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Published: September 6th 2014
Loved this sign
Ireland is one of those places that are probably on everyone's bucket list due to the huge amounts of drinking and just the general perception of Irish people (friendly, drinking, pretty green country, golfing, etc.). We booked our tickets for a longer weekend and took off. Just another spur-of-the-moment trip that we booked a week before leaving. We went in early April which we knew could have been a little bit of a risk (cold, still somewhat winter and so on). As it works out flying to Europe we were able to get on the plane in New York late at night and land in Dublin at 7 in the morning. We got our little car (yeah it was cold and rainy when we got off the plane) and off we went.
As always we want to drive and see the country. We were probably a little ambitious, but that's how we do things and it always (we've always gotten back home in one piece) worked out. On all our trips I will book the first or second night of accommodation and after that we will book a hotel/ B&B the morning off the day or the day before. That
Gaelic messages left at the well
way we are not tied to any destination. If we like a place and want to stay longer we are able to. Generally we will start driving early in the morning with a destination in mind. We will take our time, take side roads for as many pictures as we can, find interesting nooks or side roads, and in general just find the road less traveled to get to our destination. Yes - most of the time this means that a 3 hour drive turns into a 7 hour drive, but we always have incredible stories of our side-road travels and the pictures don't disappoint either. Usually by the end of the afternoon we still have 2 - 3 hours left to drive so we will do most of our driving at dawn/ night to get to our final destination. This is also a reason why we generally avoid expensive hotels since we don't have the time to enjoy them.
Well, we landed and started driving south. The first thing that struck us was that it was not very green - it was pretty brown. We were looking forward to lush Ireland, but I guess not. First stop was
Irish horses all around
KILDARE. A small town that we drove through quickly and looked like a very typical small town - we really were on the lookout for ST. BRIGID'S WELL. Unfortunately I can honestly not tell you the significance of this, but it was a pretty little green area (off on some side road) with water running through the property and people visiting and leaving little messages and mementos. I know it is tied to one of the saints of Ireland, but other than that I don't know much. Quick stop with pretty little roads, Irish horses and daffodils everywhere.
Off we went again - we picked the little roads that ran right next to the highway. We reached CASHEL, had some coffee, talked to the locals and were on our way. In one of our National Geographic books they have the drive from CASHEL TO KILLARNEY as one of the beautiful drives. In Cashel we stopped at the ROCK OF CASHEL - this definitely was one of our favorite places to visit the whole time we were in Ireland. The history of the site, the different stages and buildings the grounds has gone through are all pretty amazing. The structure
We have had some really small cars on our trips
is still pretty intact and was under construction when we were there. The building is always amazing as they are so old and it is just incredible trying to figure out how they built these structures hundreds of years ago. The prettiest part of all of this are outside - there is a huge cemetery outside with many Irish crosses. It's a really cool picture-taking opportunity taking pictures of the crosses with the green Irish landscape stretching out for miles and miles behind these crosses. Definitely one of our favorite scenes of the entire trip. We definitely recommend a visit. Keeping going next on the drive is CAHIR CASTLE. A pretty setting with streams, trees and greenery around the castle (set inside the town). It was old and the structure (13th century) was really cool to walk around and see how well preserved it still is. I always love the dungeons in these. Moving on - the one thing that really surprised us was the fact that every 5 or 10 miles we would see from the side of the road these really old structures that probably dated back hundreds of years. It's just always funny thinking back about European
Rock of Cashel
Irish crosses with Irish background
vs American history. Last but not least on the drive is the famed BLARNEY CASTLE. We barely made it in time. We got there around 5 and the castle closed at 5:30. There is a little bit of a walk to get to the actual castle - the castle is located on massive grounds. If you are not familiar with this already - Blarney Castle is known for KISSING THE BLARNEY STONE. You climb all the way to the top of the castle (pretty high up there) and up there is an older Irish gentleman waiting for you to assist you in kissing the Blarney stone. You lay on your back, you arch your back backwards, bend your head back towards the ground (at this point about half your body is hanging in the air with a 60 foot drop straight down) and reach down and kiss this stone that has been kissed by millions of people before you. Apparently it brings you good luck. That's kissing the stone. The grounds are perfectly manicured with spring blooms everywhere and green green grass. Just to the side of the castle is a "poison" garden where every plant apparently is poisonous and
Rock of Cashel
More Irish crosses
touching, sniffing, smelling is not advised. Not sure if this was a spoof or not, but we did not dare try our luck. All in all a very pretty drive.
