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Trip Report Trip Report: Two Weeks in Ireland & N. Ireland- Amazing!!

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Fodorites were so helpful when I was planning my trip to Ireland. So, I'm posting a complete report from my trip in hopes that it will help others who are heading to the Emerald Isle.

* Ireland Trip Review- General Info *

Route: We flew into Shannon, spent 3 nights in Cliden (Co. Galway), 2 nights Doolin (Co. Clare), 3 nights Killarney (Co. Kerry), 1 night Glendalough (Co. Wicklow), 3 nights Dublin, 2 nights Belfast and 1 final night at the Dublin Airport.

We spent two weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland in April/ May 2007. This was a trip that I'd been planning and dreaming about for a long time. In two weeks we were able to see quite a lot. We also had enough time to really get used to the rhythm of life in many of the places we went and to get totally invested in some of the current political events in Ireland (thank you, RTE radio). Here are a few general notes about our planning:

Air/Car: We booked our airfare through Expedia.com on Aer Lingus. Our flight arrived in Dublin, and then we transfered to a flight to Shannon. Flights were fine- no problems at all. We booked our rental car through Avis.com and then added extra CDW insurance at the Avis counter when we arrived in Shannon. We did not end up with any damage to the car, but the insurance put our mind at ease on some of the more treacherous roads. We had a Renault 4-door which we liked a lot. Service at Avis was helpful and efficient. Charges were completely explained, we did not feel as though we were being nickled and dimed, and we were charged exactly what we were told we would be at the rental desk. This is our second European rental with Avis and we've been very pleased both times.

Accommodations: We found our B&Bs/ hotels by reading the Fodors boards and tripadvisor. We contacted each B&B/ hotel directly to book. In Ireland, most B&Bs are priced per person, per night, so keep that in mind when looking at prices online. Different B&Bs offer different kinds of breakfast options. Some had just a standard Irish Breakfast (meats, toast, eggs, tea); some had a menu of choices.

Itinerary- We agonized about our itinerary. Since this was our first time in Ireland, we decided to see a lot of the "must see" sights (Cliffs of Moher) while adding in some areas of family interest (Clifden) and places that are somewhat off the beaten path (Derry). It's important to think about driving times between the places you want to see. Ireland is a small county, but most roads are little, winding, two lane affairs and you will not get anywhere quickly. We used the route planner at www.aaroadwatch.ie for approximate drive times (and usually got between places a little faster than they said we would).

Heritage Card- You're going to save a lot of money if you get a Heritage Card. These cards give you a discount on a huge number of tourist sights in Ireland, and the savings really, really add up. When you get to Ireland, you can buy the card at any site that is a member. Just ask before you pay for admission anywhere. Your best bet is to get the Heritage Card and also the Heritage Island Touring Guide, another discount program. Heritage Island is only 6 euro total and we saved a bunch of money with this, as well. Heritage Island should be ordered online in advance of your trip.

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    * Days 1-3: Clifden and Connemara *

    We picked up our rental car from the Shannon airport and were shortly on our way. My husband got used to driving on the left pretty quickly and we were lucky that for the first hour the roads were really wide and easy to navigate. We drove through Co. Clare, through all the roundabouts outside Galway City (SO many roundabouts!) and then into Co. Galway. This is when the roads started to get more interesting (and by that I mean narrow and winding). It took about two hours total to get to Clifden, our base for the first portion of our trip.

    We LOVED the Connemara area. It was maybe our favorite landscape of the entire trip. Hills, lakes, misty fields with sheep and horses, wildflowers and stone bridges crossing peaceful streams... Connemara is picture postcard Ireland. Clifden is a really lovely town that we thoroughly enjoyed. It was a great base for exploring the area and I’d definitely like to return here in the future. I especially enjoyed the fact that the ratio of tourists to locals wasn’t as high as in some other places we visited. Not a giant tour bus in sight. This really gave us the opportunity to experience some Irish culture and interact with locals.

    SIGHTS/ACTIVITIES

    Cleggan Peninsula- Most people who come to Clifden do the Sky Drive, a scenic drive around a peninsula just south of the town. Instead, we drove out on the Cleggan peninsula, just north of Clifden. The reason we made that choice is because this area is where my family is from. We drove through Claddaghduff, out across the sandbar to Omey Island, on to Rossadilisk and then Cleggan. Cleggan is the largest town on the peninsula. It’s a fishing port and there are boats coming in and out of the harbor all day. Other than things that were of personal interest to me, there’s not much to see out here. We just enjoyed the pretty coastline, the quiet roads and little fishing communities. We also loved being the only tourists here and getting to mix with locals who were just going about their day.

    Kylemore Abbey- This was one of our favorite places from our entire trip and I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful it is. It is absolutely worth coming to Connemara to see this, alone. It’s set on a misty lake and the property also contains a chapel and gardens. The inside of the abbey is nothing special, but the walk along the lakeside is so beautiful and we were absolutely captivated by the scenery.

    Connemara National Park- This is a really beautiful area for a hike, or even just a quick stroll. At the Park, you can see all the mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and forests that are typical of Connemara scenery. We saw goats and Connemara ponies wandering in the fields.

    Cong- We went to Cong as a day trip from Clifden (and drove the Connemara Loop afterward). There are several reasons people come to Cong: (1) It is where much of “The Quiet Man” was filmed and you can see a bunch of movie locations. (2) Cong Abbey is one of the prettiest ruined abbeys in Ireland. It’s surrounded by a lovely river and forested area and is the perfect place for a picnic or an afternoon stroll. (3) Ashford Castle, one of the finest hotels in Europe, is located here. It’s famous for being the place that Pierce Brosnan was married. The castle was built in the 13th century by an Anglo-Norman family and was rebuilt and extended from in 1850s by a Guinness family member. If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can’t go inside, but you can wander the exceptional grounds. I highly recommend it. We wandered through walled gardens, sat by the lake, and watched a falconer training a bird along a quiet, wooded path.

    Connemara Loop- This driving route is a wonderful way to get a feel for the area and see some of its more scenic towns. Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park are both on the loop, so it’s easy to do all of this in a day. We really enjoyed the scenery here and the towns are just lovely. We also stopped at a small waterfall outside the picturesque town of Leenane, Aasleagh Falls. You can climb over a little fence and go right up to the falls. We came across a horse drinking from the river and petted him for a while, enjoying the magnificent scenery. I will say that some of the roads here scared me to death—extremely narrow roads with blind corners, sheep in the road, locals whizzing by. But I’d definitely do it again.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Buttermilk Lodge- We stayed 3 nights at Buttermilk Lodge and were so impressed with this wonderful B&B. We loved the location. It’s just outside the center of Clifden and a quick walk to all the restaurants, pubs and shops in town. The B&B itself is quiet, lovely and well appointed, with a cozy front room where you can have a cup of tea and enjoy the peat fire. The breakfast here is top notch—the best B&B breakfast we had on our entire trip, no question. Every morning there was a menu with several options to choose from and every dish we tried was delicious. This was perhaps our favorite B&B of the trip and we can’t recommend it enough.

