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Trip Report 10 days, 40 pints, a billion sheep and NO RAIN - An Ireland Trip Report

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We are just back from a wonderful 10 days in Ireland. We saw so many incredible places, learned so much about Ireland's history and met a ton amazing people along the way.

The Flights
We flew roundtrip from Atlanta to Dublin nonstop on Delta. We purchased our plane tickets last June for this March trip and paid around $800 each I think. The planes were old so sitting in economy was brutal - no individual TVs which was the worst part. Needless to say, none of us slept very much on the way there. To our surprise, we were upgraded to first class on the way back so that made for a much more pleasant return!

We had reserved a manual rental car with Hertz, but my husband felt he was too tired after the long flight to figure out both driving on the left and shifting with his left hand so we upgraded to an automatic which also happended to be a slightly bigger car (a jaguar) which ended up being a good decision since even this car wasn't very roomy for the 4 of us and all of our stuff (4 carry-on suitcases and 3 backpacks).

I had done a lot of research and felt we should purchase the super CDW just to be safe. Well, I know now why they call it "super" CDW - because it is super expensive! In retrospect, we probably could have done without this insurance and saved quite a bit of money, but it made us feel better at the time. If I had to do it again, I would have gotten the World Mastercard (or whichever credit card it is) that covers rental cars in Ireland.

Driving on the left was a little tricky at first for both my husband and me as the navigator, but once we got on the motorway it was smooth sailing. My husband may disagree since he was the driver, but I really didn't think driving there was all that bad, especially after having driven in Costa Rica and Bosnia in recent years. Yes, some of the roads are slow and bumpy, but many of the roads have speed limits of 100 kph which was surprising. I had purchased a AA road atlas for the trip, and this turned out to be incredibly helpful. We found the roads and the roundabouts to be very clearly marked so between that and the atlas, directions were rarely a problem.

The Weather
Of course we had heard that it rains all the time in Ireland and that we would be lucky if we ever saw the sun. Well, I am very pleased to report that we had 10 dry days!!! It only rained two evenings and it also rained on our drive from Galway to Dublin, but it was clear and dry by the time we arrived in Dublin. We must have had the luck of the Irish on our side!!

Despite the dry weather, several days were overcast and it was pretty chilly. The temperature during the days consistently hovered around 50F, but it felt colder especially with the wind in the coastal areas. We layered our clothes and had brought scarves, jackets and gloves so we were all set.

I had read a trip report that mentioned the B&Bs can be very cold at night so I was sure to pack warm pajamas and, indeed, we froze the first few nights. We quickly noticed that the heat is either never turned on or it turns off in the middle of the night so we started requesting that our hosts that they leave the heat on during the night which was never a problem. Ask and you shall receive!

I had read several trip reports and received great advice from Fodorites on our itinerary and this is what we ended up with:

Kilkenny - 1 night - Butler Court
Kenmare - 2 nights - Waters Edge B&B
Dingle - 2 nights - Emlagh Lodge
Dromoland Castle - 1 night
Doolin - 1 night - Atlantic View B&B
Galway - 1 night - Petra House B&B
Dublin - 2 nights - Amberley House B&B

For many of you, this would probably be too much moving around, but, for us, this was the perfect itinerary since neither of my parents likes to sit still and my mom wanted to make the most of her first international trip. We were actually supposed to stay two nights in Doolin but after seeing the town (which is cute but tiny) we decided to spend St. Patrick's Day in a bigger city so Galway was a last minute addition.

More to come on what we saw and, importantly, what and where we ate!.............

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    We are off in a couple of weeks to the land of saints, scholars and poets. It is a beautiful land with hospitable people.

    This time we hope to connect with some great B&Bs. Our experience has been spotty. Besides the quality of accommodations, the hospitality of the innkeeper is critical to a nice experience.
    Could you recommend a resource or experience in County Cork? Much obliged.

