Ireland Trip Report: March/April 2012

Old Apr 22nd, 2012, 11:41 AM
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Yes, florida, definitely ready to go back already! I think I already have 2 or 3 more trips planned in my head. I keep saying London/Wales/Scotland is my next goal within a couple years, so we'll see what wins out. I WILL return to Ireland though. No doubt.

Now a few more days to report...getting near the end now, and trying to keep up the motivation to get it all written down!

Day 8

We made the drive from Killarney to Galway via Tarbert Ferry, with a stop in Kilrush for a walk around. I also tried out one of those ‘fancy’ pay toilets, lol. That probably labels me TOURIST ( or just a dork, ha), but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve never seen anything like it! I still giggle at the idea of the door opening automatically after a time. I’d considered continuing on the Coastal rd. to Galway- very tempting, but we were going to tour Cliffs of Moher/Burren another day, so we passed on it.

Home for the next 5 nights was Ardawn House- on College Rd with all the other B&Bs and a perfect location for walking into town. We were comfortable there and spent many mornings chatting with Mike- super nice guy, and full of information. The dog track is right next door, and races were on the first night- lots of drunken entertainment outside that night! Rather uneventful otherwise- we wandered around and had fish & chips at McDonagh’s. It was Saturday, and lots of people about, but we weren’t feeling the scene. In fact, while things were much calmer the rest of the week we never did try out any pubs or music in Galway. I’m pretty sure that’s sacrilege, but we just never felt up to it at the end of the day. Oh well.

Day 9

Today my sister joined us for the remainder of the trip. I love that she was able to make it, and we could all have this experience together. She arrived early from Shannon, so Mom and I left her to rest a bit while we saw some more of Galway and took care of purchasing tickets for a Cliffs/Burren tour and for the Aran Islands Ferry. Later, we visited Galway Crystal for some souvenir purchases- lots of beautiful pieces. I chose a nice, affordable sailing boat- seemed appropriate.


Eventually we found ourselves walking to Salthill along the prom. It was a nice night for it, and I’m glad we decided to do so. It's a very pleasant walk. After a completely satisfying dinner at The Galleon Restaurant (beef lasagna for me) in Salthill we made our way back. Somehow, the walk seemed much faster on the return trip!

Day 10

We had booked a Cliffs of Moher/Burren trip with Galway Tour Company for this day, and we really enjoyed that. I would definitely recommend the company. We almost wish we had taken the Connemara tour with them as well. Our driver was Desmond, and he’s been doing so for over 18 years. Every bit of road we covered, he had something to say about it, which was wonderful. He was also very witty! Stops included Dunguaire Castle (for photos), Ballyalban Ferry Fort, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Kilfenora/High Crosses, Cliffs of Moher, and a section of Burren rock/cliffs along the road back home. We stopped for lunch at O’Connor’s in Doolin and also stopped by the sweet shop next door for homemade fudge- yum!

The Cliffs were worth the trip for me- the day was a bit overcast, but clear enough to enjoy the views. Desmond had warned us about 13 or so deaths that already occurred this year at the Cliffs, but we wandered past the barrier onto the private section of path anyway. Many people sitting on the edge, but we stayed a few feet away-close enough! We did some shopping at the Visitor’s Center, but I can’t comment on the virtual exhibitions there as we didn’t leave enough time to see them.
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Old Apr 30th, 2012, 08:44 AM
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topping
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Old May 4th, 2012, 03:32 PM
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For anyone who’s followed this, sorry I’ve been slow getting the last bits put together. 14 days was a lot to keep track of and try to describe with some sense of detail and accuracy! That said, here’s the last few days of our trip (and also a return to overly long descriptions…). I’m absolutely in love with Ireland, and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to visit.

Day 11

Today we had decided to spend driving in Connemara, with Kylemore Abbey as a specific goal. I hadn’t done much research on the drive, surprisingly, so I tried to follow along with the stops listed in Galway Tour Company’s brochure for an idea of route to follow. I’d say we had moderate success with this. Today was our first cold(ish) weather day, and it was also fairly windy, but we did our best! It was sunny, raining, sleeting, then sunny again most of the day. Definitely an interesting weather day. First stop was Ross Errily Friary- a bus was just leaving, and we were the only visitors there. By now, many of the castles/abbeys/ruins were blending together, but it was still interesting to wander around. There was a well that apparently was where fish would have been kept, which was something different. My sister described this, and other such structures, as resembling human habitrails- I think that is a quite accurate description!

After that, we continued on our way to Kylemore via Lough Nafooey and Joyce Country. We really felt the experience of driving in Ireland today, as well. We were quite used to the roads by now, but at one point there we were, driving through a mountainous area, no one around except sheep, no satellite GPS reception, the map did not have finer details of the smaller roads we were on, and there was a distinct lack of road signs! Fortunately, we were on the right road, but I was starting to think we would just keep driving further and further into the mountains with no end in sight

By the time we reached Kylemore, it was later in the afternoon, so we ended up passing on trying to visit the gardens via shuttle bus. Also, the cold was wearing us down some, so we opted to linger over lunch after we visited the Abbey and Gothic Church. I had some fantastic apple pie with custard at the café. I admit I wasn’t as impressed with the Abbey as I’d expected. It is certainly a striking image, and the grounds are lovely, with interesting history, but I hadn’t realized guests only had access to 4 or so rooms inside. I know it’s a private residence as well, so it’s understandable, but the place is huge! I thought there would be more to it. I had also forgotten our discount coupons, so no help there. Even so, we enjoyed the visit.

We didn’t really stop much after this, but we did experience the culmination of our ‘weather’ day in the appearance of several rainbows along the way, including two complete rainbows. I had never actually seen a rainbow end-to-end before, so the rain was in my favor today! Overall, Connemara was a bit odd for me. The combination of cold/wind, small disappointment with Kylemore, and also feeling somewhat rushed and like I was missing things made me feel a bit apathetic at the end of the day. Then, I look back on pictures, and wow! We still saw plenty of good sights, and I’d say the day was a success. Of course, things were still missed- I’d like to get back to explore Connemara National Park more, and get out for some hiking, but I’m satisfied. Perhaps that’s a lesson in avoiding ‘drive by tourism’- you see some things, but it leaves much to be desired.

Day 12

One word to describe today- COLD! Cold, cold, cold. We took the Aran Islands ferry from Rossaveal to spend the day on Inis Mor. Mike at Ardawn House assured us it would likely warm up later in the day. Either he forgot we would be on an island, or he was just lying to us, but it never did. We joked with him about that later- he took it in good stride We debated renting bikes- I’m not sure if we would have been warmer or not with the wind still in force, but we decided to catch a ride with Michael and Prince the horse instead. It actually wasn’t too bad piled together under some blankets, and for all the wind and cold, it was a clear day with great views. The view of the Connemara mountains with splotches of sun through the clouds was very picturesque. I still looked a bit like an Arctic explorer by the time we started the walk to Dun Aonghasa, but I admit it was somehow gratifying to have officially used all the layers I had packed. And all at the same time, too!

The fort itself was interesting to see, but I really enjoyed the cliff views here. We avoided it at Cliffs of Moher, but this location was great for a classic ‘lie down and look over the edge’ photo shoot. We took the same coastal route back toward the docks as it was too cold/windy to go into the hills, as was the original plan I think. Add Aran Islands to the list of places I’d like to visit again and linger longer. I don’t know if spiritual is the exact word I’m searching for, but there was just an undefined energy and feeling to the place that I was drawn to. And, also, I paid more than I planned on for a sweater and scarf I couldn’t resist. Moving on…

The ferry ride back was much rougher, truly like an amusement park ride with all the up and down. Fortunately, no one seemed bothered by it, and there were several children on board having an absolute blast, especially with all the water spray hitting the windows. They were very entertaining. We had McDonagh’s fish & chips again for dinner, and were planning to stay out that night, but the lure of a hot shower was too strong.
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Old May 4th, 2012, 03:35 PM
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Day 13

Our last full day! The plan for today was to visit Bunratty Folk Park, drop my sister off near Shannon Airport, and then Mom and I would head back to Dublin for our flight the next day. We had likened Bunratty to ‘the Colonial Williamsburg of Ireland’- not sure how accurate that is, but it is a similar environment in many ways. The castle itself is an obvious focal point- it’s always fun to have mostly free reign of a place, and I liked that the various rooms were fully furnished. You definitely get a sense of what it was like there.

I enjoyed the folk park as well, though I probably would have gotten more out of it at the beginning of the trip rather than the end. I was definitely winding down by this point, but it was an interesting place to be sure, especially comparing the different living situations of the various classes. The Irish Wolfhounds were sweet as could be, even though they did mostly ignore us in favor of a small boy who had biscuits in his pocket!

Soon enough, we were on our way to Dublin for our final night. I had considered a detour to Clonmacnoise Abbey, but it would have been early evening when we reached it. Knowing it was an entrance fee sight, I was fairly certain we wouldn’t get there before closing, so we had to pass this time. That is still a site I would like to visit, though. We were a bit concerned about reaching Dublin at rush hour, but fortunately GPS came through and we had no trouble reaching our hotel- Holiday Inn Express. I was actually quite pleased with the room considering we hadn’t put much thought into it. It was very comfortable, and you needed to have your room key in a slot in order for the electricity to remain on, which, for some reason, fascinated me. I think we’ve established that I am easily amused, though! Mom and I had wanted a nice dinner to celebrate our last night, but we had no motivation at all to catch a bus into the city, or to get back in the car at all, so our celebratory dinner was McDonalds- ha. I have to say, though, it was really our only ‘fast food’ of the trip, and it wasn’t bad at all.

Day 14

The end of the road. The hotel provided continental breakfast, which was quite good as far as continental breakfast goes, so we filled up on that. Our flight departed at 11:00, so we didn’t have to get up super early, nor did we have to linger around, so after breakfast we made our way to the rental car return. No problems there- the car was returned, no issues found, and our fuel charge refunded (we returned full)- success! As essential and worth it as it was, the rental was an ever present thought on the trip- very confusing figuring it all out early on before reserving, then hoping nothing would go wrong, and hoping not to receive any surprise charges at the end. But, I’d done my homework, and aside from the one incident our first day, it was smooth sailing.

Not too much to report from here. I was somewhat confused on how the US pre-clearance would work at Dublin airport, having read about not entering too early but leave plenty of time also. It’s true that all the shopping/food facilities were outside the clearance area- just a small snack shop once in. However, when we checked our baggage we were told what time to report to pre-clearance, and that information was also available on the departure screens, so we could gauge our time appropriately. There was a full flight to Chicago in the waiting room that had been delayed for hours, then was cancelled soon after we arrived, so it got a bit chaotic in there. Thank goodness our flight was on schedule, and we made it back to the US and the real world with no trouble.

As far as final thoughts, I’ve tried to include tips and reflections as they came up, so hopefully my long winded report has been useful. My best advice is to do your homework, and then just go with the flow. And pack a windbreaker! All I can say is, there are so many places in the world I’d like to visit, but in a year or so when I start planning my next big trip it will be difficult to decide between another country or returning to Ireland. There is so much more I want to experience there. One thing is certain- whether it’s 2 years or 10 years, I will be back!

Side note- my standby online photo storage, Kodak Gallery, looks to be closing shop and transferring to Shutterfly. I am not sure if that will affect my separate sharing site that I linked to previously (http://mel.kodakgallery.com/). Just in case, my photos can now also be found at http://melgallery.shutterfly.com/. My US travel photos will make their way there eventually, but Ireland photos are posted.
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Old May 7th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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Megan,

Was wondering why you didn't return your car the night before and use the free hotel shuttle? We plan to go this Oct and use this hotel, so good to hear that it was ok. Our plan is to drop the rental car the night before...one less thing to hassle with on the day you fly out. Holiday Inn Express says: one complimentary airport shuttle ride....so we may have to drop the ladies at the hotel, return the car, then taxi back to hotel? Not sure if that would be the best way to handle it. rvflyer
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Old May 8th, 2012, 11:54 AM
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No real reason rvflyer. I hadn't thought to inquire about an early return fee if we returned the car 1 night early, and I doubt we would have felt like dealing with returning the car after a lot of driving that day. We did have to pay to park at the hotel- 6 Euro I think? Fortunately, no real hassle returning in the morning.
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Old May 8th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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Great report and good reading don't have the same view on some of it but different strokes etc.

