I left on my grand tour & adventure one month ago today.
Today was a day of changes in plans and unexpected pleasures.
I left my hotel about 10 this morning. I did go to Muckross Abbey & Muckross House but not in the way I had planned. I was going to drive from one place to another, but the first turn off for the Abbey was a small lot where horse carriage tours left for the Abbey, Muckross House, Torc Waterfall, and back to the lot. There was a nice young man named Adam and he and his horse, Misty, took me to all three in about an hour for 35 eurosand Matt and I were the only ones sharing the ride, which made quite a change from the crowded carriage ride through the Gap of Dunloe yesterday. The seats were still along the sides of the carriage, but Adam and I had enough room to be able to turn and mostly face forwards.
The ride went through lots of lovely scenery with excellent views of at least a couple of the Lakes of Killarney. The ruins of the Abbey are beautiful and atmospheric and well worth the visit. Muckross House is an amazing piece of architecture and is quite popular since it's easily accessible by road, and offer tours of the mansion. And then Torc waterfall is also very lovely as well.
The next place I wanted to visit was the stone circle in the town of Kenmare. I never found the circle, which has the reputation of being poorly signed and hard to find, but I enjoyed what I saw of the town while driving through it. On the way out of town heading towards Bantry I found the Bonane Heritage Park, which I had never heard of. It is really quite amazing and well worth the visit, with a replica of a crannog at the entrance, and also has a ring fort, a stone circle and a standing stone all on the property. I know the trail is only 2 kilometers, which is only 1.2 miles, but it sure felt like a lot more than that because the terrain is quite hilly and even the less steep part is still quite steep.
From there I headed south to Bantry, which I drove through and would have enjoyed visiting some other time since it's also a very pretty town in a lovely setting. Bantry Bay is quite large and is very beautiful. The route took me through and into the mountains of Kerry & Cork, with the usual amazing scenery of the mountains and the valleys deep below.
I had planned on heading further along the coast to Skibbereen but by this time it was after 2 PM, I hadn't had any lunch yet, and wanted to get to Cork in time to find my hotel & check in before dinner, so I went back through Bantry and the town of Glengariff which is known for the Bamboo Park there.
The Garmin sat nav located my hotel and gave me directions here from Bantry. The route was primarily on single lane country roads, often not very well or smoothly paved, with lots of curves and bends. At one point I couldn't believe that the route I was on, with about kilometers of single lane roads followed by turning onto another single lane road, was actually the best route possible to Cork city, so I stopped and also got out my Irish Android smart phone and had Google Maps find directions on it as well and it gave me the same ones as the Garmin did so I just kept going, although a few minutes later I decided I'd better have one of my Slimfasts since it was now almost 3 PM and I still hadn't had lunch.
I got here to Cork between 4:30 and 5:00 and really liked what I saw of the city on the way to the hotel. I was on the wrong side of the one way street the hotel's on when I got here, so I couldn't use the hotel's designated loading/unloading area but I found a probably illegal parking spot almost directly across the street. My hotel, the Metropole, doesn't have its own parking but offers a discounted rate for the pay parking lot down the street and around the corner. I unpacked what I wanted to bring in from the car, and left it at reception while I went down the street and around the corner to the parking structure. I was going to go out the side I had come in on, which would have meant going back up the street and around the corner and down the next street back to the hotel but the guy at the ticket booth told me to just take the exit right by where I had parked my car. I did, and found myself just a few doors down from the hotel,
I rather like the Metropole. It has a lovely exterior, and is what was once a grand hotel and is still an older, very nice hotel. I asked at the reception desk about the building and was told it's about 116 years old. It has a very nice looking bar and a separate restaurant as well as a full health club with swimming pools I might check out.
It was drizzly again when I headed out around 6 PM to take a look at the immediate neighborhood and find somewhere to eat and possibly listen to some traditional Irish music later. One of the girls working at the reception desk, Emily, told me she really likes Gallagher's, the pub up the street on the corner. Since it was drizzly I only went a few blocks down the street, and then back up past the hotel a few blocks the other way.
Gallagher's had a sign out front saying a group called the "Sligo Maids" would be performing this evening at 9:15 PM so I planned on going back there then but decided I wanted something other than pub food for dinner this time. I had a very nice meal at a small Asian restaurant called Sakura across the street and a few doors down from the hotel.
I came back to my room after dinner to finish unpacking, and did indeed go back up to Gallagher's around 9:15. It's a very pleasant older pub, and was quite busy with diners when I got there, but I did manage to snag a bar stool down near the musicians (although I can't sit at most bars on stools, it makes a difference if I can do so with my legs parallel to the bar instead of perpendicular to it, which I was able to do this evening.)
The Sligo Maids are two women, Claire who sings and plays fiddle and guitar, and Brid who plays harp, flute, sings and even did a bit of sean nos dancing for us. They were excellent and did a very nice assortment of tunes and songs. I stayed until they finished up around 11:30, when most everybody else had left except a couple of older male American tourists from Florida who although not quite drunk yet had drinks taken, as the Irish say. As usual I was the person there paying the most attention to the music and performers.
It's now almost 2 AM. My plans for tomorrow are to explore Cork and probably take the hop on, hop off tour to do so. And maybe I'll find somewhere else to go to hear some more music tomorrow night.