My "Best of Ireland" Tour Journal
Chapter 3: Ring of Kerry
The "Puck Fair" is held here every August 10th to 12th. A "puck" is a male goat. On the evening of the 9th, the townsfolk go to the mountains and bring back the largest puck they can find and set him on a throne. They decorate him with a crown and ribbons and he reigns over the three days of the fair. The origin goes back to the days of Cromwell. As the story goes, at the time when Cromwell came in 1649, a Mr. Conway owned thousand of goats. These goats were the responsibility of one of his employees, a Mr. Sullivan. Sullivan had his son look after the goats. Apparently the son heard Cromwell's soldiers hiding in the mountains and planning their attack on the town. He tried to warn the townsfolk but they wouldn't believe him. As a last resort he stampeded the goats through the town. The townsfolk fled thus avoiding the planned massacre. When Cromwell's soldiers arrived, the town was empty. Since then the goat has been revered and the Puck Fair takes place each August.
There is a thriving peat industry in this area. Some of it is harvested by machinery but a lot is still harvested by hand.
Here you will find the ruins of a manor house built by the family Wynn. This is also the area where St. Brendan is thought to have come from. He lived during the late 6th, early 7th centuries. He was also known as Brendan the Navigator because of his many voyages, typically as much as seven years long. He was the Patron Saint of Kerry. It is believed by some that it was actually St. Brendan who discovered America. There are ruins of a very early monastic settlement in Salem, Massachusetts which is attributed by some to St. Brendan. Eventually, Brendan was drowned off the west coast of Galway. The records of his voyage were later kept in St. Nicholas' church. It is thought that Columbus, centuries later, may have had access to these records which is what led him to America. In 1976 an Englishman recreated the supposed "Brendan Voyage".
DINGLE BAY AND PENINSULA
There have been a few films made in this picturesque area including Ryan's Daughter with Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles and Far and Away with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.
In the Bay there are seven islands - the Blasket Islands. They form the most westerly point of Europe. They were inhabited until the 1970's when the government brought the population to the mainland. It was said to be because of the dangerous shark-infested waters that lay between the islands and the mainland. A later documentary attributed the move to the lack of young men to run the Naomohg (small boats that used to take the people to the mainland and back). A former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) owns one of the islands.
In 1880 Canon Brosnan erected the 14 stations of the cross up the steep hillside of Knok na Dobar. For many years it was the custom on Good Friday to walk the trail barefoot, stopping at each station to worship. This practice has been discontinued.
Cahirciveen was joined by a bridge (Pont Magee) to Valencia Island in order to have access to the slate quarries there. It was from this island, in 1852, that the first trans-Atlantic cable was laid. Queen Victoria was the first to use it. The island didn't have enough slate for all the building roofs in Ireland so a lot of it was imported from Wales.
Waterville started as a base for the British coastguard, then became a fishing village. When Charlie Chaplin and his wife began vacationing here it's popularity increased. Chaplin's daughter Geraldine still lives here.
This area has several examples of ogham stones which were originally used as grave markers for the Druids. Ogham means "writing". The vertical and horizontal lines represented consonants and vowels.
Sceillig Mor - In 588 a monastic settlement was built on top of this rock and dedicated to St. Michael. The monks themselves lived in what has been called "bee-hive" huts because of their distinctive shape. Insceillig Gog is the 2nd largest Gannet breeding ground in the world.
The name of this town means "the hideout of the treasure". Here there is a statue erected of Our Lady of Grace. A large circular fort outside of Coomaciste was an Irish habitation site until the beginning of the 1100's. People would build their individual huts within the walls of the fort. They grazed their animals outside the fort walls during the day, then brought them inside at night for protection. Legend has it that, way back in the mists of time, a group of very small people, who were followers of the Goddess Dianna, invaded Ireland and built this fort. They riddled the area with underground tunnels that would allow them to easily escape other invaders and make their way back into their fort. About 40,000 of these forts can still be seen in Ireland. It is thought that the diminutive size of these people and their ability to escape quickly into their hidden tunnels was the beginning of the legend of the Leprechaun. There are farmers who still believe the forts are inhabited by "fairies" and that, if they get rid of the forts, Puiseog will interfere with their crops.
Sneem is the 1st village where all the houses are painted different colours. The name of the village comes from the Irish word for "knot" and is so named because the village is laid out in a figure-8. There is a monument of President DeGaulle who used to vacation here. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands had a vacation home here as well. Grace Kelly spent one of her vacations here.
Avoca, in Moll's Gap, is home to the oldest weaving industry in Ireland.
The valley one looks down on here is sometimes referred to as "Black Valley" because of the high death rate during the famine. One lookout point was named "Ladies' View" because this is where Queen Victoria's Ladies-In-Waiting would come to take in the view towards Killarney.
In this region are also found the Derrynasaggart Hills where the priests hid to avoid persecution and execution during Cromwell's time.
Here you will find a little church dedicated to Ste. Gobnait, their local Patron Saint. "Gobnait" is translated as "Dorothy".
Macroom is basically a market town. This area also contains the ruins of a McCarthy castle. It was here where Cromwell hanged a resident Bishop and then gave the castle to one of his friends, William Penn. This is the same Penn who later had Pennsylvania, USA named after him.