Saturday July 19, 2008
Today was our first rest day of the tour and I reckon we’ve earned it. To have covered over six hundred kilometres in seven days without a break is pretty good going, and if you’ve followed our journal this far you’ll know that Ireland is not entirely flat.
Most campsites in Ireland seem to have a few picnic tables for communal use, and as bicycle tourists we feel we’ve earned the right to commandeer the use of one for the duration of our stay. Cyclists cannot easily bring their own table and chairs, and a large heavy wooden table is a very handy thing to chain our bicycles to. The camp site in Killarney had plenty of these tables and Darren spent the day sitting at ours loafing. Having not fully understood the meaning of the word rest, Agata and I (Justin) set off to explore Killarney, and the adjacent National Park, on foot.
Tourism is by far the largest industry in Killarney and there are plenty of hotels, and loads of tourists. There didn’t seem to be much more to the town centre other than the throngs of tourists perusing tourist-oriented gift shops, tourist pubs and tourist restaurants. So we decided to check out the National Park. On our way there we visited St Mary’s Cathedral which although finished in the 1850s looked almost new.
The park itself is a great place and covers over 100 km2 (about 25,000 acres) of lakes, forest and mountains. It was the first national park established in Ireland and was created when the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish state in 1932. We walked out to Ross Castle on the shore of Lough Leane. It looked pretty impressive from the outside although we didn’t manage to see the interior because of some bizarre health and safety ruling. It appears that tourists can only visit in groups with a tour guide because of the spiral staircases, or something.
There were loads of the famous jaunting cars ferrying tourists around the park’s car free roads. Jaunting cars are horse-drawn carriages with four or sometimes more passengers. They were each being pulled by just one horse, it seemed a little unfair to me.
In the evening, all three of us walked into Killarney and spent a few hours watching traditional Irish music in Sheehan’s Pub.