    DINING

    The best restaurant for fine dining in Clifden is Mitchell’s. Other nice options are Fogerty’s and Off the Square. For excellent pub food and live music, look no further than EJ King’s, right on the square.

    PHOTOS:

    Clifden: http://tinyurl.com/yt47qf

    Cleggan Harbor: http://tinyurl.com/2e8crj

    Beach in Rossadilisk: http://tinyurl.com/2yhveh

    Kylemore Abbey: http://tinyurl.com/yufx4x

    Driving the Connemara Loop: http://tinyurl.com/ywz9vn

    Aasleagh Falls: http://tinyurl.com/yqcyqg

    Lamb in Connemara (they are everywhere in Spring!): http://tinyurl.com/2cccnl

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    * Days 4-5: Galway and Doolin *

    On our fourth day in Ireland, we drove from Clifden to Galway City. We spent an hour or two exploring the city before continuing on to our next stop. Galway is a college town. Most of the people on the streets are young, and there's a definite energy about it. The smell of pot was wafting through the street in certain places, a student film was being shot on a crowded street, teenagers were playing soccer on the green. There's a ton of shopping and restaurants, plus occasional musical performances on the waterfront. There's sightseeing to be done (the Spanish Arch, various churches), but my favorite part of Galway was just people watching and walking around.

    From Galway we continued towards Doolin in Co. Clare. We stopped at a couple of places on the way: Thoor Ballylee, which was Yeats' summer home (and closed, unfortunately) and Kilmacduagh Monastery (really cool).

    We decided to stay in Doolin because of its proximity to the Cliffs of Moher and the fact that it is known for its traditional music sessions. However, we didn't anticipate is being quite as touristy as it is. Unlike in Clifden, in Doolin we felt like there were way more tourists than locals hanging around town. It didn't have an authentic vibe, for us. We were also surprised to see how small Doolin is. It's SMALL. The nearest ATM machine is a 30 minute drive away (and many stores won't take credit cards, so make sure you have euros). The three best pubs in town are are O'Connell's, McDermott's and McGann's. The nightly traditional music sessions are free and absolutely wonderful. Each pub's music seems to have a slightly different vibe, but we totally enjoyed them all. The downside is that it's you and 75 other tourists crammed into the pub, with everyone jockeying for space for their camera and/or videocamera. It doesn't feel all that special, if you know what I mean. If we had to do it again, we might stay in nearby Lisdoonvarna, which seemed a little more interesting to us, and just drive to the Doolin pubs at night. Doolin was the only town on our trip that we didn't feel we would have liked to stay in longer. However, we really did enjoy the local music and our trips to the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren.

    SIGHTS/ACTIVITIES

    The Cliffs of Moher- This is why people come to this quiet area of Co. Clare. The Cliffs are indeed magnificent. We actually went to the cliffs at night, which was bad in that the visitor center was closed, but really good in that there were WAY fewer people there, admission and parking were free, and we had a killer view of the sunset beyond the cliffs. If was just breathtaking. We sat and watched the sun go down over the ocean. It was such a perfect Irish night.

    The Burren- The Burren is a large area of rocky landscape in Co. Clare. I really, really didn't think I was going to be remotely interested in the Burren. Rocks are rocks, right? However, I really ended up liking many parts of it and having a great time exploring the area. We started at Aillwee Cave, a touristy but cool place where you can take a tour inside an old limestone cave. If you've seen a lot of caves, like I have, this one isn't that spectacular. But the tour is very well done & informative and the area surrounding the caves is just gorgeous. We hiked up the rock mountain behind the cave's visitor center and were treated to a panoramic view of the valleys around us. It was simply stunning, quiet, peaceful and very memorable. From there, we continued on down the tiny, winding roads through The Burren to Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient burial site. Dolmens aren't all that interesting in and of themselves, but this one has a bunch of good information about it on nearby signs that really gave some insight into what the region was like in years past.

    ACCOMODATIONS

    Cullinan's Guesthouse- We didn't love this B&B, despite the fact that it got great reviews on tripadvisor. Cullinan's is located in between the upper and lower parts of Doolin. It is across from a new and modern hotel/shopping development, a ways down the street from the older, more charming parts of Doolin. The entryway and restaurant spaces at Cullinan's are lovely and light, but our room was generic: high traffic carpets, bland bedding, nothing really special about it. It just lacked personality and was not as nice as the photos on the website. Our big disappointment at Cullinan's was the absence of the owners and the terrible service in the restaurant. Between the plain accommodation and the lack of staff warmth, we just didn't get a good vibe here.

    PHOTOS

    Galway city: http://tinyurl.com/2ycftn

    Kilmacduagh Monastery: http://tinyurl.com/2ce6tj

    Doolin (the part not near our B&B): http://tinyurl.com/267voc

    Cliffs of Moher: http://tinyurl.com/2fokmv

    The Burren (view from hill above Ailwee Cave): http://tinyurl.com/29zcho


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    * Days 6-8: Killarney and Dingle *

    On the morning of day six, we left Doolin and drove south to the town of Killimer, where we took a ferry across the River Shannon into Co. Kerry. Whereas the Co. Clare landscape was mainly long, flat pastures, Co. Kerry was different almost immediately-- we saw hills, mountains and forested areas which were just beautiful. We passed through Tralee (LOTS of roundabouts) and arrived in Killarney, our base for the next several days.

    Killarney is a big tourist town. You will most definitely see packs of tourists getting on and off giant tour buses. Here's the thing about Killarney: the town itself isn't exciting, but the lake region surrounding the town is magnificently beautiful and not to be missed. We stayed outside the town center and out of the path of most of the big tour groups. We were able to explore the serenely lovely lakes and castles at our leisure and thoroughly enjoyed them. This, like Connemara, was a place where we fell in love with the landscape and hated to leave. We could easily have spent more time in the area.

    However... little did we know that the weekend we were in Killarney was also a Bank Holiday and the Rally of the Lakes, a car race that comes to Killarney the first weekend in May. It was ridiculous. Every meathead in Ireland (and England!) rolled into town in their souped up Mazda, showing off tattoos, falling down drunk in the street, and walking around with some seriously, seriously skanky babes. On one hand, it was hilarious. On the other, it was obnoxious and even a little frightening. Oh and noisy. Lots of car engines revving at all hours of the day and night. If we had been staying in town we would have been miserable. Fortunately, we were away from the heart of the madness.

