We traveled to Ireland from March 8-15 with four adult children, and were thrilled to share our love of Ireland with them. My wife and I have been there several times, but it was the first trip for the kids.
On March 8 we flew from Chicago to Dublin non-stop on Aer Lingus. Wonderful airplane and staff, movies on demand, food was good, flight on time, could not have asked for more. We paid $732 roundtrip for our tickets, as I purchased them in December.
We arrived in Dublin at 9 a.m. on March 9 and gathered our two rental cars from Dooley. Last year when we were in Ireland, the Dooley lot was actually at the airport all we had to do was take the elevator downstairs to get the vehicles. Now their lot is off site, but still quite close and with all the other rental companies. A short ride on a shuttle van got us to our cars in a few minutes.
Our first day consisted to driving to Kilkenny, via a stop at the Rock of Dunamase. This impressive and free site is only a few miles off the M7 near the turn for Portlaoise and is a wonderful way to stretch your legs after an hour in the car. We spent a little over an hour walking around and enjoying the site and scenery on this sunny day. If you saw the movie Leap Year you will recognize the ruins. http://irishhistorypodcast.ie/2012/06/19/the-rock-of-dunamase/
After leaving Dunamase, we continued on to Kilkenny on the N 77, going over to Nicolas Mosse pottery in scenic Bennettsbridge before arriving at our B&B. This was our first stay at the Bridgeview B&B, and we enjoyed it. The proprietor, Eimer, has taken an 1800s era building and renovated it in recent years to make a wonderful B&B right on the River Nore. We paid 30 euros pps and the breakfast was outstanding. Great location if you know where Matt the Millers is, as you turn right at that corner and are only a few feet away. http://www.bridgeviewbedandbreakfast.com/. We were tired from the travel, but pushed through the day by taking the tour of Kilkenny Castle (really nice -- had seen the grounds before, however had not done the tour), and had an evening meal at Kytleller's Inn.
With some sleep, we took off on our long travel day on March 10 in bright sunshine. Our goal was to get to Doolin at some point that day, and our first stop was Cahir, where we toured the castle. It was impressive and inexpensive, and we enjoyed it. The Swiss Cottage nearby was closed, so we did not make that walk. After a quick lunch in town, we continued on to County Clare. We took the tunnel at Limerick to steer clear of that city's mess at midday, and continued on toward Ennis. A short distance east of the M 18 near Ennis we turned to see Quin Abbey. Again, this was a free site and a spectacular place that was right on the way. And again, how I hadn't done this is previous trips is a head-scratcher.
It was a wonderful stop on a sunny day. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g551484-d730004-Reviews-Quin_Abbey-Quin_County_Clare.html
Having originally planned to do Loop Head as well before going to Doolin, I admit that sanity won out as we pushed that plan to the next day to arrive in Doolin about 4 p.m. We stayed at one of our favorites, The Daly House. Susan Daly is about as good as it gets with a wonderful B&B, a personal touch, and the best breakfasts in Ireland. It was 40 euros pps and worth every cent. http://www.dalys-house.com/. Dinner, drinks, and music that night at Gus OConnors, which is a three minute stroll from her B&B. We slept well that night!
March 11 was going to be a trip to Loop Head, as I had seen it last year and was impressed. Also the thought of paying for a stroll up a paved road to the Cliffs of Moher has long since lost its appeal to me.
But then the unexpected happened
Susan told us about a farmer in Doolin who is one of 39 farmers who own land along the cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher. This man has constructed a walking path 5.5 miles long along the actual edge of the cliff and takes people on a three hour narrative walk each morning at 10 a.m. She said it would be an experience we might not ever have again, and with sunshine, no clouds or wind, and 55 degrees on the thermometer, we decided to do this walk. To say it was incredible is an understatement.
Pat Sweeney, who does the walk, has been featured in the NY Times and is one of the most amazing people you will ever meet. The views on this walk make the Cliffs Visitors Center experience fairly mundane. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g214506-d3420238-Reviews-Doolin_Cliff_Walk-Doolin_The_Burren_County_Clare.html. If you stay in Doolin, I would suggest you do this walk if you are physically able to make a five-mile journey. I know this is not for everyone, but if you do it on a good weather day it will be the highlight of your trip. http://www.doolincliffwalk.com/. (You take a short bus ride back to Doolin that you catch at the visitor's center).
