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Post Info TOPIC: Our April-May 07 Trip Report

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Our April-May 07 Trip Report

Dear Reader:

This report is mainly for those who have never been to Ireland.The experienced travelers know most of this and have "been there, done that" often. There's not much new here if you've already visited Ireland.

Rather than present a "daily diary" report , I felt it would be more helpful to simply cover the highlights and lowlights of our spring trip to Ireland, and also share some tips, tricks, and traps.

Let me preface my report by saying that, for the trip lowlights, I in no way intend to demean or unnecessarily criticize.Rather, I'm simply reporting facts -- as cold and as dispassionately as possible."Call 'em as I see 'em" in other words.The same is true for the trip highlights.You may not agree with me in either case, and that's fine.Another cliche fits nicely here: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

While we both agree that the trip was much fun and one of the best vacations weve ever taken really a smashing success Ifeel it could have been better. Why?

I got off on the wrong foot early in the planning stage by not immediately ordering Michele's book when I first started thinking about Ireland in Sept 2006. I reasoned that I'm a pretty experienced traveler, having been to most countries in the world.I 'm well acquainted with all modes of travel, including long-distance US and Canadian train travel.I've stayed in all kinds of lodging, from yurts to the Ritz-Carlton, from shipboard to railcar berths -- good, bad, and very ugly.So, I figured I could at least arrange a trip to Ireland, where we had decided to stay exclusively in B&Bs. I'm also an experienced PC and Internet user, and with some heavy reading from Michele's Forum, Frommer's, Fodor's, and Lonely Planet, I felt ready to make my reservations for plane, rental car, and B&B.


Then I ordered Michele's book. Bad sequence - shoulda ordered it first.By the time I got the book, I realized that I had made some bad choices, and hurried to do what I could to correct the situation.


So -- here's my first tip: I urge you to pay attention to Michele.She has traveled extensively to Ireland, has a most discerning eye, is not easy to please -- and that's what is needed in the travel biz.Skip the anecdotes from the occasional Ireland visitors, and listen to her and many of her regular forum contributors who go to Ireland all the time.The list of helpful forum contributors is long, but Bob aka Itallian Chauffeur, Bill aka Wojazz3, Judy aka Dude, and Bit Devine aka Cowboy Craic spring immediately to mind. (Sorry if I didnt include you -- not intentional.)


Here's some plain truth: If you've never been to Ireland and have never stayed in an Irish B&B or rented a car to drive on Irish roads, you need expert help. Take it, its free.


TIP:Before you even leave, check with your credit card company to see if they charge that burdensome Foreign Transaction Fee (FTF on your statement). Some don't. It can be as high as 3%, so maybe you want to find a different card that doesn't rip you off?


TRAP: Make sure your bank (for your ATM card) and your credit card company know youll be in Ireland and when youre returning.We knew better, but foolishly listened to the local branch people when they assured us that there would be no problem.Not true, and we had to call from Ireland to clear the ATM and credit cards.

With those caveats in mind, let's go. It's April 26th, we can stay out late and party, and we don't have to leave for home until May 12th.


Our itinerary:Continental from Tampa to Newark, four hour layover, then on to Shannon, landing at 7 am the following day. Pick up Hertz rental car, drive to Killarney for five nights, then to Kinsale for three nights, then to Waterford for two nights, and then to Galway for five nights before heading back to Shannon for an overnight, then the flight home the following morning.


TRICK: Try not to be locked in on a specific airport to start your long trip to Ireland.With some judicious planning, we mightve done better price-wise than flying Continental from Tampa to Newark, and on to Shannon. I was okay with the Continental service and the layovers were not unreasonable, but...


TRAP: Be careful if you rent from Hertz. You have to prepay, of course, and they will assure you that all is well but it may not be.Remember that the Irish office is only a franchisee if you dealt with the Hertz home office (via their website) in the US.Anyway, after arriving in Shannon and being shuttled to the Hertz office, we waited for two hours while they tried to find the automatic I had ordered and paid for in advance. Meantime, they kept trying to put me in a stick shift and I kept saying No Way. (Can you imagine shifting on the left with the pedals also reversed? Me neither. As it was, I kept using the wipers for a turn signal!) Not a happy start, but we're not kids and have achieved some level of serenity.At our ages, we are used to those kinds of glitches.I dont know if other companies (like Dooley or Kemwel) are similar. Check it out.


TIP: Highly recommend the insurance from Insurance4carhire (Google them) instead of buying the Super CDW from the rental company. Insurance4carhire is far, far cheaper (would've cost me only $104 USD), and they will pay everything in the event of trouble.I will do that next time.


