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Trip Report Ireland - Doolin Ennis Dingle Kenmare Adare

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Just back from two weeks in Ireland. It was a long overdue family trip that included my husband, my two sons (ages 25 & 28) my sister-in-law, and myself. We visited with some of our relatives, and as I sit in my kitchen this morning I am eating one of Cousin Ann’s fruit scones! She and her husband, Tom, met us at Shannon with scones to bring home. I can’t believe I had never met Cousin Ann, her husband Tom, their son Kieran, and grandson Liam and now I wonder if we will ever meet again. I sure hope so, I have never met people that I have liked so much, so quickly. On to the report!
Weather - Weather often comes up when trips to Ireland are discussed on this board. This has been an unusual year in Ireland. Snow in March and the coldest April in 70 years. Spring is delayed and the countryside is not yet as green as usual, however, it is still green except at the tops of high hills and mountains. There were lots of tulips yellow gorse and fields of a small purple flower similar to both lilac and hyacinth (?) – not much help, I know, but very pretty!
Daytime temps were consistently in the 50’s, nights in the 40’s. However, we had a few days that had to have been in the 60’s. It was very windy. We had one still night that was so nice I sat out on a bench looking at the water and skies until I was so tired I just had to go to bed! A couple of the days were still as well, enjoyed but not as memorable.
Rain and sun were mixed. We had a few days that were just gloriously blue and sunny, one day that that was downright stormy and cold, and the rest were a mix of sun and clouds with a few showers mixed in. We had no complaints and even enjoyed the stormy day, very atmospheric (not sure how we would have felt about it if it had kept up!).
Places we stayed:
Doolin – Doolin was a last minute add-on to our trip. Aer Lingus flies out of Boston on Mondays, but not Tuesdays, our intended departure day, so we added a day to the trip. Upon arrival, we were immediately happy to be in Doolin. The setting on the water, the small village, the concentration of a few small shops – most of them tiny and all but one local products (I’m still regretting the small unframed watercolor of a man playing the fiddle that was only 35E), and of course the pubs!
Our room was not yet ready so we took the Cliffs of Moher boat ride which lasts about an hour. It was a sunny day, but brisk. Surprisingly, it was warm on the water (warmer than on land). The ride left at 12:30 and lasted about an hour. A later time was recommended so that the sun would be shining on the cliffs, but we were killing time until the B&B rooms were ready and we were too tired to wait for a later trip time. Ends up that another couple from the B&B took the 4pm ride and it was COLD. Sometimes things work out. Also, we were pleased with the way the light hit the outer edges of the cliffs with some of the walls in dark relief. It was quite primordial.
After a nap we had an early supper (5pm)at Gus O’Connor’s Pub. Music was already playing, we couldn’t have been happier! Two couples singing and playing a mandolin, and guitar, were later joined by a young farm hand playing the accordion. I was so darn happy I bought them a round. My husband told me we could not do this throughout the trip! Food was good, not great, but no complaints.
After supper we had time to kill before the late night music began so we took a ride through the Burran with Ballyvaughn as our destination. Met cattle on the road – we were just loving Ireland at this point! The Coast Road is beautiful and Ballyvaughn has a nice feel to it. I had considered this too as our stop over and I know we would have been pleased. Our destination was O’Loclainn’s Pub, and it may be my favorite pub of the trip (very hard to determine!). Small and cozy, they specialize in Irish Whiskey. Margaret is the owner and my favorite barkeep. Found Irish whiskey to be smoother than Scotch. Back to Doolin and a stop at McGann’s! Great music. Stayed as long as we could stay awake and left happy to be in Ireland.
The next day my husband and son went to Lehinch to golf – first time on a links course and they loved it. I went to Innisheer and had what may have been my favorite day of the trip. I took a jitney through the stone walled paths (twice), walked the paths to the castle tower ruin and beyond, stopped at a café and sat in the sun eating my rhubarb tart with coffee, walked the beach, stopped at the pub…had a grand time. This was one the best weather days of the trip. Everyone thought they had each had the best time and felt sorry for the others!