We finally made it to Kenmare. We stayed at the BROOK LANE HOTEL. Nothing spectacular, but nice. Dinner was really good though. The RESTAURANT AT BROOK LANE HOTEL has all local fare with fresh seafood. We started with a local brew Knockmeredown porter and Kenmare Bay seafood chowder - the chowder was very chunky and really good. For main courses we had the local Kerry lamb (very tender) and the sole (also really good). With our dishes we got massive sides of mashed potatoes, cabbage, and squash. We finished it off with the apple tart w/ ice cream. An awesome meal with all local dishes and ingredients.
Next up we have another drive in one of our National Geographic books of top drives - THE RING OF KERRY. DRIVE STARTING IN KILLARNEY ON N70 AND N71 and make your way down to Kenmare where the beauty really starts. We chose to go clockwise (this is a ring so you start in Killarney and end in Killarney) as we
Rock of Cashel
... and still more Irish crosses
heard that all the tour buses usually go anti-clockwise. This is important as these roads are very narrow and if you get stuck behind one of these buses this could turn into a very long drive. Right after starting we found our way off the side of the road again on the side roads. We saw beautiful water with old fishing gear and boats everywhere. After a short while we spotted a waterfall way in the distance inland. This is rugged terrain, but we decided we had to try and get there one way or another. We took road after road and reached dead-ends, but we finally made it somewhat close to get some good pictures with some Irish sheep in the foreground. You finally hit coastline and my - what a view it is. Water everywhere with specks of islands everywhere. CAHIRSIVEEN is a small little town on the way around. SKELLIG ISLANDS we heard are awesome to visit (there are boats from PORTMAGEE). Unfortunately these boats don't run when it rains and there was a 100% rain prediction for the day so we did not even bother to try and book a boat ride. The day turned out
Rock of Cashel
Love these carvings
perfect and sunny so it was kind of a bummer. Right outside Portmagee we went looking for some Irish cliffs (these are definitely more magnified on the west coast). We found some, but not the size of the west coast. BOLUS HEAD is also in the area - a really pretty coastal area where you can get really close to the surf.
We stopped in Portmagee and chatted up a local fisherman who just came in with his crab catch. We walked over to the Moorings Bar as we were starving at this point. We had our first taste of the black stuff - Guinness (just one of those musts in life - have a Guiness in a genuine Irish pub in Ireland). (always good), strawberries and cream with meringue, fish and chips (good), shrimp cocktail (so-so)). A little outside Portmagee we found CAHERGAL SITE and LEACANBUAILE SITE. Both are old historical forts dating back hundreds of years. Not that much left to see as everything is pretty overgrown, but pretty cool to walk on top of the old walls and see miles and miles over the Irish country side for some spectacular views.
This was another very
long day of driving and our end destination was DINGLE. We settled down for the night at CASTLEWOOD HOUSE. We read that Dingle is an awesome town with lots of food, music, and arts. We set out and were not able to find our first choice restaurant as they were closed already (or rather just closing down). We finally found OUT OF THE BLUE that is known for their SEAFOOD. You walk in and you just know you are at a local legend. They knew everyone. There is no menu for entrees - the menu is whatever they could get fresh that day. I always want to know - what if the fish did not bite that day? Anyway - we started with 6 local oysters which were very good. Next up was something very unusual. It was pollock wedged between shredded potatoes with a bacon cream butter and veggies (awesome). Nikkie got the scallops and veggies that were very good too. We also ordered DESSERT, but it was pretty forgettable. Awesome meal and would definitely recommend it for fresh seafood and an awesome atmosphere. It is small so tables are scarce - show up early. Dingle is overflowing with
pubs and doing music in Ireland is a must. So a PUB AT DINGLE and LIVE MUSIC AT DINGLE is a must. We found a little hole in the wall pub - it was late at night and the place was overflowing. The beer was flowing and the music was awesome. Just a couple young local kids doing their thing. The locals were really friendly as all of Ireland is. We felt like we were getting the true Irish experience with the locals.
The next morning we got up and had BREAKFAST AT THE CASTLEWOOD HOUSE. We had fresh fruit, oatmeal with Irish whiskey or baileys (oh yeah - they booze it up very early here but it is surprisingly good) and the full Irish breakfast - eggs, baked beans, sausage, grilled tomatoes, bacon, and blood sausage. Got to do the blood sausage. Weird and probably will be grossed out by it, but just one of those things you need to do so you can say you've had it. The DINGLE PENINSULA is a similar drive as the Ring of Kerry. Definitely more along the cliffs with some pretty incredible views. Also lots more back-country driving, pretty scenery and
getting the true Irish experience. Driving the cliffs you can see the 7 BLASKET ISLANDS. The Dingle Peninsula drive finally ends up back in Dingle again. We decided to take the scenic route (when do we not take the scenic route) and went up and over CONNOR PASS FOR VIEWS. Definitely a much longer way, but the views from on top of the pass were spectacular. We made a quick stop at KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARKS FOR WATERFALLS. The TORC WATERFALL was pretty nice. More impressive were the trees in the area around the waterfall. They were totally overgrown with moss so all of them were completely green - from top to bottom. It kind of felt like something out of a fairytale.