    SIGHTS/ACTIVITIES

    Dingle Peninsula- During our time in Killarney, we took one full day to drive the Dingle Peninsula. I really regret that we couldn't spend more time in this area, as it was one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places that we saw in Ireland. All the raving you hear about Dingle on these boards is spot on-- you will want to stay here as long as possible. We just couldn't fit extra days into the itinerary, but we've promised to come back because we loved it so much. We loved the sandy shores of Inch Beach, quaint and pretty Dingle town, the unreal and splendid scenery of Slea Head, the wonderful Blasket Center museum (loved this), the Riasc Monastery- and everything about this exceptional part of Ireland. While we were in Dingle town, we did something really touristy... and took a boat trip out into the harbor to see Fungie, a dolphin that has been living in these waters for twenty years. Tours leave every hour or so and have a tourist-friendly policy: if you don't see Fungie, you don't pay. Fortunately for us, that Fungie loves the attention. He swam alongside our boat and jumped and showed off in the water. We've seen a lot of dolphins in Hawaii, but Fungie was something special. We loved him!

    Muckross House- Muckross House was built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolourist Mary Balfour Herbert. It has sixty-five rooms, many with a commanding lake view, and is surrounded by a stunning garden area. Queen Victoria stayed here in 1861 when she visited Ireland. We really enjoyed the informative tour of the house, which really gave us a sense of the history of the house and the Killarney region. The tour guide knew all about the wonderful antique furniture and told stories about the families that lived in the house. We also loved walking through the gardens and soaking up the sunshine on the lawn of the mansion. This is a place that locals come for picnics on weekends, so we saw lots of parents playing with children, people reading books on the grass, couples sitting by the lake. It was lovely. Adjacent to Muckross House are the Muckross Traditional Farms, which is a village showing what life in pre-electricity rural Ireland would have been like. (Think Colonial Williamsburg.) It was closed during our visit, but I hear it's great.

    Killarney Lakes- The main attraction in this region is the splendid natural beauty of the Killarney Lakes. There are a bunch of walking trails around the lakes so you can enjoy the water from any number of vantage points. We hiked to a place called The Meeting of the Waters, a quiet spot where three bodies of water converge. There's a nice tea house there and benches for admiring the view. We also went to see Torc Waterfall, set back in a woodsy area with hiking trails adjacent. We especially liked hiking into the Gap of Dunloe, which is a good walk but absolutely worth it for the amazing views. Carved by the miltwater of a huge glacier thousands of years ago, the Gap is about seven miles in length (we only went about a mile in) and features clear lakes surrounded by mountains. Alternately, you can pay to take a jaunting cart (horse and buggy) into the Gap.

    Ross Castle- Ross Castle is the ancestral home of the O'Donoghue clan. It is located on the edge of Lough Leane and is a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. The Castle was walking distance from our B&B, so we walked down there on our first night in Killarney, climbed up a castle wall, and watched the sun set over the lake. It was so amazing and peaceful. Two days later, we went back and took the official tour. It was really interesting and informative; it definitely gives you a sense of what it would have been like to live there.

    ACCOMODATIONS

    Ross Castle Lodge- Our B&B in Killarney was simply wonderful. This one and the B&B in Clifden were definitely our favorites of the trip. We talked about both places often after we'd moved on to other cities. In Killarney we stayed at Ross Castle Lodge, just outside the city. You definitely don't want to stay in the city itself- it's loud and touristy. Our room at Ross Castle Lodge was large and comfortable, and we really liked the B&B's location. I think the best thing about our experience here, however, was the owner. The woman who runs this place is so warm, welcoming and lovely. She met us at the door and immediately made us feel welcome. She asked where we were from, where we'd been on our travels thus far, how she could help us explore Killarney, and offered up maps and suggestions. She was one of the friendliest and most endearing people we met in Ireland and her attentiveness and sweet nature were very memorable. I would absolutely recommend this B&B to anyone going to Killarney!

    DINING

    We had a really nice dinner at Bricin (pronounced brick-EEN) in Killarney. It's not inexpensive, but it was one of the tastiest meals of our whole trip, served in a very attractive restaurant. The service was excellent. The other place you shouldn't miss in Killarney is the Murphy's Ice Cream store. It was closed when we went by, but supposedly this ice cream (which is made in nearby Dingle) is to die for. I wouldn't doubt it- I've never had dairy products better than the ones we tried in Ireland.

    PHOTOS

    Muckross House: http://tinyurl.com/29hfep

    In the gardens at Muckross House: http://tinyurl.com/yvfoet

    One of the lakes in Killarney: http://tinyurl.com/ysr6qq

    Ross Castle: http://tinyurl.com/yozpvf

    Gap of Dunloe: http://tinyurl.com/yv6kz6

    Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula: http://tinyurl.com/2d7lgn

    Fungie the dolphin, swimming next to our boat: http://tinyurl.com/26r3ko

    Dingle: http://tinyurl.com/2gz2a2

    Out at the end of the Dingle Peninsula, with the Blasket Islands in the distance: http://tinyurl.com/yp7m3o

    We stumbled across this amazing little beach out at the end of the peninsula. It was so gorgeous: http://tinyurl.com/ypzk6c


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    * Days 9-10: From Killarney to Dublin, via Glendalough *

    We left Killarney early on day 9 for a long drive to eastern Ireland. We made a couple of stops along the way. The first one was at Blarney Castle. I specifically did not want to go to Blarney Castle and I dragged my feet the entire way. I'm a total germophobe and would not get up close and personal with that thing if you paid me! I also just found it way too touristy there.

    From Blarney we drove to Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel. It was super cool (more on that below). We continued on toward the Wicklow Mountains, passing through the town of Hollywood. Yes... Hollywood, Ireland. And of course, it was tiny and green and filled with sheep. We loved that we'd gone all the way across the world just to end up back in Hollywood. (We're from L.A.)

    We continued on towards Glendalough and encountered our first real rain of the trip. Yes, we were extraordinarily lucky to have had such good weather all this time. And then there was the deluge. We couldn't see a whole lot as we arrived in Glendalough, but when the rain cleared up a while later we were able to step out and admire the gorgeous scenery. Glendalough is located in the Wicklow Mountains. It's just an hour south of Dublin but it feels like a completely different world. It's all mountains, streams, waterfalls and wildflowers. The mountains here are steeper than in either Connemara or Killarney. You definitely feel that you are isolated from other places while you are here (in a good way). We had come specifically to see St. Kevin's Monastery. I'd seen photos of it and fallen in love with the old cemetery surrounded by mountains. It did not disappoint. From our B&B we crossed a little river and then walked 20 minutes along a quiet mountain path to get to the monastery. We did that our first evening, and then went back the next morning to see even more of the surrounding area.

    After leaving Glendalough, we went to Powerscourt Gardens, about 20 minutes north. We had another downpour here, and it's hard to enjoy pretty gardens in the driving rain, but we tried. And then it was on to Dublin!

