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Post Info TOPIC: A Return to Ireland - Counties Galway, Clare, Kerry and Tipperary


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A Return to Ireland - Counties Galway, Clare, Kerry and Tipperary


 

Hi Everyone,

 

I'm back after an eight day trip to Western Ireland.  This was my fourth trip to the country.  I'm of Irish descent and have a great love of the country.

I went with a friend from work who had never been, so it was a mix of new sights and repeat visits.  We flew into Dublin because it was cheaper than Shannon. 

My car rental was through Easy Tour Ireland, with Hertz, inclusive of all insurance.  It was expensive, but I decided the peace of mind would make it worth it.

It was an overcast day on arrival.  We got through immigration in speedy fashion.  Bags were a little slow to appear and then we quickly got our car and were on our way.

I missed my exit at one point and got a little delayed getting back on course, but not too bad.  I had purchased a disc to load into my Garmin with Ireland maps.  I give it mixed reviews.

We stopped for lunch at Athenry, at The Old Barracks.  Its a cute place and was pretty decent.

Onward to Galway/Salthill where we would spend two nights.  We stayed at Coolin House just a few houses from the water and promenade.  I wanted to stay at Marless House, where I stayed long ago, but it was full.  It was actually very hard to find a place that had two rooms, even though we were searching five months in advance.  I give Coolin House a C.  The hosts were very friendly and nice, but the cooking was not very good.  Also, my friend's room was next to the familys personal area and she complained that they were having a little party fairly late and kept her from getting to sleep after a long journey.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around Galway.  We parked next to Galway Cathedral.  We popped in the cathedral, along with St. Nicholas Church and the Augustinian Church.  Walked by the Spanish Arch and just rambled around before we lost all energy and went back to retire for the night after a long, long journey.  No dinner, just some snacks from Marks and Spencer (my favorite food hall in the British Isles).

Day Two- Connemara day.  It rained all day today.  L  First stop was Aughnanure Castle (4 euro).  I enjoyed this stop.  Theres not a ton to see, but I think its still a good stop.  Next stop, Clifden to walk around, get a snack and window shop.  I recommend Walsh's Bakery for a fine snack and clean restrooms.

On to Clifden Castle.  We parked the car and then headed down the narrow, rocky road that leads to the castle.  It was really raining steadily at this point and the wind was fierce.  I had to give up on my umbrella because it was not up for the battle against the wind.  The cows looked at us with great wonder, clearly thinking we were lunatics being out there by choice.  Even though we had on rain coats, we got soaked and muddy.  I say I received many Irish facials during this trip, with all the wind and rain that beat on my face.

We were wanting to do the Sky Loop Drive, but there was no visibility, so we skipped it.  We drove to Kylemore Abbey, photographed it from the fence, shopped in the gift store and then moved on.  My friend was not interested since the price was high and the weather crummy.  We visited Cong Abbey and then went to Ashford Castle but there is a guard in place now.  Last time I went, it was a friendly place.  I know it recently changed hands and its much more expensive and apparently they want to keep people out.  They allowed us in to look at the Cullins coffee shop and gift store, but we didnt try to get past the next guard.

Headed back to Galway for dinner at a pizza place called Woodzees or something like that.  It was pretty good.  I picked up a few gifts at McCarthy's jewelry shop.

Day Three- Time to pack up and head to Killarney, with a few stops along the way.  First stop was Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara.  The sun made a brief appearance here and it was so pleasant.  Then on to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, where it started raining again.  I liked this stop and it was my first time. 

There was a guy selling jewelry there and when he asked us what we did and he found out my friend is an attorney, he started asking her legal questions.  I guess the county council is trying to kick him from his perch at the monument.  I thought he should have given her a piece as compensation for her time!  There were several people clearly wanting to ask him about his merchandise, but he ignored them to ask my friend his questions.

We also stopped at Leamaneh Castle for a photo op.

We proceeded to Doolin where we had a snack at the Stonecutters Kitchen.  We thought it was cute and the food was good.

We then went to the Cliffs of Moher, which is as busy and magnificent as always.  6 euro per person is too high though.  Then we made our way to the Doolin Pier to make our 3 pm Cliffs cruise that I had booked in advance (15 euro per person).  This was with Doolin Ferries and they were late and disorganized.  We finally got going and the seas were rough.  Some crazy mother and her two wild young kids stood against the front railing jumping up and down with the waves for most of the journey.  They were really obnoxious and unsafe.   A couple of other passengers tried unsuccessfully to get them to knock it off.  The crew just ignored them.  The perspective of the cliffs from the sea is very nice and Im glad I got to see them from this vantage point

It was about 4:30 by the time we got done and we needed to make our way to Killarney.  Its a bit of a drive, but that Limerick bypass Bob told me about was great.  Thanks, Bob!

