Category Archives: Ireland

Irish Travels: a castle, farmers’ market finds, the beautiful Dingle peninsula, and a harrowing mountain pass

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This day was one of our favorites and I can’t wait to share the photos of all the amazing things we saw.

But let’s start with the most important meal of the day. Breakfast at The Last Cottage was awesome. I had eggs benedict and Wes had porridge (oatmeal) with Bailey’s. Mine was good, but I have to tell you, I had major breakfast envy over this porridge. It was served in a big wide bowl with a teeny mug of Bailey’s to pour on top. The Bailey’s sweetened the porridge perfectly. It was just divine. Then we thought to ourselves, hmmm, we have Bailey’s and oatmeal at home. Why don’t we do this every weekend?

After breakfast we wanted to check out some of the shops in Dingle but they mostly didn’t open until 10, so we doubled back on our path from yesterday to visit Minnard Castle. The ruins themselves were not that spectacular, but the setting on the beach was not to be beat. On the horizon is the Iveragh Penninsula (Ring of Kerry.) The beach was protected by a large ring of stones. (These photos didn’t stitch together quite perfectly, still getting the hang of using photostitch to do these panoramas.)

Once back into town we lucked out and came across the farmers’ market (open Fridays.) The bread! The cheese! The handmade chocolates!

I would thoroughly enjoy another (dozen or so) of those lemon mint truffles. Mmmm. We picked up provisions including some apples for snacking in the car later.

We explored the shops in Dingle and I think the shopping here and in Kenmare was the best of any town we visited. (As I mentioned in my Day 3 post, good shopping=good quality, handcrafted stuff made locally, using local materials if possible.) We even purchased a couple of art prints which I’ll reveal in a future post.

We also popped back to take a photo of Dick Mack’s pub in the daylight, where we enjoyed spending much of our evening in Dingle.

Satisfied with our purchases in Dingle town, we headed out towards the peninsula loop.

The weather was perfect. Clear and sunny with a little breeze. The water all around the peninsula was a dreamy Carribean-esque blue. I never expected the coast to be so dazzling.

Pastures, livestock, and stone walls abounded. In the photo below you can see some of the tropical-ish flora native to Ireland due to the mild weather.

It was just beautiful coastal view after beautiful coastal view.

There were few tourists and no tour buses.

We stopped to see the ancient beehive huts. They were so tall you could actually stand up inside.

We came to a spot in the road designed as an “upside down bridge.”

Should we ford the river or caulk the Hyundai and float it across? Obviously, there wasn’t really a choice here but it still felt very Oregon Trail. I hope you’re forever grateful that I actually got out the car to photodocument this for you.

Some more beautiful views as we near the tip of the peninsula.

Off the tip of the peninsula are the Great Blasket Islands. As many as 160 Irish lived out on these islands until 1953.

Life on the Great Blaskets was no picnic. Irish who grew crops here would row boats to the mainland and then hike 12 miles into Dingle carrying their wares to sell. There was no priest, pub or doctor on the island, not to mention lights, phones, or cars. There were harsh storms to contend with, but the sea provided food and residents were able to survive the Great Famine because they were not entirely dependent on the potato. The population dwindled as young people emmigrated, often to America, until eventually the Irish government evacuated the remaining residents in 1953. All that remains on the islands to date are ruined cottages.

The Great Blasket Centre is worth a stop. (It’s on the mainland, 4 euro entry. Though we didn’t, you can travel to the the islands themselves-several local tour companies offer daily crossings, weather-permitting.) There are tons of photos, artifacts. and it really gives you a sense of the storytelling nature of this isolated Irish subculture. There were a number of renowned Irish writers from the Blaskets who had a knack for sharing about the people’s closeness to nature.

“I sat down on the bank above the beach where I had a splendid view all around me. Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.” -Peig Sayers

The Dingle Peninsula loop road was just like you see below-cliffside, curvy, and narrow. Passing the little oncoming traffic there was was interesting but not stressful because it was so uncrowded.

More beautiful views.

In the village of Dunquin there were many ruined homes that were abandoned in the famine. In the pastures off to the right of the road you could see faint ridges of potato beds remaining from 1845-the fields have been untouched since this failed famine crop.

