Now most people associate “The King” with the late great Elvis Presley which of course is absolutely the case…but in my opinion, here in Ireland we also had our own King of the Showbands, the late great Joe Dolan. Charlie and I were blessed to see Joe at one of his last concerts in Killarney on the August Bank Holiday of 2007 before Joe’s untimely death on St. Stephen’s Day almost five months later. We also were blessed to stay in one of the most picturesque hotels I’ve ever had the good fortune to stay in, Aghadoe Heights beside the stunning Lakes of Killarney in Co. Kerry (the “Kingdom”). This week’s blog covers this memorable trip and our daytrips to Dingle, the Ring of Kerry and more.
Day 1 – Flight to Kerry, Hotel, Gap of Dunloe & Muckross Traditional Farms
As I mentioned in a previous blog on Sligo (here), I was a big fan of the now defunct Aer Arann, Ireland’s regional airline. So, on Friday 3 Aug 2007, we flew down to Kerry Airport from Dublin; which is in Farranfore about a twenty minute drive from Aghadoe. The Irish landscape was breath-taking as viewed from our early morning flight down to the South-West. We picked up our hire car for the four days from Hertz at the airport, a red Freelander and headed down to the hotel.
Check-in at the hotel at Aghadoe Heights was a breeze and we were struck by how friendly the staff were. We loved the Lakeside Double room we were allocated and stayed for ages just admiring the gorgeous view of Lough Leane, the largest of the Lakes of Killarney.
We had lunch in the Heights Lounge & Piano Bar and saw where we would be having evening dinner for the duration of our stay, The Lake Room, with its phenomenal vistas of the lakes and mountains. We headed out then to visit the Gap of Dunloe and Kate Kearney’s Cottage (the famous 150 year old pub) about a half hour drive to the South-West of the hotel.
We then drove on to Moll's Gap, is a pass on the N71 road from Kenmare to Killarney, with views of the Macgillycuddy's Reeks. Moll's Gap is named for Moll Kissane who ran a shebeen, a small pub, on a rocky breach during the construction of the original Kenmare Killarney road in the 1820s. She became popular for selling home brewed poitín (home-brew whiskey), to the hardy men who worked on the road.
We finished up the afternoon by continuing around the lakes ending up at the Muckross Traditional Farms, where we could visit three separate working farms complete with animals, poultry and machinery. As it was starting to rain, we decided to stay dry and tour the farm dwellings which are furnished in traditional style from the 1930s and 40s, complete with dressers, settlebeds and mealbins. There is also a Labourer's Cottage, a Carpenter's Workshop and a Blacksmith's Forge. Absolutely well worth seeing for anyone interested in folk history. We then headed back to the hotel for a delicious evening dinner.
Day 2 – Dingle & Joe Dolan at the Gleneagle
The next day, Saturday 4 Aug 2007, we decided to head out to Dingle. As we were in no hurry we went a roundabout way via the N22 stopping first for lunch in the lovely town of Tralee before taking the N86 though Camp and Annascaul before arriving in beautiful Dingle. The town of Dingle sits on the edge of the Dingle Peninsula on the southwest coast of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Dingle is filled with eclectic shops, and fishermen bring home a fresh catch every day. The Irish language rings down its winding streets, and in the evening pubs come alive with traditional music. We were lucky that the sun shone for a while at least because on my previous visits it had pelted down.
We headed back to Aghadoe early enough as we were looking forward to the Joe Dolan cabaret in the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney at 9:30 pm that night. Charlie hadn’t seen Joe live before and as I had, I knew he was in for a treat. Joe Dolan never disappointed his public. His band came onto the stage first….but it was the “main man” the audience wanted to see.
Finally, the lights dimmed and a small, white-suited, smiling, charismatic figure entered. Some of the fans (i.e. Me 🤣) screamed; we all clapped. Somebody was trying to kiss him – Joe looked delighted. The speaker burst into life as Joe started singing, possibly for the 1,000th time, You're Such A Good Lookin' Woman.