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    Before I continue with specifics, I wanted to give a heads up to any trip planners that we found Ireland to be very expensive (we had read that it was so at least we weren't shocked). We thoroughly enjoyed the B&Bs we chose, and most ended up being around $100/night (for two people) which was a decent value and much less expensive than hotels. Food was very expensive but portions were large so we were able to get away with splitting most lunches and dinners. We probably would have done picnic lunches if the weather had been a little warmer.

    We did get asked almost everywhere if we wanted to be charged in dollars or euro and, of course, having read many posts on this topic here we knew to say euro! There were two occassions where we weren't asked and automatically charged in dollars. The first was an insignificant amount so we didn't argue, but the second time really made me mad.

    On our last night in Dublin, we were settling up the bill at Amberley House and the guy behind the desk ran my dad's credit card in dollars without asking. It was over 200 euro so the difference was big enough to contest. The desk clerk claimed to not have any idea what we were talking about and said he couldn't do a refund and bascially too bad. So after much back and forth, my dad simply refused to sign the receipt (which says you are confirming that you have been asked and have accepted to be charged in dollars) and asked to speak to a manager who would not be there until the morning. The so-called manager also claimed to have no idea what we were talking about. Maybe they don't understand the difference and maybe they really don't have the capability to refund in dollars, but it sure seemed like a scam. She ended up refunding him in euro and recharging in euro which obviously made no difference so he is going to take it up with his credit card. When it was our turn to pay, we were sure to say EURO PLEASE!!

    Peter2 - We absolutely loved the B&Bs where we stayed. All of the owners lived onsite and were fantastic hosts. We did not make it to County Cork on this visit. We had originally planned to spend a night in Kinsale at Olde Bakery Inn but changed our plans to visit Dromoland Castle.

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    The drive from Dublin to Kilkenny was fairly easy and we arrived around 11am maybe. Butler Court was easy to find, and Yvonne was wonderful! Butler Court is more like a motel than a B&B. The rooms were small but modern (and very cold at night!) and the bathroom was a nice size. The only drawback was that breakfast was continental and in the room and with the room being so small this was not ideal. It was also the most expensive of the B&Bs so not the best value of the trip, but we really enjoyed our stay and Yvonne was so helpful in getting us oriented to Kilkenny and sending us on our way.

    With only one night we had limited time so we quickly set off for lunch at the Kilkenny Design Centre across from Kilkenny Castle. They have a nice cafeteria with a good seleciton of hot food. Kilkenny Castle was a self-guided tour, and we bought heritage cards while we were there which was a good value. We walked around the castle grounds and the river and then made our way to St. Canice's church. Dinner was at the pub at the Hibernian Hotel where we had our first pints of the trip, and I had the most delicious Guinness stew. It was definitely the best stew of the trip (and we tried several).

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    Day 2 was a long one since we made two stops during the drive from Kilkenny to Kenmare. The first was at the Rock of Cashel where again we used our heritage cards. I definitely recommend a visit here. The second stop at Cahir Castle was suggested to us by Yvonne from Butler Court and it was right along the way from Cashel to Kenmare. Cahir Castle (also a heritage site) is a small castle and the intro video gives a nice overview of the history of castles in Ireland. Yvonne had also recommended River House Cafe for lunch since it's right across the street from the castle and wouldn't you know we ran into her and her husband there since they were on their way to some nearby caves.

    We finally arrived in Kenmare in the late afternoon and once again the B&B was easy to find thanks to great directions from Noreen at Waters Edge. Kenmare is a really cute town with only a few main streets, and Waters Edge is actually across the bay from the center of town but walkable (we didn't walk since it was chilly at night and, okay, maybe we were a little lazy). Noreen was a wonderful hostess - breakfast was tasty and her B&B has a nice bay view.

    While in Kenmare we drove the Ring of Kerry following Rick Steves's advice on the route and places to stop - a long day but totally worth it, especially since it was sunny! We also enjoyed browsing through the little shops in Kenmare.