Ennis – Ennis is home to our relatives, Ann and Tom (love these people), and as many have said before us, a great location to use as a base to see the area. We did a day trip to Galway City, found it to be too touristy. However, we found a great pub and had one of our best meals of the trip on our way back to Ennis. My younger son and I did a day trip to Dublin with the Guinness Storehouse being the reason for the trip. The Storehouse was okay, but I loved Dublin. Real city that beckons you on while still feeling manageable. I would love to go back. We had encountered some problems with missed trains and fouled up timetables, therefore, we cabbed it everywhere. I found the cabbies charming and knowledgeable about Dublin sights. Each gave little tours of the city and one refused full fare when he heard how shortened our visit was due to our train woes (this is a funny story, but I don’t have the energy to tell it!). Our third day was spent working our way to Dingle with a stop in Kilrush, s pleasant seaside community where we stopped for a pub lunch. It is also the home of more relatives, but we did not visit. My husband’s great-grandfather helped build the stone wall around the church. We would have gotten out to touch the wall and for pictures, but there was a wedding about to begin and we would have looked quite strange! We met the bride and groom later in the trip on the Beara Peninsula! They told us they would not have minded at all….
Dingle - Dingle town is a cluster of streets loaded with restaurants, shops, and pubs. We arrived, as some of you may recall, during the middle of an arts festival. Lots of people, lots of activities, lots of music. Saturday night the pubs were so jammed you could not even walk into some of them (Dick Macks & Hannie Agnes). It was our first night in Dingle and I think it skewed my husband’s view making it seem more of a tourist destination than a real town, but I think it is both “real” and touristy. Many of the best places travelers go to are “touristy”, such as the Amalfi Coast, Nantucket, and Cappadocia. However, it remains true that our first impression was not typical. We did have a great time walking the streets and going to the many events. It was also fun to see the performers enjoying the shows of other performers. For example, we saw Shawn Davies, who did a Sea Shanty show at the Skellig later at a Celtic song performance held at McCarthy’s Pub (This was the traditional Celtic music performance that was to be held at Bric’s Pub on the Dingle north coast. It was relocated). The Dingle peninsula is as beautiful as everyone claims it is. Not only did we love the Slea Head Loop. We loved Brandon’s Point and the many beaches everywhere. I have not heard any one mention before that the sands are pink and the clay red, (as they are on Prince Edward Island). It is both unusual and beautiful. The Connor Pass is dramatic and we were lucky because we went spur of the moment and later found out it would be closed for the next few days for road maintenance.
Kenmare - Kenmare is a pretty town that feels like what would guess Killarney may have felt like 50+ years ago. Some good restaurants, it is said that Kenmare now rivals Kinsale as the culinary capital of Ireland, but I think Dingle has more to offer in the way of restaurants, both in number and variety. However, we had great meals in Kenmare and have no complaints. Some shops and pubs thrown in, of course. Kenmare has a well-heeled feeling to it and its location on the Ring of Kerry and almost on the Beara Ring make it a very pleasant and great place to be. We chose to “do” the Beara Ring rather than ROK and were very happy with our choice. Few cars on the road, fabulous scenery, a couple of great towns, and about a dozen galleries along the way. We did the Ardgroom mini-loop which was windy and had dramatic views over the coast. It ended near Eyeries a pretty little village that had a very cute pub that was unfortunately closed. I peaked in the windows and the pub has sweeping views of the water (I wanted to sit and wait for opening time!). Castletownbere was another great stop. Bigger than Eyeries and reminiscent of Kilrush. Visited yet another gallery and went for lunch at McCarthy’s Pub (of the book fame). I can’t believe I did not take a photo of the exterior like the book cover. The barkeep is Adreinne Mac Carthy, the daughter of Aiden MacCarthy who wrote a memoir of his WWII experience. Purchased it from Adrienne and she is willing to sign the book for you. Upon our return to Kenmare it was more golf for some and tea after a walk through town for others, - very, very nice.
