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Ireland----the isle of pleasant surprises!

Ireland----the isle of pleasant surprises!

Old Sep 24th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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Ireland----the isle of pleasant surprises!

First, thanks to all of you who helped plan our Ireland adventure. As I posted earlier, it was a huge decision to forego France and head to Ireland. Did we miss France? Of course, but now we have a new country to love.

Day #1---Flight & Ennis

We started out our very long travel day with flights from Chicago--NY--Shannon on Delta. Uneventful, just what you want. Picked up a car at Dan Dooley ($434 for 13 days). Very efficient and easy.

Tired and jet lagged, it was good that we had a short ride to Ennis as the driving seemed difficult and we got lost for awhile in the town. Finally we found Grey Gables (www.bed-n-breakfast-ireland.com). Our first B & B, it was older but cute. The bed was comfortable, the room very clean, and Mary Keane welcomed us warmly. Right in town, the location was key as we didn't have to drive to dinner, etc. We were off to a good start.

We walked into town (cute with lots of shops). I spotted this children's shop, "Young World". I loved the dresses they had for my 2 granddaughters (ages 5 & 9), but I didn't buy as I was very tired and not up to decisions----BIG MISTAKE! But I'll get back to that later.

Then after a short nap we went to dinner at "Poet's Corner" at the "Old Ground Hotel"---excellent! As I am a foodie (& MDH is a work in progress on that subject) here goes:

Shrimp wrapped in filo pastry with spicy dip
Salmon with Burre Blanc sauce, veg & potato
Fish & Chips for MDH (he was sticking to the known)
Apple pie
2 wine
2 cappucinno
48 Euros total (not bad) and the food was great
The high end restaurant at the hotel looked very nice also.

Day #2---Off to Westport

We enjoyed our breakfast at Grey Gables. The open seating to meet other guests and the service was top knotch. There were many dishes to choose from, but we chose the "Full Irish Breakfast"---why not? Eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, juice, coffee---and of course we felt obliged to eat everything they put in front of us. Couldn't get the nerve to try the black pudding though. Yikes! That's more food than we would eat in a week of breakfasts at home. They'll be no lunch today!

To be continued---------
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 12:22 PM
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Day #2---continued

Off we headed to Westport. Beautiful day. We stopped in Cong at the "Quiet Man" house and also the grounds of a lovely old Abbey for a few photos. Then on to Ashford Castle----stunning! Picturesque grounds on a lake. There was also a falconry school and it was fun to watch the falcon fly to & from his handler. We were tempted to take the 3pm-2 hr. boat ride as the weather was so nice, but knew we still had a way to go to Westport and find our next B&B. If you are in the area, the boat trip looked good and they also had an 11am-1 hr. ride that may be a better option.

We left Cong for Westport which we were told would be a 45 min. drive. MDH was now feeling quite confident in his driving and shifting skills, as I was in my directional skills. Driving furiously across the countryside, an hour later we came upon a sign---"Welcome to Cong"!!! Who knows? I guess we drove in a big circle. Even studying the maps later, we couldn't figure out how we got turned around.

Now we were on the road to Lenanne instead. This was a drive Fodorite Padraig suggested we take to Westport and he was right, it was beautiful.

When we finallygot to Westport, the traffic was heavy in town. It seems there was to be a "Cannonball Run" road rally that evening (Ferraris, Porshes, classic old cars, etc. racing through the streets). It was a good thing that we arrived by 5pm as they were closing the roads at 6pm in town. In that case, I don't know how we would have found our B&B.

Speaking of the B&B, we had booked "The Boulevard House" weeks in advance. The week before we left, Sadie emailed us of a family emergency and switched us to www.plougastel-house.com

Because we knew nothing about Plougastel, we were a little apprehensive as we would be there 3 nights. What a nice surprise----thank you Sadie. Fantastic location (again ableto walk to dinner & shops). They had been closed for 5 months for a total redo. Beautiful, comfy room, great bed and bathroom, and again a cute dining room for those tasty Irish breakfasts. Sandra Corcoran couldn't have been nicer and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. She also steered us toward some of our best dinners.

