We left the B&B early in the morning for a long drive to Killarney, where we dropped the car off at the airport there, and took a cab into town to join our Classic Journeys walking group. There were 8 people including ourselves, plus our guide, Donal O'Sullivan and our driver John Sheehan who has his own van equipped for several passengers - he also uses it as a school bus. We go right in the bus and drove out to Torc Waterfall, and then to a scencic view of the Killarney Lakes where we had a picnic lunch. From there we went on to our "warm-up walk" on the Old Kenmare Road, one of the old 19th century (and earlier) roads in the area. These roads are no more than rutted lanes really, used for walking today and previously used by horses, carts, sheep, and walkers. They are rutted, hilly, wet, and full of stones - difficult to walk on for someone with multifocal glasses, with the "reading" lens at the bottom where one needs to see the path clearly in order to know where to step! There are few trees in the area, especially as we hike higher in elevation; the soil seems poor, and although it is very green and grassy on the fields, it is also very stony sheep pasture, divided by low stone walls. We found the walks to be tiring and requiring much concentration.
A very interesting and moving site along the way was a "famine village", ruins of a few very small rectangular cottages or cabins - just low stone walls remaining, from prior to 1850. Whole families and their animals would sleep in these houses, and the land was entirely owned by English landlords, with tenancy-at-will. The Penal Laws had been imposed by England in an attempt to erase the Catholic Church in Ireland in the previous centuries, with taxes being levied to support just the Church of Ireland (Anglican). Catholic churches were closed, priests went into hiding. Mass was celebrated in secret places, and Catholics could not own property or go on to higher schooling! Gaelic was not allowed to be spoken officially, and only English was taught. "Hedge schools", under bushes, were held anyway, to keep the Gaelic culture and language alive.
In order to penalize a family for having too many children, the small rented parcels had to be divided among all the sons equally - which meant smaller and smaller plots of land for growing potatoes to feed a family. In the late 1840's, potato blight appeared severely for three consecutive years, killing the potato plants overnight. People starved to death in droves, being laid on mass graves. The English, meanwhile, were exporting corn and other crops out of Ireland, and letting the Irish starve. Some soup kitchens and poorhouses were provided, but many landlords were happy to have the peasants out of the way - either by death or emigration. Some landlords provided a one-way ticket to America! These "famine villages", then, were deserted during or shortly after the famine, leaving only some ruins to remind us that they had ever been there.
At the end of this hike of several miles, we were met by the van and taken to our excellent hotel for the next two nights in Kenmare. Dinner was at the Lime tree Restaurant in Kenmare, and was exquisite.