An Ireland Adventure
The Last Day
We had spent the day on the Gap of Dunloe Horse and Cart Tour. Afterwards it was about an hour drive to Parknasilla Resort and Spa where we were staying. We arrived relatively early…by 8 p.m. My friend Angie and I had been on an Ireland road trip for the past 11 days. It had been go-go-go. It was ruins and sea cliffs, castles and nature, every day from morning until bedtime. But today we were hitting a wall.
Parknasilla Resort and Spa
We parked and walked up to the massive, window-filled stone building overlooking the bay. Hydrangeas were everywhere and lush vines climbed the rock walls.
Glad to be staying put for a while, we immediately hit the hotel spa. The Parknasilla spa had an outdoor hot tub that overlooked the bay. Inside, there were several aromatherapy and salt sauna options. We rotated between the different areas until we felt sufficiently warm and relaxed.
The Seaside Trail at Parknasilla Resort
After dinner we decided to check out one of the many miles of trails on the 500 acre property. We chose the seaside trail that featured a wooden boardwalk along the shore.
The water in the bay was still and reflective tide pools formed in the rocks. Wildflowers dotted the path and the sky swirled with grey.
“That was perfect,” Angie remarked as we were walking back. “It was doing something without having to go somewhere and do something.”
“Exactly…” I agreed. “How cool they have all these paths.”
When we got back inside there was live piano music happening in the lounge/dining area so we grabbed a late night snack and a drink.
We were staying at Parknasilla for 2 nights and were happy for a little down time.
Relaxing and More Relaxing
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we suited up and headed back to the spa.
The skies were full of low grey clouds and a steady mist seemed to be raining at us from every direction. It was about 50°F. We shed our towels and left them inside to stay dry and did the fast cringe-walk towards the steamy water. I was goosebumps on top of goosebumps by the time the tub welcomed me into it’s hot bubbling water.
It was a good feeling, the cool mist around our heads and our bodies submerged in warmth while we looked out over the bay.
“We should do something today.” Angie said, tilting her head back. “We are being very un-Angie and un-Carol…just sitting here all day.”
“I know…” I said wiping a layer of mist from my face, “I thought a day of doing nothing would be perfect…But I think we’ve had enough nothing.”
“Well what can we do that’s close?” Angie asked, “I don’t feel like driving all over the place but I wanna see good stuff.”
“There’s a really cool drive about an hour and a half from here.” I offered, “It is supposed to be one of the prettiest in all of Ireland.” I stood up and raised my arms above my head to get some coolness on my overheating body.
“Well what’s there?” Angie asked, doing the same.
“It’s just a pretty drive.” I said as goosebumps were forming and I sank back down in the warmth.
“So let me get this straight.” Angie laughed…sinking in. “We are going to drive an hour and a half so we can drive some more?”
“Yeah…we are going to drive on the regular looking part an hour and a half so we can drive around on the scenic looking part…soooo…what do you think?”
“Ok… But after I specifically said I don’t want to do more driving and all we’re going to do is drive more…it had better be amazing.”
Heading to Healy Pass
An hour later we were on the road in the rain heading towards the Healy Pass. It was good to relax but it also felt good to be out doing what we do, which is looking at cool stuff.
There was a low layer of fog hanging over the hills. Angie had mastered driving on the wrong side of the road but the twisting turning roads were a challenge.
We turned out onto a huge bowl shaped valley and we both started taking frantic pictures out the window.
“Pull over so we can get out and get good shots,” I said grabbing at the door handle.
“There’s nowhere to pull over.” Angie craned to look ahead of us.
“Just stop in the middle of the road.” I urged. “Nobody’s coming and we’ll just be a minute.”
Angie pulled over as far as she could on the narrow road and we both leaped out. Swirls of condensation hovered over the lush green hilltops. A patchwork of various green squares lay below us. There was still a cool mist in the air and we could hear the loud bleating of sheep echoing through the valley. It was almost like they were doing it on purpose to hear themselves echo.
Ireland Waterfalls, Stone Bridges and Sheep
Several small waterfalls wound their way down the hill towards the lake at the bottom. A couple random sheep dashed around through the foliage.
We got back in the car and were forced to do another roadside stop several miles later when we spotted a fast moving water fall rushing through the rocky hills towards the road. Underneath the road was an old stone arch bridge where the water could continue out on the other side.
Back in the car we continued winding down the road, random sheep dotting the hills.
“Are we even on the actual pass yet?” Angie asked. “Or are we still on the road to get to the pass?”
I studied the map and tried to determine where we actually were.
“Holy moly!” Angie exclaimed.
My eyes darted up towards the road in case there was going to be an accident.
Irish Sheep Farmer In the Road
“I just came around that corner and there was this old farmer looking guy just standing there smiling and waving…he startled me.” She continued, laughing.
I whipped around to look behind us but we were already around the bend.
“Oh yeah…I read about that guy,” I laughed. “There’s a sheep farmer named John who’s usually standing alongside the road that flags people down.”
“What? Are you joking?” Angie cracked up.
“No I’m serious,” I giggled.
“Should we be nervous? What does he want?” Angie asked as she worked the car around a hairpin turn.
“According to the article it says that he wants to have a friendly chat.” I laughed.
We didn’t double back to score the friendly chat but kept going up the road. We screeched to a halt at one stunning waterfall after the next and hopped out for photos. We came to an overlook with a rare spot to pull over off of the road.
The Winding Pass – Healy Pass
There were a couple of plaques describing the history of Healy Pass. The valley spread out before us for miles with the road ahead of us coiling like a black snake through the hills. It was one of my, ‘look with your eyes, love’ moments, where you just need to put down the camera and take in the experience.
“This was definitely worth the drive to get to the drive.” Angie breathed.
“Yeah… I am so glad we came to see this, it is one of my favorite drives so far.” I agreed.
We snaked our way through the hills stopping at several sheep and waterfalls along the way.
The Druid and Molly Gallivan’s Cottage
There was also a gift shop, Molly Gallivan’s Visitor Center at the side of the road which was a welcome stop after all the driving. We loaded up on unique souvenir loot, explored the 200 year old cottage and made our way back to the hotel.
Hunting for Fairy Houses in Ireland
It was still light out, before 8 p.m. and we were still in the mood for a little adventure. We grabbed the trail map from the lobby and decided to explore one of the miles of trails on the property. There were several options available but we couldn’t resist the fairy trail that wound through the thick trees.
It may have been created for kids but we loved it. It was like playing hide-and-seek in the woods, looking for the little fairy houses hidden in tucked away coves and tree nooks. There were little houses behind trees and in clearings and we were thrilled each time we spotted a tiny hidden treasure.
The cool mist permeated the trees and it was starting to get dark. Every time we happened upon a clearing we would dash in, hoping to see a pop of color hidden in the trees, searching high and low. There were several false trails and dead ends, but in the end, we found all 21 tiny fairy houses.
After our extensive fairy hunt we were hungry and had a super nice dinner in the Parknasilla restaurant. There was live music, a woman playing the cello and singing. We relaxed there with a drink listening to the music for a little bit. It was our last night in Ireland and we had to be up at 4 a.m. to make the 2 hour ride in the morning to the airport.
We were looking forward to going home after so much action. We were also so grateful for having been able to have had so many new experiences. We had seen so many new things in nature, stood in centuries-old ruins and been a part of a different culture. We tucked into our comfy beds and dreamed of our next adventure…trying not to think about 4 a.m.
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