Ireland blog: the ring of kerry

After Anne won Ireland with her hurling knowledge, we headed towards our next destination, the Dingle Peninsula. But on the way, a number of people and guidebooks, and internets had pointed us to the ring of Kerry as a must see destination while on our trip. Before I get to that, a small confession: Anne and I are not the most studious travelers. We usually buy a guidebook and use it to plan out our trip, but we like to make decisions on the go and explore cities and areas without following the books verbatim. This means, that we often visit somewhere and then afterwards read the guidebook to see if we missed anything. As a result, our vacations involve a decent period of self-loathing when we discover amazing things to do two days after we leave one destination and head to another. Hold on to that thought while (whilst) I describe the ring of Kerry.

About three miles before arriving in Kerry county, anne and I stopped for lunch to figure out what exactly it is. Turns out, it is a road that goes through a number of different towns in county Kerry Ireland. The drive puts Ireland’s natural beauty on display and winds through mountains, oceans, sheep, cows, towns, and merchandise shops. It is epically beautiful. The stunning thing about Ireland is the contrast between the lush green meadows and the searing blue ocean. The land remains largely undeveloped and natural, so the drives from one point to another are as much a destination as they are a journey.

It’s hard to explain how terrifying being the driver on the ring of Kerry can be, but I will try. start by picturing Lombard street in San Francisco. Now, shrink it slightly so that maybe one car and one bicycle can safely fit side by side. Next, picture that on one side of the road is a small rock wall built in 310 BC that provides the only protection from the ocean and on the other side of the road is oncoming traffic, a giant mountain, and a flock of sheep. Oh, and don’t forget that everyone is still driving on the opposite side of the road. Essentially, that is the ring of Kerry. The most harrowing fact is that the speed limit on the road is 100 km/hr. I’m no mathematician, but based on my calculation of how fast the Irish people were driving as they came towards me, it is just shy of 90mph. Those assholes also love tailgating and passing whenever they have an opportunity.

Midway through our drive, just as the skies darkened, the rain started pouring down, and the windows fogged up from the steady stream of sweat dripping down my face, disaster struck. The tour buses started to come back from their day long trip, which prompted the following exchange:

Rob: Jesus this is terrifying.
Anne: I know, right?
Rob: it sort of feels like we are going the wrong direction.
Anne: [nervous laugh]
Rob: are we going the wrong way???????????
Anne: I’m just reading the guidebook now and it says, “it is strongly recommended that you drive the ring of Kerry in an anti-clockwise direction.”

Whoops. As another tour bus zipped by – and by zipped by, I do mean that it forced me to essentially veer the car off a cliff into the ocean – the car became silent, mostly because I was navigating the hairpin turns, anne was in a constant state of terror, and we were both vowing to do a better job establishing a travel plan in the future.

On the brightside, we didn’t follow Anne’s initial pre guidebook plan: “we should bike the ring of Kerry.”

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