We're off to Killarney via Limerick and the N18, N20, N21, N23, and N22.


STAY ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD!!(It wont take long for that to sink in.)


Be alert as you enter Limerick You're on the N18 and looking for the N20 south towards Tralee, then the N21. Later, youll want to pick up the N23 near Castleisland, and then watch for the N22 again into Killarney.We got turned around somehow and had to backtrack. If you're accustomed to street signs as we are, you won't find them in Ireland and that will drive you crazy.(But, there are worst places to be lost in the world.)


Also, concentrate on entering and leaving the roundabouts correctly (they will blow their horns at you if you don't) and staying on the LEFT side of the road. It helps to have a navigator read the roundabouts, but the most important thing is to stay aware and alert.




Five nights at the Loch Lein Country House Hotel, warmly and efficiently hosted by Paul and Annette Corridan.Sublime.Delightful.Worth every euro. Read Michele's offer and description and be sure to take advantage of it. It will be a forever memory. For pix of Loch Lein and what you can expect, see my posted links on the forum here: Pics from Our April-May Ireland Trip


Highlights (see pix for more info):

- Ring of Kerry. Drove ourselves, with Paul's helpful guidance. Great sights and views. Be sure to take the ferry to Valentia Island and stop in the Royal Bar for a Guinness as soon as you drive off the ferry. We had an excellent lunch at The Moorings, just before you leave the island. Super seafood chowder. Make the short detour to see the Staigue Fort, too. Worth the side trip.

- Dingle Peninsula. Took the Deros Tour. TRAP:Deros does not take credit cards. We had to spend 50 euro at the office and had no time to run down to the ATM to get more for the tour. Good tour, tho.

- Muckross House and Gardens

- Irish Farms (near Muckross). Walk the path -- don't take the wagon ride.

- Ross Castle.Good tour of this 15th century tower fort.

- Torc Waterfall, unless its raining and then it can be a little muddy.

- Just walking around Killarney.High Street is fun and colorful.Plenty of parking just off the town center.


Restaurants We Liked:

- Gabys. A little pricey, but good.

- Bricins (pronounced Bruh-cheens) Try the boxty and the Irish Stew. Great service, too.

- Loch Lein. PLEASE have dinner here at least once.Paul is not a trained chef, but he sure fooled me.


Where The Craic Was Mighty:

- Failte Hotel, at the bar. Warm, outgoing, and friendly.

- Dunloe Lodge. Good trad music.

- Need I say it? Loch Lein.


Just Okay:

- Boat ride around Killarney Lakes. Ho-hum. The rhododendron were blooming, but that's about it. Tip the boatman, please.



- Kate Kearneys at the Dunloe Gap. Crowded, noisy, and we were completely ignored -- a rarity in Ireland. We waited for service for about 25 minutes.When they finally came to, a waitress told us to sit outside at the picnic benches to be served dinner. Uh, no thanks. The wind was coming up and had some bite, so we left and felt as tho we weren't missing a thing.

- O'riains Bar. Rude and without charm.  Might've been a bad night.

- Leaving Loch Lein. We often commented that we shouldve stopped there last, because every other place we stayed seemed pale in comparison.


On the way to Kinsale

Blarney Castle

Sure, its a tourist trap, but it's fun and very photogenic and you have to do it just once. You have to climb a narrow stone spiral staircase five stories to reach the Stone, and it costs 5 euro for the privilege. You can also buy a pic of you kissing the Stone for 10 euro. If youre heading to Kinsale from Killarney (or other points north) you may find it more convenient to stop at Blarney on your way. It's about 15 minutes northwest of Cork. The restaurant-bar across the town square (forget its name, but its the yellow building) has a good lunch.


TIP and TRAP: Be VERY alert around Cork if youre headed to Kinsale. The best advice is head for the Cork airport, then look for the N72.


Spent three nights at the Pier House, right in town on Pier Road, hosted by Ann and Pat Hegerty. We were disappointed in our accommodations. I had asked for a twin room in advance and it was confirmed. When we got there, we were put in a room with a queen (or king) bed. I asked if there was a twin room available, and after a few phone calls, we were relocated to a very odd room. Twin beds, yes but we had to go up a flight of stairs, then down a flight of stairs to get to it. It was just okay. (You can see a pic of our patio in the Kinsale collection.)


We wished we had only spent two nights there. Our first night was fine, but the second night we dealt with what was obviously an entire rugby team in the room above us all wearing their cleats and working hard on their defensive strategy.


