Ireland

Ireland roadtrip

Ireland Roadtrip: Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle

The last part of our Ireland roadtrip took us out of County Kerry, heading north to County Clare. We started our journey in Dublin and Kilkenny, and then made our way down to Cobh and Blarney Castle. After that, we headed to County Kerry where we visited the Gap of Dunloe, the Dingle Peninsula, and Slea Head Loop. It had been an amazing journey so far and we were very excited to experience Adare, the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, and Bunratty Castle.

Adare

We drove up to the Cliffs of Moher and then back down to our lodging at a farmhouse in Newcastle. On our drive up we we stopped in the small village of Adare. Adare is often known as Ireland’s “prettiest village”. The village is famous for its thatched cottages, which were built in the 19th century. Now the cottages house restaurants and small craft shops.

Cliffs of Moher

We drove an hour from Adare to the very famous Cliffs of Moher. There are no words to describe what we saw here – it was that stunning and beautiful. The cliffs tower over 700 feet above sea level and are completely vertical, with abrupt edges down to the bottom.

Road trip through Ireland

We walked out quite a ways down from the entrance in order to get away from the crowds. There were areas that were a little scary to walk by. If you took one wrong step you might have risked falling off a cliff! It was pretty windy while there, and very overcast!

After the cliffs we drove down towards the water to the small town of Doolin. Our friends had told us that they had amazing mussels here, but after looking at numerous restaurants’ menus and not seeing mussels, we settled on some local grub to eat.

Road trip through Ireland

Farmhouse Accommodations

For the next couple of nights we stayed at a gorgeous farmhouse in Newmarket in Fungus, about 15 minutes from Shannon airport, where we had an early flight from there two days later. Cahergal Farmhouse is off the beaten path, but still within access to many sights. This farm is gorgeous with such bright greenery, animals strolling around the grounds, and space in the house so we could lounge without being in anyone’s way. This farmhouse is exactly what I think of when I think of classic Ireland. We were greeted with homemade scones and tea, and lovely hosts that gave us suggestions on what to do since we had a “free” day during our last day there.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Our hosts suggested we go to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. This is a pretty complete medieval fortress that contains many 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, art, and dwellings, which captures the mood of that time. We strolled between each of the different buildings, all representing a different purpose. There were houses, shops, schools, a post office, a doctor’s office, and pubs, each taking on the medieval time period. We were involved in all of the sights and sounds as they recreated the scene from that time. We watched the tasks of typical rural Irish families and saw the conditions in which they lived. At the end of the morning, we took a nice walk through the gardens. It was modeled on the original Regency period garden, which supplied fruit, vegetables, and flowers to the Bunratty House.

Had our hosts not suggested it we wouldn’t have come to Bunratty Castle. We had read reviews that weren’t the greatest. People stated that it gets very crowded, to the point where it’s not enjoyable at all, that it’s not authentic, and that it’s a big tourist trap. As with most things we do, we got there right when it opened so it wasn’t crowded at all, and we found that everything from the period pieces to the “actors” was believable and tastefully done.

Our Ireland roadtrip proved to be just what we needed; a mix of outdoor activities filled with amazing scenery, and a flexible schedule that allowed for the much needed down time that we were craving.

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Ireland Roadtrip: County Kerry

After visiting Blarney Castle we drove the 1.5 hours to Beaufort, which is about 10 kilometers outside of Killarney, and our home for the next three days. We had started our Ireland roadtrip in Dublin and then made our way to Kilkenny. The next day we visited The Rock of Cashel, Cobh, Cork, and Blarney Castle. It was a fun-filled busy few days, and we had such a great time! Now, we were excited to see the wonder of County Kerry as it is full of magnificent scenery, an outstanding national park, and two well-known loop drives – The Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. This area is a must for any first time visitor to Ireland.

