Having gone as far west as possible we were driving east again now on the last leg of our journey back towards Killarney and we followed the coast road as far as the village of Sneem, another tourist logjam with a car park full of growling coaches.
There were two distinct parts of Sneem so we parked in the quieter one next to a plaque dedicated to Charles deGaulle who apparently visited the village many times and selected a shocking pink pub with a garden terrace for a Guinness in the sunshine.
After lunch we crossed a bridge over the river, obviously turbulent in winter judging by the tree debris caught and tangled in the saw toothed rocks but rather indolent today as the water trickled rather than surged over the boulders. On the other side was the main tourist business with craft and souvenir shops and swarms of day trippers pondering whether or not to buy a traditional Aran cardigan and all along the pavement the street entertainers all hoping for some loose change to be transferred from pockets to collection tins.
Our planned schedule was beginning to fall behind the clock now so we walked back to the car past a lady belting out opera at full volume and the parks full of public art and then left Sneem and followed the coast road until it turned sharply inland at Kenmare and headed towards mountains and the Killarney National Park. With so many panoramic viewing areas it was stop-start motoring now for a few miles as we stopped as often as possible to admire the scenery most memorably at Moll’s Gap, a mountain pass at the highest point of the climb before the descent towards the Killarney Lakes and the look-out spot at Ladies View where more accordion players and fiddlers were attempting to entertain the bus tour visitors.
As we approached Killarney we left the Ring of Kerry and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed to do so. On reflection the decision to drive it in just one day was a mistake. It was too far and it really needed a day or two with a couple of overnight stops to be able to enjoy it fully. I’ll bear that in mind if I get to go back to the south-west of Ireland.
As we arrived in Killarney the traffic began to get heavier mostly on account of the fact that it had to compete with a fleet of horse-drawn jaunting cars that seemed to enjoy priority over the motor cars and exemptions from the normal rules of the road.
It was too late now to do any real sightseeing, we were way behind time and our plan was to find somewhere for a last meal in Ireland before driving back to the airport at Shannon. This wasn’t as easy as we had imagined because we were in that late afternoon period when pubs and restaurants close down for a couple of hours but we eventually found somewhere suitable and enjoyed a very good meal and a final glass of Guinness.
After the meal we left Killarney for a final two hour drive to the airport which confirmed the days bad planning as we had already spent four hours or so motoring around the Ring of Kerry and everyone was beginning to get a bit fidgety as we drove the unremarkable and rather dull main road towards Limerick.
The dashboard warning symbols were still continuing to blink on and off like garden fairy lights but I became increasingly confident of getting it back without major incident the closer we got to the airport. We refuelled the car and returned it to the car hire office and I crossed my fingers as the man at the desk examined the paper work and made an inspection. I explained about the warning lights but this didn’t seem to concern him greatly as though this was a regular occurrence and he signed off the contract and agreed to the refund for the value of the full tank of fuel but for the next few days I kept my eye on my credit card account in case of any damage charges being charged through. Nothing happened!
I’m so sorry if I disappointed anyone expecting an engine explosion story!
Back at the airport now we prepared for our flight, fortunately one of a handful not delayed due to a French air traffic control strike, with some time to spare to reflect on out holiday. Ireland, I have to say, had been a revelation to me and had far exceeded my pre-travel expectations, Galway, Dublin, Ennistymon and especially Dingle were all so wonderful that Ireland is now firmly placed in my ‘must return to’ list.