There is no parking at Pier House. You're on your own, and if you arrive on a weekend or during working hours, you'll circle the town a few times. Drop your bags at the back gate. One more note: we sent out some laundry through our host with a request for a normal return and were shocked when we got billed 25 euro. There really wasn't that much to launder, and we had no dry cleaning. Sticker shock. I suggest you ask the price before you hand it over, or take it yourself. We didnt find any self-serve launderettes, but I've heard they are out there.


The Pier House breakfast was very good and plentiful, and the service was excellent. Ann Hegerty is a gracious host.



- Walking Tour of Kinsale you have time, dont miss this. Kinsale is a very old town and its history is fascinating. Your guide will reveal many interesting facts about it.

- Old Head Golf Course, about 35 minutes away. TRAP:Do not go to Old Head even if only to shop at the Pro Shop unless you are wearing a collared shirt. We did some fast talking with sad faces, and the friendly gate guard finally made a phone call and got us in. The greens fees at Old Head are about 450 euro way too rich for this old hacker's blood, but truly, a once-in-a-lifetime round of golf. Wish I could've played it.

- Drive to Skibbereen, about 90 minutes down the coast. Fascinating views of the countryside.

- Skibbereen. A friendly, warm little town. We stopped for lunch at a pub and had a nice chat over a Guinness with the proprietor.

A Restaurant We Liked:

- Jim Edwards. Highly recommended. We would've have gone to Blue Haven, but they were expanding and the all the construction dust and noise turned us off. It's supposed to be very good.


Where the Craic Was Mighty:

- In the room directly above ours, until 2 am. We weren't invited.



- See comments about Pier House


On the Way to Waterford...

Midleton Distillery Tour

Interesting and fun tour of the place where they have made lots of Jameson and Paddy whiskey for literally hundreds of years. (Very smooth stuff.) When the tour leader calls for a volunteer, raise your hand -- you will then be one of the two Jameson taste testers at the end of the tour, and they will give you a certificate with your name on it. Kinda cool.



Colorful, friendly. Stopped here for lunch at Sir Walter Raleighs (just okay) and walked around town we felt welcome. Wouldn't mind staying here for a day or so.




Spent two forgettable nights at the Browns Townhouse. Our hosts were warm and friendly and the breakfast (all at one long table) was excellent, but the place has probably seen its high water mark and is now headed downhill, in our opinion.


Rick Steves recommended Browns in 2003, but I'll bet he hasnt stopped by lately. Moreover, the Irish Tourist Office told us they no longer listed or recommended it as an accommodation. It's in an unattractive part of town, the traffic outside NEVER stops, and the rooms are quite small. My bad. Because I didn't ask or specify, we got stuck above (yes, above) the third floor. I never realized how heavy that luggage was. We now have a new Trip Planning To-Do rule: No Higher Than 2nd Floor


- Fast wireless access on a public PC in the Brown's dining room. The only place we were so blessed.

- Christ Church Cathedral.

- The Town Square at night.

- Just walking around. Very old city, and very photogenic.

- Waterford Crystal Tour: One of the best-run tours Ive ever been on, and no tipping please. Fascinating, and you KNOW you wanted to buy some crystal anyway, right? By the way, their crystal is priced the same all over Ireland. No deals and no seconds (they smash and recycle, sob!). Watching those craftsmen some on the job for 30 years made me appreciate why Waterford is so expensive.

Restaurants We Liked:

- Bodega's. Great crab meat crème brulee.

- Emiliano's. Superb Italian.Fresh vegetables, sauces nearly perfect, great service.


Where the Craic Was Mighty:

- Town Square (don't know if it has a name) on a Saturday night. Lots of little pubs around it and the music, the Murphys, and the Guinness flow freely.

Lowlight: That miserable motorcycle rider with the wide-open exhaust racing up and down the street outside until 2:30 am.



On the way to Galway: Finally started to rain But we had nine straight days of warm and sunny weather, so who's complaining? It was an easy drive of about 3 hours very picturesque countryside. (Hey, that describes ALL of Ireland!)




Spent five lovely nights in the Salthill area of Galway at the very nice and very clean Rose Villa, hosted by Kevin and Maura O'Hare. This is in a little pocket of B&Bs called Cashelmara, near the Galway Golf Club. Kevin is a warm and friendly guy and cooks up a mean Irish Breakfast -- very good and plenty of it.



