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Post Info TOPIC: 35 days in Ireland, 2 negatives, 100 positives


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35 days in Ireland, 2 negatives, 100 positives


My wife and I are in our 60's and this April and May was our first trip to Ireland.  We rented a car for 30 days and drove around the island, then turned the car in and spent 5 nights/4 days in Dublin.

We had a couple of days when it did not rain but this lack of sunshine did not detract from the surprises around every turn.  During our lifetime of travel, we have stayed on farms and bed and breakfast places in South Africa, New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia and now Ireland.

Our reaction was that the people were the friendliest and most helpful in Ireland.  The best breakfasts are to be found on the Irish farms and bed and breakfasts.

The only negative of the trip and it was a big one was Dan Dooley Car Rental.  Because it was raining almost every day we did not see many of the potholes that exist on most small Irish roads.  With a month of driving we missed most of the holes but not enough.  Even though our car had 36,000 kilometers on it and the tires were pretty used by the time we received the car, Dan Dooley ripped us off.  When the car was returned they said that two of the tires would need to be replaced.  I did not mind that, what I minded was the 300 Euro charge for two small tires on a Puegeot 308.  At the exchange rate at the time that was $400 for two tires.  This left a very sour taste in my mouth.

Alright, enough about the one negative.

We saw so much and learned so much and there were so many surprises.  Where to start?  At the beginning of course.

 

We landed at 7:30 in the morning, bought our OPW passes in the airport for 16E each for seniors (best bargain in Ireland), then obtained our car and drove to Trim Castle (Braveheart movie) and then on to Laragh for lunch, and the afternoon walking around Glendalough monastic ruin and  park. 

We thought Glendalough was one of the highlights of the trip, certainly of the first week.   The first night we ate dinner at the Heather Wicklow Restaurant in Laragh.  This was one of the best meals of the trip in terms of quality/price.

The next three nights we stayed at Hillgrove B&B about 2 kilometers outside Kilkenny, a good base to explore the southwest.  Margaret served the best french toast of the trip.  Each order of french toast came with a sliced banana on top. 

For anyone wanting to visit the Kinsale, Blarney Castle, Clonakilty area, I would suggest staying with Norma Walsh at Ard na Greine Farm in Ballinascarthy (where the Henry Ford family were the local celebs).  We regret not staying two nights with Norma.  We did have dinner with her and this is not to be missed.  We started with fresh melon, then soup, then fish and chicken which was served with four vegtables in four large serving dishes.  Fresh breads baked by Norma and three different desserts topped off the meal.

The next morning Norma served fresh scones and fresh breads with a wonderful breakfast.  Norma makes her own dry cereals which are great.  When it was time to leave, the dozen scones that were served to our table were placed in a plastic bag for us to take with us, along with the half  loaf of fresh bread we were not able to finish. Norma is at 353 233 9397.

This dairy farm stay was a highlight for its beautiful location, acreage and best meal of the trip for 25E per person.  Norma is a great cook/chef and is constantly cooking for her husband and son who work the farm. 

Our next major location was a house rental in Kenmare on the Ring of Kerry road.  Gail O' Sullivan 353 64 668 5602 is the owner of one of the four homes built by her brothers for sale.  When the market turned south four years ago, she and his husband acquired one of the houses and her mother and father acquired one of the other homes.  Gail rents the home out by the week .  The best rate is the weekly rate which equates to a free night.  We stayed for 5 nights for 400Euro.  The house has 3 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms.  As we only needed one of each, we closed the other rooms and turned off the heat in those rooms.  The house is basically brand new and two minutes to the Ring of Beara road and two seconds to the Ring of Kerry Road.  We loved our 5 nights here and visiting the Super Value market in Kenmare every morning for fresh baked goods and the coffee shop attached.  We stopped each evening to pick up dinner at the market.  For a long trip like ours this was a great option.

 

We liked the Ring of Beara more than the Ring of Kerry.  The day we drove Beara, during the week. April, we saw no trucks or buses and only a couple of cars the entire day.  This made the place enchanting.

I'm not saying the Ring of Kerry and the sites are not amazing, but the trucks and buses coming at you with so little room on the road, well that does detract and scare the daylights out of you.

