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This was our first trip to Ireland. We flew in and out of Dublin and rented a car to drive clockwise around the coast back to Dublin. We were there 16 days, Mar 16 - Apr 1.
Our itinerary included: 3 nights in Dublin, 2 nights outside Kilkenny, 1 night in Kenmare, 2 nights in Dingle, 1 night in Doolin, 2 nights in Galway, 1 night in Westport, 2 nights in Portrush, and 1 night in Trim.
We were really lucky with the weather and of our 16 days had mostly sunshine. It rained one evening and drizzled a couple of mornings.
Day 1 - We arrived in Dublin at 6am, got our car rental and drove to the hotel. It took about 2 hours due to traffic mostly and turning around a few times. We parked our car in their lot, checked in and left our bags until our room was ready. We had a quick breakfast at a Bean Scene down the street from the hotel and had our first full Irish breakfast. We walked to St. Stephen's Green to catch the HOHO bus. We visited the Kilmainham Gaol, Jameson's and the Guinness Store. It was a long day and we headed back to our room and had dinner at Roly's Bistro before turning in early. No pubs the first night, since we were exhausted.
Day 2 - After breakfast at the hotel, we walked to find a spot on the parade route. It was really crowded and people liked to push and get close. We stood waiting an hour for the parade and then only watched 30 minutes of it. We walked over to Bewley's Cafe for a hot drink and snack. We decided to head over to Cobblestone Bar to listen to some music and had a great afternoon listening to several bands including the Blood Red Mountain Band. We befriended some local gals and they recommended going to Brazen Head. We went over there for dinner and had traditional Irish food. We headed back to our room again early since we were still adjusting to the time difference. No pubs again.
Day 3 - We still didn't sleep well, but made our way to Chorus Cafe for breakfast. We toured the Dublin Castle, walked through Trinity College and visited the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology. We were both still very tired and had been walking a lot the last few days that we decided to head back to the room for a nap before our pub crawl. We had a delicious dinner at Cornucopia before going on the Traditional Music Pub Crawl. We went to 2 different bars with our musicians and listened while they played and explained trad Irish music.
THE AIRPORT - We arrived to the airport about 6am on day 1. We got through the passport check in about an hour. We were at the end of the line.
When you leave, you go through customs and passport clearance in Dublin. So, when you get to the States, you don't have to do any of that. Therefore, you do actually need extra time to get to the airport. It took us 2 hours to leave Trim, turn in our car, check in, go through customs, get passport clearance, and arrive at our gate. At that point, we would have then been at the gate an hour before our flight, but it was delayed. Once you get through customs and are at your gate, there is only one little stand for food and coffee. It's only sandwiches and pastries. We didn't have breakfast before leaving our B&B, so had to settle for a panini, muffin and coffee for breakfast after waiting like 25 minutes in line since it was the only place for all the international gates!
Review on Site. Overall, it was a nice hotel away from the city center. If you aren't into walking a bit or taking public transportation, it might be a little too far away. For someone going to Dublin for the first time, I would recommend looking for something closer to the city center. It's always nice being city center when you are out sightseeing or having drinks and want to go to your room real quick. But, I would recommend this hotel and would stay here again.
Day 4 - We stopped here for an hour on our way from Dublin to Kilkenny. It was a beautiful day and the garden was lovely. We followed the trail all around the grounds to see Pepperpot Tower, the Japanese Garden, Triton Lake, the azaleas, and the statues and fountains. I didn't think this was a must see, but it was a pretty place.
Day 4 - Still on our way from Kilkenny, we stopped at Glendalough. We visited the visitor's center to watch the little film on the monastic site. We grabbed a quick bite from a vendor outside. We visited the monastic site, then went for a walk in the surrounding park. We followed the blue route, Miner's Trail. It lead us to a ruined miner's village a couple of miles from Glendalough.
Day 4 - After checking in the farm, we made our way into town. It was about a 15 minute drive. We had dinner at Kyteler's Inn. We took a walk in the rain looking for music in town, but we went back to Kyteler's Inn. There was a 50s rock band in the back bar that we listened to for a while before joining the trad music in the front bar.
Day 5 - After a full day of driving around Kilkenny and Tipperary County, we drove into Kilkenny to have dinner at Langton's. We went back to Kyteler's Inn after dinner to enjoy some trad music.
Day 6 - Before driving on to Kenmare, we decided to explore Kilkenny during the day. We had only seen the town at night for dinner and pubing. We toured the castle and enjoyed it more than the Dublin Castle tour. Afterward, we visited St. Canice's Cathedral and climbed the roundtower. We had a nice lunch at The Italian Connection before driving on to our next stop.
