Irish Heritage Tour As Seen Through the Eyes of a Student: Day 6

The Honors Program just completed its Irish Heritage Tour, where twenty-one students and two staff members traveled to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland from May 8th through the 19th. We have asked a number of students to blog about the journey, so each day is written from the perspective of a different student or staff member.  Today's post was written by Honors Program Coordinator and staff member Becky Schaaf.  We hope you enjoy reading about our journey!

Our crew on a hillside in the Ring of Kerry.
Day 6: Saturday, May 13th

Well, the trip so far has been amazing.  Even though I don't consider myself a "city" person, I really enjoyed seeing the sights in Dublin, and most especially seeing the various types of architecture in the cathedrals, museums, government buildings and row houses and learning about the history of the country.  I've also loved getting out of Dublin a bit and seeing some of the smaller towns and villages and am really starting to get a feel for this beautiful place.  But, I have to admit, the country scenery is something I'm really looking forward to so I can see the authentic Ireland that I've always seen in photographs with my own eyes.

Lucky for me, today we are travelling around the Ring of Kerry, and I'm hoping to see exactly what I've been waiting for.

The Ring of Kerry is actually a route that takes travelers along a 179 km (about 111 miles) around the County Kerry in Ireland. This route is largely coastal and VERY narrow. Apparently, since the road is so narrow, buses always need to drive the path in a counter-clockwise direction for two main reasons: 1. To ensure that they don't hit other buses coming the other way as there is no room for that, and 2. So that they can make the sharp turns and stay on the road. The driver actually told us a story of a tourist bus a few years ago that was following a GPS and didn't know the "rules" of the road and got stuck when it couldn't make a sharp turn. Apparently, a crane had to be brought in to literally lift the bus up and turn it around properly so that it could proceed. Let's just say I was thankful for an experienced driver.

The drive around the Ring of Kerry takes several hours. For a person who prefers not to be in large vehicles looking straight down the side of cliffs with no guardrails, the view out of my window pretty much jumped between astonishingly beautiful and absolutely horrifying for me. And when coupled with students who climbed every mountain they saw, I spent a good part of my day biting my tongue and averting my eyes. Fortunately, the sights we saw on the Ring were enough to keep my eyes busy most of the time.

Every time I turned around, students were climbing mountains. 
The first place we stopped on our trip around the Ring was the Bog Village. The Village is a walking museum, complete with thatched-roof houses and original farm equipment. We learned about Ireland during the time of the Potato Famine, and how peat, which is an organic matter that grows in bogs, was harvested for fuel during that time. The Village also included the Red Fox Inn, where we could pop in for a quick Irish Coffee before we headed back on the road.

Thatched cottage in the Bog Village
Next, the group opted to stop in for a Sheepdog demonstration from a man named Brendan Ferris. Now, I have to admit, I wasn't overly excited to see this demonstration, but Brendan and his dogs were absolutely amazing. Brendan's land went up onto a steep hillside, and his sheep were scattered about. Brendan has trained his sheepdogs so well, that each has a special whistle and special calls on those whistles that tell them which direction to run the sheep. The dogs appeared eager to run the hillside and they were fascinating to watch, and Brendan had a wonderful, fun personality.
The Shepherd, sheep and sheepdogs in a "family photo"
After a warm Shepherd's Pie for lunch, the rest of our time on the Ring of Kerry was spent walking and climbing and photographing the views that could be had for miles and miles. I wish I could properly express the vastness and color of the landscape and the postcard-perfect views or the awe that we all felt as we took in this area, but I think it's sufficient to say that we heard over and over again from students that this was there favorite day of the trip so far.

Finally, we headed back to Killarney for the evening, and enjoyed a walk around the town and headed to bed to gear up for another day.

Destiny found a double ice cream cone--how has this not hit the States yet?!


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