Ireland - This land's wildness, mysteries and brilliant
shades of green make it one of the Earth's natural wonders.
A horse named Misty took me swiftly on a tour of fancy.
I rode over Ireland like a conqueror claiming hitherto unseen
With a group of six other tourist and one guide I rode around
Killarney's Lower Lake. Afterward down the Iveragh
Peninsula through the Ring of Kerry, traipsing through terrain
only the hardiest hikers could tackle, seeing scenery denied
to buses and cars.
on the Beach
Then we did what one can experience only on horseback,
a gallop on the beach.
It is an experience available to everyone, even those
who have never set foot ina stirrop before.
Misty belongs to Killarney riding Stables in County Kerry,
Ireland's south western most region. The town of Killarney thrives because it is near three pure
and brilliant lakes at the edge of Macgillicuddy's Reeks,
Ireland's tallest mountain range. Yet the town's population
extends hospitality unmatched by most other cities whose
sole commodity is tourism. Donal O'Sullivan, 42, owns Killarney
riding Stables. After a dozen years of renting out
horses for short afternoon treks, O'Sullivan started his
seven-day, 100 mile Killarney Reeks Trail holidays in 1982.
He also offers three-day minitrails covering any part of
the weeklong route. Both packages include lodging,
meal and transfer of luggage. Killarney Reeks Trail is open
to all comers, not just tour groups; O'Sullivan runs the
trail even if only one person signs up.
tour often consists of people from Europe, South and
North America; many participants only get acquainted
with each other when they gather at the barn.
horses of legendary Irish stock past exhilarating scenery
herds strangers into a close camaraderie. Even language
barriers do not interfere with the good time. Aside from
the variety in ages and nationalities, Killarney Reeks Trail
caters to all levels of riding experience. By the
end of the second day, O' Sullivan said, first - time riders
are settled into the necessary procedures, with the trail
guide giving lessons and suggestions along the way, instilling
confidence. Nevertheless, riders may skip any leg of the
journey that might be taxing. People of "reasonable physical
fitness" can take the complete trail, O' Sullivan said.
Everybody gets sore, experience and novice alike, but muscles
incapacitate, and the scenery soon subdues the physical
senses. The only preparation needed for Killarney Reeks
Trail is to buy riding boots and jodhpurs, though blue jeans
work fine. O' Sullivan supplies the riding hat.
He also supplies the horses. Horse Matched to Rider
After casual conversation, O' Sullivan matches the appropriate
horse to the personality and skill level of each rider.
These horses become more than just a means of transportation;
like our human companions on the trail, Misty and her colleagues
become our buddies. At the end of each day's ride O' Sullivan
joins groups over pints of stout and pots of tea to discuss
the trail and cater to his charges' comfort. The after-trail
drinking, in fact, took more out of the riders in our group
than the 17 miles a day on horseback. O' Sullivan hospitality,
horse sense and service still proved to be only subtle supplements
to the trail's overriding attraction; the sights and sounds
of Ireland. The first day's trekking was to get us used
to horses and vice versa while exploring the lush, lake-endowed
land around Killarney. We rode around the shores of
Killarney's Lough Leane (the lake of learning), know more
commonly as Lower Lake. After first stopping at Innisfallen,
an evergreen-covered island containing the remains of an
11th Century monastery, we rode past Ross Castle, a stone
fortress ruin from the early 15th Century.
not a grand structure along the order of romantic
Welsh, feudal English or eccentric German castles,
Ross Castle does add a dose of Irish mystery to the
lake's natural attributes.
Ross Castle once was home to Prince O' Donoghue, whose
misguided attempts at attaining eternal youth by magic
resulted in his jumping from the castle's tower into
now has a kingdom below the waters of Lough Leane, and on
some days you can see his golden city from a boat.
One look at the rainbows rising from the lake adds credence
to the tale. O' Donoghue himself is said to rise from the
lake in May, clad in brilliant armor on his white steed.
