Hello- This is long, you're warned.
First off, thanks to everyone on this forum for their help. I printed off several pages of notes that I gathered from here and they helped to guide us. (Esp to Tony2Phones, Connemara area http://ireland.activeboard.com/t50055177/n59-galway-route/ and daughter-mom for Driving Beara Penisula http://www.tripadvisor.ie/ShowTopic-g775193-i20379-k4594606-Driving_Beara_Peninsula-Crookhaven_County_Cork.html ). This was our second trip to Ireland, the first being 11 days in 2007, also a self-drive.
Our trip was 15-30 May. We started in Syracuse, flew to Dublin, and then flew out of Shannon to Syracuse. We spent 2 days in Dublin without a car, then picked up wheels and spent one night in Laragh, 6 nights in Dromore (near Bantry) @ a rental cottage, 3 nights in Oughterard (was going to be 4, changed on the fly) one night in Galway and then finished in Ennis. It was just my wife and I, we waited until college was out so our middle daughter could be home and stay with our high school aged one (no issues at home, they're pretty responsible).
Budget: I don't see this covered much so here goes....We are pretty frugal, and would rather stay longer than fancier, so our numbers may not apply to all. When I bought the plane tickets 1 January on a bit of a whim, I penciled in $5,000 US; we came in a bit under. We didn't plan this as a big extravaganza, as we knew we'd start planning a return soon enough...
Airfare- $1600 for both, Jet Blue to JFK, then Delta. No real issues.
Lodging- $1000. Renting a cottage helped out.
· Leeson Bridge Hotel in Dublin. Great Location, 5 minute walk from Stephen's Green. Decent room with high ceiling, tiny bathroom with shower that just went to a drain in the floor. I know that this isn't uncommon, but get the pitch of the floor right so water doesn't puddle in front of the toilet. The breakfast was included, buffet style with a great selection.
· Trooperstown B&B, Laragh. We stayed here so we could check out Glendalough and drive through Wicklow. Fancy for us, as we had used vouchers on our first visit, so our selections were limited on that trip. 2 km's out of town, and you eat breakfast at Wicklow Heather Restaurant (same owners as the B&B). The breakfast at the restaurant was included with the B&B charges, but you had to drive down there (kind of odd). The host was great.
· O'Brien's Cottage, Dromore (about 8 miles outside of Bantry). Highly recommended IF you want country living. Stone cottage, coal cook stove in kitchen along with wood stove in living room for heat. No problem for us, we heat our home with wood but I could see some people having issues. Washing machine, which was a huge plus since we were staying mi-trip. Very relaxing. Tons to do in area, Mizen Head, Beara, etc. We stayed 6 nights and could have stayed another week checking things out. Owner stays in adjacent cottage so help is available. Good guy.
· Fough East, Oughterard (Connemara region). Nice B&B, given large room as there was only one other guest and we were scheduled for 4 nights. Wound up staying 3 nights. Host was very friendly. Pubs were a 2 minute walk away, just down the street.
· Desota B&B, Galway. Chosen at last minute as we wanted to hit a city, had run out of things to do in Connemara and were impressed in our quick walk around Galway previously. Good location to walk to city center or West side pubs (5 minutes) and inexpensive. Kind of felt like a hostel, but it was cheap and clean.
· Auburn Lodge, Ennis. Basically chosen because it was cheap and an easy drive to Shannon. Felt like a typical American Super 8. Overdue for a renovation, big room and bathroom. Apparently pretty popular with tour buses. They said they had Irish music starting @ 2130. The guy they had was playing a synthesizer and sounded like a German 'oompah' band...and it was packed with the Tour Bus people. We were coming back from the Cliffs so grabbed our last pint in Ireland and headed to the room to finish packing.
· Odd note, One B&B owner was Hungarian, one German, Cottage owner was British, Girl running the Desoto was French. All were great.
Car rental: $280 for 13 days, insurance through World Master Card. Rented smallest 4 door, upgraded to brand new Nissan Qashqui, diesel. Great car, but I had wanted an old beater due to damage worries. We put 2100kms on it. About 40 mpg, so that helped out with fuel expenses ($220).
Attractions: Maybe $225. We like hiking, nothing strenuous, which is free. Bantry House and Gardens, the visit to Garnish Island, and Dublin Pub Crawl were the only things we paid more than $15 for. At 46 and 52 we were by farthest the oldest on the Sandeman pub crawl, but had a blast.
