- Day One – Bunratty and Doonbeg
- Day Two – Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and Lahinch
- Day Three – Slea Head Drive, Beehive Huts, Dingle Peninsula and Killarney
I swear I blinked and July was half over already. The summer is flying by as usual, and we’ve been having a lot of fun spending time with family and friends. Can’t wait to share more on that soon, as well as – gasp – perhaps even a recipe post. But first…more Ireland!
Watching footage from The Open Championship thus far (yay, Rory!) makes me all the more excited to talk about our fourth day on the Emerald Isle. We played what ended up being four of our personal best golf rounds on an absolutely gorgeous day at Tralee, which ultimately became my favorite course (thanks to said personal best round and absolutely gorgeous day).
We were greeted by the above view directly after getting out of the van. Tralee was the first European golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. The front nine is said to be the more scenic and easier of the two, with links holes that hug the coastline and offer close-up views of historical ruins. The back nine, on the other hand, is a series of mountainous dunes with thick rough and crazy carries across ravines that, as our caddy said at one point, “You couldn’t even find a car in.”
Excited for the challenge, we made our way to the first tee for our 8:06 am tee time.
My mom was a stunner on the front nine, with two birdies and several other great shots that had the caddy telling her she ought to consider trying out for the LPGA. Bobby, Eric and I played pretty steady, too, but the highlight for me was soaking in the scenery. I kept stopping to close my eyes and take deep breaths of the cool ocean air as the morning sunshine warmed my face.
Some of the ruins were in the distance, while others were right on the green! The tower at the back of the third hole par-3 – called The Castle – dates back to the 1190s.
My mom was the ball on the green – she made the birdie putt! We snapped a quick picture in front of another ruin while waiting to tee off on the eighth hole.
When we reached the back nine, we immediately noticed the stark contrast. The hills abounded!
And oh boy, was it an adventure. The biggest challenge was by far the 12th hole, called “Bracken,” which takes no prisoners with its approach shot that must carry all the way to the green to avoid mortal peril in the form of the thickest rough you’ve ever seen. Yep, mine definitely didn’t make it, nor did anyone else’s. We all ended up playing that hole pretty badly except Bobby, who was the low scorer with a spectacular shot out of that tough stuff!
You can get a good feel for what I’m talking about with this view of the next hole, the par-3 13th. I definitely hit my ball too far and wound up in that giant hill behind the green. But hey, I found it!
We couldn’t resist another group picture on the green. Have I mentioned yet that our caddy was awesome? He was just as excited to take pictures as I was and pointed out all the best photo opportunities along the course.
Case in point: the view from the top of that mound behind the green. Oh my goodness.
Bobby and I birdied the 14th hole, which made us doubly happy when the 15th tee box came around and we saw – wait for it – our daily dose of grass-fed cows! You knew they’d show up, right?
The “most memorable” hole on the course is the 17th, a par-4 that takes your breath away with its sweeping views of the beach. Apparently that beach was where many ships ran aground, including one vessel from the Spanish Armada in 1588.
I mean…I wouldn’t have minded getting stuck here. This landscape was also chosen for the film “Ryan’s Daughter,” which is not-so-coincidentally the name given to the 17th hole, as well.
Our round ended in style on the par-5 18th, called The Goat’s Hole. Bobby and Eric both ended up with great shots into the green. Bobby putt in for his birdie, while Eric putt in for his EAGLE! As you can imagine, they were both thrilled.
We all ended up in the 80s! I had an 84, which I was very happy with. I think Arnie was proud.
All that good golf worked up quite an appetite, so we went into the clubhouse for some celebratory Guinness and seafood chowder, both of which were very tasty.
Then it was time for our afternoon adventures in Killarney National Park.
Just when you think it can’t get prettier…
The weather was perfection for the entire day, which made our walk around the park all the more enjoyable. We started by walking the gardens of Muckross House, a 19th century Victorian mansion that reminded me so much of Downton Abbey.
Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolorist Mary Balfour Herbert. The gardens themselves flourished in the 1850s when they were expanded in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861.
The lawn leads directly down to the lake, and there were a lot of people soaking up the sun.
The rhododendron bushes towered over us in a multitude of pinks and purples.
As I mentioned in a previous post, our tour guide, Mike, is from Killarney. He told us that with more time he often takes people on entire day trips of the park, and I can see why. That said, we did have enough time for him to show us one of his favorite spots, so we quickly followed him past the rhododendrons and out onto a trail full of horses pulling jaunting cars. More idyllic views!
We turned off the main path and continued down a tree-lined trail that was virtually empty – the first sign that we were truly being shown a local secret. But nothing could have prepared us for what we saw when the trees finally cleared.
It’s hard to do the panorama justice, but let’s just say that it was hands down one of the best secrets I’ve ever been entrusted with. Mike said he often likes to come to this spot – which is blissfully quiet beyond the sounds of nature – and spend the afternoon reading.
I told him that he was a very lucky guy.
We reluctantly left the safe haven and headed back through the park to see Ross Castle just before it closed for the day. “The date of its foundation is uncertain but it was probably built in the late 15th century by one of the O’Donoghue Ross chieftains,” according to the Heritage site.
One thing I know for sure: whoever built it knew what they were doing. Being a guard back in those days wouldn’t have been my dream job, but looking out at this view may have made it a little easier.
Papa Bender also shared with me a picture from his morning walk in the park. Although I didn’t have a chance to see Torc Waterfall in person, I was glad to experience it vicariously through him.
We got back to the hotel around dinnertime and relaxed for a bit before heading to a restaurant across the street: Mareena’s Simply Food. The reviews on TripAdvisor were super positive, so we were very intrigued.
We started out by sharing a great bottle of Spanish wine called Remondo La Vendimia.
The roast supreme of chicken wrapped in parma ham caught my eye for the main dish, and it did not disappoint. It came with a variety of steamed veggies and prettily placed mashed potatoes, all topped with a rosemary jus that was phenomenal.
We all decided to share a dessert, as well: warm chocolate cake topped with a deliciously rich sauce and served with a scoop of ice cream. As you can imagine, this was devoured in seconds.
Then it was time for another night on the town! Mama Bender and I did some window and souvenir shopping for a bit while the boys headed to the Killarney Grand to secure us a table for another night of live music. While we perused, we passed Granda Charlie’s Auld Sweet Shop. It was practically calling our names.
After drooling over the decadent array of goodies, we settled on testing out “flying saucers,” a disc-shaped candy that is wafer-like on the outside with a surprisingly sour punch on the inside. We also bought a bag of bonbons – the apple and black currant was my favorite!
We arrived at the Killarney Grand to find the boys had secured us prime seats – hurray! The musicians on our second night in Killarney were just as brilliant as the first. They really seemed to feel the music, too. It was cool to watch (and listen). The bar was packed once again.
Bobby and Eric decided to have a Murph’s this time around, too.
We had an absolute blast and stayed rooted in our spots until our tired eyes began to betray us. Now that I am home and have had time to fully reflect, I can say with 100% certainty that our time in Killarney was the best! We loved all of Ireland, but wish we would have stayed in Killarney at least another night. There is still so much we want to see and do there – maybe someday!
Until next time…sláinte!