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Trip Report Sunny September Trip Report

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We have just returned from our trip to Ireland and it was fantastic! Everything worked as planned and it didn’t rain on us once (which we really liked but I know they would really like it to!). I planned on writing a trip report daily (at least getting it on my IPad) but with the Guinness... you know how that goes!
I had planned our trip mostly using information from Fodors.com and I would like to share our experiences there and maybe help someone else out.
We flew in and out of Shannon. I had confirmed all my reservations a couple of weeks before leaving just to make sure they knew we hadn’t changed our minds. I made some of the reservations through Booking.com and all the places we stayed were about what the reviews said they were.
I added A T & T Europe Travel minutes to my IPhone for $30 for 30 minutes and really only made 3 phone calls. We had Wifi at every place we stayed so I could do research or read emails using that.
We rented a car from Hertz (easytourIreland.com) and got all types of insurance you need included – 2 weeks with 2 drivers, no GPS and it was around $800. We brought the car back and there were no issues. Driving wasn’t that hard to get used to. I recently had a manual transmission and was fairly used to it – just had to get used to using my left hand to shift. I ended up on the wrong side of the road a couple times during our visit but just back roads luckily with no traffic. The driving is very scary for the passenger! You are in the bushes a lot! I drove most of the time! My husband was the navigator and really did a great job! We got lost a couple times but that was on really little roads! We had a couple of really good maps - a good thing to invest in!

So our trip…
Day 1 – we flew into Shannon at 5:15 AM and picked up the rental car. After no sleep on the airplane we drove to Doolin. There were no places we saw to get breakfast. We went to the pier and got tickets to go to the Inis Oirr/Cliffs of Moher tour. The guy selling tickets told us of a place to go in town. We couldn’t find it so we asked a couple more people – no one knew what we were talking about! We ended up getting bacon bagel sandwiches from the café in the Hostel which was great.
We went to the island and walked around. They have a bunch of pony carts waiting there to take everyone but we like to walk and my husband would have been sleeping if he sat still for too long! We saw some ruins and were amazed by all the stone walls! We saw the shipwreck and then found the pub and had a couple beers. The boat picked us up and took us to the cliffs. Very impressive! I took lots of pictures!
We got back and headed to our B & B (in Doolin). We stayed at Doll’s B & B and Sean and his wife were very nice. Sean is quite chatty and told us a lot about Ireland and was very knowledgeable. We slept for a couple hours and then went to dinner at Gus O’Connor’s pub in Doolin and the food was good. We had our first Guinness beers there (in Ireland) and wow! It is amazing there! We managed to stay up to hear a trad music session there in O’Connor’s. Nice first day!

Day 2 – we got up and Sean and his wife made a fantastic breakfast – we had the full Irish and his was the best we had the whole time. Sean helped us with a route to see the Burren. We got lost a few times but mostly managed to find what we were looking for. We took a nice walk in a field area (with lots of cows around but it wasn’t fenced). There was a view of the whole area from there to it was well worth the walk – I couldn’t tell you where we were though! From there we found the Burren perfumery and wandered around although the garden was pretty much done for the year. We had tea and some treats at the café there and wandered on.
We drove the Black Head Loop which is a really nice drive – some neat scenery – lots of rocks! (I love rocks!).
We walked the Cliffs of Moher trail from the visitor center to Hag’s head – it took close to 3 hours with stopping to look at the amazing scenery and taking pictures.
We were starving when we were done and ate at Fitz’s Pub in Doolin that night. They had a musician that played guitar and sang so we stayed there and listened for a while and then headed to O’Connor’s when he was done. Music was good at O’Connor’s – they do trad sessions there every night I think. The place was jam packed. The bus tours go there. At 11:00 they all have to get back on the bus so then it gets easier to get a seat!

Day 3 – We left Doolin and travelled to Kilkee. We went and visited the Loop head lighthouse and walked around there – nice cliff walks. I don’t know that I could take kids there – just like the Cliffs of Moher – you don’t want to get too close to the edge!! There weren’t many people there. We didn’t go in to view the light house.
I had notes to do a walk around Kilkee to see the cliffs there and see the Pollock holes but I totally forgot and there aren’t really any signs that we noticed. I just kind of wandered around there while my husband took a much needed nap!
We were staying right near the beach there so we went to a restaurant on the water’s edge there and had a couple Guinness! I found there that you can buy ½ pints instead of the whole pint there and that works better for me so we started ordering like that (you can just say ‘same again’ and they’ll serve you a fresh round!).
We were staying at the Bay View B & B (it was more of a hotel). It was very nice – the rooms were big there! You won’t see many big rooms in Ireland or at least we sure didn’t! There was a band playing that night there (the Acoustic Ninja’s) and we were sleeping right above the bar so the owner (Mary) warned us of this but we were up for it! We wandered around and had a beer in another bar. It was probably 7:30 or so and we found that all the restaurants were busy and we couldn’t get a table for who knows how long (the restaurants stop serving food at 9:30 – at least all the ones we went to – even the pubs)! The Bay View had opened a restaurant in the B & B recently so we decided to try it. They gave us a table where someone had reservations in an hour or so – we told them we would be done before then! The food there was very good. We rested and waited for the music. The band was excellent- just 2 guys with guitars but they sure could play and sing! The only thing was a lot of it was American music but it was good! The place got packed!! We had gone down to the bar a little early to get a good seat and there were a few people but not a lot – I’m glad we hadn’t waited much longer – we would have been standing! We had a great time!

