With the colder, rainy weather starting to roll in and a number of service projects coming up on our family calendar, we decided to take a free, relatively sunny day and be tourists one more time. Brian had to get some work done, so it was just the Carisch ladies for a drive up to Killarney, an area known for its beautiful national park and the famous “Ring of Kerry” scenic drive. I’ll just interject here that driving on the left has not been a big deal at all, surprisingly. It’s amazing how the brain easily shifts 20 years of driving experience to the opposite side of the road. It was a beautiful drive of hills, pastures, coastline, rivers and tree-lined roads.
After about an hour we came upon Molly Gallivan’s. This stop turned out to be one of those rare and wonderful experiences in parenthood where everyone actually gets what she wants. Mom got history education and outdoor exercise, the girls got animals and chocolate. Our little adventure at this traditional Irish farm started with a short video about the life of Molly Gallivan. A popular character in her day, Molly was a strong-willed widow who fed her family of seven children off her own land. To supplement her small income she also ran an illegal pub in the evenings featuring her own homemade whiskey. (Clearly why she was so popular.) Walking along the trail leading through Molly’s farm was like stepping back in time. We pet the animals which roamed freely throughout the farm, saw the ruins of a family cottage from the era of the potato famine, and explored the antique rooms of Molly’s cottage.
Afterwards we went to the farm’s little tea room for soup, bread and chocolate fudge. The staff was extremely friendly, the kids and I had a great time, and the fudge was so good we bought some to send home with Christmas presents. I did, however, have a bad parenting moment when I realized I’d let my kids pet a pig and then forgot to have them wash their hands before we ate. BAH! I’m just going to chalk that one up to “building their immune systems.”
After Molly’s we kept driving north to Killarney. We stopped in the cute town center for a late lunch and then continued on into the Killarney National Park. The park is massive and we only explored a small corner of it, but what we did see was beautiful. We walked around Muckross House, a massive stone mansion with 52 chimneys and 365 windows. I decided to finally give the girls the thing they’ve been asking for throughout this entire trip – a carriage ride. We hopped in a “jaunting car” outside the mansion, which took us along the lake and to the Torc Waterfall.
Our driver, Jackie, told us some of the history of the area during our ride. The Muckross House was originally built for Henry and Mary Herbert in 1843. Extensive improvements were made to the property during the 1850s in preparation for a visit by Queen Victoria. While the Queen probably had a nice two days at the estate, the money sunk into impressing her contributed to the family’s eventual bankruptcy and loss of the estate in the late 19th century. It was purchased by a member of the Guinness family and later by the Vincent family, who eventually donated the property to the nation of Ireland. It’s now 11,000 acres of protected national park. After walking the gardens and giving the girls some time to find “forts” in the woods, we got in the car for the drive back to Castletownshend.
However, as we were leaving the park we came upon a huge herd of deer. Back out of the car we came and watched as a buck with a massive rack marched around dozens of females bellowing at the young bucks who were attempting to approach his herd. It was a fascinating thing to see in nature. Unfortunately, all I had was my phone’s camera, so the pictures don’t do the experience justice.
Overall, it was a great day for the Carisch ladies. I drove back through periodic rain while the girls serenaded me acapella with a series of Avett Brothers songs. Can’t get much better than that for a girls’ day out.