B&B was Crystal Springs.  The place is a few minutes drive from town centre.  It is very clean, has a wonderful breakfast, friendly hostess and lovely backyard on the river.  My room was super tiny though and I was disappointed to find it did not have a mini fridge, since I had been told by email by the hostess that all rooms had a mini fridge.  My friend's room and that of another set of guests did have mini refrigerators, but they didnt work!  When I had been doing my research to select a b&b, I had narrowed down to this place and another place and had selected Crystal Springs because of the mini fridge claim.

While we were walking around town, an older gentleman fell backwards off the curb into the street and hit his head.  The police had driven by just as it happened, and ignored the scene, even with me trying to wave them down.  I and two other people picked him up, got him out of the street and sat him down away from the street.  It became clear he was intoxicated.  He had a woman with him, probably his wife. I really didnt know what else to do, he wasn't bleeding, so I moved on with my friend.  It was sad.

Dinner was at an Italian place that had a nice atmosphere, but the food was very bland and overpriced. 

Day Four Great breakfast, rainy morning.  It was a very wet, dreary morning.  We were to drive the Ring of Kerry, but we decided to go into town for a little while to see if it would clear out.  We parked in town center and split up for two hours.  I visited the Franciscan Friary, St. Mary's RC Cathedral, St. Mary's Church of Ireland, and did some shopping. 

By the time my friend and I met back up, the weather was clearing and we hopped into the car to hit the Ring of Kerry.  First stop was Ballycarbery castle in Cahersiveen.  This entails a bit of a drive down a really narrow, single lane road.  Luckily, we didnt encounter any other cars along the way.  Wouldn't you know it though, by the time we reached the castle, it was raining again and very windy.  It would be a theme that whenever we visited ruins, the skies would rain down on us. 

Nevertheless, it is a cool ruin to explore, rain or shine.  I went inside the shell, to the consternation of my friend who admonished that it was dangerous and that I should at least hand over the car keys in case the thing should collapse.

Then we went to check out the two nearby forts.  We ended up exploring just one, Leacanbuaile. It was pretty neat, but we decided one was enough given the crummy weather conditions.

We went back to Cahersiveen town proper and went into the Daniel OConnell Memorial Church.  Its very nice.

We got a snack at a nearby bakery and then moved on down the road.  By the time we got to the Skellig Ring, the weather was nice again!  We enjoyed the views and also enjoyed a fun stop at Skellig Chocolate Factory and Café.  This is a well- run establishment that provides generous samplings of chocolate.  Its also a good bathroom break with clean restrooms.

I enjoyed the candy samplings so much, I spent $50 buying a variety of truffles for myself and family.

Continuing down the road, I think it was the Coomakesta Pass that provided some interesting driving.  Its a bit of an incline and portions are one lane only.  There were some interesting encounters along the way with people having to back up to let others go by.  I had to do some backing up and pulling over myself several times throughout my vacation.

We also visited the Staigue Fort which was cool.  The journey had some solid stretches of one lane roadways that filled the ride with a lot of anticipation and crossing of fingers.  It was a lot farther off the main road than I expected.  Well, these one lane roads always seem long!

It was getting late when we reached Kenmare, so I just popped into the Holy Cross Church for a minute for a peek and to light a candle for my Aunt who had passed away the week before (and who dearly loved County Kerry).

Dinner was at Hannigan's Bar and Restaurant back in Killarney.  Our hostess and some other B&B guest had recommended it.  It was a long wait, but the atmosphere was nice and the food pretty good.

Sorry this is so long.  More to follow and Ill try to make it shorter.



-- Edited by Ande on Monday 12th of September 2016 04:59:57 PM



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Welcome back.  Sorry about the weather -- I understand it's been a strange year.

Glad you still had a good time, anyway.

You are welcome for the Tunnel -- I had it built just for you!      biggrin   biggrin   biggrin

Seriously, it's a GREAT time saver, isn't it? 

Looking forward to hearing about the rest. smile



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Ande, Thanks for the comprehensive trip report. What a bummer about the weather. Hope you had a jacket with a hood. A must when it is too windy for an umbrella. I take a rain hat too.

Next time you are in Killarney try Mac's for food. I've never had a bad meal there. I also have a few recs for B&Bs within walking distance of town.

Did the GPS send you astray?

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Hi Michele,
The GPS was a little quirky at times, but I'm still glad I had it. Yes, I sure did have a rain jacket with hood. It was a new one from Columbia. I have to say my old LL Bean goretex is better suited for Ireland. I did see Mac's, not sure why we didn't go there.