    SIGHTS/ACTIVITIES

    Blarney Castle- The grounds of the castle are pretty- it definitely looks nice in photos. However, there's nothing to do here other than to go up and kiss the stone. The castle is a ruin that has not been restored. There's no tour explaining the history of the castle, no pamphlet pointing out what rooms would have been where. It's just an empty building. You go up, you kiss the stone, you come down. That's it. I was amused by the old man who sits next to the stone and helps people lean over backward to kiss it. He kept reciting the same monologue over and over without stopping: "Nothing in your pockets, turn around and sit, lean backwards, now kiss." I'll just say that there are many other fine castles in Ireland where you can actually learn something about the history of the building and the people who lived in it, and I preferred those places.

    Rock of Cashel- The Rock of Cashel is located in Co. Tipperary and served as the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the arrival of the Normans in Ireland. It's now a ruin, but a really lovely hilltop ruin with great views of the surrounding countryside. There's a large graveyard with a number of high crosses. There's also a museum inside housing some of the items that are too old and important to be exposed to the elements anymore, including St. Patrick's Cross. St. Patrick was said to have visited Cashel in 450AD and the cross was erected in his honor. The east side of the cross has the image of St Patrick carved into its surface. We didn't end up spending more than an hour or so here, but I'm glad we stopped. It was a really cool sight.

    St. Kevin's Monastery- I really wanted to see this site and am so glad we worked it into our itinerary. Glendalough is a monastic site that was founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century. Two lovely gateway arches lead you into a graveyard which surrounds a really picturesque round tower, and the remains of several churches and cathedrals. Shortly after arriving in Glendalough, we came here and watched the sun going down from the graveyard. This place is definitely on the tourist beat and it was crowded, but there is still something so still and lovely about the place. It feels holy, that's the only way I can really explain it. The next morning, we returned here and hiked along a path through the adjoining woods to the place where St. Kevin actually lived. There's nothing there now, just an empty space on the side of a hill, overlooking a beautiful lake, but again it felt quiet and serene.

    Powerscourt Gardens- We drove from Glendalough towards Dublin, stopping at Powerscourt Gardens along the way. There used to be a magnificent mansion on this site, one of the finest and most opulent in Ireland, but it was destroyed by fire in 1974. The house has been rebuilt enough to house an upscale indoor shopping area, but no effort has been made to restore it to its former glory. That's a shame. However, the gardens are really lovely. They were begun in the 1740s and now stretch out over 47 acres. There are formal gardens, terraces, lakes and walled gardens, all situated along a nice walking path. Of course, midway through our walk in the garden, we got caught in a torrential downpour. When it rains like that, you're just going to get wet, even with a raincoat and umbrella. It was unpleasant. Still, the gardens were very pretty and we enjoyed them. All the tulips in Ireland were blooming while we were there, and it was just magnificent. I have so many photos of tulips from this trip!

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    We stayed at Riversdale House, a lovely B&B in Glendalough. It is located down a hill and alongside a pretty river, about 20 minutes walking along a forest path to St. Kevin's Monastery. It's a very attractive building and nicely decorated throughout. The breakfast room & sitting area is really cozy and filled with light. All the rooms seem to have wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and the river.

    Here's where I'd like to say a giant THANK YOU to all the Fodorites who told me to stay away from the Glendalough Hotel. We had dinner there one night (due to a lack of other options) and it was a *zoo*. Screaming children running through public spaces & the bar, dining areas all packed to the max with tourists, very mediocre food... we really disliked it. Our B&B was 1000 times nicer.

    PHOTOS:

    Blarney Castle & Stone: http://tinyurl.com/2pq9um

    High cross in the cemetery at the Rock of Cashel: http://tinyurl.com/3858vr

    Rock of Cashel: http://tinyurl.com/2l8p5l

    View from our B&B in Glendalough: http://tinyurl.com/33vm9e

    Round tower & cemetery in Glendalough: http://tinyurl.com/38czmj

    The cemetery in Glendalough: http://tinyurl.com/2jnn4b

    Powerscourt Gardens: http://tinyurl.com/38r543

    Tulips at Powerscourt: http://tinyurl.com/2rpyah

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    * Days 10-12: Dublin *

    We drove into Dublin in the afternoon and promptly got horribly, horribly lost. But we were really excited when we found our hotel, forty-five minutes later. We had splurged to stay at the Westin Dublin, and it did not disappoint. It's right in the center of town, walking distance to nearly everything we wanted to see, and really elegant inside. We got settled in our room and headed out to explore the city.

    Dublin wasn't what I expected. For some reason, I was thinking it would be very Irish, or a little rough around the edges, maybe. It was neither. Dublin is a very cosmopolitan city. It reminded me of London. There are tons of people on the street, they're all in a hurry and everyone seemed nicely dressed. It's definitely a professional town, and it seems to be booming. We heard many, many foreign languages on the street, just another sign that there's a growing immigrant population in Ireland. After being in the countryside so long, it took us a while to adjust to the fast pace of Dublin, but once we did we really enjoyed it. We missed the beauty and charm of the country, but were so thrilled to see a Starbucks that it made us miss the country a little less. KIDDING! (Well, kinda...)

    We toured a lot of guide book "must sees" in Dublin, but we also spent a lot of time just wandering around the streets, checking out local bookstores and standing along the Liffey watching people rush by. It's a cool and energetic city.

    SIGHTS/ ACTIVITIES

    Kilmainham Gaol- This was our favorite tour/site in Dublin and we highly recommend it to anyone who's going there. Even my husband, who doesn't care about Irish history the way I do, was totally fascinated by this place. If you've seen the movie "In the Name of the Father" (and if you haven't, you should!), this is where the prison scenes were shot. Built in 1792, it is Ireland's most famous prison. It held throughout the years many famous Nationalists and Republicans. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed here, in a graveled spot in the yard marked by a cross. The prison was closed in 1924, its last prisoner being Eamonn DeValera, later the president of Ireland. This tour offers a lot of insight into the history of the Irish/English conflict and was thoroughly fascinating. There's also a very comprehensive museum at the site that has items of major Irish historical importance.

    Trinity College & the Book of Kells- The Book of Kells is an ornately illustrated manuscript produced by Celtic monks around AD 800. It is one of the more lavishly illuminated manuscripts to survive from the Middle Ages. Adjacent to the Book of Kells exhibition is the Old Library, which I just loved (even though all the dust from those old, old books set off my allergies immediately). It was also fun just walking around the college. So many famous writers were educated here, including Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift. But it's very much a college campus, filled with young students hanging out on the lawns.

    St. Stephen's Green- Dublin's central park is a great area to walk through when it's sunny. It's not really that big, but it's nice and green and a good spot for a picnic. We just strolled through on our first day there.

    Grafton Street- Dublin has so much great shopping! Grafton Street is just one of the more famous shopping promenades. There are stores galore, but this is also a great spot for people watching and just hanging out. If you see the new movie Once (which is wonderful!), a large portion of the film takes place on Grafton Street.