If you do decide to come back to see the Connemara drop me an email and I will give you some pointers.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 01:46 AM
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Great report. We are planning 3 weeks in September-early October, But I'm not sure if is it too much and maybe make it 2 weeks also and leave one week for England /Scotland or see some islands?
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Old May 27th, 2012, 12:08 PM
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tasta- I am going in October/November for 3 weeks and finding it hard to fit everything in that amount of time and not be rushed or feel like I am seeing Ireland through the windscreen of the car. So I don't feel 3 weeks is too much. The posts I've read here and on other forums the consensus is no matter how long you have to spend it will never be enough.
Also, I think England and Scotland would need at least 3 weeks + each to see them properly.
Just MHO!
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Old May 27th, 2012, 12:11 PM
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Megan04- Thank you for the great trip report. I really enjoyed it. I can't wait for my trip in October.
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Old May 31st, 2012, 07:41 AM
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I'm very glad you enjoyed your trip. I've been to most of the spots you've visited, sometimes multiple times. I agree that I enjoy Dingle more than the ring of Kerry. Donegal is even more stunning at Sliabh Liag cliffs. Ring of Beara should be on your next trip, too

Also, definitely go back to Inis Mor next time, we stayed two nights this last trip, and it was fantastic. Climbing up to Dun Aengosa from our B&B (Man of Aran Cottage, just around the corner!) at 9am before ANYONE else there was priceless. We rented bikes and rode all over (May 2011). I have an extensive trip report & pics, as well, you may lose some hours on it

I'm planning my fifth trip for August 2013. Too much to see!
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Old May 31st, 2012, 12:16 PM
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Megan04...Your trip report caught my eye since your itinerary is similar to the one my mom and I are doing in October. Thanks for all of your information and the link to your pictures! I am halfway through them and love the sheep!
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Old Jun 6th, 2012, 03:47 PM
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AMAZING! I read itinerary, looked at pictures and am in awe. Megan04...your trip sounded wonderful and the pictures are breath-taking. I am going to re-read this post over and over. My mother and I are planning our first trip to Scotland/Irleland for 12 days in Sept 2013 and I had no clue where to begin....I do now. Thank you.

We are NOT renting a car though. Hoping to walk mostly or take day trips via tours/buses.

We are splitting trip with 5 days in Scotland and 5 days in Ireland. Arriving first in Scotland then onto Dublin...what would you suggest are "must sees/dos" in/around Dublin... close cities to day trip to or stay a night or two and return to Dublin or I think others have said fly into Dublin, tour around and fly out of Shannon (?). I am reading too much and getting confused!

We like castles, pubs, shops, quaint small towns, sheep, ha!, can do alot of walking...I see GreenDragon's list of places to see...do you know proximity to Dublin? Ugh, I am lost!

Now I'm rambling....thanks for sharing your pictures...I am still sooooo excited for this adventure with my mother and making memories.... She is 72 and I am 47...still both kicking and raring to go!!!

D.
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Old Jun 7th, 2012, 04:07 AM
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If you mean the places on my post here, those are mostly on the northwest, west and southwest coasts... i.e., farthest away from Dublin

Sliabh Liag cliffs are in County Donegal, on the south end of the county. They are the tallest accessible sea cliffs in Ireland at 900 feet. There are cliffs on Achill Island that are taller, but they are not easy to get to - it involves a couple hours hiking. Sliabh Liag you can drive most of the way up the mountain!

Ring of Beara is in the southwest corner of the country, in County Cork.

Dun Aengosa is on the Aran Island of Inis Mor, off the coast of Galway.

Another spectacular drive is the Antrim Coast, which starts near Belfast and ends around the time Northern Ireland turns into Republic of Ireland, near Inishowen. Belfast is only 2 hours drive or train from Dublin.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 08:54 AM
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Hi Megan,

I'm planning a trip to Ireland for 2014, and I was wondering which road atlas you used for driving around? Or if anyone else has any advice and/or preference of which one to use, it would be much appreciated! Thanks for posting your report, I really enjoyed reading it!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 12:46 PM
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I purchased and used the Collins Ireland Comprehensive Road Atlas. It was especially helpful once when I got lost. I also looked at the Back Roads Ireland (Eyewitness Travel Back Roads) for planning. This I left this home because it was heavy and something had to go.
For the most part I used my Garmin nüvi 1370 with maps of Europe to get around.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 02:26 PM
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I enjoyed your trip report. We visited Ireland in October of 2011 and like you I can't wait until I go back. Thanks for taking the time to write up such an informative report.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 06:10 PM
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I don't know if I missed it, but what rental car company did you use? I am helping my sister plan a trip, and we are just at the point of arranging a car. It sounds like you were happy with who you used.

Great report, I am sending a link for sis to read.
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