Day 7 - The Gap of Dunloe (bear in mind I'm two days behind this happened on friday) so the weather is still great, just in case you're confused.
Great news, apparently the sat nav has a different setting for Ireland and that's why it hasn't been working - it's only taken us a week (and lots of hours driving aimlessly) to figure that out.
After our success yesterday at missing the hoards by arriving before them, dh insisted we repeated the early start so the girls were thrilled. They were even more thrilled at the Irish Pub songs CD blaring out, at least I think that's what they said, anyway it's what I heard :). It was another glorious, sunny day and I was in fine spirits. Dh had a plan, we were to take a boat up to the Gap of Dunloe from Ross Castle and then walk back and if we got tired, we'd get a Jaunting Car. (Or two depending how many people they'd take)
So with our new found sat nav skills, we found Ross Castle straight away and was ready to take a boat at 8:30. We waited patiently until some chap came over, he confirmed that we could indeed take the dogs so that was great news however not so great news was that the boats didn't start until 11:00. Now is it just me, but if you're planning a day out - does that not include checking the opening times? My fine fettle is now on a downward spiral until dh announces that he has a plan b, yay he's learning :)
We'd do his plan backwards so we'd go up via Jaunting Cart and back on the boat. We followed him from the castle to a Jaunting Cart. Dexter refuses point blank to get in, it's clear he's had more than enough of being squished behind a horse but after some cajoling , a bit of man handling and a significant amount of heavy lifting he eventually succumbed and accepted he was going on another ride. Off we set, the driver was really informative and gave us loads of history. It started to rain quite heavily which was a shame as the visibility was very poor but still I was determined to enjoy the gap. After about 45 minutes, we came to a halt and the chap parked the cart. Now the visibility wasn't that bad that I couldn't tell that we'd arrived back at the place we'd set off from. From the look on dh's face, I could see his plan b hadn't worked out as expected and the likelihood of a plan c was exceptionally doubtful. The driver explained that if you wanted to up to the gap other than by boat we were in the completely wrong area. By this time it was pouring down, The driver was adamant that today would be a washout and recommended staying away from the gap completely for today and suggested driving the Ring of Kerry instead. It was half nine and we were already on Plan D. That downward spiral was getting lower...
We set off following the Ring of Kerry signs and the sun came out again, driving through Killorglin I spotted some nice looking restaurants that I thought might be good for dinner one night. We saw a sign for a lake which sounded nice so we thought we'd take a bit of a detour and have a look. We drove for ages and never really saw anywhere lakeside that we could stop and then the road led us away from the lake. The scenery was superb so we weren't too worried about being lost and the sat nav only works if you know your destination, as we were just driving the Ring we were sure that all roads would lead to Rome and we'd just pick up the signs again, admittedly missing probably half of it out. We found a roadside map which told us we were somewhere near Glencar, dh and I (surprisingly) argued about which route to take. I won this one and we ended up on the most glorious road called Ballygashee (?) Pass. The view from the top was simply wonderful. We carried on into the wilderness for about another 40 minutes where I then had to reluctantly admit that maybe this wasn't the right direction so we turned around. Dh was smug in his silence. We found a couple of picnic benches tucked away so we stopped for a breather and a delicious picnic before resuming our return to the Ring. We emerged from our 10 minute detour about 3 and a half hours later, and to make matters worse we drove past the same restaurants we had already passed in Killorglin so in essence, again we hadn't moved passed our starting point. Bizarrely, Dh looked triumphant at finding his way out, I had an urge to stab him with a picnic fork.
By this time, I wanted to throw the Irish Pub song cd out of the window, the kids had learned most of the words, especially the rude one about the Chandeliers Wife and delighted in singing it to Grandma, who had no idea what they were on about. Grandma told a story, apparently when I was little, I wouldn't let her sing Molly Molone because it upset me too much when she died of a fever and then I'd get scared of the ghost who pushed her wheelbarrow up streets broad and narrow so whenever there was a break in the music, I got an extra verse of Molly Malone from the girls. That pleased me no end.