Review on Site. Overall, Ann-Marie and Mark were super nice and really went all out to make us feel welcome. They are building a new house on site on the hill above the current house, just Mark and a friend, and they let us go in and check it out before we left. It's amazing what they have done and how they've collected reclaimed items to build with. I highly recommend staying here. It's so quiet and peaceful at the farm and I probably slept the best on our trip here.
Day 5 - We hadn't planned on visiting the priory, but our hosts at the farm told us we should. They said it had a lot of history and we'd have the place to ourselves. They were surely right, no one else was there. We took a walk around the place and back along the river passed two ruined mills, through Kells town and back to the priory. It was a beautiful morning and walk. We drove on making our way to the Rock of Cashel. Our hosts had mapped out a route and day for us.
Day 5 - We stopped in Fethard on our way to the Rock of Cashel. We had lunch at McCarthy's Bar. Supposedly it was a bar that Pete McCarthy stopped at while writing his book, "McCarthy's Bar." We both have read that book, but didn't remember all the places mentioned in the book.
After lunch, we were told to check out the Car Boot Sale in town. Not knowing what to expect, we stopped and checked it out. It's a flea market/garage sale type thing where people get together and sale a bunch of stuff. We didn't find anything we wanted so was out in 15 minutes. Everytime we saw a sign for a Car Boot sale after that, we said "already done that"!
Day 5 - We made it to the Rock of Cashel in the late afternoon. We went on the free tour with the guide and he took us around for about an hour and a half explaining and sharing stories of the place.
Day 6 - After arriving to Kenmare and having a little rest, we walked around to see what we'd like to have for dinner. We settled on dinner at Coach House, because they were having an early and later trad music session. We enjoyed music during our meal and the later session also.
Day 7 - Before starting our Ring of Kerry drive, we stopped by to visit the Ancient Stone Circle in town.
Review on Site. Overall, this was a very convenient hotel to stay in for one night. We enjoyed being right in town and received great service, got a good night sleep and had an acceptable breakfast. That's all we were looking for during our trip. I would recommend this place and I would stay here again.
Day 7 - We started our drive of the Ring of Kerry at 9:45am. We stopped in Sneem for coffee, visited Staigue fort, had a pub lunch in Portmagee, visited the Skellig Experience, and stopped at Cahergal and Leacanabuaile forts. We made it to Dingle by 5:30pm.
We learned about Skellig Michael and would love to go back and visit the island someday. Tours to the island don't start until April and are weather dependent.
Day 7 - After our long day of driving the Ring of Kerry, we had a fantastic (and expensive) dinner at Out of the Blue. They had delicious oysters. After dinner, we went to the Small Bridge Bar for trad music.
Day 8 - Before driving the peninsula, we dropped our laundry off at the cleaners and picked it up later in the afternoon. After our day of driving the peninsula, we went on an independent historic walking tour of town. Rick Steves' had a tour in his guide. After our walk, we had dinner at Global Village and then went on a pub crawl. RS also had a tour in his guide. We stopped in O'Flaherty's, Murphy's Pub, Dick Mack's, Foxy John's, McCarthy's Pub, The Dingle Pub, and John Benny Moriarty's. We ended with trad music and John Benny's.
Review on Site. Overall, I would stay here again and recommend this place. It's very nice and has all the amenities. The hospitality is definitely superb!
Day 8 - Before starting the peninsula drive, we made a quick drive up to Connor Pass. We had planned on leaving town driving over the pass the next day, but our hotel host made a good point that it may not be clear the next day. We had nice views at the top of Dingle and surrounding area.
We started our drive of the peninsula around 10am. We stopped to see Dunbeg Fort, the Beehive Huts, Reasc Monastery, Gallarus Oratory and Kilmalkdekar Church. If you only have time to drive one ring, I would chose this one. The Ring of Kerry was a really nice drive, but you get to see a lot more cool stuff on the Dingle Peninsula. We stopped of for lunch at the pub in Ballyferriter. We were back to Dingle by 3pm.
Day 9 - We left Dingle and made our way to the Cliffs via the Tarber-Killimer car ferry. We stopped off for a late lunch at Joe's in Lahinch before arriving at the Cliffs around 3pm. The cliffs seemed to have a glare on them when looking towards the south, so you couldn't get a clear view of them. We walked along the trail to the south passed the fenced part. There is a big sign saying not to walk passed the area, but a lot of people do. I was amazed however at how close some people were getting to the edge. It made me a little nervous.
Day 10 - We found out they were running tours to the bottom of the Cliffs on ferries in Doolin. I didn't think they started until April, but we lucked out and enjoyed a nice cruise to the Cliffs Friday morning. They are really close to Doolin, so it was about an hour cruise total. The views from the bottom are so much better. I'm really glad we had the opportunity to see them this way.