.



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Here is the continuation and conclusion of my report.

Day Five- Time to pack up and head to Portmagee where we would station ourselves to be close to the Skellig Michael boats.
After another delicious breakfast, we visited Torc Waterfall, Muckross House and Abbey, and Ross Castle. Grabbed a sandwich in town and then proceeded to Portmagee.

Our b&b was Portmagee Heights. To my relief, I had a much larger room and bathroom. I had two window hatches I could open and take in the views of some farm land and the water. Nice!

Our hostess gave us a map and we headed off to Valentia Island. To my surprise, most of the roadway loop was really tiny. For some reason, I had thought the roads would be more spacious here.

We paid to go see the Fogher Cliffs. At the first view point, the wind and rain let loose and we didnt go up to the higher levels. It is very pretty here and it was disappointing the weather made it miserable.

Knightstown was really tiny and nothing seemed to be open. Dinner was at the Bridge Bar, which had a nice atmosphere and good food.

Day Six- Skellig Michael day!! The day I had been dreaming about!! I was so anxious about the weather as it had been so crummy and I knew the day before had no sailings. The hostess daughter told us the boats were a go, so I was thrilled! It was misty, wet and foggy, but who cares!!
I had booked five months in advance with Brendan Casey. 70 euro per person. Per instructions, I had called the day before to confirm.
When we arrived at the dock, the gentlemen running the show were disorganized and we walked from boat to boat with them until they shepherded us on to one. There were a total of 12 passengers per boat, and two crewmen.

The first mate (?) gave us a good safety briefing as we pulled out of the dock. Everyone had a life vest and they had other open sea vests in the cabin if things turned really bad.

The sea was incredibly rough. Half of the passengers threw up. Luckily, I was not one of them. I believe my decision to pass on the big breakfast and just eat toast was a wise one and I recommend that to anyone reading this post and planning to take the journey. As I was closest to the cabin, the first mate would hand me the sick baggies to pass along as needed. I had to keep my eyes focused on the water to the side and not the sick people!

Our captain had the pedal to the metal and we blew past other boats and made it to the island in about an hour. Because of the fog, we could not see the rock until we pulled up to it and even then, we could only see a small distance up. This was disappointing, but what are you going to do?

Getting off the boat was a work of art. Because of the waves, timing was very important. The first mate was a pro at telling people when to jump. All made it off just fine.

A short distance from the dock, there is a guide going over the safety rules for making the climb. The steps were very wet, so it was stressed to be very careful. I think there were two small sections with chains to hold on to, other than that, there was nothing to separate the visitor from the drop offs.

The steps are irregular and very steep in some sections. There was one section in which most people used their hands on the steps in front of them to assist in the scramble up.

There were a few people (not from my boat) who chose not to do the climb. I wasnt scared of the height or drop offs, but I admit that the stair training I had done in advance did not cut it. My office building has 13 floors and I would climb them most days to prepare, but it wasnt enough. I had to huff and puff my way up. It seemed like the stairs would never end!

Up top, the marvelous stone beehive huts await the visitor. The place is in remarkable condition. You are free to go inside the huts. There was a guide at the top who gave a presentation on the history of the place, but she made no effort to project her voice and I gave up trying to hear her, even though I wasnt far away from her.

There were probably three boat loads of people up there at the same time. Everyone seemed thrilled and awed and rightly so.
We allowed plenty of time to make our way down in a cautious fashion. Some stretches of stairs required walking down slightly sideways because some steps were very shallow.

A guy ahead of me fell, but luckily he fell backwards on his bum and was ok. Had he fallen forward, it would have been a dreadful scene, not only for him but those ahead of him on the stairs. I purposely stayed back so I wouldnt have anyone immediately behind me.

The boat pickup was disorganized because only one boat at a time can dock. The boat that was there was not our boat and its occupants were not back at their designated time. Our 12 people got there in a timely fashion, but we had to wait about 20-25 minutes before we could be picked up.
Watching other people board their boats, it looked like it would be challenging to get on with the waves, but it was no problem.

We were taken to Little Skellig to see birds and seals from the boat. No puffins on this trip since they had left for the season several weeks earlier.
The ride back was much easier for people to endure because we went with the waves rather than against them. It was still a bouncy ride, but only one person got sick.

As soon as we got off our boat, we made a beeline for the Skellig Mist Café. I was starving since I had eaten such a light breakfast and had not snacked on the island. I thought it would be crowded, but it wasnt. The ordering process is slow and disorganized, but the food was good.

We went back to the b&b to chill out for a while, then set out for a drive, going to Waterville. Stopped in the Waterville Craft Market and found a nice cross pendant for my mom as a thank you gift for taking care of my pets while I was away.

