Well I'm back and it was an amazing trip! Everything worked out perfectly. We had no complaints - well maybe just one with the car but that worked out also. I'm glad to be home but miss Ireland and am already planning the next visit. Here's a recap of our travels.
Our flight from Chicago was uneventful and we landed early morning on Friday September 25th. We made it to the Dan Dooley counter in record time and received our first surprise of the trip. Knowing that I would be doing all the driving and remembering the very small roads, I had reserved a very small car for our trip. The clerk graciously upgraded me to a 7 passenger mini-van thinking he was doing me a favor. I was not happy and I think I made that clear. I might have been a little tired and cranky at that point. Anyway it was not a "gift" I wanted to receive. Of course my three travelling companions were thrilled about the extra room they would have and kept assuring me it would be fine. I decided I would take it for a test drive and see how I felt. I'm not sure if I was confident in my driving abilities or delirious from lack of sleep but we soon took off in our minivan for Virginia in County Cavan. At least it was all M Roads and N Roads that first day.
About an hour later we pulled into the driveway of St Kyran's- my absolute favorite B&B in all of Ireland. After catching up with Patrick & Helena Keenan, the owners, we retired to our rooms (which were ready early for us) and just rested that afternoon. We awoke in time to walk down to their beautiful dining room for the first spectacular meal at St Kyra's. It was an early night as we were all quite tired.
The next two days were spent touring the area near Virginia. Patrick was extremely helpful in setting up a sightseeing itinerary for us for several days. His tips were spot on and his maps were very helpful. There are many great places to visit nearby - we saw a lot of them and learned a lot of history about this area on our travels. Some of the places we visited included Loughcrew Cairns, Fore Abbey and Trim Castle. Our weather was amazing (and would stay that way for a week) so these sights were even more spectacular.
Our three night stay at St Kyran's was perfect. As I said I love this spot. Not only are the rooms gorgeous but the food is spectacular also. We enjoyed amazing breakfasts and dinners there every day. The staff is very professional and so friendly. They took very good care of us. And the other guests at the B&B were a hoot. We were there with a group who were attending a wedding at the nearby Park Hotel. They were such fun modeling their wedding finery before the big event and filling us in on all the details afterwards. I love staying in B&B's!
On Monday we took off for the west coast with Doolin in County Clare as our destination. Again Patrick mapped out a route for us and we hit the road in the early afternoon. The drive was fairly easy - although we did run into a few detours that were a little tricky. And once we got to County Clare the scenery became spectacular. By this time I was used to the minivan and only screamed a few times - usually when a large truck or tour bus was coming right at me. I was able to lift my eyes from the road once or twice to enjoy the beautiful vistas although I continued with a death grip on the steering wheel for several days. We arrived in Doolin around 6:30 pm and found Cullinan's B&B right away. We were dining there that night so once we threw our suitcases in our lovely rooms we were back in the dining room for a delicious dinner. I had never been to Doolin before and I have to say I loved it - and I thought Cullinan's was perfect. We stayed there two nights spending one full day in Doolin. We walked the small town, spent a few hours in O'Connors enjoying my first Guinness of the trip - ahhh - and delicious fish chowder. We took a Cliffs of Moher cruise which was magnificent - again the weather helped with that. We had dinner at Fitzpatricks (across from Cullinan's) and enjoyed a music session there post dinner. All in all it was a wonderful visit.
On Wednesday we took off for County Kerry - Tralee to be exact. As it was another spectacular day we stopped at the Cliffs on the way to view them from up top. Beautiful! Two of my friends had never seen them - now they've seen them from top to bottom! Back on the road and we made it to Tralee and Ballyseede Castle by about 4 pm. Our first impression - gorgeous - and it just kept getting better and better. We spent the next 20 hours acting like royalty as we wined and dined in a spectacular setting. Thank you again Dan for steering me in this direction. We are so glad we decided to treat ourselves to one night there.
On Thursday morning we took off for Dingle - one of my favorite areas of Ireland. Although we only had one night here this time I was hoping to make the most of it. We arrived in the town about 1 pm and as it was 70 and sunny again (is this Ireland?) we decided to take advantage of the weather and tour the Slea Head Drive. We spent the next 4-5 hours touring many of the spots on this drive including the Blasket Center. I was the only one in our group who had visited Dingle - I think I have three new converts to this area. We stayed at Coastline B&B - a lovely spot within walking distance of town. I had stayed here six years earlier and loved it. Vivienne has a beautiful B&B with spotless rooms and absolutely delicious breakfasts. We strolled into town that evening for a pub grub dinner - and Murphy's ice cream for dessert. A perfect day.
On Friday morning we said good-bye to Vivienne and took off for a day in Dingle town. We toured St Mary's Church - then set off for a tour of the shops, pubs and tea houses in that pretty little town. About 2pm we left with a promise to return and headed of for Killarney, our home for the next seven nights.
