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Songdoc's Ireland Trip Report: From Dingle to Donegal, with Killarney & Castles in Between!


Songdoc's Ireland Trip Report: From Dingle to Donegal, with Killarney & Castles in Between!

Old Feb 16th, 2007, 07:35 AM
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Songdoc's Ireland Trip Report: From Dingle to Donegal, with Killarney & Castles in Between!

(Jan. 30 – Feb. 11, ‘07)

The big day finally arrived! Called the airport to confirm that the first flight (Nashville to Chicago) is on time. “Yes”! Arrived two hours early and zipped through check-in, baggage check & security in only a few minutes. Now, the flight’s delayed. Aggghhh. Three hours later we were en route to Chicago. Luckily, we had a long layover, so no problem with the connection.

The flight to Dublin (continuing to Shannon) was less than one-third full. It was heaven to be able to sprawl across three center seats where I slept nearly four hours. In Dublin, those continuing on to Shannon were not permitted to deplane; we sat for nearly two hours while the smokers on board climbed the walls from nicotine withdrawal. One desperate smoker muttered that the flight attendant with a “feckin’ reptile.” Hearing that accent and the feck word, I knew I was on my way to Ireland!

In a particularly cruel move, the cabin attendants directed those of us in coach up to business class while our cabin was being cleaned -- and then, after giving us a taste of those wonderfully comfy seats, herded us back to steerage.

Day 2
Got the luggage and made it through customs and immigration quickly. Picked up the Europcar rental. (No problem declining the CDW. I’d confirmed that my MasterCard covered it.) I got lost looking for the airport exit; this did not bode well for driving in Ireland. It was a dreary, gray, drizzly day and the windshield wipers were smearing. I was exhausted and DP had a “grumpy-on.“ We were grateful that we’d booked our first night at Dromoland Castle -- only eight miles from the airport. Once we found our way out of the rental car parking lot, we only got lost one more time. We saw the sign for Dromoland -- but couldn’t quite determine which turn-off it was pointing toward. FYI, we’d booked the last-minute “Castle Cracker” rate that included full breakfast for approximately $220 U.S. (total for two) -- a great deal at about half the regular price.

We arrived at noon and our room was ready. After a 90 minute nap, we were ready to explore the castle grounds, despite the light rain. There were pheasants and lots of other birds along the hiking trails. The castle was wonderful; a destination itself -- with its portrait gallery, gardens, and lake with ducks and swans. We enjoyed sandwiches and tea in front of the fireplace in the bar, overlooking the lake.

Our room (the lowest priced) had a very pretty view of the lake and was perfectly fine -- but nothing special, except for the bathroom, which was at least as large as several NYC apartments I’ve visited. That bathroom was exquisite: rich cherry woods; marble counters; faux antique faucets; heated towel bars; exceptional toiletries; and tile that I wanted to dig out and take home. Oh, but the best part was the shower; intense and sensuously perfect. I decided I’d refuse to leave the hotel until I’d either maxed out my credit cards, or shriveled into a prune from hours on end in that shower.

The flat-screen in-room TV had free high-speed Internet. There was also free Internet in the business center. These were much appreciated, as later in the trip, finding Internet access became a serious challenge.

The restaurant looked quite literally to be fit for royalty, but we were tired and not hungry enough to justify 65 Euro per person (about $100 U.S. with the added gratuity) for a formal dinner. Instead, we opted for delicious soup served with that wonderful Irish brown bread, and sandwiches at the golf club restaurant. It was fine—but FYI, they only serve until 7:00pm during the winter. We returned to our room to find that as part of the turndown service, the maid had put on some lovely classical music, set out robes and slippers, and left chocolates on the pillow. The next morning, the newspaper was hung on the doorknob in a canvas bag. Amenities such as these, and the complementary sherry with hpney, were very nice touches that one rarely finds at a Motel 6 

We slept more than eleven hours and were lucky to make it to breakfast in time--because it was truly an event. I can’t begin to describe how beautiful and elegant the restaurant was, so you’ll have to take my word for it -- until I post pictures. This is the same restaurant in which dinner is served and, as a previous poster advised me, it is not to be missed. There was an extensive menu, as well as an amazing buffet of fruits, cereals, smoothies, fruit coulis, smoked salmon, freshly baked breads, scones, and croissants, meats, and cheeses -- and this was to supplement your main course! I could go on and on, just about the breakfast, but I’d never finish this report. But I will add that breakfast was included in our rate. Otherwise, it would have cost 25 Euro. However, that would have been well worth it.

We had a long drive ahead of us (the routing we’d printed from AA Roadwatch estimated three-and-a-half hours) and we wanted to reach the self-catering cottage we’d booked on the Dingle Peninsula, while it was still light out. I attempted to offset that breakfast with a long walk, circling the golf course for the best views of the castle. A few patches of blue were peeking through the otherwise, gray sky, so I snapped a few more photos, and then bid Dromoland a fond farewell.

One final comment . . . When I saw the name of the castle, I imagined it would be pronounced with the emphases the same as if it were “Drama Land.” However, I learned that the pronunciation is actually DroMOland. Yes, I soon learned that however I assumed anything should be pronounced, it was almost certain to be the opposite!

The sun was shining as we pulled into picturesque Adare and it was a perfect place to stretch our legs and browse in the quaint, thatched-roofed shops. Then, back on the road. I found the driving much easier than on my previous trip. I guess that having been in Ireland less than a year ago, I’d become more accustomed to the left-handed stick shift and to driving on the left. Even the roundabouts didn’t seem quite as difficult to maneuver. But, driving those narrow, winding roads is not my idea of relaxing and as the day wore on, it was feeling more like an endurance test than a fun vacation. Traffic was dreadful through Limerick and several of the other towns. The off-and-on rain, close encounters with trucks edging into my lane, and streaky windshield that had to be washed every two minutes were not helping. And the sights were not exactly scenic.

Stopped in nondescript Castleisland for lunch (sorry if you live in Castleisland), and to pick up groceries at Lidl’s market. There were the obligatory shops, pubs, and restaurants on the main street; otherwise, not much to see--and we seemed to be falling farther behind schedule. The sun was beginning to sink and so was my stomach. I was afraid we’d never find our cottage in the dark -- and I wasn’t looking forward to driving the Dingle Peninsula in the dark, either. Still, the light of the sun setting on the beach and the water at Inch was breathtakingly beautiful, and it had stopped raining. I just had to stop and take a few pictures.

After passing An Daingean (formerly known as Dingle Town), at times, driving on the narrow, twisting Slea Head Drive was tense. In some places, it is anatomically impossible for two cars could possibly share that one road -- not to mention the added sheep. Thankfully, there were very few other cars on the road. By the time we reached the shrine at Slea Head, there was barely a breath of light left and I commented that I could hardly imagine a more appropriate spot for a religious shrine because I was myself yelping, “Oh my God!“ each time a truck forced me to scrape the bushes at another hairpin turn. I needed all the heavenly help I could get.

A few kilometers later (25 interminable minutes past An Daingean), we pulled into the drive at Couminole cottage (www.Couminole.com). Hallalujeh! With our stops in Adare, Castleisland, and bathroom and coffee breaks, six hours had passed since we’d left Dromoland Castle near Shannon Airport. What looked like a short distance on the map had translated into an exhausting, grueling day.

Day 3, 4 & 5 (Couminole, Dunquin on the Dingle Peninsula)

Having read the travel guides, I’d prepared myself for cold, rainy days; any brief glimpse of sunshine would be an unexpected, welcome surprise. We’d packed thermal long underwear, scarves, sweaters, heavy sweat shirts, gloves, earmuffs, etc. and were ready to brave the bracing gales. Instead, we awoke to crystal clear, warm blue skies and bright sunshine! After porridge, fruit, and scones in front of the peat fire, we ventured out to meet our next door neighbors: sheep to the left and cows to the right. Our cottage was located on Slea Head Drive at what must be one of the most spectacular settings on the peninsula, facing the Blasket Islands.

The cottage, originally built approximately 200 years ago, has been restored and modernized, but retains original stone walls and plenty of rustic charm, alongside the modern amenities. I’d found it thanks to a referral on this forum – and it was everything I’d hoped for.

The previous day’s long drive was quickly forgiven as we walked for miles and miles in awe of the spectacular scenery. We especially enjoyed exploring the wonderful ruins and a beehive hut right on the Couminole property. This morning was one of several instances throughout the trip when I felt utterly blessed and wondered how I ever got so lucky.

About a half mile past the cottage, a sign pointed to a marker commemorating the filming of Ryan’s Daughter. A short walk down that road took us to a beach that became one of our favorite spots. One of the posters on this forum warned about the tide coming quickly and unexpectedly -- and they were right. It seemed as if one moment we were quite far from the water’s edge -- and the next, we were dodging waves, lapping at our sneakers!

Wandering along that magical beach, I took picture after picture. I wanted to remember it from every angle. DP came upon the entrance to a cave; I would have missed it. We crouched down to enter and I was amazed to be rewarded with views of thick veins of red, green and white quartz. I’d seen similar things on guided tours of caves, but coming upon this unexpectedly--and in its natural setting--was very special. The view looking out from the cave to the surf was a highlight among highlights. We returned to this spot the next day at sunset and due to the tides, the cave was inaccessible. The color of the waves, the pink-streaked sky, and the rugged cliffs were mesmerizing.

We could hardly believe how warm and clear it was; there was barely even a wisp of a white cloud in that robin’s egg blue sky. Gloves? Scarves? Thermal long johns? We needed sunglasses! The high was 58 degrees -- for two consecutive days! (We’d left snow and temperatures in the teens, back in Nashville.)

By the second day, I was ready to face driving again and we continued the loop on Slea Head Drive, returning to An Daingean. Schools were letting out in town, and both the pedestrian and auto traffic were bad. I felt like I was driving an obstacle course--a feeling that seemed to return each time we entered another town or village with cars parked, blocking at least half of the already impossibly narrow lanes.

With the weather being so perfect, we decided to drive the Connor Pass. (Someone had altered a sign to say “Connor’s Ass.” Wish I‘d taken that picture!) The road has been widened considerably since my previous visit in 1990 and the driving wasn’t the least bit difficult. At the summit, the view was truly spectacular and I took one of my favorite photos. But otherwise, I was a wee bit underwhelmed with the pass. Maybe I’d been spoiled by so much spectacular scenery, all within walking distance of our cottage. But it was certainly pleasant and was well worth it, if only for that one photo.

On our way back, we stopped to walk the streets of An Daingean. Bear in mind that we don’t enjoy retail therapy; scenery and natural beauty turns me on more than looking at the exact same beautiful woolen scarves and hats, pottery, crystal, and the obligatory leprechaun and shamrock figurines. But that said, we enjoyed the architecture and looking at the colorful shops. One of the posters mentioned enjoying Dick Mack’s pub. Music wafting into the street led us to it and a peek inside gave us a glimpse of a local accordion player and several tourists obviously enjoying the music--and the Guinness. The poster felt he had wandered upon a very special moment. I hate to break it to you, but I’m pretty sure that guy’s there working for tips every day of the week. But regardless, it was nice. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular tourist destination.

We loved our time on the peninsula -- and surely, the gorgeous sunshine added to the experience. The hillsides dotted with sheep; the rugged coastline; the views of the Blasket Islands; the ruins and beehive huts; and our magical little beach in every type of light, added up to everything we could have hoped for. FYI, I’m convinced that one must get out of the car and walk in order to fully experience the beauty of the peninsula. Driving past the beaches and ruins on a tour bus, or hopping out for a five minute photo op, just wouldn’t have cut it for me.

My one and only regret is that I wasn’t comfortable driving 25 minutes (each way) in the dark, on the twisting, narrow roads, so therefore I didn’t go into town at night to enjoy the offerings of traditional music. If I’d wanted to do it desperately, I would have braved it. But DP wasn’t interested, and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances and be tense. Instead, after days of long walks, evenings were spent in front of the peat fire, sipping tea and reading, or listening to the wonderful trad music CDs that were at the cottage. We said goodbye to the sheep and cows and hit the road. One fat, old sheep was lying comfortably in the middle of the road and just stared at us as we tried to squeeze by it.

Day 6

This would be our longest driving day; our destination was Ashford Castle in Cong. The AA Roadwatch web site estimated five and-a-half hours -- but they don’t know how many pictures Songdoc takes, and how many stops he’d want along the way.

I’d read mostly negative things about Killarney; painting it as a kitschy tourist town, so I’d planned to drive right through. Well, it was thoroughly confusing, with road signs pointing in wrong directions, and roads listed on our directions, that didn’t seem to exist. There was traffic and I was getting stressed. Then, approaching Killarney, I saw signs for the Gap of Dunloe and my car insisted on taking that turnoff. I wasn’t quite sure what the Gap of Dunloe was, but for an eight km detour, I was about to find out.

WOW. No, it was more than wow! Having just left the rugged seacoast, I didn’t expect to find scenery reminiscent of Yosemite. It was a beautiful walk in the warm sunshine to the view points where we were blown away by the beauty. Talk about a Kodak moment!

I would never have stopped at Killarney National Park if we hadn’t literally driven past the entrance; but was I glad we did! We went to the park to find Muckross Abbey, where a friend swears he’d seen monks--who apparently hadn’t lived there (in this world) for hundreds of years. The Abbey was a pleasant stop, but not anything I’d go out of my way for. However, the views across the lake at the park were spectacular.

FYI, from the time I saw a sign that said 8 km to Muckross, until I found the park with the Abbey and Muckross House . . . more than thirty minutes passed by and we‘d stopped two people for directions. It was frustrating and nerve-wracking to be so lost, while contending with traffic. But that said, IMO, the combination of the Gap of Dunloe and the lake at the park, are not to be missed. (FYI, the Muckross House was closed for renovations.) There were pony trap rides leaving from the parking lot and I would have loved to do that, but I was starting to feel as if we’ll never reach Cong. So, back on the road . . . I was soon getting really tired of driving. (I was the designated driver for this trip. DP was the map reader and roundabout navigator.)

We took a brief stretch for some photos at Bunratty Castle and the 5:00pm light made it exquisite. A quick stop in the gift shop and we were back on the road. I’d visited Bunratty and did the Medieval banquet many years ago. I enjoyed it back then.

Once again, by the time we were anywhere near Cong, it was beginning to get dark -- and we were no longer on main roads. The roads were getting more and more narrow, twisting, and winding. It seemed that I’d always be behind a “crawler” going sixty in a one-hundred zone. (Kilometers--not miles per hour!) Passing was treacherous because there never seemed to be a straight stretch of road where I could see what traffic was approaching. In other words … this was decidedly not a relaxing drive. But a little more than eight hours after leaving that morning, we pulled into Ashford Castle, as the last hints of light drained from the sky.

It was INCREDIBLE!!! IMHO, far exceeding Dromoland Castle in every way--except for the dining room. The Ashford formal dining room was beautiful--but the one at Dromoland was amazing! Also, there was a 10 Euro per day charge to use the Internet, which had been free at Dromoland.

Streisand, Pierce Brosnan, the Reagan’s, assorted royals, and many other celebrities have stayed there – and it was easy to see why. We enjoyed looking at the room dedicated to photos and memorabilia from those who have stayed at the castle. The breakfast and bathroom were just as spectacular as those at its sister property, Dromoland. As an added perk, we’d been upgraded to a larger room. (We paid $240 U.S. total for two, including that amazing breakfast, thanks to the last minute “Castle Cracker” rate.”)

We opted for dinner in the Drawing Room, where we could order a la carte, as opposed to the huge, Table D’Hote 65 Euro dinner in the formal dining room. The meal and ambience were perfect. A pianist provided background music while we dined on huge servings of tender Irish stew with fresh baked breads. Each serving would have easily been enough for two hungry adults and my mouth is watering, remembering that broth.

Day 7 - 10
The next morning, we enjoyed another beautiful, sunny day as we wandered the impressive castle grounds and walked the short distance (maybe ten minutes) into Cong. It was quaint and pretty – but not a destination in itself. And then … back on the road again by noon, hoping to reach Kerrykeel, in Co. Donegal before it was too dark to find our self-catering cottage.

It rained off and on during the drive and I was beginning to think that all of this driving was a big mistake. Parts of the drive through Co. Sligo were very pretty, but as we approached our destination, much of the time, it was just impossibly narrow roads where I had to remain vigilant every moment. Because we were running late, we picked up food at a gas station and had a picnic on a bench. Many of the gas stations have extensive selections of hot and cold food – sort like a mini-market, restaurant, and gas station – all in one. This Centra station had hot meat pies, roast chicken, vegetables, scones, and a coffee machine that made killer lattes.

FYI, petrol cost an average of .99 Euro per liter, which converts to approximately $4.90 (U.S.) per gallon, which seemed a bit less than I’d paid last year in Northern Ireland.

We stopped in Ballybofey for groceries (being sure to include lots of potato farls and oatcakes!), coffee, and a stretch. The town was the largest we’d seen since An Daingean. It had an actual department store, several restaurants, and lots of additional “shopportunities.” As usual, it was almost completely dark by the time we arrived at Graham’s Cottage (www.grahamscottage.com) just outside of Kerrykeel (aka Carrowkeel). By the way, there’s another Carrowkeel in Co. Donegal, on the Inishowen Peninsula. The one we stayed in was about a 25 – 30 minute drive north of Letterkenny. It was a small miracle that we ever found the cottage, but we did! Wow. This was the real deal. To quote the web site: “an 18th century Irish thatched cottage set in a disused farm yard with outhouses. It is restored using traditional materials and furnished with period and antique furniture. Situated in north west Donegal between two hills near Mulroy Bay.” We loved it.

We had not looked at television in about a week and the weather reports in the newspapers seemed so completely inaccurate, we didn’t pay much attention to them. So, after a week of relatively warm days that were either gloriously sunny, or a mix of mostly sun, occasional showers, and clouds, I thought I was dreaming when we awoke to find everything completely blanketed in several inches of snow!

It was GORGEOUS!!! We put on all of those layers of clothes that we’d brought along and went out to explore. It was utterly magical to see the snow on the mountains and sheep nursing their babies, silhouetted against the snow. We walked a mile into town, snapping pictures, oohing, and aahing, and then, continued a bit past there to the bay. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and I felt as if I were in a winter wonderland!

The town had a market (where we stocked up on groceries, in case the roads were too slippery to drive, and we didn’t want to make the trek into town the following day). There was also a pub, a church, and a couple of restaurants. A “mobile butcher” had set up shop in a truck that was essentially a butcher shop on wheels.

After the long cold walk back (walking gingerly to avoid slipping on the slick road) we had hot cocoa by the peat fire and sat, feeling very, very lucky. Although snow remained on the mountains and meadows in some areas, most of it melted and the major roads were clear by late that afternoon. The following three days were spent walking and driving Co. Donegal. A highlight was Glenveigh National Park. Although there was a shuttle bus, we walked from the visitor center to the castle, to best admire and photograph the beautiful lake. It was about a 45 minute walk on an icy road; probably would be quicker when not crunching on snow to avoid falling on the ice. We enjoyed the castle tour, but it wasn’t incredible. The scenery was the star of that show. (The guidebooks state that the castle is closed in winter, but it isn’t.)

Our cottage did not have a phone, TV, or Internet access, which added greatly to the sense of relaxation. We enjoyed the Gerry Ryan morning radio talk shows, at times, laughing out loud at the delightful way the Irish have with words. (One radio caller mentioned that she still has all her parts – and they’re still in all the right places!) We also enjoyed listening to Bach on the wonderful stereo, and reading in silence, in front of the peat turf fire.

But, sadly, I did need to check emails and none of the closer, small towns seemed to offer any Internet access. So, we headed through Ramelton, which was very pretty, en route to Letterkenny, where we accessed the Internet at a café. Lunch was pub grub; paninis that were nothing special, but it was fine.

In addition to the streets being lined with shops, Letterkenny has an indoor shopping center (that housed the Internet Caf&eacute with lots of fast food options. I learned that kids hang out at “the mall” in Ireland, as well. Enjoyed browsing, people watching, and window shopping, but again, I’m not a big “city” person, and much preferred the countryside. (Notice, I did not include Galway or Dublin in my itinerary.)

Now it was time to sample Co. Donegal’s famous coastal scenery. We got out our maps and headed north, passing through cute little towns such as Carrigart and Cranford. Each town had the obligatory pub, chain grocery store, post office, and a few other shops. A poster had written that the only way top see the scenery is to get off the main roads. So, we did that quite often. At Rosapenna, we veered off to follow a sign that said, “Tra” (beach) 2 km. About five minutes later we came to another sign: “Tra” (beach) 2 km. Hey, I’ve already driven 2 km! A couple of km later there was a final sign: “Tra” (beach) 1 km. When we got to the beach, the wind was so intense I could barely hold a camera. The sand was blowing in wild, beautiful patterns and within a few minutes I realized, “I have NEVER been colder in my entire life!” At one point, I dropped something and thought it might have been my ear .

We continued our loop around the northern Donegal coast, passing through the Ards Forest Park, stopping for pictures at the Dunfanaghy workhouse and museum (which was closed during the winter months). As we continued toward Bloody Foreland, I admit I was a bit disappointed. I’d heard raves about the rugged Donegal coastal scenery – and it was certainly pretty. But IMHO, it was a wee letdown when compared to the much more dramatic views on the Dingle Peninsula, or the stunning lakes of Killarney. I would have liked to see the Slieve League and Fanad Head, but they were quite far from where we were – and there were only so many hours in each day. Besides, frankly, it was just too much driving.

At our photo stop at Bloody Foreland, we were once again buffeted by those bitter gales we’d heard about – and could have barely imagined a few days earlier, when it was sunny and 58 degrees! We continued on through Derrybeg where we found a wonderful shop where we bought woolen socks and scarves as souvenirs. The prices on their Aran sweaters were fantastic – but I already have too many that I never wear, so I resisted the temptation and bought myself some beautiful, warm Connemara socks that are keeping my toes warms and toasty as I write this epic.

We took the R253 to the R251 past Mt. Errigal. Approaching Dunlewy, the snow and sleet began falling. The roads were getting slick and I was getting nervous as this was one of those narrow, treacherous highways. But approaching the turnoff for Glenveigh National Park, the views of the lakes beneath the mountains were quite spectacular. I pulled over for a few pictures, but was getting anxious and wanted to be back safely at our cottage. It was snowing quite heavily and was almost completely dark by the time we stopped to pick up dinner for take-out at a market in Milford. A few minutes later, we were relieved to be back safely in front of the turf fire at Graham’s Cottage, once again. Delicious carrot soup, meat pies, quiche, and roast chicken with stuffing on a bed of bacon was quite a feast, followed by hot tea and scones. (There was plenty leftover for the next day’s lunch.)

The initial purpose for this trip was for me to teach a master class at the Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh, Co. Donegal. The hotel was set on a beautiful beach, reminiscent of Inch and the “Tra” where we’d frozen ourselves a few days earlier. We couldn’t resist a long walk on the beach and could barely believe that insane surfers were braving the bitter cold in their wetsuits. The hotel was absolutely beautiful – and what a setting. The views from our room, and from the conservatory (where tea was being served), were perfect. The restaurant at the hotel was quite good, as well.

My class went exceptionally well except that it went a bit long; I’d begun at 9:00am and was scheduled to end at 6:00pm. However, after a dinner break, I continued answering questions and working with the students and it was almost midnight when the marathon ended! I was utterly satisfied – but completely exhausted. 5:00am came quickly and we hit the road en route to Shannon airport, ecstatic that at least it wasn’t snowing (as it had been at the close of the previous year’s event).

The N15 back to Shannon was the closest thing I’d seen to an actual highway in Ireland, and we were able to make great time. Unfortunately, we drove for close to an hour without passing any open gas stations and were getting desperate for coffee. Approaching Sligo, we began to find open gas stations and were able to get breakfast.