Souvenirs: Maybe $250, I bought a sheepskin to try and use on my motorcycle seat, a sweater for the Mrs, and some jewelry for my girls.
Food/Beer: Maybe $1400. We're not foodies. Staying in the cottage saved us a lot, as did bringing over Folgers coffee bags and some snacks. We ate in pubs quite a bit, one of us getting an entree and the other soup/chowder (we really like soup!). The B&B breakfast's we had carried us into late lunches. I think we combined for 4/5 beers a day. A bottle of Baileys livened up the morning coffee. Supermarkets have great 'cook to order' food. We had an impromptu picnic outside the Bantry library one night, a large pizza for $9, with a couple of slices left over for breakfast. I tried about 7 different seafood chowders, the best was at The Snug in Bantry. My wife also had an overflowing plate of mashed potatoes, veggies and whiting there for $14 (plus authentic Polish waiters!). We also had some great gyros (doners) from street markets in Dublin and Clonakilty. Another great meal was a cooked ham hock from a butcher, rolls and beer from the market next door, another picnic for $10.
OK, that went a bit long.
Trip Highlights: Went to a trad sessions w/ 3 musicians in Oughterard. It was nice, so we asked 'Jerry' if he was playing the next day (Sunday) anywhere. Oh yes, In Spiddal, there will be some fine musician's at Au Tobar, starts around 1700. Great, we'll be there. 16 musicians wound up playing at various times, and we're the only yanks present. The local were so friendly, greeting their neighbors as they came in and all happy to be there. My wife was knitting socks so people were asking her about that. Best night of the trip.
Garnish Island: saw seals basking in the sun.
Glendalough: we stopped in the afternoon and had a quick look around but there were quite a few people there. We left as we were staying in Laragh and planned a longer visit the next morning. The next morning came quickly as the fire bell went off @ 0430. The owner had some issues shutting it down and we couldn't get back to sleep. Sat drinking coffee in the beautiful lounge area and went back to Glendalough @ 0600. We shared the site with a family of sheep grazing on the grave sites. Very peaceful. We walked up to the Miner's village and took some great pictures with the fog lifting.
Mizen Head: amazing views, weather couldn't have better. The guy at the lighthouse was a treat, I asked him about his accent, and he said he was from the next county 5,000 km's to the west. He was from the Bronx and has been in Ireland for 40 years now. He had a veteran's hat on, Army Air Corps he said. My wife and I are both former soldiers so we had a great chat.
Cong: I know that a lot of people aren't too excited about this place, but we had fun. My wife loves the movie (The Quiet Man) so I wanted to be sure and take her. We had great weather, walked the nature trail. I got a kick out of watching the tour bus people scurry in and out. I thought the fishing lodge was pretty cool. The lady at the visitor center was fun to talk to. I was feeling froggy and the place was empty, so I walked over and asked her, 'wasn't some kind of famous old movie filmed here?' She started into her spiel and my wife laughed and said that I was just teasing. We then talked for 30 minutes about where she likes to go on vacation (NYC for the shopping in November, Spain in March for the sun), and other gossip. A nice visit.
The Ewe Experience (outside of Glengarrif): A bizzaro sculpture garden with an environmental twist. Great for kids, and a break from castles, stone circles and museums.
Aughnanure Castle, South of Oughterrard: I didn't think the Block Tower was supposed to have a guided tour, but they did. The guide did a great job. The tower is rebuilt and you can go up several levels. It really gives you an idea about what all the square hulks you see abandoned up on the hillsides use to be like. The dog who meet us in the parking lot (Bess, we were there 10 minutes prior to the Castle's opening) did a great job as escort throughout the tour.
Farmers/craft market in Galway: great souveniers for girls, Saturdays and Sundays. Clonakilty market, Friday, great food choices. A bit of a hippy vibe going on, different and interesting.
Hikes- Glenngariif Nature Reserve- Short, good bang for the buck, is a 20 minute steep walk up to a sweeping view overlooking Glenngariff, Lady Bantry's lookout. There are also level trails along a small river. http://www.glengarriffnaturereserve.ie/activities.html
Gouganne Barra has some nice walks, many with minimal elevation change along some creeks. Didn't do the one going up past the waterfall, it's supposed to have great views. St Finbarr's Oratory is pretty moving, to live in those cells took some kinda faith.
