The first place we arrived at in County Kerry was Kilarney, which is the start of the Ring of Kerry. Anywhere you look online, and anyone you talk to in Ireland, will tell you that the Ring of Kerry is the most beautiful part of Ireland. Kilarney was a promising start. It was a nice city surrounded by lakes and mountains, with the restored Ross Castle in a nearby nature preserve.
We ended up staying nearly a week in Kilarney, primarily because we needed our bikes tuned and the bike shops in town were full up. Biking the Ring of Kerry is fairly popular, and we have now officially entered the start of tourist season. Now without bikes, we took a carriage ride through the large nature preserve. Ireland may be rainy, but that just makes it greener. There had been a small wind storm before we arrived, which knocked down a large amount of the trees. The soil here is so saturated that the trees don't need to form deep roots for water, which leaves them vulnerable to even the smallest gust. It was weird to go through a forest and see nearly as many fallen trees as standing.
We also visited the Gap of Dunloe, which was very beautiful. This was just the start of the many panoramas I would be taking.
Near the end we came to a town called Port Magee where we too a ferry over to the Great Skelllig Michael. On the way we passed the Little Skellig, which is white not because of some rock coloration but because of the massive amount of birds that inhabit it. One neat fact is in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the island that Harry and Dumbledore land on is one of the rock formations of of this island. The cliffs in the back are the Cliffs of Moher, but that area doesn't really have an island to land on so they just merged these two landmarks together.
On Greater Skellig is a large Puffin Preserve. I've never gone from never seeing an animal to seeing thousands of them before. There were puffins everywhere, and since there are no trees on the island they're birds that live in caves and under ground. Puffins are probably the closest things to cats that the bird family has to offer. They were tiny and adorable. You'd be walking along on the island, and then suddenly 5 puffins would waddle out of a tiny hole right by your feet.
There was a lot of walking to be had. Greater Michael is an island of stone and puffins off the coast of Ireland, and it's the closest point of the United Kingdom to North America.
Back during the 8th century, monks would row out to this island, and built a monastery there out of stone. They would commute there for quite some time until sometime in the 13th century the weather became too bad for them to feasibly live there any longer. The monks abandoned it, returning to the main land. Then in the 1880's work was done on the island to restore the collapsed buildings.
The monks living out there is crazy to me. There's no wood on the island so they would bring wood and turf with them to burn. The stairs up to where they were are remarkably steep, and these aren't even the original stairs. Those stairs are far steeper, and over a gaping maw in the island that drops right into the water. They built all the structures out of stone, each of those huts holding up to four monks with one communal room to eat in. On top of that it took over an hour to get out there in a motorized ferry and they rowed out there under their own strength. Monks had weird hobbies.
The Ring of Kerry really was beautiful. There's not a lot more that words can express. It was lush, green, and full of hills that ultimately were enjoyable. Unlike Spain, you actually got to go -down- the hills instead of just eternally upwards. The weather was another perfect thing. If it was sunny, it was still cool and breezy or there would be cloud cover. No more sunburn!
There were a lot of animals along the way, which I found charming. Horses and sheep were the most common. Sheep just run wild in places. They break out of their fields and munch grass along the roads and really wherever they please.
It took us eleven days to complete the Ring of Kerry. We could've done it in less, but there was no need to rush. To anyone who wants to visit Ireland, I recommend Kerry as the place to go. You won't be disappointed.