On Day Eighteen, we scheduled a tour of the Ring of Kerry, which included a few towns around the county of Kerry; it’s a beautiful drive, and the terrain goes from coastal beaches to the Killarney national park to charming little villages. We had a fabulous driver named Barry O’Rourke (who we highly recommend, his company is Classic Ireland Guided Tours) who was a treasure trove of information about the area, and was a very skilled driver that could navigate the often treacherous and narrow roads that one must travel on the ring (aka we couldn’t have done it without maybe going down a cliff). He stopped at a ton of scenic overlooks, with beautiful views of the mountains, water, and islands.
He recommended that we do the “Skellig Experience,” a little museum sort of establishment on Valencia Island where you can learn about the rocky islands (skelligs) in the surrounding ocean. We are so glad we took his advice, because it held one of our favorite surprises of the trip. We watched a quick film about how monasteries were built on the cliffs back in the day as a sort of retreat for monks who wanted to be secluded and challenged in a rough terrain. (As a side note, one of the workers there paused us after the film and asked if we would watch his little daughter perform her Irish Jig, which was adorable.) As we went back in the exhibition, I was looking at the pictures and the replicas of the monasteries and was like, “Haha, that looks a lot like the last scene in The Force Awakens,” and was thinking how the bearded/robed monk mannequin looked like Luke Skywalker (because Star Wars references are always somewhere in my peripheral mind). Then we come to find out that – lo and behold – Skellig Michael was exactly where that scene was filmed. Our boy J.J.* had great scenery taste and picked an actual monastic ruin for the Jedi temple. #NerdAlert. I bought a shirt to commemorate the experience, and yes, it’s Luke Skywalker holding a Guinness with a puffin perched on BB-8.
So we of course took pictures with Skellig Michael in the distance and reenacted the scene as best we could with an I-phone instead of a lightsaber. “A” for effort! It was extremely windy, if you are wondering why I look like a cross between Medusa and Cousin It in these photos. After taking our pics, we stopped for lunch at a place called the Blue Bull per Barry’s suggestion, which served delicious brown bread and great seafood chowder. There was also a dude with a goat outside; apparently livestock pets are a thing here, since at one of our scenic stops there was a guy with a fox, goat, and dog just chilling for the tourists. We drove through Killarney National Forest, which definitely looked like it could be in Lord of the Rings; it’s full of lakes, waterfalls, and green moss covered trees. I’d love to do the Ring of Kerry again someday, and maybe do a boat tour in the lakes! Barry also drove us by the Muckross House, one of the most authentic old estates still intact, as well as Ross Castle, a restored tower castle, so we could know where they were located if we wanted to tour them later (we did!).
We said goodbye to Barry and took a breather at our beloved Cahernane hotel, then went into town again for dinner, eating at a place called Mac’s. It was another great meal, where Jake got Irish lamb in a puff pastry. All the cheese and meat are delicious in Ireland; my personal favorite is goat’s cheese (but after smelling that guy’s goat I was a little worried about it changing my tastebuds). We ended the day by poking in a few shops, where Carson almost bought a stylish wool hat. He missed his calling as a model. We also stopped by an ice cream shop called Murphy’s, where we had sticky toffee pudding ice cream, because STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING ice cream. It was amazing. The workers there were a bunch of young girls who were hilarious, and tried to get us to pronounce traditional Gaelic Irish names. We absolutely butchered them, and they were laughing so hard.
*JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens.