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Trip Report Ireland Trip Report

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In 2009, I joined a Rick Steves 14 day Ireland tour which I thoroughly enjoyed – small group < 20, plenty of time each day to explore on your own. To celebrate my daughter’s graduation with a Masters of Engineering and 23rd birthday, I planned a driving trip of Ireland with her. After posting recently some responses on Fodor, I realized I had not posted our trip report - so here you go.
May 2015
18 Fly overnight
19 - 20 Dublin
21 Dublin/Day trip to N. Ireland
22 Drive to Kinsale (via Rock of Cashel)
23 Kenmare
24 Dingle – Slea Head Drive
25 Dingle
26 Cliffs of Mohar
27 Galway
28 Castles Day trip
29 Connemara
30 - 31 Drive to Shannon and Fly home

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    Dublin: rented 2 bedroom apt at Amberley House. Sightseeing of Temple St., Book of Kells/Trinity College, and followed Rick Steves Book walking tour

    May 21st N. IRELAND CAR TOUR: Super early morning with a short slog to the train station. Luckily, it was clear if not sunny. The 2 hr train was nice, if not particularly scenic. Arrived in Belfast at 9:40 am where Alister was waiting (personal driving tour customized to what you want to see: The drive started in 3 parts: easy out of the city, lovely scenic, then “Jesus help me” twisty turny and beautiful! It was a fun drive punctuated with stories of the scenery, history & naming convention. We stopped often for pictures and Alister would show images he took in the past. After about 3 hours, we reached the rope bridge. 1 km walk each way led to decent but not jaw dropping views. Enjoyed the exercise after being cooped up in the car. Dunluce Castle was very beautiful perched above the sea. I skipped the traditional tour & hiked down to the caves. Enjoyed the rock formations & sea views before returning to get lunch at the café adjacent. The soup was decent, but the chicken & peppers sandwich was far superior. All paled in comparison with the flaky scones topped with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

    Lastly, and best of all, Giants Causeway. Beautiful walk along the water lead to fascinating rocks in formations akin to steps. On the far side, the pillars jut upward 2 stories above. Following these down the hill, you see the path continue up to the overlook plateau – no time, had to catch the train and could not do the climb. Next time, take full day to explore more trails and view causeway from higher elevation.

    On the drive back to Belfast, we drove by several areas used in the filming of HBO series, The Game of Thrones. My favorite was the King’s Road where trees provided a weave of branches arching over the road. Arrived back @ apt. by 8:30 pm.

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    We packed, took taxi to Budget Car Rental. And we were off… on our driving exploration of Ireland. Adjusting well to driving on LEFT on the 6-lane tollway south. Stopped for lunch at Joe’s Rock House overlooking the Rock of Cashel (300 – 1100 A.D.) church. We didn’t tour as restoration work was underway. Back on the road, we drove to Kinsale and Blue Horizon B&B, 15 min. outside of town. After relaxing with our 1st beer overlooking the sea, we drove to The Speckled Door bar in “old Kinsale” enjoying lovely fish dinner on the water with horses grazing nearby.

    23rd KINSALE/Overnight in Kenmare
    After a wonderful breakfast viewing the harbor; we drove into Kinsale for the Don Herlihy Walking Tour, lunch, and then touring the Charles Star Fort. 2.5 hour scenic waterfront drive to Kenmare, staying @ Coachman’s Townhouse Motel where we enjoyed being right downtown. We had a pint and nice dinner @ the pub downstairs; but got too tired to stay until music started at 10 pm. The next morning, we checked out and sauntered through town, buying lovely artisan Irish products.

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    24th & 25th DINGLE: A relaxing 2.5 hr drive to Dingle & checked in @ Alpine Guesthouse. It was a nice sunny afternoon, so after lunch we decided to do the Slea Head Drive (30 km). Hey, I was getting pretty good dodging cars on extremely narrow roads! Beautiful green meadows, cliffs, seashore, sheep & cows, rock walls, and pieces of history:
    • Beehive huts: enclosed farmsteads of early Christian period (ancient to 1200 AD)
    • Gallarus oratory: > 1200 years old stone bldg. stands perfectly; architecture students travel to see how these stones stacked w/o mortar including windows and doors still stand.
    • Kilmolkedar Church: 12c Norman

    We slept in the next day, and read a book after breakfast. After lunch, we drove to Brian de Staic Jewelry store to buy 2 more beads for the bracelet I purchased when last here 5 years ago. Then, Shannon wanted to play Dingle Pitch & Putt Golf where the sun came out.

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    26th Cliffs of Moher: With rain predicted on 27th – 30th, we changed our plans and drove the scenic path toward Cliffs of Moher on 26th on the way to Galway. Glorious Views.

    We headed to the Car Ferry to cross the River Shannon, but after waiting 30 min., we were 2 cars shy of getting on the boat. Rather than waiting 1 hr for next ferry, we ended up driving around the 1.5 hr path. THE SHANNON TRIFECTA: Lunch at the Shannon House pub on the River Shannon with my Shannon! The views on the drive were lovely, but too flat to capture well on camera. As we drove into the Cliffs of Moher area, we passed the B&B we had planned to end our trip at – not impressed. Thus, decided to cancel those two nights and instead plan a different stay up N.

    Driving north through the grey limestone Burren for 30 miles was a little like the moon landscape, yet flowers still forced themselves through the rock. We took pic of 500 yr. old Dunguaire Castle from the car window too.

    Our home base for the next 3 nights was outside of Galway, in the beachfront area of Salthill in a lovely 2-bedroom apartment (Jameson Court)– so nice. Enjoyed walking to fabulous restaurants too: La Collina Italian Restaurant; Royal Villa Chinese Restaurant; The Oslo Bar & Microbrewery.

    27th REST AND PLANNING DAY: We enjoyed hanging out at the apartment watching rain on the seashore all day. Did laundry and read a book. We also researched Castles and devised a drive covering 4 castles within 2 hours of Galway to see on Thursday 28th: Birr Castle & Gardens; Clonfert Cathedral (got lost); Portumna Castle & Gardens; Athenry Castle.

    Decided to drive north into the Connemara area on Friday 29th & stay that night in Abbeyglen Castle on the sea. On the scenic drive back to Shannon Airport area (stayed last night 30th in Ennis), we saw Cong Abbey (town where John Wayne’s Quiet Man movie was filmed), Kenmare House, Ashford Castle, and upon reaching Ennis – visited the lovely ruins of Ennis Friary. Turned in our car at Shannon Airport before flying home on 31st.

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    We spent 8 days between Galway and Dublin this June, with a day trip to Belfast. Incidentally, we also stayed at the Jameson Court apartments, great value for money and so conveniently located. In Dublin we stayed at one of City Break's apartments right on Grafton Street, just overlooking Trinity College.

    Needless to say the Giant's Causeway and Cliffs of Moher/Burren were the highlights, we were lucky to have glorious weather, which only added to the whole experience.

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    Thanks for the report. Brings back memories of our trip from 5 years ago. We covered many of the places in your report...many people skip N Ireland but as you say its so unique and beautiful.

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