It's been three weeks since we've returned and I finally have a bit of time to give my trip report. First off I definitely have to agree with either Bob or Geno that said most itineraries don't survive first contact with battle (especially when I left for Ireland without printing out my typed version and was relying on memory, as well quick written notes that I had done before leaving). Our trip was a blur, almost a mostly good blur, but we knew it would be prior to leaving.
We departed on the 29th with minimal delay or problems. Sometimes you never know what you'll get when you fly in terms of delays or problems, but I was happy we didn't have any. We arrived into Dublin also with no problems. Our luggage made it safely and on our flight! The line for immigration wasn't too long, it took us maybe 10 or 15 minutes to get through it. We stepped outside the airport to a really nice partly overcast day with a temperature of about 55F.
We picked up our rental car from Hertz. I had paid for a self drive tour through exploringireland.net that included our B&B stays and the rental car. We were issued a 2012 Nissan Micra, manual shift, with a few good scratches and dings already on it. Despite my husband and I only packing a carryon sized suitcase, only his was able to fit in the trunk. However we were able to put mine and my backpack in the pack seat since it was just the two of us traveling. Thankfully my husband was stationed in Japan and was already familiar with driving on the left side of the road, although it had been three years since he last drove on the left. Apparently some of the government vehicles were manual as well, so he also knew how to shift left handed and was somewhat comfortable with it. I was amazed by how quickly it came back to him. By day 2 he was almost driving like a local!
After deciding the car matched up with the damage sheet we did exactly what everyone shouldn't do on their first day in Ireland, or even at all really. We drove straight into Dublin. We did not go into city center though! Our hotel for the first night, Sandymount Hotel, was in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin near the Aviva Stadium. It was a straight shot down to our hotel. We didn't have any problems getting there. We arrived around noon, and while technically it was too early to check in, they said our room was ready and allowed us to check in. It was a nice enough hotel and room.
My original plan was to see many of the tourist sites in Dublin on this day - that plan was thrown out the window almost immediately. My husband was not feeling well at all after the long flight. Not just tired, but sick to his stomach. Apparently this happens to him every time he travels on a long flight and he forgot to tell me. While I knew we would be tired, I did not expect to have the entire day's plans completely wiped off the itinerary. It was frustrating but I have definitely learned. It just goes to show how people react to travel differently and how jet lag affects each person. We were directed by the front desk to a pub, which we never found, or Patrick's Cafe not too far from the hotel for some lunch. The place was small but busy; we had some great sandwiches and walked back to our hotel. My husband took about a three hour nap and not wanting to wake him up I think I slept for an hour and a half. We awoke and decided to just have dinner at the hotel's restaurant/bar. I think we were both asleep by 9pm that night.
The weather that morning was overcast with a bit of sprinkling rain. Our breakfast at the Sandymount was buffet style. My husband still wasn't feeling well despite lots of sleep. We loaded up our car and checked out. Off we went to drive through Dublin again towards our first stop of the day which was Rock of Cashel. Upon programming our GPS from Hertz we discovered it had not been updated for almost a year. That could make things interesting we thought. But we had a map as our backup! Heading through Dublin wasn't TOO bad although I'm not sure if I would do it again. We didn't hit any of the morning traffic thankfully and didn't really get turned around. We did take the wrong turn on one roundabout (the first of only three times this happened!) and just went down a bit further to turn around. It was interesting with the narrow streets of Dublin though, I felt at times like we were going the wrong direction. You would see cars parked on both sides of the streets, some parked at opposite directions than you would think they would be, and then because of the parked cars only one car could go by at a time. Once we got on the N7 and then the M7 it was smooth driving from there. About halfway there we were hit with an absolute downpour of rain, so much so to the point that it was very difficult to see the road. My husband felt brave enough though to keep going and not pull over, although at a much slower speed. The downpour lasted about five minutes and then returned to sprinkling.
As we were driving I was amazed by all of the ruins just sitting in farmers' fields. Even a round tower or two. I discovered something about my husband on this day. He is not one to veer off the programmed route. But we still tried to make the most of the trip.
The Rock of Cashel that was saved into our GPS by someone else definitely was not the correct place. It took us to some little town about 15 km away from the actual site. We decided this was probably due to it not being updated for a year. We got back on the main road and finally made it. The rain couldn't make up its mind if it wanted to downpour or sprinkle so we decided to crack out the umbrella for the first time, at the very least to protect the camera. Despite the construction, it is still an impressive site to see, even my husband thought so.
