Let me just start by saying WOW!
This trip was absolutely incredible. I’m warning you now, this may be a lengthy post because I have so much to share. If you have never been to Ireland, start planning your trip yesterday! The people, the scenery, the food, the weather (surprisingly enough!)….it was all so fantastic.
We were there for 8 nights and I would say that this was the perfect amount of time for us. We chose to stick to the south half of the country and we did a self-guided tour. The only hard part about doing it on our own was definitely the driving. Not only are you on the wrong side of the road, but the wrong side of the car! Once you get used to that, you have to get used to how narrow half the roads are. It’s a little scary to see a car come around the corner heading right for you and you have nowhere to go to steer clear! (I mean, you can usually steer clear, but it sure feels like you can’t!)
We flew into Dublin and got in around 5 am local time. Ireland is normally 6 hours ahead of CT but with daylight savings we were only 5 hours ahead while we were there. I am usually a nervous flyer (I’m happy to say I don’t think I will be anymore after this trip!) so I had a hard time sleeping on the plane. No sleep made our day in Dublin a little tricky. We started our trip by going to a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (below). It was not a Catholic service, but very neat to be a part of anyway.
After viewing the cathedral, we found a nice lunch spot before heading to the Guinness Brewery. We had been warned that the brewery is very commercialized and way too busy (which it was), but if you go there for anything, check out the Gravity Bar for a pint of Guinness (not our favorite beer of the trip, but you have to try at least one, right?!). It has 360 views of Dublin which I’d say is the best way to see the city. [side note – if you want to go to the brewery, make sure you put the Guinness Storehouse in your GPS and not the Guinness Brewery because otherwise you will be lost]. Once we left Dublin we decided to head to Kilkenny. Our B&B was in the cutest little town and our host was most helpful in planning the rest of our trip since we were sort of flying by the seat of our pants for the first 6 days. We went to some really fun pubs with great live music and stumbled upon this place (below) called The Hole in the Wall.
Tiniest. Pub. Ever.
The next morning, we headed for Cashel. I was so beyond excited to see the Rock of Cashel because I think the history of it is so neat (being an Irish lass, myself). [If you don’t know, the Rock of Cashel is where St. Patrick converted the King of Munster to Catholicism] Below are two of my favorite photos from the trip. This is a truly breathtaking spot… As you drive into Cashel in Co. Tipperary, you come around a bend and it just appears on a hill in the distance. I would highly recommend making this a stop on your trip!
We ventured onto County Cork afterwards to see the Blarney Castle. Another stop I was extremely excited about! My grandparents visited Ireland in 1997. It was one of the last trips they made together before my grandpa passed in 2000. They both kissed the Blarney Stone and I just had to do it too. It’s kind of scary climbing up the stairs to get to the stone. Very narrow and winding…my husband could barely fit! Once you were at the top, you had beautiful views of the countryside as well as the rest of the estate where the castle was built.
We stayed in Kinsale for the night at another wonderful B&B and ate dinner at Jim Edwards which had fantastic fish & chips. We were kind of bummed that we didn’t go in to see Cork City the next morning, but we definitely preferred the country settings for the majority of our trip. I was told the English Market in Cork City is really incredible and that Kinsale is the “foodie” capital of Ireland. We will definitely go back and make sure we spend more time there.
Our next destination was the Dingle Peninsula. On our way there, we stopped at Killarney National Park for a short hike. It was a very beautiful park, but we felt we had seen very similar places in the states. (I’m sure that sounds weird but mountains and waterfalls weren’t what we primarily came to Ireland for).
Now, the Dingle Peninsula, however…… breathtaking! This was us at a beach just outside of Dingle before we started our drive.You could drive your car 1km down the beach.
We did the Slea Head Drive and we had the perfect weather for it! (Again, surprising! We hardly got rained on our whole entire trip… we were expecting to be drenched every day.) This is just an absolutely gorgeous drive. If you only have so much time on your trip, you may have to choose between the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. We were told by several locals to do the Peninsula because there are no buses allowed on the route. The Ring of Kerry can be very trafficy and can take a long time if you do the whole thing. To each their own tho… because I don’t think either one is going to be a bad choice as far as scenery!
The next morning was our anniversary (3 whole years, I know… this trip was our very belated honeymoon). We took Connor Pass up to the north side of the Peninsula and were bummed to have such a foggy/rainy morning. I’d love to take that drive again and see what all the fuss is about because we could only see a few feet in front of us. Luckily the fog cleared by the time we reached the Cliffs of Moher. It is terrifying and beautiful all the same time. It really is one of those places that gives you confirmation that God is real. Very busy with tourists but the walking paths go on for so long that it’s easy to distance yourself from the crowd.
We settled into Galway City for the night and had a delicious dinner at The Front Door. The next morning we stayed around the city and just took a walk along the bay on the Salthill Promenade before gearing up for a night out! The night before St. Patrick’s Day is INSANE. And I mean that in the best way possible. Quay Street is the place to be! So many awesome pubs/restaurants that you can only get to on foot. We came back here for the parade the next morning and spent the entire afternoon in and out of the pubs (The Kings Head was our favorite). We got absolutely drenched as it rained all of St. Patrick’s day but we absolutely loved Galway and all it had to offer! We were happy to leave though because two straight days of Smithwick’s was enough.
On Saturday morning we drove up to Connemara to see the Kylemore Abbey. A very beautiful former boarding school turned Abbey sitting on a 15,000 acre estate! Learning about how the estate became what it was was very fascinating. The neo-gothic cathedral on the estate was equally as beautiful as the Abbey itself.
Then came our afternoon at the Ashford Castle. I felt like royalty in this place (although we showed up in sweatshirts and rain gear… oops). They had a school of falconry on the estate. We got to fly Harris Hawks! Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Our dining experience at George V Restaurant was to die for. A very elegant 5 course meal that I wish I could indulge in on a weekly basis. Everything about this place was to the nines. I wish we had been able to stay for one more night. It is a great place to spend the day if you are not able to stay here. Trust me, we would not have stayed here if it wasn’t included in our travel package. There are all sorts of activities to partake in as well as just touring the castle.
I know this was a lot to read about but I hope it gave you some insight for when you decide to make the trip yourself. I highly recommend doing a B&B package. We had vouchers along the way so we just stayed wherever we felt like and nothing was planned ahead until our stay at the castle. I loved this aspect because we could stay in the places we loved for longer, and leave the places that were just OK. Only problem with not planning ahead was that St. Patrick’s is way busier than we anticipated. We got lucky with a place to stay but you cannot stay further away than walking distance if you are going to have a few pints! Anyway, I am already excited to plan a trip back! It was so great to spend time with my husband and meet so many amazing new people along the way!
Thanks for reading!!!