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Family Road Trip to the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Part Two of how a family discovers smiling Irish eyes 

By Holly Rosen Fink, GoGirlfriend contributor

Read Part One of Holly’s road trip through Ireland

Our recent visit to Ireland with the kids was truly unique. For the first few days, we were tourists and for the second half of our trip, we stayed with friends, which took the trip to a completely different level. 

If you haven’t experienced a family trip that involves staying with another family (who you happen to know very well), I highly recommend it. Besides the fact that it’s economical (you eat out less, for one thing, and you save money on accommodations), it’s also a far more enjoyable experience with familiarity, comfort and companionship (other than your family).

Our Irish hosts, Paul and Jo

living beachsidePaul and Jo are two ex-pats who lived in our New York suburb for the past three years when they came over with his work from Perth. I happened to meet them during their first year in NY when their kids were the same classes as mine. We instantly bonded and enjoyed a fun friendship during their stay in the U.S. When Jo announced their return to Ireland, she did it with an invitation to visit them in Ring of Kerry, a part of Ireland I knew well. They rented a six-bedroom house on the water and noted that we were very welcome to come for a few days.

Since we were already heading to the UK, my husband and I saw the visit as an opportunity to get a unique perspective from friends born and bred in Ireland. We knew we were lucky to receive the invitation and as we were familiar with the Ring of Kerry, we knew it would be a good way to bring our families together.

Journeying along the Irish coast

horesback riding in IrelandBeginning and ending in Kilarney, the Ring of Kerry traces the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula. We were heading towards Caherdaniel. Without stops, the whole tour takes four hours but it’s quiet, curvy and requires stops along the way. There is Kenmare, a town on the bay; Killarney National Park; Waterville, home of a famous Charlie Chaplin film festival and where Chaplin apparently summered; Sneen, a charming town full of quaint homes and shopping; and Caherdaniel, where our friend Paul grew up.

The 120-mile route that encompasses the loop takes the N70, N71 and R562 roads and showcases some of Ireland's finest landscapes, a breathtaking mosaic of rugged, storm-bashed coast, mountains, green fields, historic sites, slate-colored glacial lakes and welcoming towns and villages. As we drove down the curvy roads, we sang songs with our kids and gazed out the window.

sights in the beautiful Ring of KerryWhen we entered our friends’ home in the Ring of Kerry, two things happened. First, our kids, who had been glued to our hips for the past several days while touring around Ireland, ran off to join their friends to make rainbow loom bracelets. Second, we joined our friends on the balcony facing the water. The Ring of Kerry is a vision of beauty like I had never seen before and I couldn’t believe it. Every which way you look there is the majestic sea, mountains, greenery, horses and blue skies.

We only had a few days with them, so we were open to whatever our friends suggested we do. They’re very active and adventurous people, and the Ring of Kerry is made for that kind of life. We followed them around town and took their word for what they knew we would love.

Touring the Ring of Kerry

Derrynane's Fairy trailOur tour included places Paul grew up to a magical walk through the woodlands of Derrynane House, right near Caherdaniel. Quite unexpected and delightful, we encountered a fairy trail in the historic gardens of Derrynane House. The fairy house trail comprises of approximately 20 little fairy houses, all with unique 'fairy' features. Our kids didn’t even realize there was anything special about the wood until they found their first house and they were running from one to another in laughter.

Paul grew up with a horseback riding instructor who runs Eagle Rock Centre in Derrynane National Historic Park. The stables are housed beside a 15th Century castle at Ballycarnahan. His friend took us for a long ride on the sand flats during low tide across Derrynane Harbor. It was an experience we will never forget. My kids, who are newbie horseback riders, were put immediately at ease by the owner's niece, who has worked for him since the age of 9. (Now my son is looking for a job!)  

fishing off the coast of IrelandWe also went fishing with his uncle and caught haddock, which we ate for dinner. We were fortunate enough to be in Ireland during a sunny bout so we spent the afternoon on the Derrynane Beach. In the sunshine, its beaches can assume a Caribbean-like hue – I took the loveliest swim across the dunes.

During our stay, Jo made fabulous meals for us. We celebrated my husband’s birthday with a gorgeous dinner and cake at the house. We spent one evening at the local pub, the Blind Piper (complete with an outside playground), where Paul said hello to old schoolmates. We had a drink outside at O'Carrolls Cove Beach Bar and Restaurant, "Ireland's only beach bar," situated between Caherdaniel and Castlecove at Glenbeg Beach (where Paul once worked as a young man).

exploring beachside in KilarneyThey showed us their church. We met his parents. We met his aunt. We heard about growing up in Southern Ireland and we watched our children run in circles on the Irish sands. After the kids went to bed, exhausted and happy from a day being together, the four of us sat back and drank wine watching the Irish skyline.

It was a trip we will never, ever forget.

And I suspect my children won't either.

Ever been to Ireland? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook - and let's continue the conversation!

About Holly Rosen Fink

Holly Rosen Fink ~ @TheCultureMomHolly Rosen Fink is a Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Branding and Social Media expert with over 15 years experience increasing brand awareness and sales at leading publishing houses and media companies. She is the founder of TheCultureMom.com and is a current contributor to This Girl Travels, Ciao Bambino, Family Vacation Critic, The Broad Side and Women & Hollywood.

Last year she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations and associate produced the off-off-Broadway hit The Best of Everything and the NYC production of Listen to Your Mother.

Catch up with Holly online:

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