    The General Post Office- I'm really interested in Irish history, so this is a place that was special for me. I got all choked up seeing the bullet holes in the exterior columns, scars from the 1916 Easter Rising (which was one of the first major steps towards Irish independence). The inside is still a functional post office, so not much to see there, but I appreciated it. It's located on O'Connell Street, which is the major street north of the Liffey (where you catch buses and such).

    29 Lower Fitzwilliam Street (Georgian House)- There are Georgian-style houses all over Dublin. Most were built between 1714 and 1830 and are identifiable by their brightly colored front doors. We took a tour at the restored house that is open to the public on Lower Fitzwilliam and thought it was pretty interesting.

    Christ Church Cathedral- It was Catholic, then it was Protestant, then it was Catholic again briefly, now it is Protestant. Irish history in a nutshell, perhaps? It is the elder of the city's two medieval cathedrals, the other being St. Patrick's (which was like 5 euro each to tour, so we didn't). Christ Church Cathedral has been the seat of the archbishop of Dublin since medieval times and was built in 1038 by the Viking king of Dublin. There's a huge crypt underneath will all sorts of interesting stuff in it, plus a video that talks about the history of the church. We dug it.

    Dublin Castle- This was the seat of Dublin's government for eons. We took an interesting tour here. The interior reminded us a bit of the White House. There's a throne room where various English Kings and Queens held court when they came to Dublin. We also got strangely excited when we saw them setting up the dining hall for the World Bank meeting (to happen the following day).

    Temple Bar- This famous part of Dublin is filled with bars and restaurants. We wandered through here to check it out and had dinner at a little Italian place on the street. However, I ended up getting really sick while in Dublin and couldn't drink while taking medication, so we were purely sightseers here and didn't really get the full experience.

    Literary Pub Crawl- You gotta do a pub crawl when you come to Dublin, right? We heard from many people that this was the best one. It starts at the Duke Pub (on Duke St., right off Grafton St.) and takes you to four historic bars over 2.5 hours. I enjoyed the little history lessons and dramatic performances on the tour. It was totally entertaining.

    Guinness Brewery- I liked this a little more than my husband did, but if I was going back to Dublin, I'd skip it. This is what my husband wrote our families about the Guinness Brewery: "I'm a huge fan of Guinness. What wouldn't be to like? Well, for starters, it's totally overpriced. The tour itself is pretty basic, as they explain how beer is made. But the bad thing about it is, every ten feet or so, you have pro-Guinness propaganda that would've fit in better back in Stalinist Russia. "THERE IS NO FINER BEVERAGE THAN GUINNESS." "GUINNESS ONLY USES THE FINEST INGREDIENTS... YOU WILL NEVER FIND ANYTHING BETTER." "DRINKING GUINNESS WILL CURE CANCER." Okay, we made that last one up. But the scary thing is, we almost don't have to. We get it -- Guinness beer is good. We don't need a hundred reminders of that. Anyway, more interesting than the making of Guinness is the former advertising campaigns they've used. Here's a cool marketing fact we never knew before: do you know the Guinness Book of World Records? Of course you do. Well, it was originally created as an advertising tool. One of the execs back in the 50s wanted to settle a barroom bet he made with someone, and didn't have a way of finding an answer... so he came up with the idea to publish a book containing every record imaginable. That way, they could sell them for use in bars around the world, so that the Guinness name would always be there to settle bets. Who knew? The tour culminates in a trip to the "Gravity Bar," which is the highest bar in Dublin and the best part of this experience, no question. At least for your entrance fee they give you a free pint of Guinness, directly from the source."

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Westin Dublin- We loved the Westin Dublin! The hotel is perfectly located in Dublin. It is extremely convenient to sights, restaurants, shopping and bus service. The interior of the Westin is lovely. The lobby is elegant and we really enjoyed the light-filled and spacious Atrium one level above the lobby. It's a great place to have a drink and read the newspapers which are provided. We also liked our room, which looked just like other Westins we have stayed in and was quite comfortable. The huge bathroom with separate tub and shower is a big plus. Our first floor room had a nice view of Trinity College and the busy city streets, but our room was completely quiet thanks to double window panes. From the valet to the bellhop to the staff at the front desk, everyone we encountered at the Westin was warm and welcoming. We couldn't have asked for better customer service. The price tag at the Westin is steep, but this hotel is a class act through and through.

    DINING

    Queen of Tarts- This was probably my favorite restaurant of the whole trip. It's a little cafe on Dame Street, right across from City Hall. The interior is small and packed, but we gladly waited for a table after seeing all the amazing, amazing pastries in the display case. I had a potato and onion tart that was to die for, and the first really good salad I'd had in Ireland. The interior here is cozy and adorable. I'd say this is absolutely a restaurant you shouldn't miss in Dublin.

    Tea at The Clarence- We were going to have the formal tea at The Clarence (posh hotel owned by U2), but were so full from Queen of Tarts that we decided against it at the last minute and just had a pot of tea in their bar. Honestly, it wasn't exciting at all. The interior space is pretty boring and the place was deserted. But the formal tea menu did look nice.

    Gruel- Also on Dame Street (there are some seriously good restaurants in this area), Gruel is a casual cafe that doesn't look like much but serves up some very good food. You can take food to go, or sit at tables in the back like we did. They have daily specials featured on a chalkboard along with a regular menu. Everything we had was great!

    Davy Brynes Pub- This pub is on Duke St., right across from The Duke Pub and just off Grafton St. It's a famous spot, mainly because it's been frequented by writers for ages. James Joyce even set a whole scene there in Ulysses (and I believe he lived above the bar for a while). It's a good spot for a drink. We had dinner there one night and the pub food wasn't all that great, though.

    Lemon Crepe Co.- This place is on Dawson St., parallel to Grafton St. They have an extensive breakfast menu (obviously, lots of crepes, but also eggs and such). The decor is very hip/modern and you sit at long family-style tables. It was mainly locals in there, which we liked, and the crepes were pretty darn good.

    PHOTOS

    Dublin: http://tinyurl.com/3dg8aw

    Temple Bar: http://tinyurl.com/2orcpo

    Weekend crowds along the river: http://tinyurl.com/3durpg

    Inside Kilmainhaim Gaol: http://tinyurl.com/2ok3yw

    Looking down O'Connell Street: http://tinyurl.com/2qry8z

    The view from the gravity bar at the Guinness Brewery: http://tinyurl.com/2pymgg

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    Erin,
    Love your trip report. We’ll be there in a few months, and the itinerary for the 1st part of our trip is exactly the same as yours – though different number of nights spent in these places (3 nights in Clifden, 1 in Doolin, 3 in Dingle, 3 in Kenmare). Then we’ll work our way back to Shannov via Mizen peninsula and Cashel.