Day 4 – We headed to Portmagee. We took the Killimer Tarbert ferry. We hit it just right and were on it in a few minutes and on our way.
We went to Kate Kearny’s cottage and walked the Gap of Dunloe. It was beautiful. It took us about 3 hours – we weren’t walking very fast. From here we headed to Portmagee and checked into our B & B – The Waterfront. It was very nice – very new looking and roomy enough. We found it to be very noisy at night though – thin walls – we could hear someone snoring in another room – just walking in the hallway was noisy – probably just needs some carpet runners or something on the wood floor. We went to the Bridge Bar and that was okay for dinner. We were too tired to hang out for the music so went to bed early that night.

Day 5 – I had made reservations to do the Skellig Michael trip (with the 2 hours on the island) but made it out of Ballinskellig. They have to wait for the tide there so we weren’t leaving until 12:30. In the morning after breakfast we went to Valencia Island (we were right there) and did the Bray Head loop – there’s an old tower house there and some cliffs. It was a nice walk and took us a little over an hour.
We drove to Ballinskellig and wandered around there (there’s an old abbey to check out) while we waited. The boat trip was fast but my husband (being a mechanic) had his doubts about the boat! It made it there and we got off and did the 680 steps to the monastery at the top. It was very interesting – everything is still intact. There’s a fellow who works there (lives on the island as well) and sits and tells everyone that comes the story behind the monastery and he is very interesting. Only 14 boats have the rights to land on the island once a day and they can only bring 12 people – we were the last ones so there weren’t many people there. The stairs were a little on the scary side but wide enough so as long as your knees are good it’s not a bad hike up. I was a little scared of going there because of other trip reports but I once I did it I didn’t think it was bad. I got some really good pictures and it was one of the highlights of our trip.
We got back and ended up going to the Bridge Bar again. There was no music that night though so we had another early night. I had a Skellig Coffee at the bridge bar that was amazing. Irish coffee that has Irish Mist, coffee and chocolate (and of course cream). It was really good and got me hooked!

Day 6 – We had some time in the morning so we went to Valencia Island again and saw St. Bredan’s Well and walked around a little. Then we headed to Bantry.
I had found a sheep dog demonstration advertised online and we managed to find it (with minutes to spare) right near Moll’s Gap. We got there about 10 minutes before the demonstration was supposed to start and they don’t open the gate on the road until right before so don’t be put off by the closed gate! They talk about how the dogs are trained and give a demonstration – it was very interesting. They also had a sheep that needed to be sheared and did a demonstration on that.
We got to Bantry and checked into our B & B – Dromcloc House. It was very dated but the husband and wife that run the place are very nice people to talk to. We dropped our laundry at a place called (Be Clean) in the Bantry Enterprise center to pick up the next day.
We wandered out to Sheep’s head peninsula and just drove around. We got back to our B & B and were going to walk into Bantry (about 4 km) but a couple that was staying there were going into town so they gave us a ride. We ended up going to the Fish Kitchen for dinner – it was very good – very small too so if you want to go – go early! We wandered back to a pub for a pint or 2 then decided to see what music was playing at the hotel that was about 2 km from the B & B. The entertainment at the hotel was a lounge singer with all the music on a computer (like karaoke). Not our kind of entertainment so we headed back. Gorgeous night for a walk!

Day 7 – We went for a hike on Sheep’s head peninsula near Seefin. We ended up walking quite a ways out – there were sign posts marking the trail and we kept wanting to see what was over the next hill! Nice walk. The roads on Sheep’s head can be tiny! Luckily there wasn’t much traffic so we rarely ran into another car. We then went to Mizen Head to the light house there – it was pretty neat – the formations of the land around it are amazing. Well worth the trip.