    We had a fireside dinner at Davitt's the first evening (the lamb chops were delicious!!) and an Italian dinner at Prego the second evening which was cozy and yummy also. We went to Foley's one night for after dinner drinks and Crowley's the second night. Crowley's is a total hole in the wall place but it was such a fun local scene with families celebrating their children's confirmation and some nice Irish music.

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    This is great! These detailed reports are so helpful and I really enjoy reading them.

    So, no trouble with Hertz trying any 'funny business'? It's really the only thing that worries me. Everything else I figure will work itself out but car rental... Argh.

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    Oh no, we had an issue with Hertz. Here's what I posted on Songdoc's report yesterday in response to an issue he had with another company. I do also wonder if the super CDW wasn't ridiculously overpriced. I'm afraid to say how much we paid because I feel like we were total suckers. At the time, though, it was worth it for peace of mind given that we had no idea what to expect on the roads.

    We just returned from Ireland on Saturday and had a similar experience returning our car to Hertz. They said we damaged a tire, and of course tires are not covered by the insurance (we even got super CDW!). My dad swears it is a scam because the second we returned the car the guy immediately went over to that tire and told us we damaged it. They wanted to charge us 200 euro (!!) for a new tire when all 4 tires were totally worn out to begin with. Funny enough, our cab driver the next morning told us that 200 euro for a new tire is ludicrous. We complained to the manager at the counter inside the airport who was very kind and canceled the charge.

    More to come on the trip soon!

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    Dingle was our favorite town on this trip (though my mom liked Kenmare best). We drove through Killarney on the way there which was on a very windy road for the first part but it was a very scenic drive (we had already driven back this way from the Ring of Kerry). In Killarney, we stopped at the Muckross House (heritage card) which was one of the highlights of the trip, at least for me. It's a guided tour which was excellent and the grounds are beautiful, though, the gardens weren't blooming in March. I had wanted to do the farm tour as well but it is closed in the winter. We enjoyed lunch of vegetable pie and soup at McCarthy's Cafe in the city center before continuing on to Dingle.

    We opted for the southern route to Dingle instead of going through Tralee. This was the right choice as it was a coastal road with great views. We arrived in Dingle and once again had no trouble finding Emlagh Lodge thanks to very detailed directions from Maggie.

    Emlagh Lodge was our favorite B&B of the trip and Maggie was a fantastic hostess and so much fun to talk with. The B&B is in a picture perfect setting and the pictures on the web are 100% accurate. Our room was the one pictured on the website and had fantastic views of the water on both sides.

    We walked around the town a bit after we arrived - it was another beautiful day so we wanted to make the most of it in case it rained the next day. We kept saying this throughout the trip -- making the most of the dry weather in case it didn't last...and it kept lasting so we bascially ran ourselves ragged but it was worth it.

    Anyway, Maggie had recommended that we try the Half Door restaurant saying it was the best restaurant in Dingle. Their menu looked delicious but it was a little pricey so we opted for Lord Baker's which was in my parents' Lonely Planet book. The service, wine and appetizers were great, but the seafood was disappointing (we each tried one of the catches of the day) especially since it was supposed to be their specialty.

    After dinner, we hit O'Flaherty's - a one-room pub on the harbor. Great music and people-watching here, but we hurried out when about 15 scantily clad young ladies who looked like they were there for a wild night on the town arrived.

    We spent the next day doing the Slea Head drive around the Dingle Peninsula. WOW! It was another sunny and beautiful day and the scenery was just spectacular. We hardly encountered anyone on the drive which was the icing on the cake. I should warn that the small towns on the peninsula were virtually shut down this time of year so lunch options were scarce. We did manage to find lunch at a small pub called Tig Bhric. The only available food was toasted sandwiches and soup, but these were the best toasted sandwiches!

