8 Days a Week - A Quick Loop of Ireland

Old Mar 24th, 2023, 03:59 PM
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8 Days a Week - A Quick Loop of Ireland

Trip Dates - March 11-20, 2023
Who We Are - 50 something couple from Colorado, well traveled but first time to Ireland. We wanted to do some hiking and spend most of our time outside of the cities.

Quick Overview of Route and Stops - Boston to Shannon on Aer Lingus, 3 nights in Kenmare, 2 nights Dublin, 2 nights Connemarra, 1 night Dromoland Castle, outside Shannon.

Hotels - Park Hotel Kenmare, Merrion in Dublin, Ballynahinch near Clifden, Dromoland Castle. All were outstanding with amazing rooms, hospitality and food. Could not have been happier with any of our choices.

Rental Car - Sixt. Again, perfect. We did rent an automatic. Had a Hyundai Kona with all the bells and whistles, meaning it chirped at my husband any time he drifted from the exact center of the road. Made my job easier. I only had to remind him to enter the roundabouts clockwise and to take care making right hand turns!

Details -
While March would not have been our first choice of seasons, circumstances of time off dictated the when of the trip. It was still plenty green, nicely quiet because it is very much off season, which really lessens the stress of the self-driving on the "other" side of the road. The flight from Boston is a quick 5 hours and we landed at around 6am on 3/12 - Sunday morning. I had read all previous reports on getting a letter from Chase Sapphire that specifically referenced that we had coverage in Ireland (it took two tries to get the correct letter. The first letter they have is very generic -- you have coverage unless you don't -- and not helpful, so I had to go up the customer service chain and insist on a customized letter that called out that we had coverage in Ireland). The counter rep was impressed and we were off within 20 minutes. The cars are located right outside the terminal -- no shuttle bus, just get your car, adjust the mirrors and bob's your uncle. Shannon Airport is a delight.
We always use the maps.me app when traveling abroad. We find the directions much more reliable than Google Maps, particularly for walking and even hiking directions. You simply download the country maps before you leave home and you can use maps. me with turn by turn instructions without having any data roaming on. That's right. Turn by turn instructions while you are in Airplane Mode. Thank me later.
It was about 3 hours to get to Kenmare from Shannon, partly on the Ring of Kerry. It was rainy or we might have stopped along the way. As it was, we arrived at around 10:30 to an incredibly warm welcome and the fact that our room was ready! The Park Hotel is a Relais property that has incredible grounds with its own trails and gardens and yet it is actually in town, as in a 2 minute walk to the restaurants and pubs of this delightful and charming burg. The hotel offers walking tours in the afternoon so we went on a guided walk and then had dinner at a lovely restaurant in town, No. 35.

3/13 Monday - We thought we would be the last ones at breakfast as we rolled in at almost 9 but it seemed as if everyone was sleeping in and having a late start. This would be the pattern for the whole trip. Our aim was to leave the hotel by 10ish. It was not going to be a good hiking day, so we decided to drive a southern loop, along the coast to Portmagee for a wee dram of whiskey and then on to Valentia Island where we donned our rain pants and coats and hiked up to the tower. It cleared up in time to get a decent view of Skellig Michael (Star Wars) and we had sun for the rest of the afternoon as we drove through Ballagheama Gap on smaller and smaller roads to get back to Kenmare. We learned that in Ireland, there is always an alternative route between points so that you can keep creating loops within loops and not have to backtrack. At one point, we were on a single lane road and stuck behind sheep. We just burst out laughing at the predicament. Our goal was always to try and be back before they took away the afternoon tea and cake but we were not successful. Dinner tonight at Park Hotel was a wonderful tasting menu followed by a piano player in the bar and yummy cocktails.

3/14 - Tuesday - Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park. We drive north of Kenmare to Killarney National Park. We got lucky enough with the weather for our 5 mile Torc Waterfall hike that treated us to not only a great waterfall but beautiful views of the entire area, including Muckross House and Ross Castle. The Tour at Ross Castle was very informative about Tower Castles and the history of the area. Dinner tonight at a local pub with great shepherds pie, fish and chips, pints of Guinness and live music.

