Third Wheel on The Ring of Kerry
When you’re single, there is no other choice but to embrace being the “third wheel.” I’d say I’m pretty comfortable, even content rolling with couples. Luck of the Irish on my side, this past summer, I had the chance to play “plus one” to a pair of Texas natives new to the expat scene in Dublin, Ireland.
Lauren, the “Mrs.” of the Solomon’s and I have a history rich in sangria and the Sevillian sun. Studying abroad in Seville, Spain during our sophomore year of college, Lauren and I spent the spring fully engaged in the art of the siesta and the botellón. In between sips of tinto de verano and chupitos, however, we learned the value of a life outside of one’s comfort zone.
Fast-forward seven years. Lauren and her high school sweetheart, Drew have recently traded the Lonestar State for the Emerald Isle and I have a week to kill in between finishing my Masters and starting the new school year. Blow up the air mattress; I’ll be on the next standby flight. (Basically though, that’s about how it went.)
Lauren and Drew were kind enough to include me in their plans to drive The Ring of Kerry, a scenic route in County Kerry in southwestern Ireland. I quickly disregarded the fact that I had promised my mother I would not rent a car and drive around Ireland. This was too great an adventure to pass up.
Drew was a seasoned second day opposite-side-of-the-road driver by the time we started the 100-some mile loop. From the lovely town of Killarney, we took the advice to drive the loop counter-clock-wise.
Taking my picture with a dog riding a donkey with a goat. Enough said.
Rossbeigh Beach. Our first stop, the faded green and pink rocks of this short stretch of sand were most welcoming. Not so welcoming: the water. We thoroughly enjoyed laughing at our fair-skinned friends taking advantage of the gray skies, light mist, winds, and 50-degree temperatures to get their swim on.
Ballycarbery Castle. Just a few kilometers from the town of Cahersiveen, this 16th century castle was most definitely a highlight of our day. Climbing the crumbling façade covered in vines left me perfectly content. Cows and sheep scattered on the field beyond, this felt the most like a truly authentic Irish moment. That, and downing pint after pint of Guinness.
Fogher Cliffs. We took a short car ferry over to Valentia Island which boasts a number of unique stops. (One we missed, a set of footprints made by a tetrapod 385 million years ago.) Raging wind aside, these cliffs made up for our loss, although personally, The Cliffs of Moher two days prior stole the show.
The views, the views, the views. With every turn, an even more stunning landscape left us aching to pull the car over to take another photo.
The roads, the roads, the roads. Be kind to your driver. You owe him your life. No way to sugarcoat this, the driving was stressful. From the backseat, I heard, “Babe, I see it,” on repeat. What, Drew, did you see? Oh just the 12-passenger van headed straight toward our faithful little Kia. The roads lanes barely fit two cars and the awkwardness of backing up into a ditch to let cars pass gave new meaning to my mom’s plea not to get in a car.
The backseat. Really, I was quite calm sitting behind mom and dad, but the last two hours of narrow winding roads did me in.
Our use of time. My advice would be to skip Valentia Island. Merely waiting for the ferry was a time guzzler. By the time we were off the island, it was late in the day and we were barely halfway through The Ring of Kerry. We ended up missing a lot of charming sites and beaches along the lower portion due to lack of time and pure anxiety ridden exhaustion.
Skelligs Chocolate. The sun was out and there was a lovely view of the bay, so why was going to a chocolate factory a low point? The candyman condescendingly scolded me when I politely asked for a sample. I was not aware that I had to listen to his chocolate spiel before getting a mere gram of his goods. I left the factory feeling flushed and hurt, like my third-grade teacher had just reprimanded me. Obviously I am still not over this.
The Ring of Kerry is an Irish beauty, but her roads are treacherous. As the third wheel, I think I single-handedly saved the day from one-too-many marital skirmishes. Drew, my mom and I thank you for getting me home in one piece. Tales of travel later in life will no doubt begin with, “I remember the time I drove The Ring of Kerry in Ireland…”
Have you ever driven The Ring of Kerry? What was your experience driving on Irish roads?