In Newmarke on Fergas near Bunratty castle we stayed at the Kells Country House with Pauline and Ron O'Brien.  Ron a GE engineer that left GE to start his own engineering firm acquired the 5 acres on a hill overlooking the river.  They then built a magnificent home for almost 2 million euros for their family.  After the 3 boys went to college and moved out they opened the home for guests.  Ron heats the house with geothermal energy which dropped the annual energy bill from 8,000 Euro to 1,000 Euro per year.  The breakfast omlette with smoke salmon was excellent.  Ron actually took us in his Jaguar on a tour of the area and showed us where he played as a child with his relatives the owners of Dromoland Castle (in the days before it became a castle hotel property).  The Kells Country House was the best house (with private electric security gate), best view, our room the tower room was the biggest room offered to guest and was the largest of the trip.  Ron has an open bar in the house and everything is complimentary from soft drings, to beer to wine to the hard stuff.   The bathroom was the best of the trip.  Being chauffered around by Ron in his Jag was a real highlight.  Good pub with a great ribeye steak at a great price just 5 minutes from the estate.  You can reach them at 353 61 476 876.

We used Galway to explore Roscommon, Shannonbridge, Cong, Athenry, Closmacnoise and the area east of Galway.  We stayed 3 nights at the Jameson Apartments located on the waterfront at Salthill, a 4 minute drive to old town Galway and the Supervalue market.  The apartments are two to a floor unless you rent the top floor as we did, then the two bedroom, two bath apartment on the 5th floor takes up the entire floor.  The dining room looks out of the apartment toward both the ocean and the city, depending which way you look.  Very quiet, underground free parking, internet, elevator, great price on weekdays, not bad even on weekends.  You can reach Elaine at 087 917 6970.  Wish we had stayed another 1-2 nights.

A 15-20 minute drive out of Galway we found a restaurant that served us the best meal of our trip.  The restaurant is small, called Taste Matters, located in Loughrea.  Open for lunch and dinner.  Lunch prices are a steal.  The chef is magnificent.  I had the pasta in tomato sauce, with fresh small tomatoes and salmon steak, my wife had risotto with chicken breast and parmigniano and mozarella cheese. 10E each at lunch.  At dinner the lamb or veal shank at 17E is outstanding.  Really worth the detour, the chef is amazing.  I lived in Italy for a year, then spent another year in the country, off and on.  The pasta and risotto is as good in preparation and ingredients as anywhere in Italy.  Stop her on the way to Closmacnoise abbey ruin or if staying in the Galway area.

 Ceide Fields, 30 minutes northwest of Ballina is an amazing site.  The oldest dwelling site in Ireland.  Homes were fenced in by circular stone fences and these have been uncovered as have the rectangular field fences.  This is 6,000 years ago.  The museum incorporated into the hillside is something.  The museum tour guide was very knowledgeable.

We stayed a few minutes outside Ballina with Dolores Jordan at the Red River Lodge, a beautiful place on the river.  Dolores directed us to the local pub a few minutes up the road and we had our best pub meal of the trip here.

In Sligo we stayed with Ita Connolly at Iorras B&B.  Ita served four different kinds of fresh breads and made the best omlette of the trip with cheese, ham and onions.  It was perfection.  Should have stayed another night.

 In Londonderry we stayed at Troy House, built in 1890's and located 2 minutes from old town.  Michael provides the largest rooms and best towels in Ireland.  Each day Michael printed out information on his computer and told us how to reach our destinations.  From Londonderry we visited Glenveagh Castle and grounds.  This Castle and grounds were one of the highlights of the trip.  Guests of the castle were Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and many others.  There is a reason for this.  We loved this home and 28,000 acres, which was owned by two Americans.  The property was given to the Irish nation by its last owner.  This was one of our favorite spots in all Ireland.

Best breakfast of the trip was our last three nights before arriving in Dublin.  Michelle suggested Edenvale House outside Belfast/ Newtownards and I must describe breakfast.  Yes, there is the typical fruit bowl and dry cereals served at all other places, but then Diane puts out one or two of her prepared dry cereals.  She puts out a fresh bowl of stewed plumbs, another bowl of stewed apricots and a bowl of stewed berries: red and black currants, rasberries,  blueberries, blackberries, fresh slices of mellon with rasberries, fresh cut grapefruit with strawberries.  Then the large roast ham is put on the table to help yourself, you can have eggs, omlettes, pancakes, bacon.  I had the fresh salmon on fresh baked bread.  Just amazing.  It was worth the price.

While staying at Edenvale we visited Mount Stewart House and Gardens.  Henry Kissinger's first book while a professor at Harvard was written about one of the Stewarts.  The grounds are most impressive and it was enjoyable to see the home where Lady Stewart still lives. 

Knowth and Newgrange blew us away.  We never expected to see 19  tombs at Knowth or the passage tomb at Newgrange.  Imagine Ireland having something like this, older than the pyramids by 2,000 years.  Older than the cemetary where they buried the pharoahs in Egypt in tombs in the valley of the Kings. 