Later that afternoon we drove to Lisdoonvarna to have dinner at The Roadside Tavern, which is also now the location of the Burren Brewery. The food and the local beer was excellent. This place was voted the best Gastro-Pub in Munster in 2012. http://www.roadsidetavern.ie/roadside/asp/page.asp?p=1
March 12 found us up early and on the road to Galway. We stopped for lunch there and walkedthe city for a couple of hours before continuing on to Westport for the next two nights. Making good time, we drove over to Kylemore Abbey and Gardens for a late afternoon experience and then got into Westport around dinner time. http://www.kylemoreabbey.com/.
We checked into Boulevard Guesthouse, which is a wonderful location right on the canal. It is a short stroll to Matt Malloys and the countless other great pubs in this town. We ate at The West Bar on Bridge Street (had eaten there previously and liked it), and it was great again. The chefs top dish is a seafood bake (think giant pot pie) that was amazing. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g186627-d2360146-Reviews-The_West_Bar_and_Restaurant-Westport_County_Mayo_Western_Ireland.html. Later on enjoyed music at both Matt Malloy's and the Porter House.
March 13 relaxed for a bit and then took a drive around the Mayo area, eventually going to Crough Patrick. Climbed to the St. Patricks statue for some wonderful views and then went down to the famine memorial and the abbey ruins. That afternoon did some shopping back in Westport and enjoyed some of the real old pubs in town such as Hoban's, Blouser's, and a personal favorite Toby's, a tiny pub that is definitely a locals bar with a roaring fireplace and friendly residents. More music, then to bed. One note about Boulevard Guesthouse ... it was 35 euros pps, and it is all about the location. http://www.boulevard-guesthouse.com/ The rooms are nice, but just know that the breakfast will probably be the skimpiest you will receive during the trip. It was the last time I was here, and nothing has changed in that regard. Location gets the nod -- not the personal touch or food. We stayed at Linden House last year, and I liked it better than Boulevard Guesthouse. It also has a good location.
Heading back to Dublin on March 14, we went south midway off the M 6 to go to Tullamore and tour the Tullamore Dew distillery. http://www.tullamoredew.com/en/crafting-legend It was a fun way to break up the drive, and the tour is well worth the money, especially since it is easy to download two-for-one coupons for the tour. We then continued on to near Dublin Airport, arriving at our B&B in Swords by early afternoon.
This was another find for us.
In the past when we have flown out of Dublin, we stayed nearby at Bewley's Hotel. Since our flights had been real early, the B&B approach didn't really matter since we would not have been able to enjoy the breakfast.This time our flight the next day was not until noon, so I researched several B&Bs in nearby Swords. We found a great one in Abbeyglenn Cottage! http://www.abbeyglencottagebandb.com/
Easy to get to and only a few minutes from the airport, this spectacular B&B is only 30 euros pps and features a breakfast that rivals Dalys House in Doolin. The gorgeous property is also across from an express bus line going into city center, but we decided instead to kick back and relax in the Swords area that evening instead. Dublin on a Friday night before St. Patrick's Day seemed to be a bit too intense for our final night.
We walked to The Old School House Bar http://www.theoldschoolhouse.ie/ for a few drinks and a remarkable meal, and then had a couple of more drinks at nearby Lord Mayors Pub before getting some rest.
Turning in the rental cars from Abbeyglenn on March 15 was quick and easy, as was our flight home. Not one drop of rain on the trip, although were heard ample stories from the locals regarding the terrible winter they had. I told them weather in the Midwest this year had been no easy thing either, and that we were all glad to see the sun again.
Our kids said they loved the trip and now feel they know enough to start planning a return with their friends someday. It was a great family trip and exposure to the Emerald Isle had performed it's magic.
-- Photos to come. Here is one from the Doolin Cliff Walk site:
Sounds good, Geno! You had a PHENOMENAL stroke of luck with the weather.
Sad to say, I have also missed/passed by Quinn Abbey over the years. I may have to re-think that . . .
Not surprised that your youngsters loved Ireland, though. 'You don't get that from licking a rock', as my Father-in-law used to say. It's in the blood.
Help Us to Help You. The more you tell us about your plans (dates, interests, budget), the better we can tailor our advice to suit!
There is so much to see in Ireland that doesn't have an admissions price attached to it, and those are usually the best places to go anyway. I realize you have to do some of that stuff the first time you are there, but after a point it's getting off the beaten path that makes the trip special to me.
Thanks for all your help!
Sounds like you and your family had an awesome time and had wonderful weather. Thanks for sharing your trip and providing some great tips to those of us still in the planning stages. The hike from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher sounds incredible and we have added it to our list. Thanks again for sharing.
Geno,Many thanks for the wonderful trip report. That walk from Doolin sounds great. Here is another place to see next time near Ennis: Clare Abbey.
"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.