This is my last posting of 4, of the Going Green to Ireland Series.
We are on a long circular stretch of road called the Ring of Kerry from Killorglin to Kenmare. We are adding in the Skellig Ring, a twenty mile, bus free ring road, traveling out to Portmagee. Here we reach St Finian’s Bay, where we will staying at the Beach Cove B&B, owned by Bridie O’Connor.
She offers four comfortable rooms on Coomanaspic Ridge, overlooking the beach at St Finian’s Bay. We are welcomed by bright sunshine, but cool temperatures, and as we sit on her lawn bundled up in our jackets and wool caps to watch the world go by, there are people in the bay swimming. I guess if the sun is shining make hay or swim! Later we travel around the entire Skellig Ring, and I like the antics of the puffins as well as the views of the Skelligs, two huge slate and sandstone rocks, seven miles from the shore.
Skellig Michael, the larger of the two, has a tiny cluster of abandoned bee hive huts clinging near the summit. The island was originally inhabited by ultra-pious, sixth-century Christian monks seeking isolation to get nearer to God. The smaller island, Little Skellig, is home to a colony of gannets (a large sea gull) protected by law from visitors stepping foot on shore.
The Beach Cove B&B is perfectly situated on the bay and is just down the road from the Skelligs Chocolate Factory. Yes, a chocolate factory on the tiny road around the bay! Inviting visitors in for a sample they proclaim their chocolates are “ never boring, always gorgeous, and sometimes a little different…..just like the Irish!” Where else can you find dark chocolate, lime zest and pepper chocolates, I think? I buy several different varieties for our road trip. Fabulous! Spending only one night here we move on the next day following the ring along the shore and then back to the bigger Ring of Kerry to Kenmare, a lovely little town where we stop for a look see and lunch.
Our last stop is the Muckross House, located on the small Muckross Penisula, located between Muckross Lake and Lough Leanne. Muckross House is a mansion built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, watercolorist Mary Balfour Herbert. With sixty-five rooms, expansive improvements were made in the late 1850’s in preparation of the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. It is said that these improvements for the queen’s visit resulted in financial difficulties for the Herberts’ resulting in the sale of the estate in 1899 to Arthur Guinness, who wanted to preserve the dramatic landscape. In 1911, the estate was sold to William Bowers Bourn, an American mining magnate. In 1932, Muckross House and the 11,000 acre estate was presented to the Irish nation, and became the first National Park in the Republic of Ireland and formed the basis for the present day Kilarney National Park. The house and grounds are beautiful! Be sure to take the cart ride out to the falls!
Last, but not least, I want to mention my favorite author, Maeve Binchy. I picked up my first “Maeve” book in an English bookstore in Quebec, Canada, mostly because I thought she had the most unusual name. I went on to read every book I could find. A novelist, playwright, short story writer, columnist, and speaker, she is known for her humorous take on small-town life in Ireland and her descriptive characters. I am inspired by her. Her novels have been translated in 37 languages and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. She finished third in a 2000 poll for World Book Day. Binchy was raised Catholic and attended convent schools, but a trip to Israel affected her life and her career. To quote Maeve.
“In 1963, I worked in a Jewish school in Dublin, teaching French with an Irish accent to kids, primarily Lithuanians. The parents there gave me a trip to Israel as a present. I had no money, so I went and worked in a kibbutz– plucking chickens, picking oranges. My parents were very nervous; here I was going out to the Middle East by myself. I wrote to them regularly, telling them about the kibbutz. My father and mother sent my letters to a newspaper, which published them. So I thought, It’s not so hard to be a writer. Just write a letter home. After that, I started writing other travel articles.”
Maeve went on to write and write. I love all her books, but I re-read every year, The Lilac Bus and Evening Class. My inspiration, is her book, the Maeve Binchy Writer’s Club, words of encouragement in letters from Maeve. To read about the Irish culture, Maeve Binchy, is the author for you! Sadly, Maeve passed in 2012 and is missed by readers everywhere.
For more information about Beach Cove B&B see: http://www.stayatbeachcove.com
For more information about the Skellig Chocolate Factory see: http://www.skelligschocolate.com
For more information about Muchross House see:http://www.muckross-house.ie
For Information about Maeve Binchy see:http://www.maevebinchy.com