Adare/Ballingarry – Adare is pretty with its thatched roof buildings and plenty of nice shops. You get the feeling that the luxury of Adare Manor spills over into town. The town and surrounding area reminded my husband of England. I’m not sure I would have thought about it, but upon reflection, I agreed. I think it was the timbered buildings, that felt somewhat Tudor, and the lack of brightly painted buildings that created this mood. Our B&B was in Ballingarry, a small village and pretty drive close to Adare. This was a one night stop before going to the airport in the morning, so we did not have time to walk around Ballingarry. However, we had one stroll the length of Adare with visits to shops and a very pretty park. We had dinner at the B&B, but went into the drawing room at Adare Manor after dinner for a drink…this was a very hard choice because the B&B had lovely piano music being played in their drawing room following dinner. It was very much like being in a country home.
Lodging – We had a mix of different types of lodging and enjoyed them all. I would gladly go back to any one of them.
Seaview B&B - Doolin – 1 night The Seaview has a great location overlooking the Quay (which includes Gus O’Connor’s Pub and the sea in the distance. It is walking distance to the piers where you can get the boat tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. Clean and cozy, the highlight is Darra, the owner. She is full of fun and humor, full of info, and very warm.
The Old Ground Hotel -Ennis - 3 nights This was our “big hotel” experience. We loved the public rooms, very elegant without being over-the-top. The rooms were very comfortable with nice touches (truly comfortable chair, nice drapes, three sided window seat nook). There are two restaurants and a pub. Breakfast is served in the formal dining room (very nice) and there is traditional music in the pub (very fun). Service is great and friendly.
Emlagh Cottage – Dingle - 5 npights This cottage is terrific. It is right on Dingle Harbor, has a terrace, and access to the pathway to town (5 minutes) and the Folly (intended to walk to the folly, but never did). It has three bedrooms, all en-suite, and a large kitchen/living area. Lots of windows with views of the harbor, really, you couldn’t throw a nickel without hitting a view. Also has a laundry room with washer and dryer. It is rented by the week (we chose to stay only 5 nights).
Shelburne Lodge - Kenmare - 2 nights A beautiful country house. We originally reserved for three nights, but changed due to flight coordination restrictions. As soon as we walked in we wished we were there for three nights, not two. It is lovely. The owners, Maura and Tom are very welcoming. There is always a fire burning in the drawing room. Fresh flower and branch cuttings are everywhere. The rooms are just as nice. Breakfasts were the best of the trip in yet another beautiful room. Many people give this place great reviews, we agree.
The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge – Adare/Ballingarry - 1 night Another beautiful country house. Large, tall ceilinged rooms in the main house with huge windows overlooking hill and dale. Specialty here is the dinners, which people come for from the local area. Drawing Room and Library are used as before dinner drinks while looking at the evening menus. Dinner is ordered her before moving into the Dining Room itself.
Restaurants - All of our meals were very good. No complaints!
Town Hall Restaurant at The Old Ground Hotel Ennis - Our first night in Ennis after non-stop activities in Doolin. It was perfect for a tired night without much energy. Up-market, smart-casual restaurant with delicious food. My husband said it was the best beef of the trip. Seafood ordered otherwise and perfectly cooked. This was part of a special offer by the hotel (room for three, full breakfast for three, and two free meals in a hotel restaurant of our choice for 310E – Fabulous deal).
Moran’s on the Weir - Kilcogan Down a pretty winding road to a charming cottage across from the weir. Small snugs and a bar on the way to the pleasant and attractive casual dining room. Jared got Fish & Chips all over the place and called these the best. Food and service great. Really pretty setting near Galway, if you don’t want to eat in the city.
Fentons – Dingle On Green Street, a casual restaurant with a nice feeling. Service was initially slow, but the waitress apologized sincerely. Good, not great meal, but we had a nice time.
Bulls Head - Dingle A more contemporary décor with a varied menu (welcome at this point). Another good meal with no complaints.
Out of the Blue – Dingle Easily our best meal of the trip. Did not expect the sophisticated atmosphere based upon the exterior. Not formal, but definitely a nice place to look a little sharper than usual. EVERYONE enjoyed their meal. I quietly and desperately wanted dessert. It is supposed to be great here, but my husband was having an infrequent budget panic and I held off…it’s not as if I was hungry! He told me later I should have spoken up….
