We just got back from a great first trip to Ireland!
Our itinerary took us to Trim (2 nights), Armagh (1 night), the Antrim Coast (2 nights), Belfast (1 night), Dublin (3 nights), Kilkenny (2 nights), Blarney (1 night), Kenmare (4 nights), Anascaul on the Dingle Peninsula (1 night), Fanore in the Burren (2 nights), near Shannon Airport (2 nights). Except for the Trim Castle Hotel at the beginning, all of our accommodations were in B&Bs, in a double room and a twin room.
We pretty much stuck to our itinerary; visiting and doing just about everything that we wanted to. In retrospect, the only change that I would make to it would be to have spent the one night between Kilkenny and Kenmare in Kinsale, instead of near Blarney.
Now that the boring details are out of the way...
We loved Ireland and are already talking about returning for a couple more weeks in the northwest. We did enjoy western Ireland best.
1. The Irish hospitality. I can't say enough about how gracious just about everyone we met was... thank you! The smiles, jokes, and easy-going style of the folks we met really made our trip! The helpfulness and generosity of spirit of the many Irish people on this board provides a great taste of this hospitality... If you are in the planning stages of your trip, you will come to appreciate this "céad mile fáilte"!
2. The richness of the cultural, archeological and historical heritage – most of it set in beautiful landscapes. The 3 corners that impressed us the most as far as combining these three elements: Co. Meath, the Beara Peninsula, and Co. Clare. In each of these areas, we could have spent *much* more time exploring (i.e. the Burren).
3. The private tours and excursions that we had planned for: a full day custom tour in Co. Meath that we had arranged with Michael Fox (http://www.boynevalleytours.com); a boat trip to Skellig Michael with John O'Shea (http://www.skelligtours.com); and a private walk in the Burren with Tony Kirby (http://heartofburrenwalks.com). I most highly recommend each of these fine tour guides (and skipper!).
4. The surprises we found on the road: mama duck and her ducklings; a horse cart race, whizzing by us on an “R” road; a startled fox; getting our first set of “Irish directions” on a small road in Co. Cork; and, following the brown signs to neat little stops along the way. The sheep were fun, but they weren't exactly a surprise... ;-)
I will end this first trip report post now. Instead of going into minute day-to-day details, I'll be posting individual reports in “themes”, that can be searched e.g. “Avis”, “B&Bs”, “the Antrim Coast”, etc.. I will try to get these done in the next few days.
In the meantime, I'll be glad not to see another cooked carrot for a little while ;-)
... but will be missing Murphy's beer, wheaten bread, Dubliner and Cashel Blue cheeses, fresh fish, crab claws and mussels!