That about rounds out the highlights of the Dingle Peninsula drive.  The guidebook had a great kilometer by kilometer self guided tour which added a lot of context to some of the things we saw. This peninsula drive was my favorite thing we did on our trip. The entire drive including stopping everywhere and spending an hour at the Great Blasket Centre was about half a day.

Once we finished the peninsula loop, we took the Conor Pass enroute to Ennis, our final destination for the day. The Conor Pass is not for the faint of heart, but we were old pros by this point. Not only had Wes perfected his “keep left” driving ability, he has also somehow picked up a slight Irish accent. I practiced the only Gaelic phrase I know, “Go Mall”  (“Slow.”)

At the apex of the pass were stunning views of two different bays in opposite directions.

See the sheepie in the photo below? How did he get there? He’s on top of a 500 foot tall steep mountain.

There was a pulloff by a small waterfall.

The guidebook promised a “fun five minute scramble” would lead us to a “dramatic glacier created lake.” Indeed it did.

Not to mention, the breathtaking view over the Conor pass itself.

Once back in the car some more of these guys made an appearance in the roadway.

Next, we passed through Tralee and took a drive by windmill photo.

Then it was smooth sailing to Tarbert where we took the car ferry over the River Shannon to Killimer. I think this was the best 18 euro we ever spent because it saved us about 80 miles of driving.

A little bit of rain here, but Wes captured this photo of the sun peeking through the clouds.

Once across the Shannon, we were upon Ennis, our destination for the evening and our 4th stop on the map below.

Next up: we visit the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren on our way to Galway, so check back soon!

Cheers,

Christine

You might also like:  Pack your suitcase: IrelandIrish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roadsIrish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruinsIrish Travels: a star shaped fort, garden island, mountain pass, and a true Irish pub experience

Irish Travels: a star shaped fort, garden island, mountain pass, and a true Irish pub experience

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We started the morning with a lovely breakfast at The Olde Bakery. Breakfast was served at a big table in the cozy eat-in kitchen.  The innkeepers, Chrissie and Tom, introduced us to the other two couples staying at the BnB and we chatted over a spread over fresh fruit, local cheeses, and freshly baked brown bread.  (The cheese was to die for!) After a few minutes spent in the homey living room petting the house dogs, we set out to check out Charles Fort.

Kinsale Harbor was gorgeous in the daylight. We stopped to look out over the harbor. The small pair of binoculars I brought along to keep in the car were perfect for such occasions.

We parked near Charles Fort around 9, but the Fort technically didn’t open until 10. But technically  the gate wasn’t locked. So we sauntered on in to check it out. Ruins of the Fort were well preserved and there were beautiful harbor views on three sides.

I liked these moss covered tunnels.

After a little while, some construction guys seemed to be on to us so we jetted out of there. On the bright side, we saved eight euro. Perhaps if we had had the tour we would know what the heck these things are? Anyone?

The plan for the rest of the day was to take a boat to Garnish Island to explore the gardens and then drive through the Healy Pass through the Beara Peninsula, which was recommended as a nice scenic drive by the guidebook . Enroute we stopped through the town of Macroom, described as a “colorful market town.” Pretty accurate I think.

Despite the creepy candyman vibe in picture, this candy shop we found had pretty apothecary jars stuffed with sweets  surrounding the walls and some yummy gourmet chocolate bars which we, of course, had to sample.

On our way to Garnish Island we stopped to explore some random ruins (they’re everywhere).

Next stop, Garnish Island. We took the Harbor Queen ferry from Glengariff and arrived on the island after a 20 minute ride past a whole bunch of seals.

You know, the guy in the front sort of reminds me of someone.

Definitely a resemblance. Especially in the way he raised his head to look at us as we passed, and then went right back to sleep.

Once on the Island we explored the extensive gardens and Martello tower.

The Martello tower was really neat – 360 degree views and when you stood in the inside, directly in the center, the sound was strangely amplified off the rounded ceiling. This is what the inside of the tower looks like, looking straight up at the ceiling.

The teeny tiny spiral staircase.

Here’s a shot of the Italian garden taken from the porch of the mansion on the island.

Beautiful bay views abound.

Blue boat at low tide.

After a short trip back to the mainland, we were on our way to the Beara Peninsula. The guidebook recommended that on limited time, a drive over the Healy Pass was a good bet. Watch out for sheep.

Looks twisty, yes?

