From the lively and colorful town of Kinsale, our road trip to Ireland continues toward Killarney. Along the way, must-see stops include the striking Drombeg Stone Circle and the surprising and unexpected Garinish Island, a garden-island just off the coast of Glengarriff.
ALL ARTICLES ABOUT IRELAND
In Kinsale the wake-up call is pleasant and the breakfast at our B&B, the Lemon Leaf Cafe Bar & Townhouse*, is rich and tasty. However, it’s time to leave, so resuming our bags and paying the bill, we load the car and are ready for the next stops! Today we continue first a little further south, to the attractive Drombeg Stone Circle – just a few kilometers from Kinsale – and then north, where we will make a stop to discover the surprising and unexpected garden-island of Garinish, just outside the marina at Glengarriff. Finally, we will end our day in Killarney – in the heart of Killarney National Park – where an enjoyable outdoor adventure awaits us. But we will tell you about that in our next article! Instead, in this article, we tell you about the Drombeg Stone Circle and Garinish Island and give you all the information and some useful tips for planning your visit!
Arriving by airplane
Most travelers choose to reach Ireland by plane. The island’s main airports are located in Dublin and Cork – in the Republic of Ireland – and in Belfast – in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. However, the island is well connected to Switzerland and the rest of Europe by several flights of the national airline Aer Lingus, Swiss* and, of course, the low-cost airline Ryanair. Dublin Airport is located about 11 km north of the city. If you have rented a car, the counters of the major rental companies are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Arriving by ship
Ireland can also be reached by ship, a popular option for those who enjoy on-the-road travel with their own car or caravan. Dublin has two harbor areas: Dun Laoghaire Terminal, southeast of downtown, and Dublin Port Terminal, northeast. Many companies connect the city with the United Kingdom. We suggest Stenaline, Irishferries, P&O Ferries. Alternatively, other companies connect Ireland with France (mainly with Cork, southern Ireland): Irishferries and Brittany Ferries.
Drombeg Stone Circle
Located about an hour’s drive from Kinsale and an hour and a half from Cork, the Drombeg Stone Circle is one of those attractions mysteriously (and fortunately) snubbed by mass tourism. Perhaps it is because it is off the main tourist routes or perhaps it is because the road to get there is rather narrow – so much so that the tour buses cannot access it – the fact is that this interesting place is really little visited, which makes it even more impressive. Dated between 1100 and 800 B.C., it is an ancient circle originally composed of 17 large stones (of which 13 remain today) standing around what was an urn containing the cremated remains of a teenager. Its similarity to the better-known English stone circle – although significantly smaller – earned it the appellative of Ireland’s Stonehenge!
A short distance from the circle are the remains of two huts and a fulacht fiadh, a kind of ancient kitchen. Here the water in a small basin was heated by rolling a few stones inside that were heated by the hearth fire. We don’t know what this tub was used for, but some experiments – highly explained even by the explanatory signs on the spot – have shown that in this way it was possible to bring more than 300 liters of water to a boil in just 18 minutes.
Apart from the historical and mystical aspect, this place is truly fascinating: situated in the middle of a green rock cliff ridge with the ocean in the background, it really deserves a visit, which, moreover, will not take you much time. And if, like us, you’ll be lucky enough to stay there even for a few minutes without anyone else around, you will not regret it! The site is located here and there is also a small parking lot nearby. Admission is, of course, free.
To reach it you will have to put in some effort. Garinish is a small island just off the coast of Glengarriff, so you will not be able to get there by car but only by sea using one of the two tourist transport services to/from the island. However, we assure you that if you do decide to visit it, you will not regret it because although the island is small and can be easily visited in a few hours, it is a true miracle of horticulture created in the early 20th century by making fertile and lush what was at first little more than a rocky cliff in the middle of the ocean. The gardens at Garinish (also known as Garnish or Ilnacullin) are the result of a collaboration between the Bryce family, the family that owned the island at the time, and Harold Peto, an architect and garden designer. Again, as with the Drombeg Stone Circle, this is a lesser-known attraction to mass tourism, but no less interesting. Indeed, it offers a clever mix of historic buildings-some of them unconventional-and lush gardens that are home to natural species you would never expect to find in Ireland.
The Harbour Queen Ferry and Blue Pool Ferry companies connect the island with the mainland at 15-minute intervals during the garden season, which normally runs from April to October. You can then reach the small marina at Glengarriff and park your car. From here, the boat ride takes about 15 minutes, and during the ride you will also get to spot some seals resting on the rocks offshore. Once you reach the island, you can buy the entrance ticket and explore it on your own. You will only need an hour and a half to visit the outdoor spaces, but consider at least half an hour more if you also intend to visit Bryce House – the mansion of the Bryce family precisely – accessible only by guided tour.
On the island you will also find a small café and toilettes. But be careful: no credit or ATM cards are accepted here, so remember to bring some cash with you for the visit and for possible lunch. More information can be found at this link.
Garinish Island is a monumental property managed by the Office of Public Work (OPW). This means that if you have decided to purchase the Heritage Card, you can access it for free. However, we recommend that you always check in advance if a reservation is required for your visit!
The Beara Peninsula is one of the most fascinating in southern Ireland. Many visitors simply discover it by driving along the coastal roads that surround it. Instead, we chose an alternative route that leaves the coast and continues along the Route 574 to reach Healy Pass. As you continue toward the pass, you will have access to a magnificent view: green, barren hills surrounding the small, dark Barley Lake, a small lake of glacial origin nestled among the mountains.