The plan after seeing the Rock of Cashel was to see the Athassel Priory ruins since they were so close. Sadly it was not to be. My husband still wasn't feeling better, so I sadly conceded to just head to our B&B. We arrived to the Maranath Country House in Blarney about 3:30. This seemed to a theme for our trip - to check in super early. However our hostess was almost ready for us. We had a wonderful conversation with her about her huge German Shepard. It made us miss our own dogs a bit. She allowed us to drop off our bags in our room (which was overwhelmingly pink!) and we headced into Blarney town center.
We finished the night off with some shopping, taking care of almost all of our souviniors. After our shopping we decided pup grub was going to be it for the night.
More to come.
"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.
Two rules for Ireland, Take your time & bring a sense of humour
Although I used a GPS in Ireland this March for the first time -- and most of the time enjoyed having it -- I also had my maps with me and absolutely used those on several occasions when it was obvious the "information" I was receiving was a bit off. Basically my plan is to go back to just using maps, but the GPS was comforting if we stayed out a bit too late in the day and were needing assistance getting back to our B&B prior to it getting dark. For the sightseeing part of the day, however, I just turned it off. I like to meander around and see what I find!
Perform a u-turn when safe....
FLANO always argues with the GPS... I forbid him to have one in Ireland though...
I apologize for it being SO long since I came back to finish this. Life became really crazy busy shortly after we returned. Now that the holidays are over with, I'm determined to finish this report.
My husband woke up feeling much better this morning finally. When you're trip is only a week long, two days of not feeling well is a good chunk of time. We had a lovely buffet style breakfast, including the best scones I've ever had.
We left our B&B and headed straight to the Blarney Castle, which was only about 10 minutes away. Despite getting there about thirty minutes after it opened I was surprised by how many people were there. The weather was absolutely wonderful! My husband and I both left our jackets in the car and went on to explore the castle in our t-shirts. It was a warm day, around the 50s or 60s Fahrenheit.
With it being autumn I was expecting to see a fair amount of fall colors, especially on the Blarney Castle grounds with the numerous amount of trees. However I was amazed by how green everything still was!
We entered the castle and started the climb to the top, exploring as we went. Those stairs are something else! They're very steep and incredibly narrow. It had rained the night before so the stairs were a bit slick, but we made it to the top. The view from the top of the castle was stunning! It was especially nice with the clear blue skies. We didn't kiss the Stone; we both felt we already had the gift of the gab, the gift of eloquence - however maybe if I had, I would have had this trip report done sooner! Going down the castle stairs was much easier than going up (separate stair case). We exited the castle and walked through the Poison Garden that was right near the castle. It was very interesting to see the different plants in there that were poisonous, some I recognized and did not know they were deadly.
From there we drove on to Killarney. By the time we reached Killarney the rain had caught up with us. It came down in a couple of down pours that made it almost impossible to see. Thankfully we were parked in the lot for the Muckross House when the worst of it came down. We decided to take a jaunting car ride. I know, it's a completely touristy thing to do, but it was our first trip to Ireland and the trip was for our anniversary. It was fun. I probably wouldn't do it again, but it was fun for one time, and our driver was great to talk to. He drove us out to the Torc Waterfall. When we came back to Muckross House we found out it was going to be another 45 minutes until the next tour. We decided to do some shopping instead.
We found a pub in the town center called The Smoke House for dinner. It was a small quiet place. My husband had a lamb burger, he said it was the best lamb he'd ever had. I had a dish of two very large field mushrooms that were stuffed with vegetables and couscous. It was alright, not overly spectacular, but my husband definitely loved the lamb burger.
We found ourselves a bit worn out and returned to our B&B for the night. We stayed at Woodlands B&B.
The bed at Woodlands was the largest bed we had come across so far. It was a king size bed. It was nice to have the extra sleeping room for one night. Our breakfast was good. Our host, Patrick, was a lot of fun to talk to. He had a really good sense of humor. He really wanted to talk about American politics but my husband and I aren't really into politics, plus our trip to Ireland was during the government shutdown, so we weren't the best conversationalists when it came to that topic.
The day was absolutely gorgeous. This day was our anniversary and we really couldn't have asked for a better day!
We drove out to Tarbert for the ferry to head up the coastline. By the time we arrived to Tarbert, clouds had rolled in again, but the rain stayed away. It was my first time on a car ferry. It was definitely interesting to watch the buses load on and off the ferry.
Once on the other side of the estuary the GPS took us down some unnamed country lanes en route to the Cliffs of Moher. It had been programmed to take the fastest route, and apparently these country lanes were meant to shave off three minutes... it didn't. We pulled over to reexamine it and our map because we were sure it was getting us lost. It didn't but it was an interesting route.