We then drove to Derrynane House. It was past closing time, so we just walked around the grounds for a few minutes. This is a lovely estate and had I known it, I would have made a point of getting there earlier.

By the time we decided to head back to Portmagee, there was the most incredible fog that had dropped in. Visibility was next to nothing! And it was getting dark. I can only imagine what it must be like driving those roads after complete sundown.

We went back to the Bridge Bar for dinner. Service was not very efficient or professional this night, but the food was good. They have a Taste of Ireland sampler of Guinness beers that I ordered. It was more for a photo op since I knew I wouldnt like them. I tried each one and confirmed that Guinness is not my thing.

Day Seven Last real day in Ireland. I had a big breakfast this day and it was good. The weather was miserable, rainy and foggy, but we were hopeful to drive out of it. The forecast showed the eastern half of the country as being good.

We had to head back to Dublin for our morning flight the next day. We stopped in Cahir, Rock of Cashel and Rock of Dunamase en route (thank you, Bob, for the recommendation of Dunamase). The Rock of Cashel has a bunch of scaffolding, much needed maintenance, I imagine. The weather was much better at these stops. Cahir castle does not allow going up on the ramparts anymore, sadly. I have really fun pictures from a long time ago up on the ramparts.

Our final hotel for the trip was Clayton Hotel at the airport. My GPS rebelled and sent us around in circles, very annoying at the end of the long day of driving. Finally we found it. We wanted to unload our stuff at the hotel before returning the rental car. Check in was a nightmare. This place was so busy, there was a long line and each transaction seemed to take an eternity. I couldnt understand it. It was more like a rental car counter, with each transaction entailing a lot of discussion. Eek.

I had stayed at this hotel long ago when it was Bewleys. It was much better back then. The rooms looked like they had not been updated in 10 years. The couch and chair were grubby. To my horror, there was no air conditioning and it was a very warm day in Dublin. My travel companion was not pleased and I felt bad since I had picked the place. It had not occurred to me to check before booking. I assumed any corporate type hotel near the airport would have air conditioning. The windows only opened a tiny bit. Everyone was asking for fans. I lucked out and got one. Delivered at 10:30 pm!

Since I last stayed at the hotel, a gas station had been built across the street. We filled up the rental car there and then took it to the airport for return. Only one guy was processing returns, so it was slow.

We shuttled back to the airport and then took the hotel shuttle back to the hotel. I grabbed dinner at the gas station because they also had a Super Macs and Papa Johnss there. I was happy to eat for 5 euro rather than an expensive hotel meal.

Day Eight Flying home. The hotel front desk had advised being outside for the shuttle 30 minutes before you wanted to be at the airport. I was out at 6:30 am. The bus sat there for 20 minutes before leaving. There was a guy on the bus freaking out because he did not build in time for waiting around. I wonder if he made it! By the time we pulled out of the hotel, he had an hour before his flight was to take off.

Irish security was first and wasnt bad. They didnt even ask for photo ID, just the boarding pass! Then, USA security and then immigration and customs. I have global entry, so it was quick for me to get through the immigration process, no wait at the kiosk and only one person ahead of me to see the agent. I was fascinated to see that when I saw the agent, he had a picture of my suitcase to identify as mine. Fancy!

Flight home was the best it could be because I had a whole row on the transatlantic part all to myself. Hooray!!! My connection was in Chicago and it was easy, with the next flight only a few gates away in the same concourse.

Even with the wacky weather, I had a great time. Im already brainstorming about another trip, maybe as soon as next year.
Thanks, Michele and Bob, for your advice in advance of my trip.


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Ande -- Thanks for completing your report in such a timely manner -- Once again, you've put me to shame!  biggrin

Wish I could take credit for the Rock of Dunamase, but -- as usual -- it was Michele who first made me aware of the site. smile   It's a GREAT one, isn't it?

Skellig sounds every bit as enchanting (and scary!) as I've imagined.  I'm going to have to make the journey soon -- or give up the idea entirely!  hmm  hmm



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I think watching the OPW safety video really made it less scary. It was sort of a rehearsal to the actual visit.


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Ande, I'm really proud of you for making it to the top (and back down) at Skellig Michael. Alas, I can never do it. Just watching the videos freaks me out as I'm averse to heights. Couldn't do Carrick-a-Rede either. Try the Premier Inn near Dublin Airport next time. I think you will be happier with it.

If you do get back next year I certainly hope the weather is better.

__________________

"Ireland Expert"  Michele Erdvig

Click links for Michele's Book or Custom Ireland Itinerary

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

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