Glendalough, heading up to the second lake, 0630 Sunday, billygoat as travel companion, spouse as rearguard, on her own pace.
Bantry has a nice loop; raised boardwalk along the beach, then looping over a hill on the far side of the bay, and you back into town where the library is. Stop at Ma Murphy's on the way back through for rejuvenation.
Coole Park, Gort. I'm putting in for the trail portions through wooded area's, walled gardens and a lake. Its also has the visitor center for Lady Augusta Gregory, who cofounded the Abbey Theater in London and hosted most of Irelands most noted 1900's authors; Yates, Shaw, O'Casey, the visitor center tells about these visitors and life in the Manor house from the viewpoint of Lady Gregory's 2 granddaughters. Very interesting and funny, kids would love this. One of the guys, Yates I belive would infuriate the girls. It was War time, and there was rationing. They could either have butter or jam, not both. Yates buttered his bread, flipped it over, and put on jam. The girls couldn't tell on him, so were quite frustrated.
The Cliffs: We had planned on laying low the last night in Ennis, until I realized we were 45 minutes from the Cliffs of Mohr. I remember someone recommending seeing the cliffs from an adjacent small town' which I thought started with an 'L'. Liscannor looked like a possibility on the map, so @ 1900 we headed out.
We went down a small road that looked like a possibility, but it dead ended before the cliffs got real high. We asked a 25ish guy walking down the road, and he said sure we could cross through his field up there and check out the view, he was just heading that way to watch his brother surf. So we took him up on the offer. It was neat, but not the real high part. We went back the way we came and saw a sign for the Cliffs of Mohr hiking trail. You turn by a sports club, and then the road dead ends about a mile up. A tower castle loomed about half a mile up, so we followed the path up through several fields. We had the Cliffs all to ourselves. I'm guessing we were 2 miles or so from the visitor center. Outstanding.
Overall we had very good weather, a couple of cloudy/raining days, and 5-6 sunny days that couldn't have been improved on. Temps were cool in the am, mid/high 40's, warming to high 50's low 60's in the pm. We're from Northern NY, 30 miles south of Canada, so this was perfect for us, maybe a little cooler than others would prefer. Dress in layers w/ a good windbreaker and you'll be fine. Comfortable shoes are crucial.
TIPS: Bring an alarm clock, nowhere we stayed had one. Our clock doubles as an I-Pod docking station so that could also charge and have music in our rooms. We brought an electric adaptor w/ a three outlet splitter, so you could plug in multiple low voltage things (camera, tablet charger).
Read the local newspaper when available in pubs. You'll see what is going on, and the ones we came across are written in the British Tabloid style so are very snarky and funny to me. How else would I know about the politician getting out of a breathalyzer test by saying he had asthma?
Listen to the local news for a bit on the car radio. In short doses it can be funny, until you hear about the politician refusing a breathalyzer test for the 15th time. We also heard an interesting interview with 3 kids getting ready for their school exams. It was pretty in depth, you don't get that in the states.
ATM's- No issues, I have an account with Charles Schwab and used that card, they rebate the fees. I only used a credit card 5-6 times, USAA with 1% foreign transaction fee. World MC for car rental so we had their insurance.
Naps- This was a vacation, heading out early to drive along the coast, staying out late to catch some trad music. Get them while you can, you'll be more agreeable to live with and theyre a real nice reason to stay in one place for a bit.
All in all a very enjoyable trip. Advanced preparation definitely helps. Try and have good weather/bad weather options. My brother once told me that the unofficial motto of the Marine Corps is 'Semper Gumby', which translates as 'Always Flexible'. I believe that this is good travel advice. If the fire alarm goes off at 0430 make the best of it. You might just get to share Glendalough with some hungry sheep!
So, that's my version of events.
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Loved the post and all the details, especially the $$ part and the tips. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.
Great report. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing!
"Ireland Expert" Michele ErdvigClick links for Michele's Book or Custom Ireland ItineraryVisit Michele's Irish Shop for unique Irish gifts and beautiful photos of Ireland.
Judy wrote:Loved the post and all the details, especially the $$ part and the tips. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.
Me too :)