    Dinner that night was at John Benny Moriarty's in Dingle Town. The food wasn't anything to write home about, but the music we heard at the Small Bridge Bar (name is actually in Gaelic on the signage) after dinner was wonderful. Maggie from the B&B recommended this place to us for music and it did not disappoint.

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    I'm enjoying your report. By the time you were in Ireland I was in England and Wales. The previous week in Ireland was also mostly dry -- but quite a bit colder. We never hit fifty degrees until Wales.

    So glad you had such a nice trip!

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    Yay, another installment! :) Thanks.

    And your experience with Hertz is disheartening. Hmph. I took the CDW and will use insurance4carhire for the excess... beyond that I guess I will have to cross my fingers and toes since I already prepaid for what seemed to be the best rate.

    I do plan on taking pictures of everything. I'll probably be just tired enough not to care what people think of the crazy American flopped on the ground taking photos of the undercarriage. ;)

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    Thanks to all of you who are following along. I wish I was still there!

    Rosa_Mundi - I hope you have a good experience with Hertz. They had the lowest rates that I could find (without the super CDW added on). The service besides the guy who checked the car back in was excellent. Definitely take pics!!

    Dromoland Castle

    We were sad to leave Dingle, but excited for this day because it was Dromoland Castle day! The drive was easy and we had intended on stopping for lunch in Limerick, but when we saw how industrial and congested it seemed we decided to press on. After a quick stop in Ennis to use an ATM and stretch our legs we ended up stopping in Bunratty for lunch. We ate at P.J Clarke's near Bunratty Castle which is an obvious tour bus stop, but it's a very nice restaurant where the waiters wear shirts and ties. The food (we had soups and sandwiches) was good but expensive but we didn't care because we were starving.

    What can I say about Dromoland Castle other than it is beautiful and looks like something out of a movie. We got a pretty good rate (98 euro per person) for the Queen Anne section which were very nice rooms (similar to a regular room at a Ritz Carlton though a little more worn).

    We arrived mid-afternoon and even though it was an overcast day the weather was pleasant enough to walk around the grounds. We ate dinner in the Gallery in front of the fireplace which was comfy and cozy. It was also not as pricey as the restaurant (but still pricey) and of course the food was delicious. My husband and I shared a soup and the sausage and mash which was one of my favorite meals of the trip. The bed was super duper comfy and we all got a great sleep. Breakfast was included in our room rate and they had a massive continental spread. Checkout was at noon so we walked around the grounds a little more after breakfast to get our money's worth before hitting the road again.

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    The drive from Dromoland Castle to Doolin was easy peasy. And my last post was totally incorrect. Our stop in Ennis was on this day not the previous day - sorry about that!

    Because the weather was once again dry and clear, we headed straight for the Cliffs of Moher. This was the one and only place on the trip where we saw a bunch of other tourists. There were lots of people and buses when we arrived. What a spectacular sight and a wonderful photo op!! But, boy, was it WINDY up there! I couldn't believe the people who got so close to the edge. We even watched one guy walk all the way out, sit down and hang his legs over the side. This was in the area after the sign dedicated to "those who lost their lives at the Cliffs" - what an idiot!! We had lunch at the cafe at the Cliffs and my husband and I shared a yummy chicken and leek potpie thing.

    Anyone going to Ireland must put the Cliffs of Moher on their itinerary - this was everyone's favorite site of the trip.

    From the Cliffs, we drove a few miles to Doolin to check out the town before heading to our B&B. I knew from other posts that there isn't much to see and do in Doolin and they were certainly right. We walked in the few shops that were open, bought some amazing fudge(!!!) and then set out for the B&B which was actually back 1 mile south of the Cliffs. We arrived at Atlantic View B&B and met our hostess, Mary, who was such a sweet lady. The rooms were fine and we loved talking with Mary. The only complaint was that the hot water went very quickly the next morning - my mom and I were happy that we were the early risers!