We arrived in Killarney at about 3:30 or so. We had stopped at Inch Beach and gotten stuck in a Killarney traffic jam that rivaled those here in Chicago. We soon found The Priory and our beautiful condo. Michele, I know I told you I would send you a review of this spot. I can sum it up in one word - spectacular. Our condo was even better than the pictures and those were beautiful. Cozy living room, great dining room and a wonderful fully equipped kitchen along with 3 bedrooms and 2 ½ baths. All that plus a laundry room. Yay! We met Bernadette who had great ideas for us and gave us some wonderful maps of the town of Killarney and the surrounding area. Those proved to be invaluable. We were soon settled in our new abode.
After a week of eating in restaurants we were all hungry for a home cooked meal. We had done some grocery shopping in Dingle on our way to Killarney and were soon enjoying a delicious dinner, wine and dessert. Perfection! Bernadette told us about a grocery store nearby and since we love to cook (and eat!) we ended up preparing breakfast and dinner in our well-appointed kitchen every day. It was great fun sitting around the comfortable dining room table for hours enjoying our meals, our cups of tea, and our wine. Very relaxing ,and it saved us a lot of money! By this time our weather had changed and become more Ireland-ish. But not bad. It was overcast with some sun and in the 50's or 60's every day we were in Killarney. But really no rain to speak of. I know - weird huh? If we got chilled on our tours we were able to build a peat fire in our living room every night to warm us up. So nice!
We spent the next six days touring Killarney and the areas nearby. When I first started planning this trip I was going back and forth between staying in Kenmare and Killarney. The Priory was what eventually steered me to Killarney and I am so glad we were there. As I have said before although this was my sixth trip to Ireland I had never been to Killarney. Now I can hardly wait to go back. I love that town and oh my there's a lot to see and do in this area. We visited so many sights including the town of Killarney, Muckross House and Abbey, Ross Castle, Kerry Mills. Tony - you are so right - God must live in St Mary's Cathedral - that is spectacular and so peaceful. We also spend a day in Kenmare and had a grand time there. Bernadette arranged a Gap of Dunloe tour for us which was an amazing day. I think we took 500 pictures. We had so much fun and saw such beautiful sights that day. Then we came home to freshly baked scones from Bernadette. Those plus some hot tea rejuvenated us after a day in the beauty of Kerry
Early Friday morning we packed up the car, said goodbye to Bernadette and headed back to Virginia to wind up our trip. We took a little detour and stopped at the Rock of Cashel for several hours. Again I was the only one who had visited this spot but was so glad to return. I am amazed by the magnitude, the scenery and the history of that place. We were back on the road by 2:30 for the last leg of this long day in the car. We arrived at St Kyran's at about 5:00 and got settled in our beautiful rooms in time to rest a little before dinner.
On Saturday after spending several hours over breakfast catching up with Patrick, Helena and staff we set off for the Cavan County Museum. We spent almost 3 hours touring this very impressive collection including a recreation of trench warfare used in World War I. It was fascinating. After that we stopped in the town of Virginia for a walk about that very pretty little town and of course stopping for a cup of tea. It was soon back to St Kyran's to try to fit everything in our suitcases and enjoy our last dinner. After lingering over our delicious dinner for several hours we spent a few more hours talking with Patrick and Helena. They are a wonderful couple. I always feel like I'm visiting a friend's home when I stay there. I can't say enough about that place.
On Sunday after our last breakfast we packed up the car said good-bye to the Keenans and headed for the airport. We returned our minivan, which actually had turned out to be ok ,and headed to the terminal. Got through security and US Customs quickly and before we knew it our Aer Lingus jet was taking us home.
It was a glorious vacation. We managed to keep busy but at a nice pace. We were never rushed or overwhelmed. We saw many interesting sights and a lot of spectacular scenery. We learned some of the history of this beautiful land and her people. The weather could not have been better - especially for Ireland. I mean c'mon - one 30 minute period of rain in 2 ½ weeks?? We ate delicious food and enjoyed many cups of tea, glasses of wine and pints of Guinness. I learned to build a peat fire -how about that! We met some charming people - not at all surprising in that country. And we always managed to find something to talk and laugh about. That's easy to do when you travel with such great friends.
Thank you again to all who post and answer questions on this forum. Your help made this trip perfect. I'm glad to be home but do miss Ireland and her people and her Guinness if I'm being honest. I will be back soon I'm sure.
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Enjoyed your trip report! Thanks!
Was happy to hear you enjoyed Balleyseede Castle as much as we did. We did it for our GD, however DW and I were really impressed with it.
As for the friendly people of Ireland? I'm here to tell you, that after recently retuning from a 3 week trip to western and Central Europe, visiting 7 countries, I have no doubt in my mind that the Irish have a lock on how to do hospitality!
We are considering a 4-week trip next fall to Ireland, hunkering down for a week or 2 in self-catering as well as a 1-week side trip to Wales.
"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.