We turned in the car after a day at Knowth and Newgrange and took the Air Link bus into Dublin.  The airport bus, 747, stops directly outside the Best Western Academy Plus hotel.  Yes, the hotel has 300 rooms, but the location 30 yards off O'Connell Street, the widest street in Dublin with the widest sidewalks, is ideal to walking everywhere.  We loved it here, and when it was time to take the bus back to the airport, the 747 bus stops 10 yards from the front door of the hotel.  The price and location were the best we have encountered in almost 30 years of visiting large cities.

Yes, the weather was cold, we wore long underware, gloves, ski hats, sweaters and jackets for our entire 35 days, ending May 20th,  It rained almost everyday, it was windy too, but we met the nicest people on earth and had so many surprises along the way:  Ring of Beara, Torc Park, Ring of Kerry, Glendalough, Closmacnoise, Carrowmore Megalithic cemetery, Ceide Fields,  the Burren, Gleaveagh Castle and National Park, Giant's Causeway, Mount Stewart, Newgrange-Knowth!!!!

How did this little spot on the big planet earth end up with so many amazing surprises???  And I did not mention all the castle ruins and abbey ruins we enjoyed.  Imagine what they would look like if not  destroyed by the English???

Thank you Michelle for the best site on Ireland on the Internet.  I know, I searched them all.  You and your major contributors made this trip so special for us.  I can never thank you enough.

We even made it to the Dark Hedges and stayed for an hour just looking at them.  That row of trees is one of the most interesting spots on planet earth if you are a tree lover.

Again, I want to thank all the regulars that make this the best Ireland forum on the internet.  Ireland was special.  People have asked us what we like best.  We could not pick one of the places above the others.  Oh, maybe we could, but we did not want to diminish anything we saw as every other day was another surprise.  Ireland will always we one of our best trips thanks to all of you on this blog.

What did we not like?  The way Dan Dooley ripped us off and Stokestown was a rundown disappointment.  Two bad moments and 100 good ones.  That is a great score.

regards, Richard & Gerrie Leeds, Irvine, California



-- Edited by Richard Leeds on Tuesday 29th of May 2012 10:02:20 PM



-- Edited by Richard Leeds on Wednesday 30th of May 2012 01:47:42 AM

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Richard,

What a wonderful trip report! Your descriptions of the food were making me very hungry.

From your description I think Ireland impressed you despite a few glitches and the weather. It really does pack a lot into a small package, doesn't it? I'm so glad you took my advice about Edenvale. I know you were originally not going to stay because of the price. But it is an experience in its own right. I agree completely about Ita's omelets at Iorras in Sligo - delicious.

Thank you very much for your comments about my website. We were delighted to help with your trip. The forum members' goal is always to share the knowledge we have so your trip is better. We want everyone to love Ireland like we do.

If you have the time I know that the various B&B owners would love it if you could leave a little review on some of the review websites such as Trip Advisor. It helps them to become more recognized, especially the little out of the way places.

Michele

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"Ireland Expert"  Michele Erdvig

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Visit Michele's Irish Shop for unique Irish gifts and beautiful photos of Ireland.



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Michele,

I will write some notes on TripAdvisor. Your site was my first priority because your book and site contributed more to our experience than did the Frommer and Fodor books we acquired.

Taste Matters, the best meals we had in Ireland. Your readers should go for lunch or dinner if they are close to Galway.

Again, thanks so much.

Richard

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There were several others places we stayed during our trip.

I thought I should mention a few of those.

Henry's Luxury B&B, on the coast between Kinsale and Clonakilty.  While the breakfast was not up to all the fresh baking and full cooked breakfasts we found elsewhere, Marie and Pat Henry have one of the best locations in all Ireland and the house is absolutely lovely.  The art collection inside is something to behold.

 

Mallmore in Clifden:  we stayed here due to comments of regulars on this board.  It is a lovely location.  Walking the grounds offers great pictures across the water to Clifden and the reflection of the two church steeples in the water.  The road up to the house is something.  I just hoped I did not meet another car arriving or departing in the opposite direction.

One last thought:  After purchasing Fodor's Ireland, Frommer's Ireland and Michele's book on Ireland, I found that Michele's book was the most helpful of the threee.  Why, more detail on specific accommodations, restaurants and spots off the beaten path.  Lots of helpful hits and her website always brought additional insight.  Even during our trip and a request for help to find the "dark hedges" the next morning when we went looking for them,  before leaving our accommodation there was a response by "Italian Chauffeur" on how to find them.

The trip to Ireland would have never been so successful without reading through Michele's book first and spending a couple of days reading through posts on the board she created.

For the rest of our lives we will remember this trip as one of the best we ever took and that would not have been possible without this site and all we obtained from it and the book.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you, Richard

 



-- Edited by Richard Leeds on Monday 4th of June 2012 07:56:38 PM

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