The drive back to Dublin felt long. We were just trying to get back (yeah we drove all this way for essentially one and a half days in the country-side). We made it to Dublin pretty late. Hotels in and around downtown Dublin were somewhat expensive so we opted for the Waterloo House. Cheap accommodation more around the St. Stephen's Green area. It was clean and that is all we can ask for.
We made our
Rock of Cashsel
Interior still standing
way downtown to experience Dublin. Parking is somewhat hard, but we managed to find parking. The HA'PENNY BRIDGE was our first thing we saw. A really pretty bridge crossing the river - lined with locks with messages all over the bars on the bridge. A really cool site to see all the locks and people declaring their love for each other. First thing we saw after crossing the bridge was the Merchants Arch Bar. The music sounded good and we found two seats at the bar right by the music - why not LISTEN TO MUSIC. We just had to obviously DRINK GUINNESS STOUT so we started off slowly (finished with about 3 each). I had the beef and guinness pie and Nikkie got the fish and chips - about as Irish as you can get. Both were pretty good. We just sat most of the night listening to the music. We were extremely surprised at all the foreigners at the bar (we figured we were in the touristy area). We left fairly late and decided to walk around and explore. There were bars everywhere. There were foreigners everywhere. There was Irish music everywhere. Everyone is completely hammered. Everything is
Rock of Cashsel
Daffodils at the Rock
very loud. And everyone is very obnoxious. It was fun being around the music, but it got to be a little bit too much at times. Not our most favorite thing in Ireland. We finally called it a night after walking around. The biggest question that came to mind. Where can we find the bar with locals so we can get the Irish experience?
The next day we packed-up and slowly made our way downtown again. We walked to ST. STEPHEN'S GREEN GARDEN SQUARE. It was early spring so the daffodils were out in full force as were a plethora of other pretty colorful flowers. Visiting Europe in the spring is a good idea. We kept walking down and found ourselves at the river again. We took one of the city bus tours. Nikkie was not feeling great so we did not really do much walking. One of the landmarks in Dublin is the THE SPIRE OF DUBLIN SCULPTURE. We also saw all the churches, Guinness factory, parks, buildings, etc. We called it an early night at the CLARENCE HOTEL. Bono from U2 is one of the owners so we figured why not. Well - lots of hype and
One of my favorite pictures
not much else. It was expensive for what it was. Don't bother with it. For dinner we stayed on the "other" side of the river. I call it the less touristy site as it does not have all the touristy bars with the music. We walked into the Boars Head. Total different scene from the night before. Mostly locals just sitting around having a couple pints. We had some Guinness and tried the Irish beef stew and vegetable soup. Neither was our favorite really. That is Ireland for you.
Like - we loved the music. It is a true experience to just walk into a random bar, have a beer and listen to music from someone either trying to make a start in the business or someone who just do it for fun on the side and pouring their heart into it. Our Dingle experience was truly awesome as the music was good and it was mostly locals. We even got to meet the town drunk. We loved the drives. It is a beautiful country and so much to see. Just get in a car and drive. The Ring of Kerry was really, really pretty. Get off
the main roads and explore.
Dislikes - Dublin was a little bit of a disappointment for us. We thought we would be able to get that true Irish experience in Dublin (definitely got it in Dingle).
Tips - this is the age old advice and everyone probably knows about it, but for some reason I fell for it. We were told gas is pretty expensive in Ireland. At the car rental counter they told me that the prepaid gas is much cheaper so I said sure. At the end of the day it cost me at least double to bring the tank back empty for them to fill up. Never say yes to this. The next bit of advice really just applies for anywhere you go. We now just take out money from the ATM once we get into the country. We found it is cheaper than exchanging dollars at a currency exchange. One of the problems we always run into with this is that you usually only get the bigger notes out of the ATM. The first place we stopped at in Ireland required us to pay for parking in coins. So now after taking out money
Roads that we usually take
we try and just go into the bank and get as much small change as possible. We have become thankful for this as it makes tipping, parking, etc. just so much easier. Just something to think about.
A very, very quick trip for us. We were in the country for a total of 4 days (that's the beauty of living in New York). But still able to cross off 6 things including the Dingle Peninsula, Cahergal site, Leacanbuaile site, The Ring of Kerry, St. Brigid's Well, and driving Cashel to Killarney. So 224 down and 5,557 to go.
Till next time from the land of the black stuff
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