    I’m a little worried about the drive from Shannon to Clifden the 1st day, but it seems that you had no problem with it. What time did you land? How long was the drive? Did you stop on the way? How narrow are the roads from Galway to Clifden? How was the traffic? We’ll land on a Saturday, if that makes a difference.

    We are also staying at the Cullinan’s, and I read similar opinions about the place. However, we picked it for convenience, since it’s so close to the Cliffs (and we’ll be there for one night only). Where did you have dinner in Doolin?

    The last picture that you posted of that “amazing little beach out at the end of the Dingle peninsula” is absolutely FANTASTIC. Do you remember where it was?
    Thanks

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    xyz99-

    We also landed on a Saturday in Shannon, about 1:30pm or so, as I recall. It took us about 2 hours to get to Clifden, with a quick stop in Oughterard for lunch. The only real traffic we had was going around Galway-- all those roundabouts slow things down. The roads from Galway to Clifden are narrow and two-lane. I was a little scared of them at first, just because you're not used to passing so close to other cars, but we were fine. You do get used to it, but it might be a little unnerving at first. My husband wasn't frightened at all about the driving-- it was just me. :-)

    I hope you'll like Cullinan's better than we did. There wasn't anything terribly wrong with it, we just didn't find it special/personal. It is certainly very convenient to the cliffs, though. We ate at the Cullinan's restaurant the first night (good food, bad service) and at McGann's pub the second night (typical pub food).

    The beach on the Dingle Peninsula... it was right out near Slea Head. You'll go past a little shine on the right, with white Mary & Jesus statues right alongside the road. Not far past that, there's a pull out on the left hand side of the road with a small parking lot. You won't see the beach from there, but if you park and walk down the path a bit, it'll be in front of you. There were definitely other cars parked there, so you should see it when you approach.

    Have a wonderful time on your trip!

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    Days 13-14: Northern Ireland

    From Dublin, we drove north towards Belfast. The trip only took about 2 hours thanks to the nice, wide highways. (Northern Ireland really does have better roads than the Republic!)

    A note before I continue: We arrived in Belfast two days after Northern Ireland had instituted a new, power-sharing government- one meant to unite the two sides of the longstanding conflict there and truly usher in an era of peace. The first meeting of the new government occurred while we were in Belfast. It was an interesting time to experience Northern Ireland. We truly sensed optimism and hope in the air, but at the same time encountered quite a bit of the old resentment and suspicion that has been a part of life here for so long.

    Coming into Belfast, we hit a ton of traffic due to construction and ended up accidentally turning off in the wrong direction. Rather than repeat our Dublin experience, I hopped out of the car to ask directions at a convenience store. As I got out I noticed some political murals on the nearby walls, and glancing at a street sign, realized we were on Falls Road, which is a Republican (Catholic) neighborhood and was one of the flashpoints of "The Troubles." It was pretty crazy to realize that I was standing in the heart of a place I’d read about so often. I went into the store and asked directions and the young man who worked there was very helpful, but he did tell me that he was sending me around a Protestant neighborhood, saying, "You don’t want to go through there... they won’t help you." I was kind of amazed to have that be my first conversation in Northern Ireland.

    We found our B&B and got settled. Then we went downtown to check out Belfast. We drove to the University district and wandered around Queens University and the Botanical Gardens. It’s a really cute area— very vibrant, lots of cafes. Then we went over and checked out City Hall. Afterward, we headed out to our Black Taxi Tour of the political murals, which was the most memorable thing we did in Belfast, for sure. I’ll elaborate below.

    The next day, we woke up early and headed out to see the Antrim Coast. When we went through the Antrim glens and came out onto the coast, I was absolutely awed by the view. The coastline there is SO beautiful! Big, green, Hawaii-like mountains rising up over an aqua blue sea. It’s magnificent. We went to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway, both of which were beautiful (even when it POURED on us, monsoon-style). We drove out into the town of Portrush and had a casual lunch there. There was some big motorcycle rally going on along the coast, so it was us and like 500 big bikers in Portrush, a little town that reminded me of something you’d see on the Jersey Shore.

    We’d meant to head home after Portrush, but it was still early afternoon and we decided to just keep going. We headed out to Mussenden Temple, which is this really cool abandoned library sitting on the edge of an ocean cliff. After wandering around the surrounding fields for a while, we continued on and decided to go see Derry. I was really excited that there was time to fit this in. Derry is very important in the political history of Northern Ireland. This is where Bloody Sunday happened (another movie recommendation- Bloody Sunday is really worth seeing). Derry has been a major point of conflict over the last 30+ years. It’s also a walled city, which is very unique. I ended up liking Derry even more than Belfast. The walls are so interesting and the murals are very thought provoking.

    SIGHTS/ ACTIVITIES

    Black Taxi Tour- This is a very popular tour in Belfast. It’s a tour (sometimes in a black taxi, sometimes in a minivan) of the political murals located all over Belfast. I was really looking forward to this, as I know a bit about local history and was very curious to hear a local’s unbiased perspective on the murals. Well, we didn’t exactly get unbiased. We got a crazy, little, red-faced man who talked a mile a minute and could not have been more biased. He had a slew of stock phrases that he'd repeat often: "'Dya get it? 'Dya get it?" and "This isn't like those other tours -- you're learning something, see, you're learning something. You're learning something!!" and "ARSEHOLE!" (screamed whenever someone cut him off in traffic). There were several unforgettable moments of comedy on this tour, including when our driver noticed a friend driving a truck next to him in traffic and rolled down the window to yell at him, "Hey, I got two Americans in the back!!" It wasn’t quite the intellectual tour I had hoped for, but my husband was so deeply entertained by the whole thing that I think it was worth it.

    Belfast Castle- This castle sits on a hill above Belfast and provides lovely views of the harbor. There’s a pretty garden outside, and you can wander around some of the ground floors of the castle as well. It’s mainly used for weddings and such these days, and there’s a nice restaurant on the lower level. The original castle was built in the 12th century by the Normans. It later burned down and was rebuilt in the 1800s.

    Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge- This is a really cool attraction on the Antrim Coast. Fishermen originally erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island over a chasm to check their salmon nets. Today it’s all tourists out here, but the view of the coastline is so lovely, it’s not hard to see why everyone tromps out here. Thankfully, we had a good 10 minutes of clear weather out there before the skies opened up and we had to sludge through the mud and driving rain all the way back.

    Giant’s Causeway- This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the only one in Northern Ireland) and definitely the reason why people come all the way out to this remote location on the coast. Too bad it’s so expensive to see it. It costs 5 pounds to park (that’s $10 with the conversion rate) and 2 pounds per person to take the shuttle up & down the hill to the Causeway ($8). You can walk— but anyone sick or handicapped who can’t manage the long walk has to pay up. Oh, and there’s no ATM out here, so you’d better have brought enough cash. But the Causeway is really beautiful and worth the trouble.