Gap of Dunloe

For our first day in County Kerry we walked the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap of Dunlow is a narrow mountain pass through Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain. We parked the car at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, which is a pretty popular restaurant for everyone deciding to attack the Gap (either by walking, by jaunting car, bikes, or driving). It’s a relatively easy, though long, walk with periods of steep ascents. The sun was shining down so brightly and the beauty is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

We met a lot of friendly people on the walk and even witnessed a runaway sheep! Poor thing!

The weather held out for most of the walk. But soon we got to a point where we had to make a decision to keep going or turn around. Although it looked very appealing to keep walking, the skies opened up and it started pouring! We didn’t want to be caught in the mountains during the downpour. So after our three mile walk we turned around and headed back. We dried off and warmed up with some stew and a goat cheese salad at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. Yum!

Dingle Peninsula

The next day we drove around the Dingle Peninsula. We decided against driving around The Ring of Kerry, though we were able to see many parts of it since as our bed and breakfast was just off it. It was super crowded with buses barreling down the narrow roads with us driving a stick with the “wrong” hand on the “wrong” side of the road. We were looking for a stress free vacation! The Dingle Peninsula did just that and had amazing scenery of its own. The coastline is full of towering cliffs interrupted by sandy beaches.

We stopped at Inch Beach at the recommendation of our B&B host. Even though we had planned every part of this road trip through Ireland, we had been able to be flexible and add on things based on locals’ recommendations. And those are the best!

Stretching four miles, Inch Beach is very popular with surfers and swimmers and offers a magnificent backdrop as you look out onto the blue waters. It was a very breezy and brisk day!

Dingle

Our next stop along the peninsula was the fishing port town of Dingle. It’s a good thing we got here relatively early in the morning because it became so crowded with tour buses and the general public after 12pm. This is a charming town full of pubs that play live traditional music, and shops that sell a plethora of random trinkets and knick knacks. While strolling the streets we found some beautiful artwork to add to our collection, slipped into a teeny tiny restaurant where we had some delicious chowder, and ate ice cream at the legendary Murphy’s Ice Cream Shop. We had a beautiful and relaxing day in this pleasant town!

Slea Head Loop

Instead of heading back, we drove the Slea Head Loop, which is one of the most famous drives in the area. We headed west from Dingle and hugged the coast as we drove through some of the most breathtaking and dramatic views we have seen. In some places the road was extremely narrow with some sharp cliff-edge bends, which provided some heart stopping moments. It is a stunning drive and we’re happy that we decided to do it.

Killarney

We went to the town of Killarney a couple of times during our stay in County Kerry, mainly for a couple of meals and to walk around. I had read that Killarney is swarming with tourists, but it actually wasn’t too bad and it was a really nice town. I don’t know if I would go out of my way to visit it, but since our B&B was so close it made sense to go there. There were a few great restaurants that we went ate in and quaint streets to walk through.

We wish we would have had more time in this area, but isn’t that always the case?! Next up is the last part of our Ireland roadtrip… the Cliffs of Moher, Adare, and Bunratty Castle!

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Road Trip Through Ireland: Cashel, Cobh, Blarney

We planned our road trip through Ireland to start in Dublin and then Kilkenny where we had a great couple of days! After our time in Kilkenny we drove 45 minutes to Cashel to spend the night. From Cashel, we drove to Cobh, Cork, and finally Blarney Castle. This day would end up being one of our favorite days of the whole trip!

Cashel – The Rock of Cashel

Our purpose for visiting Cashel was to see The Rock of Cashel, which we had wanted to visit first thing in the morning. We arrived at our bed and breakfast and were greeted by an odd, but very friendly fellow who showed us around the b&b and to our room.

It was a Saturday night when we arrived and we must have spent about an hour walking around in circles trying to find a restaurant or pub to eat in. There was NOTHING open! It was so weird. The one restaurant we wanted to go to didn’t have anything free until 10pm. I guess that’s where everyone was since the town was dead. It was a complete 180 from what we just saw in Kilkenny a few hours prior. We finally found a pub where we had some stew and beers. There wasn’t much activity, but it had food! The town was a bit of a disappointment and I wish we had stayed in Kilkenny. But at least we still had the ROCK to see.

