Kenmare, Ireland

Castletownbere, IrelandKenmare, Ireland is a small town in southern Ireland that serves as a very good base for exploring the peninsula via the well-traveled 110 mile Ring of Kerry and the smaller peninsula to the south, the Ring of Beara.  Wonderful views of the North Atlantic,  great stone walls where sheep graze waiting for their next sheering and vast fields of vivid shades of green await the travelers to this area.  Miles and miles of thick, solid stone walls are a striking and common sight.  No mortar binds these rocks.  What backbreaking work it must be to first dig these rocks out of the fields where the sheep graze, then carry them to the wall and sort through them for the right shape to fit with the adjacent rocks.  At least they had cool weather and great views during their efforts. Even more picturesque is the adjacent Ring of Beara, which we circumnavigated twice.

St Finbarr's Oratory in the Gougane Barra LakeNorth Atlantic

Another noticeable characteristic of this area is the lack of trash.  Most of the trash seen is at the pull-outs where tourists leave behind the typical refuse, but along the highway and in the towns they are neater and more tidy than any town in the USA.  Certainly this is somehow in their culture, but also due to the annual Tidy Town competition.  Each year over 800 towns enter the 56 year old competition for the most ‘tidy town’ in Ireland.  Driving into one of these towns one will see a sign indicating it is a current participant in the neat and clean competition.  Get out your camera because around the next hairpin turn entering the town will be endless flower pots hanging from lace covered windows, brightly colored and freshly painted buildings, clean streets and friendly pubs, advertising pints of Guinness.

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Eating in this area has been a pleasant experience too, as long as you like potatoes with your potatoes.  One dish will often come with two types of potatoes, new potatoes and french fries (chips), or french fries and mashed potatoes.  Unlike the US, without exception, every dish is served piping hot, never a cold or lukewarm plate of food.   They are not microwave hot, but served just hot off the stove.  I think the weather is so cold and brutal that the farmers and ranchers want something comforting they can count on, hot food with fresh ingredients.

Finally I would like to comment on all the dogs.  Similar to the European continent, dogs are often found in and around the restaurants and it seems everyone owns a sheep dog, scottie, or a Jack Russel terrier.  All are well behaved.  During our several weeks in Ireland, we have never heard a dog in a yard barking endlessly as is all tooooo common in the States.  Walking around all the ‘tidy towns’ and throughout all our exploring, no dogs barking.   That in itself is a good reason to visit this beautiful country.  But do not call it part of the UK, you will be quickly corrected, they are their own country and very proud of it.

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