    Mussenden Temple/ Downhill- It would be easy to drive right by this place and miss it, but we’re so glad we stopped to check it out. In the 1700s, the Bishop of Derry built an elegant mansion at Downhill, which now lies in ruins here. On the nearby clifftop he also built the circular Mussenden Temple as his library, modeled on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. The temple and castle ruins are set out along a long, grassy meadow that falls off into the sea. It is beautiful and quiet out here, just lovely. We spent ages just wandering around the meadow and taking pictures of the coast and the empty shell of the castle. Wonderful!

    ACCOMODATIONS

    Somerton House B&B- The B&B is located in a quiet residential area just north of Belfast, an easy drive into the city. The public spaces in the B&B are pleasant. The owners provide a computer with free (but very slow) internet in the common room, which is a nice perk. There are also newspapers and books provided for reading. Our room was fairly large, with a comfortable bed, small television and a writing desk. It was quiet at night- no noise from the street or other rooms. However, we really didn’t care for the very tiny bathroom. Not only was it too small to be terribly functional, but everything in it seemed a little old and not in the best of shape.

    DINING

    Rain City Cafe- Located on Malone Road, near the University, this is a great little spot for a cozy lunch or dinner. It’s owned by Chef Paul Rankin, who also runs the popular Cafe Paul Rankin in town and is widely credited with modernizing Belfast’s cuisine. The menu has a wide range of selections and there’s a nice wine list as well. I had a great salad, which was especially nice after two weeks of fried fish and potatoes. The desserts looked fabulous

    PHOTOS

    City Hall, Belfast: http://tinyurl.com/2sa5bq

    Mural in Belfast: http://tinyurl.com/2uvmwt

    Belfast Castle: http://tinyurl.com/3xcuu7

    The Antrim Coast: http://tinyurl.com/2r6mpx

    Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: http://tinyurl.com/2qp3ag

    Giant's Causeway: http://tinyurl.com/2v5wnl

    Mussenden Temple: http://tinyurl.com/34hndm

    In The Bogside, a Catholic neighborhood in Derry: http://tinyurl.com/37krg9

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    * Day 15: Our Last Day- Back to Dublin *

    On our last day in Ireland, we drove from Belfast back into the Republic of Ireland. We stopped at Newgrange and Trim Castle in Co. Meath before checking into our hotel at the Dublin Airport.

    We had some pretty terrible rain this day. At Newgrange, standing in an open field with no shelter, it poured on us for a good 20 minutes, so hard and loud that we couldn’t hear our tour guide and the combination of raincoats and umbrullas didn’t prevent us from getting soaked. While driving to Trim Castle, the rain was so bad that we had almost no visibility at times. But then, in Dublin that night we had no rain at all.

    After checking into our hotel at the Dublin Airport and returning our rental car, we hopped on a bus into Dublin and spent a last night there. We spent our last night in Ireland in the city, enjoying a pub crawl and a last walk along the Liffey.

    I can’t even tell you how much we loved Ireland and how deeply grateful we are that we were able to take this trip. While this country is extra special to me because of my family’s background, it is just a beautiful and welcoming place that anyone would enjoy. We were blown away by the gorgeous natural scenery and enjoyed meeting so many interesting people. I really hope to return someday to explore more of the country!

    SIGHTS/ ACTIVITIES

    Newgrange- Newgrange is a passage tomb and the most famous of all the Irish prehistoric sites. Originally built between 3300-2900 BC, it is more than 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and predates Stonehenge by about 1,000 years. It was used primarily as a tomb by the ancient Irish. You enter into a narrow stone passageway in the front of the mound and walk along for a while until you come to a central, circular chamber. There are ancient carvings inside this chamber, plus burial and sacrificial stones. The coolest thing is that the mound was apparently built with a precise knowledge of the sun’s movement in mind. Each year, the interior of the tomb is completely dark 364 days of the year. However, on December 21 (the winter solstice), the rising sun sends a shaft of light running down the passageway, which gradually lights up the interior chamber. Pretty amazing stuff.

    Trim Castle- I was really excited to make it here, as this is my family’s ancestral castle from waaaaay back in the day! Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, built circa 1172. Today, the castle is a dark, foreboding ruin. Combined with the storm clouds on the day we were there, it didn’t exactly look like a place you’d want to move right into. It was really neat to see it, though. Trivia: Quite a bit of the movie "Braveheart" was shot here.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Days Hotel Dublin Airport- This is just your basic airport hotel—not fancy, but clean, businesslike and convenient to the airport. It served our needs just fine. And it had cable TV with international news, which we were thrilled to discover.

    PHOTOS

    Newgrange: http://tinyurl.com/2ztmnk

    Trim Castle: http://tinyurl.com/2l3ku6

    A last walk along the Liffey: http://tinyurl.com/38mxsl

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    Excellent trip report!! Your style is easy to read and well organized and very informative....great stuff!! I love how you added some photos that are easy to get to as well!
    Thanks!!
    Shadow

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    I agree with the previous posters, Erin. This was an amazing trip report. We just returned from our 2+ week trip to Ireland and I will have a tough time writing a trip report half as good as yours!!!

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    Thanks for such a timely report, Erin. We'll be in Dublin in September but will only get a taste of Ireland (3 days). What places would you visit if you only had 3 days?

    Your photos are spectacular.

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    Another compliment on the trip report. This is just the kind I like, I am printing it and will use it as a reference on our August trip. Probably more than the guide books we take! :0)

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    I'm so glad you all have enjoyed the trip report! It was fun to write it and relive the trip. Ireland was just incredible.

    Treesa- Do you mean that you'll have 3 days, not including the time in Dublin? The things I loved especially were all on the West Coast of Ireland, and that's a long drive if you only have 3 days. I'm not sure it'd be worth it. You might want to stick to things around the Dublin area. We did Newgrange and Trim Castle in a day-- and there's lots more to see out that way, as well (for example, the Hill of Tara). You could also take a day and head down to Wicklow and see Powerscourt and Glendalough. There's lots more stuff nearer Dublin that others may know more about than me. Good luck planning your trip!

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    Erin74, great trip report, thanks for sharing! I just read it starting at the bottom and working my way to the top...a fun way to read I found! I had to skim a bit but I'll be back later to get the details I missed.

    Did you really trace your ancestry to Trim? It's fascinating to go back where your ancestors are from. When are you taking back the castle? :-D

    From your description it sounds like I shouldn't be too broken-hearted for having missed the Black Taxi tour in Belfast! Quite a colorful story!

    I'm jealous you saw Dublin as I read much about it and then had to leave it out. But we're going to fit Dublin in on one of our trips to Europe. You didn't really miss Starbuck's, did you? :-? We thought the Irish make a great cup of tea!

    I love your writing style, as you give the facts and also share your reactions and anecdotes which make the whole trip report entertaining as well as informative.