The Rock of Cashel is a set of medieval buildings dating back to 1100. It’s literally built on a rock and the site rises up from the rolling plains making it dominate the landscape from below. It really is quite a site to see from the town. The Rock of Cashel includes a chapel, a round tower, a cathedral, and a graveyard. It has a rich history and most of it is in its original rustic condition, though they were doing renovations while we were there. Since we arrived right when the site opened we were able to see everything pretty quickly.

Cobh

We got on the road and drove to Cobh, about an hour away. We hadn’t planned on going to Cobh, but someone on our Kilkenny tour strongly suggested that we stop there and we are SO glad we did! It ended up being one of our favorite stops!

Cobh (pronounced Cove) is a pretty seaside town on the southern coast of County Cork. It served as one of the main transatlantic Irish ports, transporting 2.5 million of the 6 million Irish people between 1848 and 1950. It was also the famous final port of call (then called Queenstown) for the Titanic when it set out of its tragic voyage.

We walked around the town for a while and went to a small market on a plaza on the water. Next to this market was the “Titanic Experience“, a unique experience detailing the history of the ship and its unfortunate journey. It’s located in the original White Star Line Ticket Office, which was the departure point for the final 123 passengers who boarded the Titanic. The first part of the experience retraces the steps of the passengers who boarded on April 11, 1912. We experienced what life would’ve been like for the different classes of passengers and saw replica set designs of rooms. The second part examines what went wrong the night the Titanic sank. The tour was extremely informative and we really enjoyed it!

Cork

We left Cobh and drove to Cork for lunch. We went to a delicious restaurant where they use most of their ingredients gathered from The English Market (it’s closed on Sunday, otherwise we would have visited it). Afterward, we walked along the water a bit, but we didn’t get to spend much time here at all. We wanted to stop at Blarney Castle on the way to Killarney and we had to continue our road trip through Ireland as we were running out of time before it closed! Oh well!

Blarney Castle

We were excited to visit Blarney Castle and its famous Blarney Stone. The castle was built nearly 600 years ago and has become one of Ireland’s most visited treasures. Blarney Stone has a lot to do with its popularity – the Stone of Eloquence stands at the top of the tower. Legend has it that if you kiss the stone you’ll never again be at a loss for words (the gift of eloquence or the skill of flattery). The word blarney has come to mean clever, flattering, or coaxing talk sweetened with humor or wit. We were fortunate that we arrived later in the day and had no crowds to battle since August is their busiest month – sometimes the line can be up to two hours to get to the top of the castle, but we walked right up!

The ritual of kissing the stone has been performed by millions of people, and luckily there are now safeguards in place to prevent people from plummeting to their deaths, which did happen. I was very hesitant to kiss the stone; not because of the height, but because of the millions of people who had kissed it before me. I had planned to get into position and put a tissue between my lips and the stone, but I needed both hands to hold onto the railing upside down. Nowadays though, they actually have people cleaning the stone with antibacterial spray after each person’s kiss. It still skeeved me out a bit, so I didn’t exactly touch it, but came close enough! *This was before Covid so I’m not sure what has changed, if anything, with kissing the Blarney Stone!

More Than Just a Castle at Blarney Castle!

There’s a lot more to this castle than meets the eye. The grounds have expansive gardens, each with different names and purposes. Behind the castle is the poison garden, which contains a collection of poisonous plants from all around the world. The plants are labeled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. Some of the plants are so dangerous here that they are kept in large cage-like structures.

We also walked around Rock Close, which is an enchanting and magical area to be in. As you walk through you can find yourself in a shaded nook, standing on a terrace above a creek with slivers of sunlight peeking through old trees. Here one can find an ancient sacrificial alter, a druid’s circle, a hermit’s cave, a witch’s kitchen, and wishing steps. It was definitely an unexpected find and one that we’re glad we stumbled upon.

