The next stop along our tour of Ireland after Dublin & County Cork was County Kerry. With each stop we seemed to fall more and more in love with Ireland. We spent 2-3 nights in each place and it never really felt like enough. What I know for sure is that County Kerry deserved much more time than the 3 days we spent there.
Sheen Falls Lodge
We stayed at the lovely Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare during our stay in County Kerry. Despite initially appearing a little more elegant than what we wanted, Sheen Falls Lodge was very family friendly from the spacious rooms which easily accommodated the five of us to the kids menus in the restaurant as well as horseback riding and a great indoor pool, plus lots of space for the kids to run around and explore outside.
Sheen Falls Lodge offers many excursions such as kayaking, falconry, clay pigeon shooting, and much more. The only one we took advantage of was horseback riding. It was fun to get fitted for the ride and take the horses out. Our 8-year-old was taking riding lessons at the time and was disappointed that they didn’t give her the freedom to ride on her own. However, since the boys’ previous riding experience was on ponies at the pumpkin patch this was about all our family was capable of. In all, it was a good introduction along a beautiful path.
We took lots of walks around the lodge and in the town of Kenmare. We also followed some signs to the Kenmare Stone Circle which was hidden down a side street in town. It’s one of the largest stone circles in southwest Ireland (measuring 56 x 49 ft) and consists of 15 boulders arranged in an egg shaped circle. In the center is a large boulder dolmen with a capstone. Dolmens often marked the burial place of someone important.
From our base in Kenmare, we made a day trip to Killarney which was a good hour plus drive along narrow twisting roads. We could have easily spent a few days just in Killarney. Our first stop was Muckross House which was built for the Herbert Family in 1843. In 1861 Queen Victoria came to stay here and the Herbert family nearly bankrupted themselves preparing the home for her arrival.
In 1899, the house was sold to the Guinness family and again in 1911 to William Bowers Bourne, a wealthy Californian mining magnate. We learned an interesting fact that in 1915 Bourne built another vacation home called Filoli which is located close to us in California and somewhere we’ve visited many times! We had no idea about this connection before coming here!
After visiting the house, we took a self-guided tour of the Muckross traditional working farms. We were able to go in the dwellings that were set up to represent the way people lived and farmed the land back in the 1930s and 40s. There was also a schoolhouse, Blacksmith’s Forge, Carpenter’s Workshop, and a really fun playground where the kids were able to continue their Ninja Warrior competition.
We probably spent too much time at the house and farms so we raced into the town to catch a jaunting tour into Killarney National Park and see Ross Castle. We hired the first person who approached us and said he was available. Had we planned better we should have signed up for a tour in advance or known which tour operator to go with. We ended up choosing probably the slowest horse in Killarney, Padraig. Not only did this horse hold up traffic along the city streets, but once we entered the park, joggers left us in the dust. Most of the other horses we saw were trotting along pulling the jaunting car behind at a decent speed. Padraig walked and would occasionally move a little faster when prompted by our driver (which was not often).
Despite the very slow pace most of us enjoyed it. However, our 10-year-old (below right) had a hard time containing his frustration. And our 5-year-old fell asleep under the pile of blankets we were given to keep warm.
But then Ross Castle, built in 1410, appeared in the distance and we all sat up a little straighter to marvel at it.
Our driver let us off and we were able to walk around the grounds. The tours were over for the day when we got there, but we could still explore.
One of the things we loved about Ireland was all the exploring there was to do. The castles and their grounds were like playgrounds: things to climb; places to run, jump and play hide & seek…
Blueberry Hill Farm
I think we were all a little bit surprised by how much we enjoyed our day at Blueberry Hill Farm. It’s run by a husband & wife (Sigi and Yvonne) and they provide farm tours and all sorts of classes to the public. In addition to the farm tour, we also opted for the scone baking & candle making add-ons.
The kids were put hard to work from the moment we arrived. It was very hands on and the owners told the kids all about the animals and answered their never-ending questions. We were there with only one other family of 4 so everyone basically got as much animal time as they wanted.
After the animal portion of our day, we got to go into the house and bake scones. It was a really special experience to go into someone’s home and bake with them. Yvonne gave the kids a great lesson and they even made some butter.
While the scones baked, the kids headed into a workshop to make candles. The metal sheets in front of them were heated to warm the wax and make it pliable. Then they learned how to stretch out the wax just enough so they could work with it, but not enough to break it.
They each got to choose 3 colors of wax and then after they were stretched out they braided them together.
After the braid was complete, they rolled it into a ball and stuck a wick inside. Voila! Homemade candles!
We opted to visit the Dingle Peninsula instead of driving the popular Ring of Kerry. While the Ring of Kerry is something we’d like to come back and do one day, a full day dedicated to driving and looking at views wasn’t something the kids were interested in.
On our way to our next stop in County Mayo, we took a detour to Dingle and hopped on a boat to see if we could catch a glimpse of the famous Fungie the Dolphin.
Fungie has been entertaining visitors to Dingle since 1983. No one knows exactly why, but Fungie has not left Dingle in all those years. He is such a staple of the harbor that they have cruises dedicated to watching him. In fact, if you don’t catch a glimpse of him you get your money back! We hadn’t been in the water long before we caught our first glimpse of Fungie! He followed our boat around and swam right next to us. The kids loved it!
Not only did we get a good look at Fungie, but we also got some great views of the Dingle coastline!
Next Up: Ashford Castle, Connemara