3/15 - Wednesday and off to Dublin. Another rainy drive. About 4 hours. We decided against taking the slow way and opted for the toll road. We are used to toll roads in Europe being incredibly expensive so it was a lovely surprise to learn that it was only 2 euros and you could either pay by coin or tap your credit card. Easy. We stopped at Teelings in The Liberties for a proper Whiskey Tour as we knew that the plan was to park the car at the hotel in Dublin and leave it for the next two days. This is a newer Irish Whiskey company and the tour and tasting room were excellent. We arrived at the Merrion to find another incredible hotel room with wonderful hospitality. We walked around to the H'penny Bridge, the Temple Bar area and had a pint before dinner at Glover's Alley, a Michelin 1* -- you will not go wanting for amazing food and drink in all of Ireland. We also booked our tickets for the Book of Kells and Library at Trinity College for the next day.

3/16 - Thursday A very full day of Dublin - Trinity College, Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, somehow a 2** Michelin lunch at Patrick Guillebrand (that went on for hours and made us realize that we are a bit over that level of French Fine Dining), the National Art Museum (free!) and more walking and more live music.

3/17 - Friday Happy St. Patrick's Day. A swim and workout, another amazing breakfast and we were off to avoid the Dublin St. Patrick's Day Parade. It was a huge weekend in Ireland -- St. Patricks Day, Ireland v. England Rugby and Sunday was mother's day. We were headed to Ballynahinch in Connemmara. The rain let up as we approached Galway, so we decided to stop for a coffee and caught the tail end of their parade. Leaving toward Clifden, we kept getting caught in small traffic jams as every town had its own local parade. We arrived at Ballynahinch around 3pm, in time for a nice hike on the property before dinner. We had dinner at the hotel and then retired to the pub for a wonderful evening of celtic songs and more Guinness.

3/18 Saturday - A big planned hike in Connemarra National Park and a visit to Kylemore Abbey, now home to the Benedictine Nuns. This was a great day. The Connemarra Diamond Loop is a 6 mile figure eight with a tricky summit, made trickier by a biting wind. We looped back to Ballynahinch via the seaside town of Clifden where we had a lovely late lunch of oysters, Shepards Pie and Fish and Chips.

3/19 Sunday- The plan was to stop at the Cliffs of Mohrer on our way to Dromoland Castle but it was pouring rain with no visibility so we simply carried straight on to Dromoland, a golf course estate with massive grounds. This time, with our room not ready and the sky getting a little lighter, we changed course and headed for the Cliffs, about an hour away. There is only one main parking area for the Cliffs Visitor Center and it was quite pricey, considering the weather was so bad. We started to look on maps.me for a trail that might connect with the Cliff Walk and started down a very narrow road, prepared to simply pull off and park when we started to see signs for parking. We followed down smaller and smaller lanes and were rewarded with a 3euro "parking area" a short walk from the Cliff Tower. It was wet and slick and windy, but I was able to tick the box that I had in fact seen the Cliffs of Mohrer and walked the cliff walk. I think in good weather it actually might have been worse for me as it is not something to do if you are at all afraid of heights/open spaces.

3/20 Monday- I had planned one last surprise for my husband -- a falconry walk on the grounds of Dromoland. We met our guide at 8:30am and proceeded to fly hawks and falcons and go to the falconry and meet barn owls and other species. An amazing end to the trip. I highly, highly recommend this activity and it is offered at many of the Castle hotels like Ashford Castle. We had a quick breakfast and arrived at the airport in 20 minutes. Dropped the car with no damage reported!! We were through security by 11:30 for a 1:30 flight. They have Global Entry in Shannon, and I was able to do my renewal interview as well. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So there you have hit. I would go back again in an instant in the late spring or early fall for more explorations. The people of Ireland are some of the most charming, lovely and kind folks we have encountered in traveling and it truly made all the difference.

Happy to answer any questions.

Last edited by bolderite; Mar 24th, 2023 at 04:13 PM. Reason: add breaks
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Old Mar 24th, 2023, 04:03 PM
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Just quick while this is so new and you can still edit. This is incredibly difficult to read without any paragraph breaks. Easy to fix.
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Old Mar 25th, 2023, 12:51 AM
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I haven’t been to Ireland, but I’d love to visit. Envy that short flight of yours!
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