You ain’t seen nothing yet. Check out the view from the top of the pass looking back. It reminds me of a candyland board minus the sugarplums.

From the same vantage point, right behind us was a view of a large lake and bay in the distance.

Our next pass through was Kenmare-an adorable market town with brightly colored shops that I would definitely recommend as a good town to spend a night and half a day in. We were just passing through, but stopped to wander the shops. There was some really good shopping in Kenmare. By good shopping, I mean lots of  locally made, handcrafted stuff. There were beautiful wool scarves, sweaters, textiles, art galleries, cheese shops, bakeries…I could go on. Here we bought a small original watercolor painting and a couple of prints in addition to some delicious mild sheep’s milk cheese and fresh bread. I’ll share all about our Irish purchases in a future post.

Wesley insisted we visit the ancient stone circle. He was actually excited about it. We put our two euro in the honesty box and checked it out. It turned out to be just a bunch of big stones. In a circle. Shocking, right? It’s thought that the stones are oriented to align with certain solar or lunar events.

Next we passed through Killarney, which could have been anytown USA. If you want to stay nearby to do the Ring of Kerry, you don’t want to stay here with the chain hotels and fast food. Stay in Kenmare. Kilarney National Park was nice to drive through, though. We stopped at a waterfall and a handful of other look outs.

There was plenty of mountain scenery to go around, more random ruins, and, of course, plenty of sheep.

We checked in at The Last Cottage, our BnB in Dingle. The room was tiny, but had a great view of Dingle Bay.

Dingle is in the Gaeltacht region of Ireland, which means the government encourages and subsidizes the use of Irish Gaelic. Road signs are in Gaelic and the language is spoken more widespread. We would occasionally walk by people on the streets speaking Gaelic.

After a dinner of pub grub accompanied by some traditional music at a restaurant near the harbor. We visited a couple of other pubs, following our ears for music. At Dick Mack’s we were greeted by Philip, the self appointed welcoming committee. We chatted with Philip and the rest of the regulars and had a most enjoyable evening.

On the map, you can see we’ve made it to our 3rd stop.

Next up: We visit Minnard Castle right on the beach, explore Dingle town, and spend most of the day on the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula, so don’t forget to check back!

Cheers,

Christine

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Irish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins

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We woke up our second day feeling refreshed and ready to explore. After a lovely breakfast at our BnB, Diamond Hill Country House, we set out for Waterford to check out the crystal factory and sights. Once in town we discovered our digital SLR camera was out of batteries because someone left it on. (My bad). Womp womp. A shopkeeper offered to let us charge the battery at his store, and we weren’t even buying anything!  So most of the Waterford pictures I have were mostly taken with our backup point and shoot camera, which I was glad I brought along.

We stopped at a bakery to buy some fresh bread for our picnic lunch and the baker told us we must definitely see the artisans making colored blown glass figurines and such at a particular glassworks. He proceeded to give us some rather convoluted directions to said glass blowing place and we had trouble following them. (Asking the Irish for directions is always interesting.) Just as we were about to give up, by some stroke of luck, we stumbled upon it and were so glad that we did.

I watched one of the craftsman make a blown glass penguin with blue and clear glass inside the studio. After he finished, I joined Wes over in front of one of the display cases which was filled with fire department memorabilia and the most remarkable engraved glass sculpture.

The artist, Sean Egan, noticed our interest and came over to talk with us. It turns out that he used to be an engraver with Waterford Crystal, but when the manufacturing in Waterford shut down in 2009, he was laid off. Soon after, he started his own glassworks, Sean Egan Art Glass. When Waterford wanted him to come back, he actually turned them down. While he was still with Waterford he worked on a larger version of the same engraved sculpture that was in front of us. The sculpture was a 9/11 tribute, depicting the FDNY firefighters carrying the body of fire department Chaplain, Father Mychal Judge from the steel wreckage. Sean told us how that when 9/11 happened, we Americans thought that we were all alone. But every other country felt for us, stood with us. The Irish stood with us.  I was so touched, I actually cried.

There’s some better photos on Sean’s website, Sean Egan Art Glass. Here’s an article about Sean donating one of the sculptures to FDNY.