Joe bent down and appeared to be singing directly to some of his fans in the front….he probably knew them. The loyalty of his fans was legendary and some followed him all over the country from venue to venue for years; so that he knew them to see and often called out their names. They knew all the words of all the songs: Lady Of The Night, Make Me An Island, The Answer To Everything, Crazy Woman, More And More, and so on. Usually they were even a couple of words ahead of him 😂😂. This is a YouTube Video of a typical "Joe Show"......
For Joe he made it look so easy, smiling, almost glowing up there on the stage, in the white suit. Charlie was a Joe-convert that night and we vowed to go see him again soon. Sadly that was not to be as Joe passed away that Christmas, just five months later - RIP.
Day 3 – Ring of Kerry
We made our way back to the hotel, tired but happy. The next day, Sunday 5 Aug 2007, we decided to “do” the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular road trips in Ireland. It’s a 120 mile drive around the Inveragh Peninsula. Tour buses drive counter clockwise around the Ring of Kerry. Therefore, we decided to drive clockwise to avoid getting stuck behind a caravan of buses. We also decided to start our day early (before 9 am) to beat the crowds and avoid most of the traffic (especially as we like stopping to take photos!).
So, our loop started in Killarney. The first part of the journey starts with the most mountainous section of the Ring of Kerry. Just south of Killarney is Killarney National Park. Here, you will drive up and over mountain passes, with sweeping views of mountains and lakes and one of the rare, forested sections on the Ring of Kerry. The roads are lined with insanely large rhododendrons.
Ladies View was on our list of things to do in Killarney, so if you have the chance, you should visit. It’s a scenic viewpoint 12 miles from Killarney on the road to Kenmare (a lovely, colourful town). Apparently Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting visited here during the royal visit in 1861. They loved the view so much, it was named after them. I should mention, it's completely free to visit here.
We then went through Kenmare and Sneem. In one day, on the Ring of Kerry you can drive through miles of green, rolling hills, explore colourful, Irish towns, and see a fantastic stretch of Ireland’s rugged coastline. It is a beautiful scenic drive and it’s no wonder that it makes it onto so many wish lists. When you visit Ireland, you expect it is going to rain at some point. The rain is infamous here. How else would this island stay so green without it?
On the day we had designated for the Ring of Kerry drive, not only did it rain, but it bucketed down….so much so that the windscreen wipers couldn’t clear it away fast enough and for safety reasons we thought it best to pull in at the side of the road as did others. Luckily each cloudburst didn’t last long and the sun soon replaced the grey clouds looming overhead.
We continued the drive through Caherdaniel. If you are interested, you can take a detour to Derryane to visit the Derrynane House. This was the home of Daniel O’Connell, the man who worked to gain equality for Catholics in Ireland. We didn’t as it began to rain again so we said we’d stay on the road. As you arrive at the western edge of the Inveragh Peninsula, the views open up to the Atlantic Ocean and the Skellig Islands. Alas we took no photos here as it was so rainy. But on a fine day it can be heaven.
We continued on through Waterville. For the remainder of the drive, it’s all about the scenic coastal views. On a clear day, you can see across to the Dingle Peninsula. We arrived back at the hotel ravenous with the hunger and had a delicious dinner at the hotel’s Lake View restaurant.
Day 4 – Killarney Views & Flight to Dublin
The last morning, Monday 6 Aug 2007, we had the Full Irish breakfast delivered to the room. It went down well and was absolutely yummmy!!
We soaked in our last views from our room and spotted some helicopters landing on the lawn….this was the last few months of the Celtic Tiger economy before all would change. We popped down to explore the ruins of an old church nearby.
All too soon we were headed back to Kerry Airport to hand back our hire car and to check in for our 14:45 flight to Dublin. In less than an hour after take-off we were back in the Big Smoke. Kerry will always have a place in my heart ❤.
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog 59
Number 25 - Entertainment - Be in the audience at some memorable concerts
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Blog 30 - Alaska
Blog 31 - Everglades, Florida
Have you ever visited Killarney? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!