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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Seals, Horses, and Meet My Butler - Kenmare, Ireland (Days 7-8)

Ummm, SEALS! On Seal Island. 10 minute boat ride over to the island. Spectacular views, and SEALS! — at Garnish Island.

I knew we HAD to go to Seal Island. It's between Kinsale and Kenmare, so was planned for our travel between the two stops. It was raining and I thought about going straight to Kenmare and then just returning back from there the next day. But, I felt that we (my travel companions) might not want to make the drive back with all there was to do at Kenmare. Plus, I didn't want to not do something just because it was raining and then completely miss an opportunity. We had the proper gear, so we decided to go check out the ferry and then decide from there whether we would still go to the island. It was down pouring when we arrived, but the ferry captain said he would take us, no problem. One of us (Caitlin) had more than a few complaints about being in the pouring rain while we waited for our departure. Another member (Molly) wanted to go back to the car. It was a long 15 minutes.  The ferry boat was covered, so we were able to enjoy the relatively dry ride as we kept our eyes on the lookout for seals.

This is where the ferry docks on Garnish Island. There's a small cafe alongside to grab a bite, while you wait for the ferry back. Traveling with kids, you will be pleased to know that there are clean facilities here too.  Garnish Island's popular attraction is its gardens.  Because it was raining, it seemed like we were the only ones there.  It was still pretty and we made it around all the paths and viewpoints with minimal whining.

We didn't actually see the seals until the return trip.  I am very pleased that they saved this for the end because we ended on a high note for sure!

Adventurous driving - all part of the Ireland experience! This is the Caha Mountain Pass. The tunnels seem to have been hacked through the mountain. Thankfully, they allowed our passage.

Yes, that's a car coming straight at us! As you can see, the road narrows when you enter the tunnel, yet, traffic is still two-way.  It was rainy and we had to take it slow, but I think I prefer that to having more cars on a clear day.  It was a pretty uneventful drive and I found it relaxing, except for the tunnel part.  And the blind curve part.  And the sheer cliff part.  And the cars coming from the other direction part.  Actually, these tunnels are pretty cool. For some reason, Rob refused to stop in the middle so I could get a closer look.

Of course, we had to stop at Molly Gallivan's Cottage and Farm. By this time, the kids were well settled into the back seat with their iPads. I could not convince Molly to get out for a picture with her namesake.

I got back in the car and said to Rob (who had nothing more than a general idea of where we were going and when), "Guess what?"  So, we are continuing north and the road atlas has our route marked with a big box that reads - Road unsuitable for HGV's and buses.  What do you think that means?  

YESSSS, he was on the positive side with a hoot for NO BUSES!  That could easily have gone the other way.  Don't worry - we made it.  And, so will you! 

Welcome to my Estate. The butler is at your service. Enjoy your river walk along the Sheen Falls. — at Sheen Falls Lodge.

Our view! So, yes, we are at a resort *sigh*. This is the "vacation" portion of our trip. A huge splurge, but I thought I should include a little treat in case our road trip was proving too taxing. It was a little over the top for spending, but we certainly enjoyed our stay in the lap of luxury.  We had no plans to leave the estate with its million amenities and things to do/see on-site.  We left our car with the valet (of course, haha, fancy-fancy) and checked-in.

I was able to stop a world gasping occurrence when I overheard Molly yelling, "Caitlin come see the bathroom, there is a KIDS SINK!!!!!!" and realized EXACTLY what she had found.       

Hot Date! They have a Kids Club here!! — at Sheen Falls Lodge.

Caitlin couldn't believe I went out onto the rocks along the river.  She is my cautious child.

Ha! Both of them lightened up and joined me on the rocks. This is what I'm noticing as a HUGE difference between life in Ireland and life in the U.S. No fences, no signs, no restrictions. Do at your own risk seems to be the motto. So many times, I would notice that we were able to do things that would have been prevented back at home. I'm all for safety and appreciate the concern for my well-being, but it was very refreshing to be able to make my own judgement calls. Just to be clear - we had hawk eyes on the kids when doing things like this. That was the other thing, when we DID see a rare sign with warning or restriction, we figured it must be serious and we well-heeded it.

We spent most of our time just walking around and poking at places and things. Found this boat house at low tide and couldn't resist going in. The tide goes so far out and leaves a lot to be explored in all the algae and nooks and crannies of rocks. This was a great spot to just let the kids muck around.

We let the kids run around the paths on their own with the only restrictions (when we weren't with them) being to stay off the rocks along the river and not go in moving water. We saw a SEAL pop up during lunch!

A friendly seal popped up and joined us for lunch!

Seal watching!

My girls ride horses. I don't. I've never. Well, I guess I have now. A real treat for the whole family! WE RODE HORSES AS A FAMILY!! In IRELAND!! Yeah!

We signed the girls up for horse-riding with plans to just follow them around on foot.  Well, we got there and I casually remarked that it might be fun to try it ourselves.  Rob jumped on this and immediately went to see if they could add us SO QUICK BEFORE I could BACK OUT.  The staff here are wonderful.  I felt safe (and supervised) the whole time.  We rode a short way down the road (hence, our neon vests) and turned onto a field to continue our ride along the river parallel to the resort.  Rob was suddenly an expert rider and ahead off on his own (I had no idea!).  The rest of us remained guided and casually rode behind.  We had our own excitement and got to canter.

This was definitely a memorable family experience and a great way to end our stay in Kenmare.


  1. I'm very much enjoying the blog. My husband & I have it on the list to do a road trip through Ireland on our own style.
    I just had to say on the bidet better a sink than a water fountain .... yes my son thought it was a drinking fountain .... ewww.

    1. Thank you! I'm at about the half-way point of our trip. It was a great way to see Ireland. Ha ha! It DOES also look like a water fountain. Surely, a kid-sized water fountain (or sink) in the bathroom makes more sense than a bidet.