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9.24.2013

Travel Tuesday: Road Trip Through Ireland

A rainbow at The Cliffs of Moher... iconically Ireland!

We went on our annual trip last month, and the magic of it is still with me.  This year we went to Ireland, which has been on our list for years, but for whatever reason had not worked out until this year.  Now I don't know why we waited so long... the trip was incredible!  We had a limited time here, so it was a whirlwind trip, however, I was amazed at all that we got to do and see, and without feeling rushed or stressed.  It was also very nice to visit during August, as the high was a cool, comfortable 70 degrees (as opposed to the humid 100 degrees in Texas).

I will cover our trip in two separate blog posts, since we have so many pictures and things to share.  Today I will cover our general trip itinerary (Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Killarney, Cliffs of Moher and Galway), and next Tuesday I will cover the Ring of Kerry separately (click here to read the post on the Ring of Kerry).  I know how much internet research and personal reviews and experiences help me in planning my own trips, so here is my way of paying what I learned forward.  Enjoy, and let me know if any of these tips came in handy to you for your own travels!

Alright, so first we were inspired for our itinerary by a travel package we saw on European Destinations (Magical Ireland), which is customizable itinerary (you can pick amount of days at each place, change hotels, etc.).  It included a rental car and proved to us that we could do these various stops in the amount of time we had.  So we planned to fly into Dublin and out of Shannon so that we wouldn't have to waste any precious travel days getting back to Dublin.  Detailed reviews are below, but here was our general itinerary:

  • Fly into Dublin, and spend two nights
  • Rent a car and drive from Dublin to Cork, via Kilkenny
  • Blarney Castle & Stone and a night in Cork
  • Drive to Killarney
  • Spend a day driving the Ring of Kerry, and a night in Killarney
  • Drive to Cliffs of Moher via Limerick and Ennis
  • Visit Cliffs of Moher
  • Drive through The Burren
  • Spend the night in Galway
  • Fly out of Shannon

Driving around Ireland was definitely the way to go.  We got to see so much of the beautiful countryside, and had the opportunity to stop in several small towns along the way that we wouldn't have otherwise seen.  There are definitely some things to consider about choosing to drive in Ireland: 1) They drive on the other side of the road, AND car, 2) Many roads are very narrow, 3) I heard that driving in Ireland can be intimidating due to how people drive there, but honestly for someone that drove in Los Angeles for 12 years, and who has driven in places like Costa Rica, it didn't seem bad to us at all, 4) There are a lot of roundabouts (instead of the 4-way stops that we are used to).  I definitely recommend getting a good map, and the Complete Road Atlas of Ireland (by Ordinance Survey of Ireland) was worth every penny.  I also recommend a good playlist for your drive to provide a soundtrack.  My husband was tasked with creating the playlist, and he nailed it for us.  See the Ireland drive playlist at the bottom of this post.

Road trip essentials: a good map and the perfect travel snack, Jammie Dodgers

Like with any foreign trip, I recommend you do a little research on etiquette in Ireland before you visit.  It's important to know how to tip, and the acceptability of things like PDA (Ireland is the opposite of Spain in this matter), and how to properly return the favor if a round is bought for you at a pub.  Here are some links with some good tips: TripAdvisor (tipping), Vayama (misc. etiquette), USA Today (misc. etiquette), eDiplomat (cultural etiquette).

Here are our detailed reviews from each stop!

Dublin:

  
Dublin style: dress in layers due to a chance of rain or cool temperatures.  Flat or thick-heeled shoes are a good idea with all the walking, and with cobblestone streets.
Left: top and jeans from Express, jacket from Forever 21, and vintage boots.
Right: lace dress and booties from American Eagle Outfitters and Paper Denim jacket purchased from a consignment store.
 
Hotel
Maldron Hotel Parnell Square - I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again.  It was in walking distance to everything we wanted to do in Dublin, and the room was clean, modern, and comfortable.  The staff was also very nice, and even allowed us to check in early since our flight arrived really early in the morning, and we were exhausted.  The Irish breakfast was also good (though not the best we had in Ireland).  I also liked the contemporary décor.

Restaurants
Kingfisher - This place was recommended to us by a friend from Dublin.  I believe they boasted the best fish and chips in Dublin, so we had to try it.  My husband tried the fish and chips, and they were amazing.  I tried the chicken curry, which was also delicious.  The restaurant was also located right by our hotel in Parnell Square, and near several pubs, which was convenient.