In 2009, Waterford Crystal closed down their big factory and outsourced most of their crystal making. Most of the specialty commissioned pieces are still created at the scaled down factory in Ireland, though I suspect that this is mostly so the visitor tour can operate. The tour is regularly 12 euro, but if you stop in at the tourist office, you can get a county guide with a 2 for 1 coupon. For the 2 for 1 price, it was worth it.

We watched the craftsmen blow glass bowls and sand off the rough edges.

Next they marked lines on each pieces and engraved them by hand. There are a finite number of engraving patterns that each craftsman learns as an apprentice (I think it was 6 or 7) and these patterns can be used in different combinations to make an infinite number of different designs.

  

The neatest things they made were some of the custom pieces. They use wood molds for stuff they are only making one or a few of. There was even a crystal fire helmet that was actually commissioned for Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera (below right).  I liked the Cinderella carriage too.

  

Oh my god-the gift shop. Major candelier envy. Someday I want to own a set of cut crystal wine glasses. Everything was really just stunning. We’ll take one of each, thanks.

On our way out of Waterford we happened to drive past the fire station. Being huge dorks, of course we stopped. The guys were happy to show us around and let us take pictures. Actually, they insisted on taking our picture. And then they gave me a t-shirt. Seriously, the Irish are the nicest people on the planet.

We left Waterford and detoured inland to visit the spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins. And was the detour worth it. These ruins were the most spectacular man-made thing we saw on our entire trip. I think it was only 6 euro to enter. The ruins are perched up on a big hill overlooking the town and countryside. The cathedral was fought over for hundreds of years until 1101 when Mutagh O’Brien strategically donated it to the church.

The scale of the ruins is hard to convey in a photograph, but I’m going to try. This is a view from inside the main cathedral, looking up.

The exterior of Cormac’s Chapel was being restored when we visited, but you could still go inside to view the frescoes (rare in Ireland) and stonework. The frescoes were covered with whitewash at one time and were painstakingly restored. The archway below is actually covered with little heads. Supposedly their expressions get more angelic as they go up, but I think they all look a little creepy.

My favorite part was the huge corner of the wall that fell in 1848 during what they called “Night of the Big Wind.”

It wasn’t just the scale of the place, but the detail work too. Apparently, whenever I see intricately carved stone I have to touch it.

The ruins were surrounded by old gravestones, idyllic pastures, and even more ruins (outside the stone wall, see picture at the top of this post). Inside the mini museum was a photo and the guestbook that Queen Elizabeth signed when she visited in 2011. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “So what, what’s the big deal?” Well, it was a freaking big deal. Prior to the Queen’s visit in 2011, no British monarch had visited Ireland since Irish independence 100 years before. I’ll tell you more about what we learned about Irish history when we get to Dublin. Also found in the museum-more cowbell?

  

We tried to visit the Jameson Distillery for a tour, but just missed the last one. I was sort of fascinated by this bottle light fixture in the gift shop. No whiskey tasting for us-on to Kinsale.

When we arrived in Kinsale we dropped off our stuff at our BnB,  The Olde Bakery. The house was charming and host Chrissie was so sweet and happy to welcome us. We had dinner at The Stolen Pizza, which was conveniently right across the street and deliciously amazing. Very reasonably priced, we enjoyed one of the specials which was a seafood pasta dish. The restaurant seemed a little understaffed, but we didn’t mind lingering in the cozy restaurant. You come in on the top floor of a loft and look down over the seated diners surrounded by stone walls with a fireplace at the front of the room. They had a spectacular chandelier too. (Anyone else noticing my sudden fascination with light fixtures?) Anyway-really just a very nice setting. The photo below is the best the point and shoot could do-showing the view from the loft.

After dinner we explored town a bit. We window shopped through a light drizzle (most of the stores were closed as it was late). Wes admired this print.

I liked the brightly colored buildings and architectural details like these hinges.

  

At the pub, I attempted to drink an entire pint of Bulmers. An English pint is 23 ounces, so quit judging me. It was a lot. From here on, I stuck to a “glass” which is half a pint (or just went with the Bailey’s and coffee. Mmm.)

If you’ve ever had the hard apple cider Magners here in the states, Bulmers is the same thing. The bartender told us when the company went to export the cider to England, they already had a cider named Bulmers there (small world I guess), so they had to change the name to Magners for export. Logo and lettering are exactly the same, just the different name! After a nightcap, we walked back along the harbor and up the hill to our BnB.