    Connemara surprised my husband...it wasn't on our itinerary (as he had dismissed it after seeing a photo), but upon driving through it, on our way from County Clare to County Mayo, he was so taken by Connemara that he said we have to return to Ireland so he can check out Connemara!

    I'm glad you had a wonderful trip. I see your trip report was written in June but I've just now caught up with it.

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    Thank you, Melissa!

    No, we haven't traced the family line as far back as Trim-- that's just the family legend. Supposedly all Irish with my last name are related to that Trim family. Who knows.

    We liked Dublin very much (and no, we didn't really miss Starbucks). It did take a while to grow on us, but it's a fun city with much to see and do. Great restaurants, as well.

    I hope you get back to explore Connemara. It was perhaps our favorite area in Ireland. I always want to recommend it to people, but on the other hand I'd love for it to stay as unspoiled as it is now, largely free of the tour buses.

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    Great report, Erin!

    I was in Dublin (by myself) and the West (with my boyfriend) in September. We flew into Shannon on a Sunday, stopped for lunch in Ennis, and drove to our B&B in Galway City. When you mentioned that the bars in doolin were filled with tourists, we had the opposite experience in Galway! We went to Taaffe's on Shop street for some trad. We managed to get to the bar 5-10 minutes after we walked in. The bar was packed- wall to wall people. We stayed at the bar the rest of the evening! We are used to bars in Chicago being busy on Thurs-Saturday, but not on a Sunday night. And- neither of us really like huge crowds- but we didn't mind the crowd at Taaffe's. Every time someone bumped me- they would immediately apologize by commenting on how crowded it was, and how much fun everyone was having!

    Any more tips on the north? We are going there in two weeks!

    Thanks,

    Ellen

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    I also very much enjoyed reading your report. Many of the places you visited were fond memories for me :) I agree with your assessment of Glendalough. If you can (like you did) get to the place when the tourists have gone home, there is an inner serenity to the area that is sublime. I've been three times - each time I've gone to Ireland.

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    Erin, your trip report is stellar, but best of all you went NORTH! I hope your report inspires others who are heading to Ireland to include Belfast and the coast and Derry in their itineraries. Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories of our own trips to NI and the Republic.

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    Erin,
    Bricin is a little above our budget for restaurants, but I'm wondering if lunch is a little less expensive, as I would love to try the boxty. It doesn't say on their website. Do you know?

    Sandy

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    I loved the organization and details of your trip report, Erin.

    We took a taxi tour of Belfast in 2003, and our driver was fantastic. He prided himself in being evenhanded in his explanations - he challenged us to guess whether he was Catholic or Protestant, and was actually disappointed when I guessed correctly. The tour was a highlight of our short stay in N. Ireland, and made quite an impression on my 2 teens and their friend.

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    Thank you for such a great trip report, and for the picture links. We are leaving in 2 weeks for a vacation that will include a very short time in Dublin. I have used your trip report to help plan our days.

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    Probably THE BEST trip report I've ever read. Thank you for the effort you took. One question: my hubby and I will arrive in Dublin, April 29, spend 2 nights there, then hit the road. I checked the Rally of the Lakes and it is May 4-7 this year. Sounds like we should avoid that area then. Any suggestions? We had planned to drive. Thanks.

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    I haven't read it all..yet...because I cheated and jumped ahead to look at the pictures which were absolutely beautiful. We will be in Ireland/Northern Ireland for three weeks this coming May. Your pictures were really great. I am going back to read every word of your trip report. I know it will be great. Thanks so much.

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    Oh wow-- I haven't been here for a little while and I've missed a ton of messages. I'm sorry for the delay in answering any questions! How nice that so many of you found my trip report helpful, as well. I'm looking forward to reading all of your reports this year! :-)

    mamaclark- Yes, I'd definitely suggest avoiding Killarney during the Rally. It wasn't the most tranquil experience, to say the least. From Dublin, you could head south and arrive in Killarney as a first or second stop so you'd be there before the Rally. Then you could continue on and see other areas of the West before you leave for Scotland.

    noe847- That was exactly what I'd *hoped* our tour would be like! We just ended up with quite the character as our driver... but at least it was memorable!

    sandypaws3- I'm sorry, but I don't know for sure if the lunch menu is less expensive than dinner at Bricin. The food was fantastic, though.

    mahlquist- Yes, we really enjoyed the North and were very glad we got to see it. My husband loved Belfast and all the history of the North, and I was blown away by the natural beauty of the coast. It's a different vibe than the Republic and well worth exploring.

    greendragon- Isn't Glendalough lovely? If you can be there at a moment when you have it to yourself a little, it's so serene and almost otherworldly. I was really glad we were able to stop here.

    EMA73- I'm so sorry to not get back to you before you left for your trip. Can't wait to read about your experiences!

    artgirl_0609, mjslacker & Sprig- Thanks for the compliments! I'm glad you enjoyed the report.

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    Yes, Glendalough is one of those serene spots of the universe, where time seems to stop - at least until the next tour bus shows up :)

    I found the Hill of Tara to be another, and Jervaulx Abbey in Yorkshire as well.

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    Hi Erin,

    Just wanted to say how much your trip report has helped me! I am planning my trip for this May, and have also been agonizing over my itinerary. Yours, however, has almost mirrored my proposed itinerary in reverse (except for N. Ireland due to time). It was a HUGE help. Thanks so much, and it has definitely inspired me to write my own when I return. Hopefully I will be able to help others as you did.

    One quick question. What was your weather like mostly as far as temps, and what type of clothes did you find that you used most?

    Thanks!
    Janessa

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    Thank you so much for a really well written trip report. We are going to be in Ireland for a week from 11th April. We have planned and booked a trip which closely mirrors your first week (coincidentally). Your information will be very useful. Thank you.

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    Sorry to be late responding, again!

    Janessa- We had really good luck with weather our first week. It was sunny and very warm (high 70s?). Absolutely perfect. Our second week was more typical Irish weather- sporadic showers. The last couple days we had some terrible downpours, but it was never very cold (mid 60s?). I brought layers and mostly wore t-shirts/tanks under light sweaters paired with basic black pants or jeans. I had a nice black raincoat that went with me everywhere, just in case of showers. Have a great trip-- I hope to read your report when you return!

    PRLCH, pittpurple & kealalani- I;m so glad it was helpful!

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    Hi Erin,

    I am planning a trip in September with my girlfriend. We probably will get 7-10 days in Ireland. What would be your your top "must see" list in that time period. We would like to see some amazing scenery and sites.

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    Erin, your report was great. We are planning a honeymoon in Ireland. When exactly did you go, the pics were great and the weather looked the same. Would like to know what's the best time to visit. thanks.

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    Erin - Simply fantastic!! I'm heading to Ireland next year for 2 weeks with friends and I am starting my research. Your post was very very helpful and I got a lot of great ideas.

    THANKS!!

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