"MANGO" (bridge street)
Potato wrapped shrimp
Lemon sole with 3 outstanding sauces
Breaded boneless chicken breast(still sticking to the known)
excellent wine and cappuccino
90 Euros Highly recommend

Down the street we went to Matt Malloy's for some music. Now, I'm a wine drinker, hate beer, but I had to try a Guinness. Guess what? I liked it! I would have bet money that I would not drink any beer in Ireland, but after the wine at dinner I was feeling adventuresome.

Matt Malloy's has 3 very crowded rooms. We went to the largest in the back with folk-guitar, pub music and sat with a couple from Canada---what a blast! There I was singing and dancing to "Wild Rover", etc.----guess it was the wine & beer.

Next on to a tiny room with traditional music and the customers were getting up and singing solo. I skipped singing there---didn't want everyone to leave!

Another nice surprise---Fri. night with tightly packed rooms, the mostly younger crowd was more than gracious allowing us to move from room to room. Young and old seem to be enjoying the music together.

Day #3--Around Westport

Another great breakfast and off to shop. MDH bought me a Claddagh ring and a charm for my bracelet in a nice jewelery store. A few more odds & ends then off to "Westport House", the original site of the pirate queen, Grace O'Malley (one of MDH's relatives so they say) Highly recommend.

Interesting bit of information:
In Grace's time you could divorce your husband (which she did) on any of your wedding anniversaries simply by saying "I dismiss you"! I wonder if that worked in reverse?

Another fabulous dinner at TORRINO'S (again recommended by Sandra)
Goat cheese salad & seafood pasta (me)
Mushrooms with garlic bread & plain tomato sauce pasta (MDH)
(still sticking to the known, but he said that it was the best sauce ever)
Chocolate Cake
Apple Pie
Wine and cappucinnos
73 Euros----outstanding, again highly recommend
No Guinness tonight!

Day#4---more Westport

Repeat breakfast---we're getting used to this. You notice we haven't been eating lunch, just a snack here & there.

Took the "NEPHIN DRIVE". It's not on many maps so not many cars. What a find! Spectacular scenery, sheep in the road, etc. Just what we looked forward to finding in Ireland. Got lost at the end for another hour but finally made our way to Achill Island for some panoramic Atlantic views & photos.
Highly recommend---great day.

Dinner back at Torrinos We returned for pizza(we saw it go by the night before and it turned out to taste as good as it looked)
Garlic bread & Pizza
Wine & cappucinno 44 Euros

All in all, we loved Westport We were there on a Fri., Sat., & Sun. night----Fri-Sat- lively Sun-very quiet. As soon as we had arrived in Westport we knew that we had made a good choice.

Enough for now. I'm trying not to be too wordy. I hope you enjoy our tales.

Will continue on to Dingle in the next few days.

MDH is editing the repetative photos---we hope to include some later.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 12:37 PM
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Enjoying this! Looking forward to reading your food recommendations in the Dingle area!
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 04:42 PM
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Great so far TPAYT and you can be as wordy as you like! We are in the middle of planning 2 weeks there in May next year so I am soaking this all up.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 05:10 PM
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A lovely post. Enjoyed every bit of it and just dreamed of being in Ireland once again. Maybe. I (of Scotch/Irish lineage) love it, but DH (of absolutely purely English heritage) says he's been there enough
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 07:15 PM
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Sounds like a fun time so far! Glad you enjoyed your trip.
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Old Sep 25th, 2010, 01:47 AM
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TAYPT - Glad you enjoyed Westport and that the B&B was good. The particular weekend you were here was a nightmare traffic wise, with the Cannonball Run going on. I tried not to venture in to town!!

By the way, the singer you saw at Matt's (in the yard bar) on Friday was Dee Moore.

Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Sep 25th, 2010, 02:45 AM
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Enjoying your report TAYPT and looking forward to photos, especially of Westport and Achill as we went to both!
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Old Sep 25th, 2010, 10:54 AM
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After going through hundreds of photos, here's a few from Ennis, Cong, and Westport.
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Old Sep 25th, 2010, 11:18 AM
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Great photos! Thanks for sharing.
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Old Sep 25th, 2010, 12:31 PM
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Lots of beautiful pics! Glad you had a good time!
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 08:52 AM
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Enjoyed the pix. I have many of the same views from Achill from our trip. Glad that you took the time to find the Nephin are -- it's an underappreciated section of Mayo. Did you make it up to bangor-Erris and Belmullet?

Addictive people and landscape isn't it?

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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 01:07 PM
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Yes, it is so addictive. We didn't get uo to Bangor, etc.

After Westport we headed to Dingle. We're working on that part of the report and the photos as we speak. It's so hard to edit all the gorgeous views.
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 02:22 PM
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So glad you had fun! I loved the Cong story; we really enjoy getting lost in Ireland.
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 03:44 PM
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TPAYT, It's been 15 years since I was there, but your descriptions of Irish life bring back so many wonderful and warm memories.

Looking forward to the rest of your report!
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 06:18 PM
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I am enjoying your report and looking forward to the rest of the story. I am really disappointed that Ican't seem to see your pictures as when I clicked on the link, it said I had to download adobe, which my computer won't or can't do.
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 06:26 PM
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Great trip report!
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Old Sep 27th, 2010, 06:57 AM
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On to The Dingle Penninsula

Day #5---Westport to Kilrush

Driving south it was a very gray day so we skipped the long way over to The Cliffs of Moher and took the faster motorway. Good choice as we later met a couple who had been out there at that time and they said it was so foggy you could barely see your hand in front of your face. We'll save it for the next trip.

Stayed in Kilrush (sort of a nondescript town), before getting the morning ferry. www.hillcrestview.com
(70 Euros) Very large room, great bed, convenient location. Casual hamburgers for dinner at "Kelly's Pub"----just so so and at 38 Euros not much of a bargain.

Day #6---Kilrush to Dingle

Very good breakfast in a cute room overlooking a pretty garden. Ater some interesting conversation with some folks from Canada and England, it was off to catch the Killimer-Tarbert Ferry which is east, cheap, and efficient.

Unfortunately more driving, but the quality of the scenery is rapidly improving. After Tralee, we chose the southern (N86) road through Camp and shortly came upon one of our many "WOW" vistas of this trip.

There really are 40 (or more) marvelous shades of green in the hiils of Ireland. MDH insisted on stopping at what appeared to be every 23ft. for photos. At this rate I feared we would get to our B&B in Dingle around midnight.

After a few hours of "Wowing" we arrived in the fishing village of Dingle and easily found our B&B.

www.greenmounthouse.ie There's a reason for the Curran family's sterling reputation. This family-run B&B is every bit as good as people had told us it would be.

We were there 3 nights and as one of these was my birthday, we splurged and booked a top of the line room. Luxurious, modern, and spotless----everything that we could possibly want. Sunlit balcony overlooking the water, flat screen TV(didn't get much use though), frig (must keep that white wine cold you know), with a wonderfully comfortable king sized bed----this place has it all.

At 147 Euro a night, another Wow! Keeping in mind that for 147 Euros we could hardly book a hotel room the size of a broom closet in Paris. Definitely not of this quality anyway. Not a fair comparison, I agree, but since we have spent so much time in Paris, it came to mind.

Late in the afternoon after unpacking we took a very short ride up to the breathtaking view from the Connor Pass. Well worth the effort and of course more photos, but it was a little gray that late in the day.

Tired and wanting a light dinner we went for fish & chips at "The Marina"---the only place we could get in without a reservation. Man, that town is crowded!

Day #7---Dingle Penninsula

Here we go again, a grand tradition. The sumptuous full Irish Breakfast which MDH claims could last until noon if you do it right.