- A walk down (and back) the Salthill Promenade

- Walking around Eyre Square and around Galway, just people-watching


Restaurants We Liked:

- Donnelly's in Bearna (pronounced "Barna" and often spelled that way), about 10 minutes from Salthill/Cashelmara

- Tom Sheridan's Pub

- Lohan's (near Tourist Office, Salthill)

- The Galleon. Plentiful family fare, good service, very clean.


Where the Craic Was Mighty:

- McDonough's (near Spanish Arch)

- Eyre Square

- Monroes tavern


Lowlight: Blustery weather! After all that warm sun, the wind off Galway Bay went thru us like a knife.

Curiosity: Remember the story about the 25 euro laundry bill in Kinsale? We dropped off just about the same amount of laundry at nearby Cashelmara launderette, and got it back next day for 5 euro. Then I REALLY felt ripped off.



Aran Islands

If your time permits, Inishmore (the largest of the three islands) is certainly worth your time. Beware that if the weather is rough, your 25-minute crossing from Rossaveal will be an experience. We took an island tour in a small, but comfortable, minivan.T he driver lived on Inishmore and was very informative.



- Buying an Aran Islands sweater at the little cluster of shops near the trail for Dun Aengus.If you want a real handmade sweater, buy it here -- not at the Sweater Mart near the docks. Also, look at the tag: if it's Hand Made, it will say so. The others are machine-made. They will ship it home for you.

- The fort at Dun Aengus. 2,500 years old. It's a 20-30 minute easy walk to the summit, but the views of the sea are very worth it.

- We had lunch at the little café in that same cluster of shops -- very good.


Lowlight: That crossing.




We took the Lally tour -- very well done, and our driver was a real Irish treasure. Just driving through the Connemara is a worthwhile experience.


- Kylemore Abbey and Garden

- Gaynors Pub, Leenane

- The Connemara!


And finally, reluctantly heading home, we stayed a night at the Shannon airport at:


Park Inn -- previously, The Great Southern Hotel

DO NOT stay here.

See Michele's book for better choices. Yes, its across the lot from the airport, but that's where the appeal stops with a screech. At 120 euro a night, you can stay in a great place in Shannon. Heres what you get for your 120 euro (or more):

-A pay-by-the-euro PC in the hallway.

- No free parking.The cost is exorbitant: 2 euro for 20 minutes ($2.70 usd). Beware: if you don't pay at the machine outside the front entrance, youll have to back up from the crossing gate all the way back into the parking lot to pay the fee. Ridiculous and dangerous.

- A warning sign in the bathroom to close the door while showering to avoid setting off the alarm.

- Casual, uncaring staff.


You have been warned.

Random Observations:

Must be an Ireland thing, but regardless of where we stayed I found it difficult to get a good shave because of the lighting over the bathroom sink. It's the fault of the lighting fixtures -- those tiny spots (not sure of the correct name of them) positioned directly over the mirror are wonderfully stylish, but they make it almost impossible to see your face.I found myself using the room mirror a lot.


I took two electrical adapters and one converter. Didn't have a use for the adapters (hair dryers were provided, and often, small coffee makers), but you might. As far as converters, many small appliances now convert automatically. Read the small sticker attached to the appliance to see if it automatically converts. I had an older model battery charger for my digicam, so I needed the converter.


I took a 1 gb card for my digicam, but didn't come close to filling it up. I had three 256 mb cards in reserve.


I'm sure I forgot to say something -- it was just such a rich experience, and we keep remembering favorite sights and experiences. If you want more details about anything, please email me at and I'll be more than happy to tell you all I can.


This post will probably be outdated in about 3-4 months, so do more research.


Enjoy your trip --- Slainte!



PS This post is edited so much becuz composing in Word and copy-pasting here removes most of the punctuation ... If you see some weird or missing punctuation, FYI.

-- Edited by baja at 08:15, 2007-05-24

-- Edited by baja at 08:30, 2007-05-24

-- Edited by baja at 08:32, 2007-05-24

-- Edited by baja at 09:58, 2007-05-24

-- Edited by baja at 14:33, 2007-05-24

-- Edited by baja at 05:58, 2007-05-25


Senior Member

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Loved your trip report. Can't wait for our trip in September.


Merlene M Black


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Bill, I loved the report. Thanks for including me as a Helpful Forum Contributor! I just wish I could go often enough to feel like a real expert!

You were joking about the pedals being reversed in the car, right?

Hey, Merle, when in September? We leave on the 16th.

Slán go fóill, Judy


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What a wonderful and different trip report. That is what makes the forum interesting - different people and different viewpoints on the same subject. Thanks so much for your insights, observations, critiques and advice.