Following our progress on the map, we’ve made our second stopover in Kinsale.

Coming up: Exploring Charles Fort in Kinsale, traveling by boat to Garnish Island, our first mountain pass, stopping through Kenmare, an adorable market town, and our first listen to traditional music while overnighting in Dingle.

Cheers,

Christine

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Irish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roads

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At 5:30 in the morning we landed in Dublin, bright eyed and bushy tailed. We picked up the rental car (including it’s uber essential GPS) at the airport counter first thing. The woman at the rental car counter told us we could get a diesel car for the same price as a regular fuel car (diesel fuel is cheaper, so if you have the option-get the diesel), we were like, sweet! The car we got, however, actually wasn’t diesel. Luckily we noticed that it was regular fuel on the key chain before we put the wrong type in, because that could have been a major bummer, yeah?

Driving through Dublin was stressful, especially when you have just picked up your rental car and you haven’t slept and have never before driven on the left side of the road. We safely navigated thorugh several weird traffic circles (whew!) before coming to a tunnel of some sort. Near panic attack. 10 euro toll to go through the tunnel, but thankfully they took credit cards because we had exactly zero euro. We neglected to stop at an ATM before leaving the airport, clearly a near catastrophic mistake. A mile down the road was another toll. We had to park and get out of the car to pay them in credit here, but the toll collector was very understanding. Once out of Dublin, the going was a little easier. We stopped in the beachside town, Bray, for a breather. We snapped a few photos on the rocky beach there and continued on our way to find breakfast.

We intended to visit the Powerscourt gardens first, so we stopped enroute in the town Enniscourt for breakfast. Fortified with eggs, pancakes and (lots of) coffee we figured out our route of travel for the day. The proprieter of the cafe was very nice and made a point of telling us that we must definitely not miss the monastic ruins at Glendalough on our way to Waterford. If an Irishman reccomends it, it must be good. We decided to head there after the gardens.

The Powerscourt gardens was like being a a manicured forest surrounded by walled gardens. There was not a weed anywhere on the whole property. We took a stroll through there (I think the entrance fee was 6 euro per person) and admired the statues, small castle tower, rose garden, fountains, and view of Sugarloaf Mountain. You can cover the grounds in about 30-45 minutes, even on the “long” walk.

I thought this status looked like it was surfing. In the nude. Interesting choice.

You could actually climb to the top of the castle tower and look out over the forest and Sugarloaf Mountain, which was neat. I feel like Rapunzel should live in there. (Ironically, I watched Tangled on the plane.)

There were some freaking huge trees. A lot were even taller than the castle; they towered over you even while at the top. Makes me really want to see the redwoods in California some day. There was a really awkward picture of me hugging this tree that I spared you from. You’re welcome.

There was also a weird and old but strangely interesting pet cemetery. There were stones in there from the 1700s.

My favorite part was the walled perennial gardens. It felt very Secret Garden to me, which I love. Despite the rep Ireland has for being cold all the time, it’s actually rather temperate in the winter and it rarely snows, so lots of tropical-ish plants can flourish. (In the summer the weather is around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.) Speaking of the weather, no Irish rain for us as of yet!

This the the view facing towards where the first garden picture was taken, toward the grand house you enter through.

We took the Military road over Sally Gap on our way to Glendalough. This was the best ever first day decision because while the road was winding and a little narrow (great for getting used to the roads in the rest of the country), the terrain was such that you could see any other car coming from a good distance away. It was the perfect road for Wes to hone his driving-on-the-wrong-sode-of-the-road skills and for me to hone my keep-left shouting skills. The scenery was nice; lots of greenery, mountains, and sheep. Compared to some of the mountain passes and seaside cliff roads we traversed later on our journey, it was easy street. (We’ll get to all this good stuff later.)

As the guidebook suggests, don’t think of it as our side of the road and their side of the road, it’s just the road. That sounds really touchy feely, like yay-sharing! Until you are coming up on an opposing car withstone walls on either side and vegetation right up next time/invading the road. It gets a little hairy at that point. Pur strategy was to slow down, go as far left as possible and try not to die. It seemed to work.

