The Kingdom of Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland offers the visitor an unforgettable experience. Here you will find breath-taking scenery, hidden gems off the beaten path, charming villages, traditional music & dancing, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet!
This is the first post in a blog series authored by Cathy Cunningham Fennel. She will share her day-to-day experiences of her trip to County Kerry including the amazing places she visited, lodging, Irish food and drinks, and a bit about the folks she now calls friends. Her captivating stories will make you wish you were in Ireland!
Cathy turned to writing when she retired from her day job. Thanks to her Grandpa Phalen, she is one-quarter Irish and proud of it! Cathy lives and writes in South Texas and dreams of returning to Ireland.
Follow Cathy’s upcoming blog posts as she uncovers the myth & magic of the Kingdom of Kerry!
A DREAM, A BUCKET LIST, AND IRELAND AT LAST
I fell in love with Ireland at the age of 12 when I had to write a report on the country for school. The more I read and researched the more I wanted to see this place for myself. And so, I did … a mere 50 years later. Oh, I wanted to make the trip much sooner and came close several times, but life has a way of creating obstacles as we reach for our dreams, and so it was with me. Nevertheless, in 2018 I decided come hell or high water I was going to visit Ireland. It was now an item on my bucket list. If you’ve done the math, you know my age in 2018 and I felt it was now or never!
A friend and I began planning and, while I won’t bore you with the details, I will tell you we agreed on a couple of “must haves”. First and foremost, for me was an opportunity to become acquainted with the locals. I didn’t want to be stuck on a bus for seven or eight days with 40 other Americans. I could do that without the pricey airfare for overseas flights. Nor did I want to catch a glimpse of Ireland, but rather a chance to explore at a more leisurely pace. Through internet searches, questioning those who had gone before me, and the grace of God, I found Kerry Experience Tours and it was a perfect fit! Small group touring … check! Customizable touring … check! Affordability … check!
Photo 1) Ireland at last! Photo 2: Cathy (pictured on the right) – author of the blog – and her friend Sharon
HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE
My friend (Sharon) and I had decided early on we did not want to take a tour which required us to repack our bag each night and rise early to catch a bus each morning, or even every two mornings. After reviewing the options available through Kerry Experience Tours, we chose the Best of Ireland’s Southwest tour. That particular plan would allow us to stay in one location and to get to know one specific area of Ireland. What I didn’t know at the time is that I would not only fall deeper in love with Ireland but that I would fall head over heels in love with the people of County Kerry as well.
Our experience began with our arrival in Cork and Ester was waiting for us with an identifying sign and a welcoming smile. I don’t know if it was being sleep deprived or the thrill of finally setting foot on Irish soil, but I immediately went to Ester and gave her a really big hug. I mean a really big hug. I was so excited to finally meet this woman with whom I had been communicating about Ireland that I couldn’t help myself. I already considered us friends, but I think Ester was a bit taken aback at my exuberant greeting. She was, of course, quite gracious about it and by the end of our visit we truly were friends. In her business she must encounter all types of people and I am most definitely a “type”!
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
We were staying in Sneem and during our drive conversation flowed easily. Ester pointed out sites of interest while Sharon and I gawked out the windows, hardly able to believe we had arrived. I smiled nonstop as I spotted signs in both English and Irish, noted the architecture of the buildings in the towns and the glorious green pastures with ancient stone fences in the countryside. Sharon and I each grew up on dairy farms and we grinned happily when we spotted the first herd of Holsteins.
At last, we arrived in Sneem, our home for the next eight days, and the word charming doesn’t begin to cover it! Having grown up in a small town, I enjoyed seeing the similarities, but I happily noted the differences as well.
We had been advised to stay awake throughout the day to avoid jet lag the next morning. The adrenaline was still carrying us as we didn’t feel tired at all. After settling into our B and B we took a walk around the village and its outskirts, eventually stopping at a pub for an early dinner before returning to our home away from home. We had quite an enjoyable chat with our host and hostess, but our adrenaline began to fade, and we realized it was time to rest. After all, the next day our Irish adventure would begin in earnest and we wanted to be ready for a week of exploring.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
We toured County Kerry with Ester and Gerrit and didn’t want to leave when our eight-day visit came to an end. Each morning, after stuffing ourselves with an amazing breakfast (more on the food in future blogs!) we looked forward to Ester’s arrival and to what the day had in store for us. She usually arrived as I was finishing my second or third cup of tea and, after jovial morning chats with our hosts, we set off. One of the wonderful things about a private tour is the flexibility. While we had an itinerary to work from, we were able to change it up depending on weather or our personal preferences. We headed out each morning, full of anticipation and were never disappointed.
The adventure begins! Day 1 – Undiscovered Ring of Kerry Tour:
We frequently had questions and Ester, who was most often our guide, was not only happy to answer questions but always asked if we would like to stop to get a closer look. The choice was ours and we were always presented with options. Quite skillful at reading people, Ester often provided options she knew we would enjoy more than the planned itinerary. The drive was consistently comfortable in terms of our vehicle as well as the company! It should be pointed out, however, that nearly every day Ester or Gerrit or Sharon had to remind me I was not driving and to please enter the opposite side of the vehicle. A true American, I am a creature of habit and it took me eight days to learn which side of the car was for passengers. Like most everything else about our visit, it became a joking matter and added to the fun of the trip.
In future blogs I will share our day-to-day experiences including where we stayed, where and what we ate, places we visited in County Kerry and a bit about the folks we now call friends.
Cathy Cunningham Fennel
Curious about the 8 day private tour that made Cathy & Sharon fall head over heels in love with Ireland and the people of County Kerry? Find out more here:
Best of Ireland’s Southwest – 8 day private tour
For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours, multiday tours and bespoke tours of Ireland, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories. Enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime. Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.