    Mary recommended Gus O'Connell's in Doolin for dinner and Irish music and it didn't disappoint. We finally had fish and chips. I didn't think I would be crazy about fried fish (not a big fried food eater), but it was delicious - the breading was so flavorful and it was a very fresh and large piece of fish. The music at O'Connell's was awesome - the best Irish music of the trip.

    As I mentioned earlier, we were originally going to spend 2 nights in Doolin, but after I told everyone that it wasn't going to be a big town and not to expect too much...that we we would basically just be chilling out for one whole day (the horror! ha ha - I thought everyone would be worn out by Doolin, but they just wanted to see more and I couldn't blame them.), they decided they would rather keep moving and be in more of a city for St. Patrick's Day. So we rearranged the plan to spend the next night in Galway, and I think this was a wise decision. While we enjoyed Doolin (it is a very pretty coastal area and a cute but tiny town), I wouldn't recommend it for more than one night unless the weather is warmer and you just want total relaxation.

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    Thank you for the wonderful accounts of the beautiful places that you visited. What a great resource! We're going in a couple of months and I can't wait to add some of these places to our itinerary. Yeay!

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    Great reporting!!

    We start out in Doolin (for one nite) after arriving in Shannon. Then to Clifden for 3 nites, then to Doolin for 3, then Kenmare for 3, and Bunratty for the last nite.

    We almost booked with Maggie in Dingle but switched to Pax House. Thanks for the Dingle recommendations.

    Thanks for mentioning the Heritage card. That had somehow slipped my research.... I'm wondering if we (2 of us) wouldn't be better off getting the 2 for 1 book. We'll have to do the math.......

    I too am renting from Hertz. 200E for a compact automatic for 11 days was too good to pass up. I will take lots of pics and hope I don't hit too many potholes! We have the world MC that will cover the damage or so they say in writing. That's the only part of this trip that has me a bit nervous.

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    Mary suggested that we take the coastal road from Doolin to Galway and that's exactly what we did. This allowed us to get a glimpse of the Burren on the way and what a pretty coastline it was! We arrived in Galway around 11:30 - an hour before the start of the parade. Finding our B&B was a little tricky because I didn't have great directions as this was a last minute addition, but we found it after a few wrong turns. Frank at Petra House gave us a warm welcome and wasn't at all upset that we arrived 2 hours before check-in. He showed us to our rooms, gave us a map and parade information and presented us with cute little pins to wear. In short, we loved Petra House. It sits on a street lined with all of the other B&Bs in Galway, but we truly felt like we were guests in Frank and his wife's home. Breakfast was the best of the trip.

    It was a short walk from the B&B to the parade route which ends in Eyre Square. We found some spots in a lesser crowded place along the street and enjoyed people watching before the start of the parade. Of course my dad and husband had to go buy those goofy green leprechaun hats. The parade was so much fun! It was scheduled to last approximately an hour so we left a little bit early to beat the after-parade lunch crowd. We hit a pub that Frank had recommended called An Pucan where we indulged in traditional bacon and cabbage (YUM!) among other things. We then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town. The cathedral there is really beautiful and worth a visit. That's the only real site that we saw, but Rick Steves had said the real "site" in Galway is the culture and activity on the streets. Boy was he right...

    Galway is one of the "bigger" cities in Ireland but very small compared to what you envision when you haar "big city." The one drawback which Mary in Doolin and Frank at Petra House had warned us about is that Galway is a university town so, throughout the afternoon and evening, there were drunk college students stumbling around everywhere. I guess they don't have or don't enforce open container laws because kids were drinking, stumbling, urinating, etc. out in the open. I realize this is no different from St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the U.S. and it was certainly entertaining to watch and brought back memories from my college days (well, except for the urinating in the street!).

    Needless to say, we decided to skip the pub scene that evening, but we did stumble upon an Eastern Indian Tandoori restaurant (I think that may have even been the name) down by the harbor which was outstanding, especially the lamb kebab appetizer. My mouth is watering just thinking about that dinner.