We continued the drive and stopped for icecream and a walk along the beach at Rossbeigh (?). It was lovely and the weather was glorious. It was so hot that we were just in t-shirts and even grandma considered taking her scarf and gloves off. We piled back in the car and continued on our way for about half an hour, by this time it was about 5ish. I'd seen posters all over advertising Duffy's Circus. I can't bear the circus, I don't like anything about it but Duffys is an old family legend for me as apparently my ancestors were part of it. And not many generations removed, the story goes that my Dad's mum was in it but moved to Yorshire but her sister stayed in it. When her sister (my great Aunt) had a baby girl she sent her immediately to live with my grandma as she didn't want her daughter growing up in the circus, so she grew up as my Dad's sister. Reading between the lines she was probably illegitimate and as this was in the early 1920's (my dad had me when he was quite old, he'd have been 100 this year - grandma was significantly younger) it was probably taboo. Unfortunately she died in her late teens of consumption. I'm not sure of my Dad's logic but he refused to ever visit Ireland - I'm sure that the population of Ireland dearly missed his visits ;) Anyway, the twins have never been to a circus and have often asked so I thought this was the perfect opportunity.
We admitted defeat to the Ring of Kerry drive and turned round to come home. On the way back we passed the sign for Kate Kearney's Cottage. I knew that I'd read that some trips for the Gap of Dunloe started there so I persuaded dh to drive up to find out so we could plan for tomorrow properly. We stopped for a drink outside in the sun and I wandered up to the Jaunting Cart drivers who were packing up to ask if they take dogs, where did you go, etc. before I really knew what was happening a Jaunting Cart had been prepared, Dexter had been manhandled into the back and a couple of riding horses appeared. The driver asked if I could ride and I nodded. He asked me if I could trot and I nodded. He asked me if I could rise to the trot and I nodded. He handed me a pair of reins that were old blue rope and told me to ride behind. He lifted one of my twins onto another horse and told her he'd lead her up. Now as I've mentioned before, I'm a big girl and I'm conscious that some poor beast has to heave me up and down hills, in fact you can see the horses looking at me and you know that they're thinking 'please, not me, please not me'. As we set off, he handed me a long twig and told me if she didn't move fast enough, I was to use it. The horse and I had a silent moment, i told her that I wouldn't use the twig and she told me that she was a strong Irish cob and not to worry. As we walked out of the yard, the driver, on the cart holding dd's lead rein, turned back to me and said 'Now we trot'. We set off trotting, I was worried about dd, even though she'd ridden the horse for the biggest part of last week, it was only more or less walking. She'd only trotted whilst I'd run at the side, and seeing as I can only run about 4 steps, she didn't get that much practise. Anyway after 15 minutes of a rising trot, I was no longer worried about dd bouncing uncomfortably in front of me or the poor horse who had to run with me on it's back. The only consciousness I had was of a burning pain in my calves and thighs that felt like my muscles were about to explode or the friction was about to engulf me and poor horse in a fireball. My hat, that didn't really fit jiggled so much that it whacked me on my nose every time I rose. I tried not to rise and just bounce but every bit of me jiggled and I must have looked like a huge jelly plonked on the back of a horse, I had the reins in one hand and tried to hold the large bouncy busters down with the other. It just wasn't working for me at all so I had to go back to the rising. I figured if we did spontaneously combust, it would at least put me out of my misery. We eventually came to a beautiful clearing - it was simply breathtaking, the driver pulled up and asked if we wanted 10 minutes to spend by the lake. I wanted to hug him. I got down from the horse and walked unsteadily down to the waters edge - I just had to get this awful hat off, but my head had got so sweaty we'd almost become one. Eventually my dh separated us and the world was good. The youngest twin is dead gormless and can manage to fall in any stretch of water so I was busy shouting her to be careful and for dd to watch her on the rocks. The water looked so inviting and I was so hot I decided to just put my hands in (I'd also already got a blister from the nasty, chaffed blue rope reins). My legs hadn't quite recovered and I ended up sat in the water. I pushed through the pain and got up as quickly as I went down and nobody had seen me fall but I had a big wet bottom, which was quickly pointed out. I tried to tell them that I had sat on a wet rock, but it was proper sopping. The kids at once thought I'd weed myself and were totally appalled, dh had sussed it out but I gave him my look, and he knew better than to say anything. When we got back to the driver, I gave him my look too, obviously he's never seen the look before but I'm told its a very fierce look...
We trotted for most of the way back, by this time I'd broken through the pain barrier and my dilemma was with the (hugely annoying) motorists behind us (I thought cars weren't allowed!). If I just bounced along I looked like a complete wobbling moron whereas if I showed I could at least ride, they'd be presented with my large wet bottom on every second step
I made dh walk right behind me and we stopped at the first table we came to at KK cottage where we got some food - bacon and cabbage (surprisingly good).
There were some musicians playing but as I heard the opening notes to 'Molly Malone', it was definitely time to leave....