One of the coolest things we saw this day was a stream running down a steep embankment down from the road and meandering through the fields below. I couldn’t figure out how to make my photos panoramic, but you can get the gist below. (I’ll have to ask Wes to show me because I know the computer does it, then I can post the panoramas.)

Next, we arrived at Glendalough (pronounced Glen-Da-Lock), really old ruins of a really old monastery. We were too tired to peruse the small museum there, so I can’t tell you if it was worthwhile or not, but the stopover itself definately was. Our first view of the ruins was from a small bridge over a picturesque stream where we could see the small round tower through the woods.

There was also some really ancient tombstones which Wes was particularly interested in.

I was really into the  patterns on the Celtic crosses. We want to do a stained glass transom over our front door and I’ll be looking back at these images for some inspiration.

Once we finished wandering the ruins and skillfully avoiding the small tourist trap alley where I imagine one could purchase crappy t-shirts and plastic shamrocks, we headed up the mountain where there were some more monastic ruins. These were not in as nearly good of shape as the ones below, but it was still fun to wander. There was literally no nobody else at these ruins, so we had the place to ourselves, and it had a great view back down the mountain.

When traveling in Ireland, don’t hesitate to stop when you see something neat. We saw a church off to the side of some random road and when we stopped to take a gander found a trail leading down to a creek, a rickety old bridge, and a small shrine to the Virgin Mary.

I think the water color comes from the peat. It looks like the water from the cliffside stream we stopped at on the Military road.

From Glendalough, it was basically a straight shot on the motorway (read: 120kph (75 mph) speed limit, boring highway) to Waterford. Due to our severe lack of sleep, driving this distance on this big ass highway was probably a little unsafe. Cue more coffee. If I had to do it over, it would probably be best to stay somewhere a little closer to Dublin or to do our couple of days in Dublin first (we did ours at the end). Even driving along the highway, every now and again there were some random ruins on the side of the road. That’s how they roll in Ireland.

We did do a little stopover in Kilkenny to take a couple of pictures outside the castle. (Like most castles we visited, we found it wasn’t really necessary to go inside for the full tour, so we saved the 6 euro.)

Wes was insistent that we take a photo to send to the Merchandiser, the local ad newspaper. He pulled the most recent copy out of his bag and all I could say was, “You actually PACKED that?!” Yes, yes he did. Because everyone reads the Merch, or so they say in the weekly travel photo section. And also because if you send in your photo, holding said paper in an exotic local, and they publish it they send you $25. So we set up our tripod with everyone staring at us and took an obligatory Merch photo.

We arrived at our BnB, Diamond Hill Country House, which was just outside Waterford at around 7pm. There were beautiful gardens in the front yard. We were the only guests at the time and they upgraded our room to this guy for no charge.

Photo from the Diamond Hill Country House website.

There was a huge bathtub and I took a very relaxing bath. Breakfast the next morning was nice. We tried the full Irish breakfast (you have to, at least once). There were eggs, bacon, sausage, a broiled tomato and white and black pudding. The puddings are like little sausages that were shaped like mini muffins. They were ok, but I think I’m just a bacon girl at heart (as evidenced here.)

The next day the innkeeper spent 10 or 15 minutes telling us all about the best things to see in Ireland. We took careful notes and headed into Waterford town to see the sights. When we left, we left our electic plug adaptor thing in the room. The innkeeper tracked us down in Waterford, which is several miles away, to give it back. He was such a nice guy and went out of his way (literally) to help us. As I’ll tell you about, so will most Irish.

Following our progress on the map below, we’ve made it to our first stopover in Waterford. Coming up: Day 2 in Ireland. Waterford city, The Rock of Cashel (not to be missed!), and arrival in Kinsale. Check back!

Cheers,

Christine

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Pack your suitcase: Ireland

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Ok get ready, I’m taking you on an awesome trip. Well, not literally, but as close to literally as possible. Wes and I spent 8 days travelling in Ireland exploring the countryside and taking a lot of pictures of sheep, the ocean, and ruined castles and I’m going to tell you all about it. The country is greener than green, the countryside and coasts are gorgeous, and there are a lot of sheep. Not a day went by that we didn’t see at least a few sights that made us say WOW.