Day 9 - There is not a whole lot to Doolin. After we checked into our B&B, we drove down to the dock to catch the sunset. That's when we found out the ferries were running to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. I didn't think they started until April. We had dinner at McDermot's and enjoyed trad music there in the evening. We were only 2 of about 10-15 people in the pub that night and they still had music.
Review on Site. Overall, we enjoyed our stay at Churchfield and would stay here again. Maeve will make you feel welcome and help you out in any way.
Day 10 - After our cruise to the Cliffs of Moher, we drove through The Burren on our way to Galway. We stopped for a light lunch at the Tea Room in Kilfenora. We really only stopped to check out the Poulnabrone Dolmen. We sort of had our fill of forts up to this point, so didn't stop at any in the Burren.
Day 10 - After checking into our B&B, we went to buy our tickets to Inishmore the following day. We walked around the city center for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine. It seemed everyone in Galway was outside soaking in the sun. We found out later, they don't get a whole lot of sun and when they do, they all take advantage of it. We had an early dinner at Fat Freddy's before stumbling across music at Tig Coili. They had an early and late session. We planned on staying only for the early session, but were friended by some locals and enjoyed their company the rest of the evening.
Day 11 - After our day in Inishmore, we had a fabulous dinner at Ard Bia. We then walked across the river to The Crane to meet our friends from the night before. Here we came across the largest trad session we saw on our trip. There were 13 musicians and our first Irish bag pipe players.
Review on Site. Overall, we loved our stay here. We received the warmest hospitality and felt like a real guest in the house. Frank and his wife live there also. I would absolutely stay here again and recommend this place to friends and family.
Day 11 - We took the bus at 930 am from Galway to the site of the ferry to Inishmore. The ferry left at 1030am. It was a 45 minute ride. We got off and rented bikes from the shop on the opposite end that everyone else was going to. It was 10 Eu pp for the day and you had to leave a 10 Eu pp deposit that was returned at the end of the day. We rode up to the grocery store and got a lunch to take with us. We took the low road since everyone would be taking the high road. We stopped and visited Dun Aenghus and ate our lunch by the cliffs edge. We continued biking to the Seven Churches before making our way back to town. We tried to take the high road back, but made a wrong turn and took the high high road back. It turned into a really steep dirt road, but we made it back to turn our bike in around 330pm. The bike guy was right though, you can't get lost on an island. Our ferry wasn't leaving until 5pm, so we grabbed some tea and a snack at one of the cafes. We were back to our room by 7pm.
Day 12 - We left Galway and drove through the Connemara. We stopped at the National Park visitor center about an hour for a little hike on the trails. We then drove onto Leenan for lunch at Hamilton's Bar. We stopped at the memorial site in Doo Lough Valley where people died from the Potato Famine while walking 12 miles to try and get food from their landlord, but were turned away.
Day 12 - After checking into our B&B and resting, we walked around town a little before dinner. We had dinner at West Bar based on the recommendation from our B&B host. Afterwards, we went to Mulloy's for trad music. We had nice seats right next to the musicians and were able to talk to them a little. They were probably my favorite band on the trip. We also got locked in at the pub. We had heard that could happen.
Review on Site. Overall, we enjoyed our stay here and would recommend it to friends and family.
Day 13 - On our way from Westport to Portrush, we stopped off in Derry for a few hours. We heard on the news on our way into town that they had just found a car with a homemade bomb inside and part of the city center was blocked off. We were wondering if we should still stop, but we decided to go ahead and see what was going on when we got there.
We parked in the Foyleside Shopping Centre and grabbed lunch at Fizroy's Restaurant. After lunch, we made our way to the top of the City Walls for a walk around. We came to the St. Augustine Chapel and saw the police tape across the wall and we weren't able to walk all the way around while we were there. We'd heard the investigation was expected to be over in a couple of hours, but the tape was still up when we came back.
After exploring the City Walls, we walked over to the Bogside Murals. We walked along Rossville Street looking at each mural.
Day 14 - We arrived to the sleepy town of Portrush about 5pm. We walked around the town and could see a lot of people in the hotels and restaurants, but no one on the street. Where did everyone come from or go after dinner?
This town made me think of Jersey Shore and I imagined they would both be similar places. There was a small amusement park by the West Strand and lots of arcade rooms. I wouldn't recommend stopping off in Portrush off season, because it's really quiet. I would have rather stayed in Derry or maybe even Bushmill?
