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Trip Report Back from Ireland 8/8 - 8/18 with a tan

Wanted to share some of the highlights of our trip to Ireland and N. Ireland. Our itinerary -
8/8 Arrive Belfast, drive Antrim coast overnight Portballintrae Bayview hotel
8/9 Drive to Donegal overnight Harvey's point on Lake Eske
8/10 Drive to Sligo overnight Temple House in Ballinacarrow
8/11 Drive coastal route including Achill island and overnight Westport
8/12 Drive the coastal route through Louisburgh, Leenaum, Clifden and overnight Galway
8/13 - 8/14 See Cliffs of Moher and onto Dingle
8/15 - 8/16 Killarney
8/17 overnight Shannon and fly out the next morning.

Flight from Newark was uneventful and arrived on time. We had rented an automatic car (Expensive!!!) through Budget w/full insurance at Belfast with return at Shannon airport. We also decided to rent the GPS. Although it added to the cost I think it was well worth it...highly recommend it. We got a Kia and had no issues.
We started off from the airport and drove the causeway coast covering Carrickfergus, Larne, Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall. Here we took a break for lunch and our first Guinness...can't remember the name of the pub/restaurant but it had a gorgeous sunroom overlooking some greens. Good food and great service. The road so far had been great but this changes past Cushendun if you take the Torr road. The road is a lot more narrow and steep but the scenary is spectacular. Onto Ballycastle and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. We parked and walked to the bridge (its a very scenic 1/2 mile walk). My husband was quite tired after the windy drive on Torr road so this was exactly what he needed...its somewhat touristy but a must if you're visiting N. Ireland. The whole excursion took us over an hour. Back to the car and the short ride to Portballintrae (beach town). Bayview hotel room was nice overlooking the beach. Views from their restaurant are fantastic. They have a few benches across the street and its a perfect place for a drink after a long day travelling. The restaurant was quite busy for dinner, food was good. Thoughts on Day 1 - I was quite worried about the driving after a red eye, especially on Torr road but this is doable. The Antrim coastal drive was the main reason we chose to arrive in Belfast and leave via Shannon and I'm very glad we did it.

Day 2 - Breakfast views from the restaurant are even better...onto the Giant Causeway. Its an area of interlocking basalt colums formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. My husband loved the Giant Causeway. I was a bit annoyed by how touristy it was (more so than the rope bridge)...they have built a massive information center, audio guides and buses that drive you back and forth from the parking lot. I think it takes away a bit from the impressive scenery. Next Dunluce castle ruins...its breathtakingly beautiful. We stopped by White Rocks beach before heading out to Donegal. It is nice but not a must in my opinion. Drove through the town and had lunch at the Market place restaurant. Very friendly service. Took a quick look at the castle and on to Harvey's point. The hotel is wonderful and right on the lake. Since this was the day of our 15 year annivesary I splurged and the room/service/restaurant is well worth it....the room was the best we stayed at certainly on this trip but also maybe one of the prettiest rooms we've stayed at anywhere. The bathroom is gorgeous as well and I loved the soft music heard through the audio system. Once we got to our room we got a call from reception asking if we were satisfied with it (quite nice). We drove over to Lough Eske Castle hotel for a drink based on a friends recommendation who grew up in Donegal. We had looked into booking our stay previously at this hotel instead of Harvey's point but the castle hotel had been booked. Comparing the two, although the castle is impressive, its not on the lake itself and I was pleased that we ended up at Harvey's point instead. Service at the bar was extremely slow and the drinks were very pricey. After one drink we headed back to Harvey's point and enjoyed the views at the outdoor restaurant patio mingling with others before heading to the restaurant for dinner. Overall thoughts on day 2 - This keeps getting better and better...loving the trip so far and our anniversary was certainly special at Harvey's point.

To be continued...

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