Having been in Ireland for only 24 hours and already feeling like we'd experienced an entire vacation, I just got more excited for the adventures in store. We headed to the lovely, small town of Kinsale for our second night. Kinsale is a beautiful, small port town with a history of human habitation back to the Stone Age. But in more modern times, ten miles off of Kinsale is where the Lusitania was torpedoed. We stayed at what ended up being our favorite B&B for the whole trip, Cloisters B&B, a recently redecorated gem of a place. Our stay was all too brief since we'd spent a little extra time at the Old Midleton Distillery, and we were headed on to another town the following morning. But we enjoyed walking around Kinsale in the evening, had a great dinner, and headed for our nightly, pub music ritual. The pubs in town were packed with music that was a little more screechy than we like, but we finally stumbled upon a pub with great music coming out of it and only four people sitting around listening. We scored a front row table and spent an enjoyable hour, during which time only four more people came in. We were even more confused by the lack of patrons when we walked back to the B&B and saw all the crowds spilling out of every pub. No matter, we gained.
Leaving all too early the next morning, we took the coastal route along the southwestern coast, as our B&B proprietor suggested. This took us right by the Dromberg Stone Circle, a set of 17 standing stones (ala Stonehenge, but not as big) that mark the winter solstice. There are also the remains of a hut and a really neat cooking pit in which heated rocks were placed to boil water, and experiments have shown the water stays hot for three hours. The stone circle sits in the middle of the countryside, with fields and hills stretching out. As happens in Italy, my thoughts turned to the people who once lived in the hut. What was the stone circle really for? Who lived in the hut? What was their landscape like then? But then the rain started back up and we rushed back to the car.
Lunch was a quick stop in the colorful, seaside town of Bantry. We found out that about 35 years ago, Ireland had a "Tidy Town" competition, so lots of towns painted their white buildings bright colors. That trend apparently stuck, and every town we visited was chock full of charm with vibrantly colored main streets and fun, painted advertisements on the sides of buildings.
We had no idea our route was taking us over a mountain range until we found ourselves in the most beautiful, mountain pass and driving through tunnels cut into the mountain - rough hewn tunnels with waterfalls pouring down their sides. Thankfully, the road was very quiet with little oncoming traffic, so Nathan was able to enjoy the view as well. We'd planned to stop at a sheep farm on our way, but as we left the B&B in the morning, we decided that rather than filling the day with multi-hour stops, we preferred to meander, stop at scenic overlooks, have a leisurely lunch, and literally, slow down to enjoy the ride.