Céad míle fáilte… a hundred thousand welcomes.
There are so many places in Ireland you’ll see this written and you may wonder if it can be true. It very much is. Maybe you won’t be welcomed by a hundred thousand people, but I bet you will be by just about everyone that crosses your path. I definitely think the Irish live up to their reputation as some of the most friendly people on the planet- which is what I was hoping for as we looked forward to this trip.
Ireland has been on my radar for several years and I actually had a couple of trips to Ireland that didn’t end up happening, so you can imagine I was pleased as punch when Ireland was suggested as the possibility for our spring break trip this year. I was FINALLY going to get to see the places I’d dreamed of seeing in P.S. I Love You all those years ago. And while I didn’t fall in love with a cute Irishman like Holly did in the movie (who was looking at the Irishmen when I had my own cute Englishman there? ), I did fall in love with the country and felt so at home there.
After our visit I’m glad our original plan- to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland- didn’t work out because now we’ll get to go back again! There is so much to see and explore there and over the coming weeks I’ll be blogging about those places. I’ll even include our oh-so-detailed itinerary along the way, along with resources and a budget to help you plan a similar trip.
But before we get to all of that, as I’ve done with our other trips, let me start with a Trip Summary of how we filled our days, along with a sneak peek of some photos from the places I’ll be sharing.
After meeting up the day before at Heathrow airport, and then flying together to Dublin, we were more than ready to get this road trip party started on Sunday morning. We filled up on a delicious full Irish breakfast (yep, I tried black pudding and it was pretty good) and then we hit the road.
On this first full day of our trip we :
- Headed through the Wicklow mountains for a scenic drive where we passed more than one extremely ambitious cyclist pushing their way to the tops of the hills.
- Made our first big stop of the trip at Glendalough Monastic Site…where we absolutely could not find any parking. :-(
- Wandered around the beautiful Glenalough Upper Lake.
- Stopped at Avoca Handweaver for a little tour…but there weren’t any weavers working. ( sad face again)
- Enjoyed all our extra time at Huntington Castle (because we didn’t get to do everything on our plan) by wandering the grounds and snuggling up in a castle. A castle!
We awoke to much sunnier skies on our second full day and they just added to the wonderful scenery around every corner.
On our second day we visited:
- The SS Dunbrody Famine Ship where we were booked in steerage class to learn all about our fate as Irish emigrants.
- The oldest operational lighthouse in the world and stunning views out across the ocean at Hook Lighthouse.
- Watched exquisite pieces of crystal being created at the House of Waterford Crystal tour.
- Wandered through our second castle of the trip- Kilkenny Castle.
Accommodations: Rural Bliss Airbnb studio apartment in Kilkenny . This Airbnb find was truly bliss. Wonderful hosts, cosy room, and scrumptious homemade bread and other little treats.
Today was our day for even more castles…and for me learning how to drive on the left hand side of the road! Oh yes I did. Even with L there to do the driving I had decided before the trip this was my chance to give it a go. Although there are SO many narrow little roads to contend with, I’d still have to say Ireland is a great place to give it a try for the first time. There isn’t much traffic and the locals seem pretty patient and forgiving. Not that I needed forgiveness mind you. I didn’t hit anyone or anything….well maybe a little curb and the ends of a few bushes. :-)
So off we went, on the long way to Tipperary*, made even longer by the single lane, grass-down-the-middle roads, but we eventually made it to:
- The imposing Rock of Cashel which was once a royal seat for the kings of Munster from the 4th century. It has a great view, and lots of pretty gravestones surrounding the remains of the buildings. (It’s the opening photo of this post)
- Blarney Castle, a medieval fortress that we thought would be neat, but unfortunately was a bit of a let down.
- Unassuming Ross Castle made up for our earlier castle disappointment though, especially with such a great guide that made it come alive with her stories of the sights, sounds, and smells!
- Finished the day with a visit to beautiful Torc Waterfall and a scenic drive through Killarney National Park.
Accommodations: Another great Airbnb find called Glenview Lodge in Kenmare that was just perfect for a few hands of cards by the fireplace.
*Please tell me you sung that song in your head when you read that and it’s not just L and I that do that every time we read it on our plan, or thought of it on that day.
Scenic drives were on the agenda today as we drove around the Ring of Kerry and out on to the Dingle Peninsula to see the following:
- Stone forts- Staigue, Cahergal, and Leacanabuile, Dunbeg, and Beehive Huts.
- A few neat things that weren’t even on our plan at all! Like a pretty church in ruins and a chocolate factory for sweet treats and some truffle tastings.