Just for those who may want a look at Bill's photos here are the links:

Killarney through Galway link:  

Aran Islands and Connemara link: 

Thank you for the wonderful comments about my forum and book. I am delighted that they both enhanced your trip to Ireland. It also never hurts to know that I'm doing something right. wink



"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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Dude:  Yes, Bill IS joking about the reversed pedals...

 Thank you for the EXCELLENT report.  My apologies for O'Riain's -- I'm sure that it was me that heartily recommended it to you.  I must assume (and we all know how much I HATE to do that!) that you did, in fact, catch them on an "off night". . .  though, in all fairness, since I was there with locals (and 'With The Band', so to speak), it's possible that I received preferrential treatment without realizing it. biggrin biggrin

My last few trips, Continental has had the BEST prices - bar none - out of Tampa, Sarasota and Fort Meyers (all of which are good for us, as our daughter lives in Northport).  Not crazy about the 757's 3 and 3 seating, but ...

Did you meet the owner/manager of the Failte?  He was just elected 'Lord Mayor' of Killarney (or whatever the equivilent is) when we were introduced to him in June of 2004.  I didn't mention the Failte, because I thought THAT might have 'tainted' my enjoyment of the visit.

Didn't realize that Deros doesn't take Credit Cards.  We booked our '05 Gap of Dunloe tour with Deros through the Tourist Board and they took our card, so your advice is good to know.

Thanks again,




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!


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Thank you for the excellent trip report. I am glad that you had lunch in teh Cafe at Dun Aengus. It is one of my favorite eating spots, especially their chocolate cake!

As for the auto rental, after my first rental experience in Ireland which was a nightmare,  I found autoeurope and have yet to have any problems with a rental. *****knocking on Wood***** Kemwel is their sister company so they should be comparable.

I can't believe that you were charged 25 euro for a small batch of laundry! Yikes!

I am glad that you are both home safe and that you had an excellent trip.

Slan Beo,



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Glad you all you liked it ... not HALF as much as we did, tho!

Judy: Yes, I was kidding ... That young man was very persuasive about the stick shift, tho, and I wasn't about to buy in. Besides, I was starting to fall asleep in the warm Irish sun that morning!

Bob: Actually, the bartender at the Royal Bar on Valentia Island recommended O'Riain's too. We had your recommendation in hand, so we knew we had a winner. Still, it might've been a poor night.
- Is it possible that Deros doesn't take credit cards just at that office?
- Agree about Continental ... But ... TRAP, BEWARE: if they ask if you want the exit row that doesn't recline, politely decline. It is not a good thing. Not only does the seat NOT recline, I swear it's actually TILTED a hair forward. If you don't already have a bad back, you might after 7+ hours sitting that way. Never again.
- Didn't get to meet the owner of the Failte, but I'd never hesitate to go back there. When the bartender ound out we were from Florida he loudly announced it to the room (he had had a very nice visit there), and we were feted royally. Mighty craic, indeed.

Bit: I've heard others say that about AutoEurope/Kemwel, thanks for the tip. We'll try them next time. We had the choc cake, too -- excellent!

Michele: Just think: if I had used your book from the start, this report would've been completely different! It's a treasure, and so is this forum.

Thanks again,

-- Edited by baja at 06:14, 2007-05-25

-- Edited by baja at 06:14, 2007-05-25


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A PostScript for the Trip Report ...

We are starting to see our VAT refunds being applied to our credit card -- that's very fast! 

(And we're still waiting for the Waterford shipment, by the way.)

I strongly urge you to ask for VAT forms when you're shopping and spend the short amount of time necessary to fill them out.  It only takes a few minutes, and is certainly worthwhile. 

During your travels, you will probably see three different firms offering the refund:

- Tax free Shopping (Global Refund)
- Taxback
- MoneyBack Tax Refund

The forms are pretty much the same.  After you fill out the forms, you turn them at the airport for further processing.  They have booths that are accessible only after you go thru security and are just beyond the duty-free shop.  They don't open until 8am, but don't worry if there is no one there -- just drop the completed forms in their box.  (We put the forms in their envelopes just to keep the paperwork all together.)  I hafta admit I had a little trepidation doing that, but it all worked out.

It's harder and takes more time to get the refund if you wait until you're back home.  Customs stamps and all that.

So far, we've received a total of $165 credit with more to come.  VERY worthwhile, I'd say.




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I enjoyed your report. It's good to read about the good and the bad. It sounds as if you had a good time.


joan chatham
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