We decided on dinner at Ramore Wine Bar. We had drinks at Spring Hill and enjoyed the lively conversations of the locals. There were no trad sessions while we were in Portrush for 2 nights. We were a little bummed since we'd been hearing music every night up until now.
Day 14 - After exploring the Antrim Coast, we had an early bird dinner at 55 North. I really wanted to try the banoffee pie I'd read about in my guide book, but they didn't have any, so we went over to Ramore to get a piece to go. It was so yummy! After dinner, we had drinks at the small Harbour Bar. Again, no music :(
Review on Site. Overall, this is a decent place to stay and would recommend it for that reason. If I had to do it all over again, I doubt we'd even stay in Portrush and would rather have stayed in Derry or a B&B on the Antrim Coast or maybe even Bushmills.
Day 14 - We started our day on the Antrim Coast about 915am. Our first stop was Bushmills to see if we could get tickets for a tour later in the day. They won't let you purchase tickets early. We drove on to Giant's Causeway and had a nice couple of hours walking the trail to the highlights. It was nice as hardly anyone was there.
We left there and drove on to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Ok, so cool rope bridge and nice views, but I didn't think it was worth paying almost 12 pounds for us 2 to see it! If you don't say you want a STANDARD adult ticket, they charge you more as a donation (5.90 vs 5.09 pp). So, it was almost as much to see this rope bridge as to tour Bushmills Distillery! Really?
After the rope bridge, we went back to Bushmills to visit the Distillery. We went on the 1pm tour and there were only 8 of us. It was really cool seeing a working distillery. Since it was a weekday, everyone was working. We had a nice tasting at the end and even tried one more in the restaurant.
After the distillery, we made a final stop at the Dunlace Castle. This was a really cool castle right on the cliff and worth the visit. Again, there were hardly any other people around.
Day 15 - We arrived in Belfast from Portrush around 11am. We parked in the Victoria Square Mall and planned on finding the HOHO bus for the Living History Tour. We got our bearings and walked out of the mall and boom there was the guy selling tickets to the bus. I don't know how we did it, but it seemed we were always where we were supposed to be even though we felt lost. We bought our tickets and got on the bus. It was our first drizzly, cold day and sat on top under the covered area. The first half of the tour took us to the Falls Rd and Shankill Rd areas. The bus doesn't stop and it seems like a whirlwind tour. Look left, look right, now look behind your left shoulder, etc. There were lots of political murals. The bus came back to where it started and let some people off and new people on and we went on the second part of the tour to the Quay and Parliament House. By the end of the tour I was freezing and grabbed my coat from the car. Then wouldn't you know, the sun comes out!
We grabbed a quick lunch at the mall at the Burger Bar before heading to tour City Hall. We had a 3pm tour of the hall.
After checking into our B&B, we had dinner at McHugh's because they were having an early music session. They weren't playing much, so after dinner we went to The Garrick for a trad session. We had heard if we were going to see a harp, it would probably be in Belfast. Guess what? One of the musicians brought in a harp! When she played it, you couldn't hear it very well, but it was cool.
Review on Site. Overall, our stay was comfortable and breakfast was great. Roger is really nice and helpful. I would recommend this place and would definitely stay here again.
Day 16 - Our last day in Ireland, we headed towards Trim. We stopped at Bru Na Boinne and was immediately shuffled off on a tour of Newgrange. We were bused to the site from the visitor's center and waited a few minutes for our guide to start. She was really awesome giving the tour. We all went inside the narrow passage and stood in the small chamber. Yeah, I'm a little claustrophobic. Then, she turned out the lights and gave a demonstration of the winter solstice from inside the chamber. It was pitch black and a little bit freaky. But, really cool. We entered the drawing to be able to experience this years winter solstice on Dec 21 from inside. I wonder if we'll really go if we get picked?
We grabbed a quick bite in the cafeteria before driving on to Trim.
Day 16 - We arrived in Trim around 2pm, checked into our B&B and then walked around. Trim has a really nice river walk. It was a beautiful day and lots of people were out and about walking. We checked out Trim Castle from the outside. The castle doesn't open on the inside until April. We then later walked along the river from our B&B to Newtown and back.
We had dinner at Fanzini O'Brien's on recommendation of our B&B host. It was the only place I'd seen everyone dressed up in Ireland. Everyone dressed up for dinner here. After dinner, we had a drink at James Griffin hoping to find some music. There was a band setting up, but weren't planning on starting until late. We decided they weren't the type of music we were looking for and had to get up early to head to the airport the next day, so we left.
Review on Site. Overall, this is a decent B&B. I wish we would have been able to experience the second B (breakfast). I would recommend this place and would probably stay here again. I really liked Trim and think it's worth going back to to visit the Castle and to see more of the Valley of the Boyne sights.