- Stunning views of the ocean and rocky shoreline along the Slea Head Drive and then on to very colourful Dingle for the night with an Irish (half) pint of Murphy’s stout and some cottage pie at Murphy’s Pub.
Accommodations: Murphy’s B&B in Dingle. The green building, not the red one- because yes, there are two Murphy’s B&B’s in Dingle and they are NEXT DOOR to each other! The red building also has the pub where we had dinner. Both places were run by super friendly folks.
Are those drums and pipes I hear? At this hour of the morning? Surely it’s actually still late at night and that is music coming from the pub next door? Nope, that my friends, was the sound of the early morning St. Paddy’s Day parade in Dingle. Basically a band marching through the town, gathering up all the townsfolk to head to early morning mass. If anyone ever tells you they don’t really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland (as I’ve been told many times), don’t believe them. They do. And they start at 6:00 AM! Thankfully some people get up at that hour to film it so I could show you- here is a link to the parade as it marched right past our B&B!
About an hour later we finally got up, had a hearty breakfast, and then hit the road for some more really neat sights and experiences like:
- The Gallarus Oratory which is thought to be an early Christian church.
- A few nerve wracking moments along the twisty, narrow lanes along the edge of the mountains in the Connor Pass. Oh the views!
- A relaxing walk through the Ballyseede Woods. We were looking for some particular wood carvings, which we never did come across. Still a great walk though.
- A unique find – the Flying Boat Museum. An aviation museum with a replica of a Pam Am Clipper flying boat. You really just have to see it. It’s really neat and has an interesting history.
- The Askeaton Friary– quite likely our favourite “Oh cool! What’s that? We need to stop and look!” moment from the trip. We spotted it along the highway, popped in, and had the place all to ourselves to explore. Moments like those really can’t be beat.
- The town of Adare, with its cute little thatched roof houses, though I really thought there would be more and the town would have been a little cuter and quainter. Oh well. You can’t win them all.
Accommodations: An Airbnb find in Limerick, but no link to it as I wasn’t really super keen on it. Can’t win them all on Airbnb either.
I read a booked called What Matters Most prior to this trip and the Cliffs of Moher played such an important part in it and were described so beautifully that I really couldn’t wait for this day to see them. They weren’t quite what I imagined from the story. Pretty, yes. But not quite the idyllic scene I had set up in my mind. Ah well. On we went to visit the rest of the sights on our agenda for the day with stops at:
- Aillwee Cave which was a 30 minute walk through the caverns in the side of the mountain that even included an underground waterfall! How we missed that in the description on their website I’m not sure but it made for a great surprise.
- One of the most unique landscapes I have ever seen- the Burren. From the Irish word Boireann, meaning “great rock”, the Burren really is a great rock. Full of cracks and crevices it was such a neat place to explore around a portal tomb called the Poulnabrone Dolmen.
- Off to the city of Galway for a little wonder and then an early evening in to spend playing cards and watching a comedian called Greg Davies– and this time I didn’t doze off only 10 minutes into the show!
Accommodations: A great one bedroom townhouse in Galway that we found on Airbnb that was just a stone’s throw from the city centre.
Read More: Exploring the Burren and Cliffs of Moher
Oh no. Is it really our last day in Ireland already? I didn’t want to see this trip end, even if it did mean getting to visit my first (of hopefully 16) UNESCO site of the year.
It was our coldest day of the trip but that’s OK. We bundled up and headed out to visit our last sights for the trip.
- The cold weather proved kind of useful on our first stop of the day- Clonmacnoise. Watching the video before our visit we saw so many photos of the monastic site absolutely packed with people, but on our visit there were only a handful of us. And the few others visiting must not have liked the chill because they didn’t wander long on the beautiful grounds.
- A guided tour of the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland called Trim Castle. Interesting stories and explanation by the guide and then great views from the top.
- And then our final stop on our trip- the UNESCO World Heritage site of Brú na Bóinne for the guided tour of the Newgrange passage tomb and to see its prehistoric megalithic art.
Accommodations: Seamount House– A cosy B&B, run by some really lovely folks, that was mere minutes from Dublin airport.
Can you tell we had a GREAT time? My goodness did we ever get to see and do a lot. But it seemed like we still had lots of relaxing time too. Such a good trip full of wonderful moments to add to our memories. I can’t wait to share lots of them with you!
Have you ever visited Ireland? If so, what are some of your favourite Irish moments? If not, you’re going right? :-)