Planning your own trip? It’s not cheap, let’s be real. Anytime you fly across an ocean, there’s a lot of investment, so stay at least a week (plan for spending two days travelling). We rented a car and stayed in BnB’s throughout out trip (BnB’s are actually cheaper that hotels in Ireland, unlike in the US, where they’re often considered more luxurious). I’ve shared a few planning tips below and our overall itinerary. I’ll be back with the day by day details and tons more pictures in later posts, so check back.

Book airfare. I suggest using kayak.com, especially if you know you want to travel in a certain window, but don’t care exactly which days you fly. It saved us $200 or $300 to leave on a Monday as opposed to a Saturday.

Hire a car. We used Alamo, but they were a little incompetent, so maybe try your luck with another company. Definitely book in advance. Remember, they drive on the left in Ireland, so if you’re going the car rental route, you’ve got to be bold. It’ll be worth it-we saw so many more places, many of which were very rural, than you would if you were on a tour bus. GET THE GPS. No really,a lot of the streets aren’t labeled. Do it.

Buy the guidebook. Buy Rick Steves’ Ireland. You can thank me later. My best friend Kathleen told me, “Take it with you everywhere and do everything it says. He is always right.” She wasn’t kidding, best $14 I ever spent.

Decide where you can reasonably travel to each night. The guidebook has a nifty map showing the driving distances between each town. Make a list of your must-sees and figure out where you’ll spend each night. We decided to arrive at our destination cities late-7pm or later. The only down side to this is that when you arrive most everything will be closed and a lot of shops and attractions don’t open until 10am-ish, so if you want to get an early start it sort of throws you off a bit.

Book accommodation. Using the guidebook recommendations and trip advisor, I picked BnB’s for each night and a hotel in Dublin. We didn’t spend much time in any of our BnB’s since we arrived so late, so we didn’t stress about picking the fanciest accommodations possible since we never unpacked our suitcases!

Loosely plan a day to day itinerary. You don’t want to miss any of your must-sees, so you’ll want to lay out your general itinerary below. My general itinerary for our trip included all the stuff between each evening destination that we might possibly be interested in seeing. As we went along we had to pick and choose between some of the minor attractions, but we never compromised if there was something we really wanted to see. Make sure you’re not too ambitious, or you’ll be so stressed about trying to see everything that you won’t have time to enjoy anything. And you really don’t want to miss the cheese, trust me.


Our trip was pretty packed and we got an early start each morning, but we never passed up a waterfall or a scenic view or an interesting shop (or another pint) for the sake of getting to the next place. Below you’ll find a quick summary of all the stuff we visited and a map. Pink is our general route of travel with places we stayed the night in blue. It was quite a whirlwind, but we’re so glad we got to see so much of the country in such a short time.

Monday, June 18

Travel

Tuesday, June 19

Land in Dublin at 0530, pick up car. Visit Powerscourt Gardens, Glendalough monastic ruins, take the military road over Sally Gap, visit Kilkenny castle, and sleep in Waterford.

Wednesday, June 20

See Waterford sights including crystal tour. Visit Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins. Sleep in Kinsale.

Thursday, June 21

See Charles Fort in Kinsale. Stop in Macroom. Take boat to Garnish Island and travel through the Healy pass on the Beara Peninsula. Stop in Kenmare, an adorable market town and visit the ancient stone circle. Pass through Killarney National Park. Experience traditional music and sleep in Dingle.

Friday, June 22

Visit Minnard Castle, right on the beach. Explore Dingle town with great shopping and a nice farmers’ market. Spend most of the day on the Dingle Peninsula and visit the Great Blasket Center. Pass through Tralee, take the Tarbert Kilimer ferry over the Shannon River and sleep in Ennis.

Saturday, June 23

Visit Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Explore and sleep in Galway.

Sunday, June 24

Explore the coastline northwest of Galway up to Clifden and travel to Mullingar (just to have somewhere to stay that’s close to Dublin).

Monday, June 25

Return car in the morning in Dublin. Tour Dublin Castle. Visit National Library, the archaeology museum with it’s bog mummies. Explore shops and squares. Free comedy show. Sleep in Dublin.

Tuesday, June 26

Guinness Storehouse tour. Tour Number 29 Fitzwilliam Street Visit Book of Kells and the amazing Trinity College Library. Tour of Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). Traditional music pub crawl. Sleep in Dublin.

Wednesday, June 27

Fly home.

Coming up, I’ll share all the details for each day of the trip, so check back.

Cheers,

Christine