Doyles – Dingle Very friendly, but professional, staff that made us very welcome. We sat in the front room, which I love. However, the food was a disappointment. Risotto was heavy, Lobster was overcooked/tough, dessert (I got it here ) was not memorable.
Global Village - Dingle Formal atmosphere, white table cloths, jazz playing (sound system), nice service. Food was very good, but we were already spoiled by OOTB.
Packies - Kenmare Everyone seems to go here. It has an upscale casual atmosphere and delicious food. The service was professional and the waitress smoothly handled my husband’s sense of humor. She had called all of our menu choices either Grand or Wonderful. He was the last to order and asked if his coice was going to be Grand or Wonderful. Without missing a beat she told him it would be Tremendous. Fun night. I was in a rare mood for mussels and they were delicious.
Pubs! I loved the pubs in Ireland. They seemed to be quiet, convivial spots for gathering or had a focus on playing live music (unlike the piped music found in so many London pubs).
In Doolin we went to McGanns and Gus O’Connors. Live music in both places. Loved them both, but preferred McGanns. I’m not sure if that was because we went there late night.
Ballyvaughn O’Loclainns Pub / Whiskey Bar trip favorite. They do serve beer as well.
In Ennis Poet’s Corner at The Old Ground Hotel is the place to be! Lively, full of people, and Traditional music. What more could you want?
Galway - Tis Neactain (Tie Knockin) was wonderful. Books and memorabilia along the wall, snugs galore, I seem to recall a live fire (?). Situated in the middle of the busy touristy area, it is a real find.
Dingle is pub heaven. Many of the pubs are old (very old) retail shops that evolved into pubs. No music, no shows, no food, just drinks. The following were visited:
Currans – Old hat shop, they have two long time regulars, Stevie and Tim. Two brothers, one in his late eighties, one in his early nineties. They come in every night for a pint. They own a farm in Milltown, but now have a place in town as well to make it easier! Very difficult to understand the accent. My son bought a cap, limited selection, but they still sell them
Foxy Johns – old hardware store.
Dick Macks – Old boot shop I had been told this place used to be more of an experience, but now it is more of an event – less authentic. I agree, but I did go on a Saturday night during a festival…
Hannie Agnes – Seemed great, but another packed pub Saturday night of the festival. Very cool wish we stayed. I had just fought my way to the bar when my husband said we should get out of there. Does anyone else have a husband?
McCarthy’s Pub An official music venue here – a shed that used to be a garden provides great spot for live music, which is played often. Not just traditional. We saw the Gaelic music concert here that was supposed to be at Bric’s. It was great. They even did a little Irish Step Dancing. Also saw Praguematique. Fun group from the Czech Republic.
Murphy’s Down on the waterfront, nice enough, had a reasonable lunch, the prices were fair, and the service was good.
In Kenmare we went to O’Donnabhain’s for a meal. Busy with good food and service. They served at the table not the bar like most pubs.I had to remind my family of this when they were trying to catch the one server that was efficiently running around helping a million or so tables! Everyone liked their meal. The recommended follow-up was Crowley’s for drinks and music, but we were too early for the music. It was the end of the trip and we must have been getting tired! There was a rather sterile restaurant/pub that played music early. My husband did not want to go in, stating that a restaurant that has to play live music to get patrons would be dismal, relented upon insistence from his sister. It was fun. Better than my husband expected, but we would not be in a hurry to go back, given the choice. Sorry, did not remember the name.
Regarding my inquiry earlier about when to arrive at pubs for a seat when music would be played, it did work out. Some places were so busy that it seemed you would have had to arrive well before the start time (which was not exact) and, as mentioned to me, you have to keep drinking! However, arriving at a jammed pub I found the best approach was to move forward past the crunch at the back of the pub. Often there were seats up front that people did not make an effort to get to – not always enough for the whole party, but no problem splitting up.
Funniest trip/travel error (there is always at least one)? The morning I realized that the travel/hotel sized bottle of body lotion I was using was actually hair conditioner…..
I hope someone reads this foolish thing! It took me FOREVER to write it! If I can figure it out, I’ll add some photos later. Forgive typos. I don’t have the strength to reread it!

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