Greenmount House put out an impressive, lavish spread. A huge table filled with fruits, muffins, cereal, coffee cakes, rice pudding, etc., etc. Next you chose from a menu with individually prepared delights including daily specials.

Now I have to admit that an offering of Irish Whiskey on the porridge(oatmeal) gave us pause----MDH opted for real cream and honey on his. That followed by the usual eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomato, potatoes----yikes! OMG, do they have a defibulator?

I had an omelette to keep it a bit lighter, but of course had to add a good sampling of the sweets to keep up with the crowd.

The coffee was hot & fresh and refilled constantly by John Curran as he moved among the guests effortlessly carring on 3 conversations at once. This all takes place in the atrium breakfast room overlooking Dingle Bay & harbor.

SLEA HEAD DRIVE---I don't know if I have the words to describe how impressive the views were. It was a gorgeous day. A photographer's dream. The captivating vistas around every bend rival the many great drives in this world. (we've tried to keep the photos at the end to a minimum, but your camera will get alot of use here)

The more adventuresome (younger) chose to bike the penninsula fueled by all those breakfast carbs.In driving, it didn't seem crowded at all, lots of places to pull out and enjoy the views.

Returned to our comfortable room and I was surprised to find fresh flowers, wine, and birthday cards (even one from the staff). It seemed that MDH emailed ahead that this was my birthday. I guess I'll renew his contract for another year.

Birthday dinner at www.thecharthousedingle.com (thanks Fodorites for the recommendation) Reserve by email ahead of time

Salads w/warm apples wrapped in bacon
Kerry Beef Tenderloin w/ mashed potatoes (me)
Roast Chicken, potatoes & veg (MDH)
Desserts---vanilla, chocolate, strawberry ice cream w/hot caramel (MDH)
Hot apple tart w/ rosemary ice cream (absolutely fantastic) with happy birthday written in chocolate on the rim of the plate--photo. (seems MDH was emailing again)
wine and cappucinno
100 Euros

Day #7---Connor Pass to Brandon Point

How can we keep eating these extravagant breakfasts? Oh well, we'll force ourselves. It's a habit that is easyto pick up.. Eggs benedict anyone?

Another gorgeous day so we went back up to the Connor Pass for some better photos. The expansive vistas change by the minute with the late summer lighting.

Continued over the very narrow, twisting roads to Brandon Point. Well worth the drive. Fantastic scenery as we dragged our muffin laden butts up the hill at the end----extremely picturesque.

Dinner---OUT OF THE BLUE (again thank you Fodorites) Hard to get in, go there the minute you arrive and reserve. Kind of a small nothing looking place, but oh what enjoyable seafood.

Beautifully presented Scallops (me)
Potato encrusted Pollock for MDH (he's finally moving onto a more diverse palate)
Dessert--Creme Brulee, chocolate covered cookies & strawberries
Wine & cappucinno
80 Euros

Out to look for some music. Now Dingle Town is full of pubs and maybe the music is better on Fri. & Sat. night, but on a Thurs. night we ended up with an old guy singing "Ring of Fire". Whoopeee!

The Dingle penninsula itself is not to be missed in its captivating beauty. The Chart House and Out of the Blue were outstanding restaurants, and I can't say enough about how impressive Greenmount House was as a B&B. But, Dingle town as a whole wasn't our favorite. Not my kind of shopping (I should have bought those kids dresses in Ennis), full of pubs and day tour buses. Maybe good for some---just not our thing.

I will post the photos directly
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Old Sep 27th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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Dingle penninsula slideshow


On to Kenmare post soon----I appreciate your interest.

irishface---I'm sorry you can't see the photos. I chose photobucket because so many of the Fodorites use it.
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Old Sep 27th, 2010, 12:33 PM
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TPAYT; Absolutely beautiful pictures. We will be in Dingle next week and I can't wait to drive the peninsula. We are going to have lunch our first day in Ireland at Poet's Corner in Ennis like we did last year; their Real Irish Beef Hamburger is to die for! Continue to enjoy!
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