To Do

Panoramic view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse


Guinness Storehouse - This was a great experience. A modern, interactive experience that takes you through the history of Guinness and the many steps of the brewing process.  Beautiful panoramic views of Dublin from the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor where you can enjoy your complimentary pint.  Guinness just tastes better in Ireland than it does in the states.

Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin
 
Premium Tasting at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin
 

The Old Jameson Distillery - A fun tour for sure. We learned a lot about how whiskey ages and how Jameson's is different than other whiskeys.  I also was surprised how tasty whiskey and ginger is, which I got to try for free at the end of the tour and then continued to drink over the course of our trip in Ireland (when not drinking Guinness, of course).  The best part for us, though, was the Premium Tasting that we kicked in an extra 22 Euro each for. It was a private tasting of some AMAZING reserves.  Wow! We loved them all, especially the Jameson Distillery Reserve!  We also had good customer service here, as the option to purchase online for a discount wasn't working, but when I emailed them in advance they agreed to honor our online discount on-site.

Day Trip to Howth - Our friend from the are recommended we take the train to the quaint seaside town of Howth, which was a great idea!  We ate lunch at The Summit Inn in Howth, where we had our first Guinness of the trip, along with some absolutely incredible fish and chips.  The people here were also very friendly and helpful.  I also tried my first Jammie Dodgers biscuits (cookies) here, which I became subsequently addicted to for the remainder of the trip.

A small example of the amazing architecture around Dublin

Walking Around - There is so much history, and so much to see, old and new, in this city.  Just take some time to wander around.  Near our hotel we had Trinity College, numerous statues, squares, and districts, Dublin Castle, and the Temple Bar area.

Kilkenny:

Restaurants

 
 Kyteler's Inn in Kilkenny. Left: Lamb Stew.  Right: Bangers and Mash.

Kyteler's Inn - One of the best meals we had in Ireland was at Kyteler's Inn in Kilkenny as we were driving from Dublin to Cork. The story of the in dates back to 1263!!  You can feel the history in here.  I tried the lamb stew, which was hearty and seasoned to perfection.  My husband tried the bangers and mash, which was perfect.  This was one of our two best meals during our trip to Ireland, and definitely worth the visit!  My husband also tried the local Smithwick's, which was a tasty pint.

To Do

 
Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle - A very impressive castle, well-maintained with beautiful gardens.  One of the cool things about Kilkenny is the medieval history right in the middle of the quaint and friendly town.

 
The cemetery at St. Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny

St. Canice's Cathedral - Like stepping backwards through time when you enter these grounds.  Magic.  Make sure you bring your camera, because the cemetery and building are amazing to photograph.  We were so happy to stop here on our way from Dublin to Cork.
Shop - There are a lot of adorable shops in Kilkenny, and it is a small enough town to walk around and peruse.

Cork/Blarney:

Hotel

Irish Breakfast at Cork International Airport Hotel. Eggs, cheese, a roll, rashers, bangers, black pudding, tomatoes and potato pancake
 
Cork International Airport Hotel - I am glad I read the reviews on TripAdvisor for this one... I would never have expected this from an "airport hotel."  It was more of a classy, boutique hotel than your usual airport hotels, with unique décor.  Also, the Irish breakfast was the best we had during our trip to Ireland.  The rooms were clean, updated, and comfortable.  The service was also great.  If you are looking to find it, it is literally at the airport.

Restaurants

 
Delicious dinner at the Muskerry Arms in Blarney.  Left: The Taven Hot Bite Platter. Right: Fish and chips.

Muskerry Arms (Blarney) - This was the first restaurant we came across after visiting the Blarney Castle and Stone, and man, was I glad we found this!  It was one of the best meals we had in Ireland.  My husband tried the fish and chips, which was one of the best he had in Ireland (and we tried a LOT of good fish and chips while we were there), and I had The Tavern Hot Bite Platter (Osbornes Local Traditional Butchers Home Made Sausages, Black & White Pudding & Chicken Goujans & Home Cut Chips & Filo Prawns With Dipping Sauces).  You will not regret eating here!

To Do

 
Kissing the Blarney Stone

The view from the top of Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle and Stone (Blarney) - Yes, this is a very touristy thing to do, but I recommend it anyway!  Not only were the castle grounds beautiful, and the castle really cool (lovely views, and fun to learn about), but kissing the stone was a highlight of our trip to Ireland.  This was a bucket list item for me, and it was incredibly surreal leaning back and kissing the stone, like I had heard/read about since childhood.  I was so glad to have done it, and there was something really special about the act.  It is also exciting, as you have to lean back pretty far to kiss the stone.  Even though they are holding you, and you have guardrails, your instincts still kick in and try and fight you while you are leaning backwards that far on top of a castle.  They move you through the queue pretty quickly, so have whoever's with you ready with camera in hand to take a photo.  We only had enough time to snap one photo a piece.

