Thursday 21 July 2011


Couldn't leave Bunratty this morning without a too-quick look at the Folk Park: one of those outdoor museums where buildings have been relocated or reconstructed to make an old-time village. This one works particularly well, the trees and gardens looking really well-established and natural, and the buildings so pretty. And then of course there are people around like Mike here, in the school room, cane at the ready and full of chat about how back in 1847 ("Black '47") the children were so weak and tired from lack of food that it was no problem for a single teacher to be in charge of 130 of them. There were six books to teach from and "only one answer to a question" which were all learned by rote. Mike remembered having to kneel on prickly sticks for being late to school and threatened with expulsion if he looked at a girl, even his own sister - and he was born in 1952! (I speak as a Coronation baby myself.)

The main focus today was the Ring of Kerry, a 100-mile drive around the Iveagh Peninsula which promised great scenic spectacles that didn't initially deliver - I have a high standard for coastal drives, I am a New Zealander after all - but in the end all was well. Beetling great bare mountains, rocky coast, clear blue water, distant clusters of white-painted crofts, trails of stone walls down the slopes... No complaints. It felt appropriate, too, to find ourselves in Kenmare afterwards, driving slowly along the main street behind a man standing in a horse-drawn gig.

And finally there was dinner in a pub in central Killarney, with a glass of cider beside me, a beef and Guinness pie inside me, a duo belting out 'Black Velvet Band' and other old favourites right in front of me, and my last day in Ireland ahead of me.

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