Once we arrived to the Cliffs of Moher it was completely clear and the sun was shining. The cliffs weren't shrouded in mist or clouds, just completely clear. It was great to be able to see them so clearly. As we left the Cliffs of Moher visitor center parking lot, we came across three young hitchhikers. Normally we would not have stopped for them, but as they were younger than both my husband and I, we decided to. It was an interesting experience to pull over on that narrow road, with the large amount of traffic coming from the visitor center so we could re-arrange luggage to try to fit all three of them in the back of our car. In the end one of them had to hold my suitcase on their lap. My husband and I both only packed a carryon size of luggage but the truck of the car was so tiny that my suitcase spent most of its time in the back seat. The young hitchhikers were all in their very early 20s from Germany. Apparently they had been hitchhiking and backpacking over most of Ireland, staying in hostels along their way. They were headed to the Doolin Caves. We felt good being able to make it easier on their feet. We dropped them off at the caves and wished them well for the rest of their travels.
From there we drove on to the far outskirts of the Burren. It was just barely the start of that landscape. I was amazed by how far that landscape went! We pulled off the road and walked around the rocky landscape, making our way towards the ocean's edge. The tide was coming in so we definitely didn't want to get too close. Despite not seeing the heart of the Burren, it still was so amazing to walk across all of it and to see the various different plant life sprouting up between the cracks in the limestone. As we walked back up to the car we could see some cairns up on the small cliff side that was next to the car. My husband decided he needed to get a better look. There was already a path up the cliffside, although it took some very careful walking. I felt it was a bit treacherous, but I'm sure I was being overdramatic. My adventurous side was running a bit low. We made it to the top, seeing hundreds of cairns that people had made on the top. We snapped a quite a few photos, of the cairns themselves, as well as the view from the top. We left the cairns as they were, we did not add any to the landscape and made our way back down. I was ready to be done with this rocky landscape after almost rolling my ankle three or four times - probably a big factor in my adventurous side waning. I'm still not sure if heading down the trail was any easier than going up it.
We were early to check in at Nellie Dees B&B in Doolin. This seemed to be a theme for our trip. I had read that the owner could/would give up your room if you weren't checked in by 6pm. So despite the fact we were traveling in the off season we were paranoid of this, and often found ourselves checking in super early. We were also petrified of driving around in Ireland in the dark. Maybe I'll be a bit more brave next time around.
Our host recommended that we try the Riverside Bistro for dinner. My husband had a burger that he thought was very good. I had a bacon wrapped chicken breast over mashed potatoes that was also very good and a little bit too much wine. Oops. We ran into the young German hitchhikers again at the Riverside Bistro. Apparently they didn't enjoy the Doolin Caves near as much as they thought they would. As we made our way back to Nellie Dees we noticed some abbey ruins really close to the B&B. We had left our camera in the room so we grabbed that and quickly walked to the ruins. The sun was setting and what a SPECTACULAR sunset it was. It was still a clear evening. I was able to capture some amazing photos of the cliffs in the distance and the town of Doolin bathed in shades of gold and orange. When we reached the ruins, the sunset had shifted to shades of pink and purple pierced through with gold. I was able to get some great pictures of the celtic crosses against the back drop of the sunset. The abbey ruins had a peaceful yet lonely feel to it. I'm not a professional photographer by any means, but sometimes I get lucky with some great ones.
We walked back to Nellie Dees and decided to call it an early night since we had a long day of driving ahead of us for the next day. I was disappointed we didn't head back to a pub for some trad sessions. But as I'm already planning my second trip back to Ireland, I am sure I will get to see plenty then.
Michele, I don't have a website for my photos so I can't share a link for them, but I would love to share a couple of the sunset photos with you all if you don't mind. I know pictures can really bog down your website, so I wanted to ask before I attached them.
Nice to see your post, It's really a great destination to visit. I am also looking for visiting the whole Europe continent as travel package.
Michele Erdvig wrote:I would love to see a couple of photos. You can attach them here on your post if you are in the "Advanced Editor" mode. Enjoying the continuing saga!
I would love to see a couple of photos. You can attach them here on your post if you are in the "Advanced Editor" mode. Enjoying the continuing saga!
Thats a good idea. I would love to see a few pictures from your trip
Hey , My name is Paul and I come from France. Just I read this post and wonder on the trip to Ireland. I have a question for you. What do you recommend to visit? Nature or monuments ? And where?
Cryvesler/Paul, Welcome. There is so much to see and do in Ireland. I suggest you take a spin around my website IrelandYes.com and read a few travel guides to see what interests you in Ireland. You can easily do a mix of nature and monuments. You might want to post in this section of my forum: Ask Michele. Let us know if you have any other questions as your planning proceeds.