Old Midleton Distillery - We didn't make it here, but planned to and wanted to.  We just didn't have time during our one-day in the Cork area.  Though we were really glad we prioritized getting to Blarney Castle!

Killarney:

Hotel

 
The view of Killarney National Park from our room at Castlerosse Hotel and Golf Resort

Castlerosse Hotel and Golf Resort - This hotel was a great value, especially for its stunning grounds and location, and it's proximity to the Ring of Kerry. In fact, it's on the Ring of Kerry, right near the Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, and Muckross House (some nice stops when visiting the ring).  The rooms could use an update, but were not dirty or disheveled. The view from our room was unbelievable, overlooking the hotel's golf course and the national park.  The Irish Breakfast was also very good.  There was also a nice looking pool and fitness area, though we didn't have time to use them as we spent most of our time in this area on the ring.  I would definitely stay here again.

To Do
The Ring of Kerry - The Ring of Kerry has a blog post all it's own, so stay tuned for next week's Travel Tuesday post for photos and tips from The Ring of Kerry.

The Burren:

To Do

 
 
The Cliffs of Moher

 

Other views of the Cliffs, including the view straight down (right).

Cliffs of Moher - We were told not to miss the Cliffs of Moher during our trip to Ireland, and that advice was good as gold.  These massive, majestic, picturesque cliffs were another highlight of our trip.  An absolutely stunning view.  We have seen some beautiful places on this planet during our travels, and this one is up there towards the top of the list.

Galway:

Hotel
Clayton Hotel - Since we spent so much time at the Cliffs of Moher and driving through The Burren, we didn't get much time to explore Galway, but we did have a great experience at the Clayton Hotel.  The restaurant was delicious (I had an amazing smoked salmon Panini with local salmon). The décor and rooms were contemporary and clean, and the service was nice.  This felt like a good business travel hotel, which was fine for us since we just had one quick night there before an early flight out of Shannon the next day.

Ireland Drive Playlist:
"Rocky Road to Dublin" - The Dubliners
"Tobacco Island" - Flogging Molly
"Irish Celebration (P Smoov Remix)" - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
"Drunken Lullabies" - Flogging Molly
"Waxie's Dargle" - The Pogues
"What's Left of the Flag" - Flogging Molly
"Irish Rover" - The Clancy Brothers
"The Leaving of Liverpool" - The Pogues
""Sunday Bloody Sunday" - U2
"The Wild Rover" - The Dubliners
"Molly Malone" - Irish All-Stars
"Seven Deadly Sins" - The Dubliners
"Arthur MacBride (New Recording)" - Paul Brady
"The Fields of Athenry" - The Dubliners
"I'm Shipping Up to Boston" - Dropkick Murphys
"Oh Danny Boy" - Castlecomer
"The Auld Triangle" - The Pogues
"If I Ever Leave This World Alive" - Flogging Molly
 

5 comments :

rashell smith said...

The Cliff of Moher is very famous attraction in Ireland. It is a t a great height and when we went there we had also seen a rainbow and I captured the scene in my camera. I had been to Ireland last year for a business meeting and in the remaining time I went to The Cliff of Moher and also visited ring of Kerry. I have chosen car rental at Dublin airport from dan dooley car rentals to explore these places. i liked the beauty in Ireland. This is the reason why I have planned for a family vacation to Ireland in the upcoming year. We will definitely rent a car and your whole trip plan covers a lot of places. I will also do such a planning, so that I can visit different places in less time and can enjoy the vocational moments at its full with my family.

Jenny Bacon said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I am planning my trip to Ireland that will take place in July 2015 (yes, I like to plan WAY in advance). ;-) How many days were you there? I'm looking at doing 10 and am worried that will not be enough time. I absolutely loved your pictures and wished there were hundreds more. I'm kind of a picture freak. :-) Thanks again for sharing!!

ramonaruby said...

Hello Jenny! We were only able to be there for 7 days... while we certainly could have spent a lot more time there (and would love to someday), we managed to see a ton and have an incredible experience in a short amount of time, without feeling rushed or stressed. It really all came down to prioritizing what we really wanted to see. I have no regrets from how we spent our time... The Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher were sooo worth it. Also, kissing the Blarney Stone! I would like to spend more till on the Ring and in Kilkenny someday (we just passed through Kilkenny and really liked it). Hope this is helpful!

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