Spent a day driving the beautiful Circle of Kerry and despite overcast conditions, we were not disappointed with the vistas of hills, lakes and sea. Along the way, called into the Kerry Peat village which is a recreation of a typical village showing how it was harvested and the types of people who lived here before and during the dreaded ‘Potato Famine’. Massive piles of peat have been harvested as a traditional source of wood fuel, but with much of the Irish peat bogs being depleted, there is a push to cease this centuries old practice.
We continued driving the narrow, twisting roads to the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle built by chieftains in the 16th century. It was great fun to explore, although somewhat precarious as there were missing steps and floors and much of the structure is being held together by a mass of ivy that grows around and through its entire structure. A short distance away is the ancient Staigue Fort, built before Christianity came to Ireland. The remains of this massive circular fort were 6 metres high and 3 metres thick.
Our quarters for the night were on the edge of Lough Leane with a beautiful view towards the surrounding hills with a castle ruin on its foreshore.
Cahir Castle (pronounced ‘care’) has been altered, repaired and maintained by the Butler family. Situated on a river, its location was important for traders. With its massive walls, towers, turrets, murder holes, portcullis and moat, it was a difficult conquest for Edward II’s troops. A souvenir cannonball remains embedded in the wall of the tower to this day. Several movies, including Braveheart, have been filmed here.
The Rock of Cashel or St Patrick’s Rock has been an important archaeological site and a religious and political seat of power for 1000 years. It was the seat of the Irish kings and became the home of the Archbishops when it was gifted to the church. Sadly, when an Archbishop decided to have another much smaller church classified as a cathedral in order to minimize payment of additional taxes, he had the roof of the Cashel removed, which resulted in its deterioration. At this time, Cathedrals were taxed on the basis of their roof area, hence the need to build a smaller cathedral. Within this complex is the Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel, which was unique in that its roof was entirely constructed of layers of stone blocks to a total of 7 feet in thickness.
From the high vantage point of Cashel we walked down to the ruins of Hore Abbey from the 13th century. It was originally occupied by Benedictine monks from Glastonbury, England however they were expelled by an archbishop who replaced them with the Cistercian order.