Day 8 & 9 – We headed back to Dingle for the Dingle Trad fest. On our way we went through Killarney National forest and stopped at the Muckross house. Very nice. We had lunch there too which was good.
Dingle was a pretty nice little town. We stayed at Bambury’s guest house and it was nice. Our room was big. Breakfast there was good too. I wandered around shopping a bit when we got there. We had dinner (Dingle Pub – not very good) then went to a little pub where the kick off for the Trad Fest was supposed to be. The place was about the size of a bedroom and had 2 counters and some stools. There were only locals there when we got there and they were kind of looking at us like what are you doing here! My husband managed to get one guy talking and so it got a little better. Some other tourists came in and then there were 2 girls playing flutes. The place got too packed for us so we went a couple doors down where a guy was playing guitar and singing. He was pretty good.
The next day we wandered around. I had wanted to do Mount Brandon but had a hard time finding where the hike started and the hills were a little steep there! We ended up just driving around and did a short walk or 2. That afternoon we tried to go to a place called O’Sullivans to see some more of the Tradfest but when we walked in it was packed – standing room only - and the ceilings were really low. My husband is 6’6” and had to duck to fit so we really couldn’t stay there! We went to Murphy’s pub for dinner and stayed in our seats for the entertainment that night – called Shenanigan’s. They were pretty good – did a bunch of Irish songs (that we knew). Once they were done we went to O’Flaurety’s and I wish we’d gone there earlier – we heard a song or 2 there and they were done – what we heard was really good.

Day 10 – we left Dingle for Kinsale. I know – we were travelling a lot! I had changed my plans for the Tradfest and then we really didn’t see much of it! When we got to Kinsale we checked into our room (Tierney’s) – it was okay – the room was really small (like they all are!) and then walked to Fort Charles. We did the tour and it was pretty interesting. We came back and had a couple Guinness and shopped. We had dinner at “The Shack” and it was pretty good – spicy – definitely not Irish! We went back to our room to relax and then had a hard time getting up to go to the bars for that night’s entertainment! A bartender had told us to go to The Silent Banjo when I told her what kind of music we liked and when we went in there were a bunch of old guys (we’re in our 50’s but they were older than us!). We decided to wait and see what happened and sure enough – it starts getting 9:30 or 10 and the place is packed! The band – Cadillac Cats was pretty good and they loved them there! Lot’s of fun – mostly locals there too.

Day 11 & 12 – I hadn’t planned this in advance. I had left a couple days open in case of rain – but then it never rained! So, we decided to try a bigger city and it was between Galway and Dublin and after talking to some locals decided on Galway. It was a great decision! On the way there we stopped at Cahir Castle and did the tour – very interesting. Then we did the Rock of Cashel but didn’t do the tour – it was very cool looking!
In Galway we stayed at Griffin’s Guest Lodge – it was very nice. The room of course was small but the woman that runs the place, Ann, was very nice and helpful! We wandered around the shops of Galway (best shopping I found). We had dinner then heard music playing at the Spanish Arch. The band was called Feedback and they had some very talented musicians (3 guys) – they could really sing too. We had to buy their cd! The next day we went to Connemara. We visited the Kylemore Abbey and had lunch there. I was a little disappointed with the tour since you only got to see 5 rooms but it was a nice place. The gardens there were beautiful. We had lunch there and it was good.
We went to the Connemara national park next and hiked the trail to the top of Diamond Hill. It took close to 3 hours and was well worth it (it’s very steep at the end!). There is a great view at the top! Hills and water all around. Very nice hike! We went back and had dinner at the Quay Kitchen and had a nice talk with another couple from Greenville SC. We went back to the Spanish Arch to listen to the same band again since they were so good!

Day 13 – Our last day! We had reservations at the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis and didn’t have any plans for the day so we ended up going to Galway via the scenic route – back through the Burren and Doolin so we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher again – this time starting from Liscannor. We ended up walking the whole thing again – such an impressive place!
We headed to Ennis and found the Hotel. It was very nice. We had a nice dinner in the Poet’s corner and listened to the Trad band there.

Day 14 – headed to Shannon. There was quite a line waiting to check in when we got there. We had 3 hours and didn’t really sit waiting much so they say 2 hours but I think that might be cutting it close! We stopped at the bar there and had an Irish Coffee – last one!! There was only a couple people in line there when we got there but when we were sitting there the line for food/drinks went out the door into the duty free shop! If you plan to eat anything there go early! There aren’t many options!

Well that was our trip! We really enjoyed the people and the scenery – we never knew there were so many cows in Ireland either!! Leaving and looking out of the plane window it’s all just a patchwork created by hedges or rock walls – it was gorgeous!! Hope you enjoy your trips if you’re making plans and thanks to the people who contributed their knowledge and experiences that made my trip that much better!

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