After a lunch if sandwiches, scones. apples and soda on
the lake shore, we rode into the Knockreer Estate, a park
on a hill overlooking the lake and laced with bridle paths.
turn up the hill offered an ever-expanding view of
Lough Leane and its crown of mountains. These bare-domed mountains literally appeared purple
under the misty skies, while all around us lay emerald
pastureland, with grazing horses that must have had
legs shorter on one side to be able to stand on the
second day we started our trek to the Ring of Kerry and
up the mountains. Heading for Lake Caragh, we rode
through a landscape in constant change, with overhead
cloud formations bathing a hillside on our right in a
splash of sunlight and forming a halo over a valley to
our left. The trail first followed the main highway along
Lake Caragh to the Devil's Elbow, a dangerous curve (in
a car) with a view of the lake, Dingle Bay and mountains
of Dingle Peninsula in the background. Farther up the
road we turned onto a lane of pavement battered more by
time and elements than by heavy use. This lane meandered
through rocky pasture where tiny, timid rams and annoyed
cattle shared the tundra among scattered boulders. We
now we were in the Ring of Kerry. The normal route
for cars and coaches is a highway that runs along the
Dingle Bay shore, then cuts across Iveragh Peninsula at
the end of the mountain range. They drive around
the Ring of Kerry. We were surrounded by it.
The only tourists who drive where we rode are the ones
who get lost trying to make some sense out of Ireland's
road signs. The most heart-seizing view of the day, though,
came that afternoon after a picnic ina stand of trees
by the Caragh River. Our guide led us onto a road
that disappeared upa mountain. The mountain's name is
Seefin, and it rounds off at 1,621 feet, almost 1,600
feet higher than the picnic area we had just left. From
the valley this dome appeared rich brown, but as we ascended
we rode through a landscape of Picasso colors; dabs of
white in the sheep, grey in the boulders on a field of
green brush, with specks of yellow and purple flowers.
road soon became a rutted farm land, and after passing
through a gate we rode a stony grass track up the
mountain to a bouldered alleyway known as Windy Gap
near Seefin's summit.
No stress on Rider.
The horses did all the straining, leaving us free
to sightsee as we passed through the hgap.
Windy Gap opened onto a view of Glenbeigh and its narrow
valley, a slice of green wedged into a ring of golden
mountains. Beyond, Dingle Bay lay like a sequined fabric
of blue glittering in the sun, with sandy beaches forming
a tan, felt-tip pen outline. More gold was heaped
in the row of Slive Mish Mountains across the bay, the
backdrop to this moment. The ancient gods would have made
this pass their home so they could while away the ages
staring at the mortals' domain below, down where the scenic
route takes motoring tourists around the Ring of Kerry.
The three-mile gallop on Rossbeigh Beach came on the third
morning. It seemed that we were floating down the beach
at Mach 2.5 (we were 'flying' at 25 m.p.h.) surrounded
by Ireland's primitive landscape. We rode to Coomasaharn
Lake for lunch, where the sun shone from above and below,
its intensity reflected in the water. The name for this
body of water is Irish for Horseshoe Lake, set as it is
at the foot of Coomacarrea, a horseshoe-shaped mountain
that is 2,000 feet of angled cliff from lake surface to
sky. The lake has only one access point, a road-com-lane-cum-path
from Glenbeigh. Its isolation made Coomasaharn ideal
for lunch in a setting where one could bask in the recollection
of the morning gallop. This was the end of my minitrail;
the rest of the group were continuing on theseven day
trail. Despite what I had experienced, I was told I was
missing the most interesting scenery of the trail - farther
down the Iveragh Peninsula to the beaches of the Atlantic.
I found that hard to believe. I couldn't fathom how anything
could surpass the ever-changing views of Lough Leane,
the scene form devil's Elbow, the ride through Seefin's
Windy Gap, the gallop on Glenbeigh Beach or lunch at Coomascarrea.
I took my farewells from our guide, the group, O'Sullivan
and my good buddy Misty, I embraced them all, just as
I had embraced them all, just as I had embraced the land
Killarney Riding Stables,
00353 64 66 31686
Fax: 00353 64 66 34119
Telephone: 011 353 64 66 31686
Fax: 011 353 64 66 34119
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