. When I started from Cobh, Kinsale was not the next town. I was maybe not too pleased with Cobh so I had decided to drop out on the south entirely and drive straight to Killarney. But I was glad I made the detour and also that on my way I gave a lift to a man returning from a funeral.
In the next few hours, I got a lot of low down on Ireland. The man was like a guide and even though at times it got a little too much, I would remember that route from Kinsale to Killarney through all the local roads, and the wild pastures more coz of the info I got on what we drove by. Stories always make a place more lively and my co-driver had a lot of them. It was for the first time that I learned, in Ireland, the counties have their pride and together that’s where the pride of being Irish comes from. I think it was the County Cork that we did most of the driving in, on my day 1 in Ireland. He always spoke of the town first and then followed it with the county.
My destination was in Killarney, I had told him before. Now after 3 hours of driving and talking about Ireland. I spoke about Killarney again, only this time I followed it up with County Kerry. I was already talking like an Irish, at least when referring to towns. Speaking of towns, Killarney was quite a surprise. As I entered the town through its central street, I saw more tourists than locals. It was not like where I had stayed the night earlier. I was late in reaching Killarney, but I was told that coz of the tourists the restaurants stay open longer into the night than the other small towns. Later when I walked in the town center, it felt more crowded than it felt from inside the car. It was exactly opposite of Kinsale, ‘we have more tourists but locals are welcomed’. You cant blame Killarney though, It is the base for exploring the Ring of Kerry and ultimately the unofficial start of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Killarney had a lot of color on its bars and the streets felt lively. But the strong Irish character was missing. Such is tourism though, you win some you lose some!