Jon made a wish, closed his eyes, and went up and down backwards in hopes his wish would come true.

Road trip through Ireland

This was one of our favorite days out of our whole trip to Ireland. Taking a slight detour from our plans to visit the small and delightful city of Cobh was so special! Having lunch with fresh market ingredients in Cork, and exploring an old castle while engaging in a centuries old tradition, really stood out during our time in this exquisite country. Our road trip through Ireland was well underway! Next up, County Kerry in Southwestern Ireland!

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Road Trip through Ireland - Kilkenny

Road Trip Through Ireland: Dublin, Kilkenny

Ireland is such an easy destination to visit from the U.S. One, it’s only about a six hour flight from the NY area. Two, it’s about a five hour time difference as opposed to six (hey, every hour counts)! And three, there are no language barriers as everyone speaks English! We chose to visit Ireland during the warmest and least rainy time, August. We spent eight days on a road trip through Ireland, starting in Dublin and ending in Shannon.

Dublin

We arrived in Dublin around 6:00am. After going through customs and renting a car we were ready to go! Driving on the left side of the road was… different. The roundabouts were tricky at first and anytime we had to make a turn we looked both ways multiple times because we kept forgetting which way the cars were coming from. There are signs all over the right side of the roads that say, “Wrong way!” and “Turn Around” for everyone not from the area.

Road Trip Through Ireland
What do I do???

After dropping off our luggage at the hotel we made an early visit to the Guinness Storehouse. We figured it wouldn’t be that crowded at 9:30am (it wasn’t) and we wanted to enjoy it while we were fairly awake. We learned all about the history and brewing process of making a true Guinness and even got a certificate on perfecting the perfect pint of Guinness – meaning, they taught us how to properly pour a pint. It was a fun and informative hands-on experience!

After walking through the storehouse we went up to the rooftop bar with our beer and enjoyed the panoramic views of Dublin.

We walked outside to find ourselves in a rainstorm! Rule number one when visiting Ireland – always carry an umbrella or raincoat as there is always some passing shower overhead. We took a cab to another area of Dublin and ate at a delicious restaurant based on a local’s recommendation. After lunch we went for a quick walk around Trinity college. However, we were so tired from our overnight flight and heavy morning beers and lunch, that we went back to the hotel afterwards and crashed until dinner.

The next morning after breakfast we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a beautiful cathedral dating back to 1191. We opted not to go inside, but the outside was very impressive. We spent the next hour strolling and walking around the city.

Kilkenny

We hopped in the car and started our road trip through Ireland. Our first stop after Dublin was Kilkenny, about 1.5 hours away. Kilkenny is a busy, but charming town built on both banks of the River Nore. We really wish we had more time here, rather than rushing off to spend the night in Cashel, but we definitely didn’t realize what a vibrant town this is.

We took a two hour bike tour of the city in order to get a quick overview since we were short on time. The tour used scenic riverbank paths as out roadways, which took us not only to the town center, but to sites such as Kilkenny Castle, The Design Centre, Shee Alms House, The Tholsel, St. Mary’s Church, Rothe House and Gardens, The Courthouse (Grace’s Castle), St. Francis’ Abbey, The Black Abbey, and St. Canice’s Cathedral. We had a really nice time with the diverse group of travelers and our fun guide!

Our last stop on the tour was to St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Round Tower. The site was founded in the 6th century and worship has taken place here for over 800 years! The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny. We were able to climb to the top and take in some nice views.

We were hoping to get to Smithwick’s Brewery after the bike ride, but we ran late and JUST missed the last entrance for the tour. Since we had reservations at a bed and breakfast in Cashel that night we couldn’t stay in Kilkenny to tour the next day. Instead, we bought some beer glasses and went on with our journey.

Road trip through Ireland

Moving Onward

Dublin and Kilkenny were great places to start our trip. We wish we had more time in both cities, but with limited time something had to be cut. Next up on our road trip through Ireland journey – Cashel, Cobh, Cork, and Blarney Castle!

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