Steve Fletcher on 21 April 2016
Cork and Killarney: The emerald Isle - highly recommended for a short break or longer stay.

Having previously visited Dublin twice, I wanted to try somewhere different in Ireland. I flew from London to Cork and collected a car at the airport and spent two nights in Cork, a city which is steeped in history. Ireland's third- largest city began life as an island and now spans both banks of the River Lee, with watery channels running beneath some of its main thoroughfares. The best way to experience this hilly southern seaport is on foot, following the signposted walking tour past St Finn Barre's Cathedral and the riverside quadrangle of University College up the hill to red and white Shandon Church. Along the way, you'll meet plenty of the city's talkative residents. It has a reputation for being one of Europe’s hippest cities. Built on islands in the River Lee, the many bridges give the city a continental feel which sits elegantly with the Georgian grandeur of its successful past.

I then drove the 85km southwest in just over an hour from Cork to the wonderful authentic town of Killarney. Killarney is a town on the shores of Lough Leane in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry. It’s a stop on the Ring of Kerry scenic drive, and the start and finishing point of the 200-km Kerry Way walking trail. The town's 19th-century buildings include St. Mary’s Cathedral. Across the bridge from the cathedral is Killarney National Park. Victorian mansion Muckross House, Gardens & Traditional Farms sits in the park. The town is an absolute delight with its horse-drawn carriages that offer a tour of the town.

The compact town is very walkable and it's great to sample a few pints of Guinness in one of over 60 of Killarney’s famous singing pubs. Killarney is a great base to stay to embark on one of Ireland’s most popular scenic drives – The Ring of Kerry, a winding road between the mountains and Atlantic coastline, stopping at the colourful village of Sneem and viewed the Three Lakes of Killarney from Moll’s Gap. I was amazed at the beauty of this drive, viewing the beautiful green mountainous countryside and the coast passing beaches of pure white sand and the clear blue water of the sea.

The following day it was the Ring of Dingle, another stunning coastline. The Dingle Peninsula is ringed by sandy beaches and craggy cliffs. Inland are rolling hills and mountains, including 952m Mount Brandon. The region’s an officially recognised bastion of Irish language and culture. Dunmore Head, mainland Ireland’s easternmost point, has views of the Blasket Islands, famous for Irish-language memoirs documenting rural life in the 1800s and 1900s.

I stopped en-route in the town of Dingle for lunch. Framed by its fishing port, the peninsula's charming little 'capital' manages to be quaint without even trying. Many pubs double as shops, so you can enjoy Guinness and a singalong among screws and nails, wellies and horseshoes. It has long drawn runaways from across the world, making it a cosmopolitan, creative place. In summer its hilly streets can be clogged with visitors.

Following lunch, I took a boat trip out to see Fungie the Dolphin. Fungie is a wild Bottlenose Dolphin, no one is quite sure of his age but he has been here for over 30 years and the experts tell us he has a lifespan of between 40 and 50 years. He is about 13 feet in length and weighs around 250kgs. The media named him in the early years and although there is no meaning in the Irish language for the word ‘Fungie’, it does suggest he is a Fun-Guy. People from all walks of life, from all over the world have come to Dingle especially to see Fungie. Many people decide to become one with nature and meet with Fungie in his own environment, including a number of celebrities.

For more information or advice on this wonderful destination, please give me a call.