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    Hey...we purchased the Collateral Insurance - WAY WAY worth it if you have a lorey - crash into your car and cream the WHOLE left side of the car --

    Well worth it....we got a rebate for days not used and didn't end up with a bill for a totaled car!

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    We woke up to a very windy day in Galway and hit the road to Dublin after breakfast. We had our first rain (during the day) on this drive, but I don't count it because by the time we got to Dublin it had stopped. What luck! The drive was easy and took maybe 2 hours (I didn't write down actual drive times so I may be a little off). We returned the car to the airport where we had the little Hertz fiasco previously mentioned, but we got it sorted out and took the bus into the City Center. We got off at O'Connell Street and walked a few minutes to Amberley Guest House.

    Someone on Fodor's had recommended Amberley House to us as a less expensive alternative to the bigger hotels in Dublin. It was okay but because of the dynamic currency coversion scam I mentioned earlier, I would not recommend this place. Another issue I had is that they had booked us in a quad room when I had specifically requested and then reconfirmed two double rooms. The girl at the front desk when we checked in wouldn't take my word for it and had to go back through all of the email exchanges to confirm that, indeed, they had screwed up. I mean, hello, after 8 days of traveling with my parents, did she think my husband and I wanted even more quality time with them?! ha ha. Anyhoo...the rooms were fine but a bit worn and it was in a decent location.

    So we set out to explore Dublin, the final city on our trip. We walked down O'Connell Street to the Temple Bar area to find a place for lunch. We ended up at Elephant and Castle where the food was fine but pricey (sandwiches here were almost 15 euro - yikes!). After lunch we hit Trinity College where we joined the last tour of the afternoon. It was informative and our guide had a good sense of humor. We ended the tour at the Book of Kells which is a very historical and interesting exhibit. By the way, doing the tour is only a euro or 2 more than just hitting the Book of Kells exhibit.

    From Trinity College, we walked down Grafton Street to St. Stephen's Green since the sun was shining brightly. To Dubliners, it seemed like springtime in the park though it was still 50 degrees (F). We walked around the city past St. Patrick's Cathedral and then back down Grafton Street for what seemed like forever until dinner time which was at Il Baccaro (a Rick Steves recommendation) a small Italian restaurant in Temple Bar. The food and wine was great at reasonable prices. From there we walked backed to the guest house and fell into bed.

    We woke up to the sun shining for our last day in Ireland. The place I wanted to visit the most in Dublin was Kilmainham Gaol and my dad really wanted to take the tram for some reason so this worked out perfectly. We took the red line over to James's Street and walked the rest of the way to the jail. The tour was excellent and much more than just a history of the jail.

    From the jail, we decided to hit the Museum of Modern Art since it was right across the street - and free! We ate lunch in the cafeteria which was pretty good and then hit the exhibits. I have to say, I don't think I am artsy enough for a modern art museum - to me, most of the "art" was a big joke. I did find the exhibit by Jorge Pardo pretty cool, though. We were all happy that we didn't pay for this site.

    My husband really wanted to go by the Guinness Storehouse even though we knew we weren't going to do the tour since we thought 15 euro apiece was way too steep. So we walked by, took some pics and then decided that the sightseeing was over as we were all finally worn out from the past 1 1/2 weeks. Dinner that night was at 101 Talbot. Everything from the wine to dessert was absolutely delicious. I had the filet with peppercorn sauce and mashed potatoes and the rest had the leg of lamb with moroccan couscous, lasagna with butternut squash and goat cheese, and pasta with mussels. Best meal of the trip!

    Dublin was our least favorite city on the trip but I'm never crazy about big cities anyway so this was not a surprise. We found the small towns to be much more enjoyable but were still glad we experienced Dublin since there is so much history there.

    We were sad to leave Ireland but felt so blessed to have been able to do this trip with my parents and, of course, the dry weather was the icing on the cake! Thanks to everyone for tuning in, and I hope this report is helpful to those of you planning trips.

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