A mere 21 hours after leaving the hotel, we arrived back in Nashville. FYI, there would have been no way to connect in Chicago without at least a two-hour layover. (Unfortunately, our layover was FOUR hours!) We took a train to the terminal where we had to pick up our luggage (which arrived a full hour after our flight landed) and then, had to clear customs, before making our way to the terminal for our next flight. Of course, considering the nightmare that travelers went through in Chicago and other airports a few days later, we were very lucky!

I brought home a horrendous cold and laryngitis; I guess long walks on frigid beaches with gusting gales wasn’t too bright. The cold will pass in a few days – but the memories (and photos) will last a lifetime!

Some closing thoughts: Being there in February, some attractions were closed, but the bonus is that there were very few cars on the roads and in many instances, we were the only people at some of the most beautiful locations. I would not have been able to rationalize spending the price to stay at the spectacular Dromoland and Ashford Castles at the full, high-season rates, and the self-catering cottages were also much lower-priced because of the season. Also, while I wouldn’t have chosen snow (and was very concerned that we might hit some), it made for some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery I will ever see.

Here’s a hot tip: While we never planned to arrive at our destinations in the dark, everything took so much longer than we’d anticipated (even adding time to the AA Roadwatch estimates) that it seemed we were always racing against the darkness. Having a mini flashlight in the car helped DP tremendously with the maps.

Now, the big issue . . . did we cram in too much and do too much driving? Well, we put more than 1,200 km (about 750 miles) on the rental car in 12 days. I did NOT enjoy the driving and found it tedious, stressful, and exhausting at times. HOWEVER, I kept going back to the thought that everything in life is a trade-off. Would I have preferred to do a bus tour, staying on someone else’s schedule, being surrounded by strangers, and being bound to a fixed itinerary? NO!

Would I have had a better time if I had limited my traveling by staying between Shannon and Co. Donegal, or not going farther south than Killarney? Well, I would have had less stress, but it would have meant foregoing the incredible time we had on the Dingle Peninsula. So again, it’s a tradeoff. Being a type-A personality who wants to see and do everything and not miss a thing . . . I’d probably do it the same way again. It was a wonderful trip filled with so much beauty that at times, I felt like I was on sensory overload.

A link to pictures to be posted soon . . .

And finally, a heartfelt thank you to all of those who gave me so much information and so many great suggestions!
Songdoc is online now  
Old Feb 16th, 2007, 08:36 AM
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Welcome home and thank you for a delightful trip report! I look forward to seeing some of the pictures when you get them posted.

Your report, so well written, as made me even that much more "homesick" and I look forward to being in Ireland again soon.

Slan Agus Beannacht,

Bit Devine
Cowboy Craic
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Old Feb 16th, 2007, 10:26 AM
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Songdoc, I loved your report, wish it was longer. Await the photo's.
Kind Regards, Joan
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Old Feb 16th, 2007, 09:55 PM
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Welcome back...again! I am glad the tide didn't trap you in the cave at Coumeenoule Strand. It almost got my husband once. Loved the report. Which self catering cottage was the best? Were they clean and comfortable? I may have to go to Ireland in January just to stay at the castles.

You are right about pronouncing Irish places. Next time try to pronounce Youghal! The Irish must get a good laugh out of us Yanks butchering their language.

Loved the Connor's ass sign. The Irish do have a wicked sense of humor.

Thanks Songdoc for taking us along vicariously on your winter trip to Ireland.
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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 04:47 AM
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Thanks for the great info and report. Can't wait to see the pix.

In Feb of '02, we INTENDED to follow your route to Donegal, but were driven back by steady, hard rain and companions with the flu. I WISH we had snow that trip, instead. All we saw was foggy windows and low, grey clouds. We HOPE to finally visit that area this summer.
Thanks again


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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 06:22 AM
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Songdoc, thanks for the trip report. I am going to make my husband read it tonight. : ) I am so glad the Dingle cottage was what you hoped for. Maybe we'll make it there one day too!

The longer days of springtime really make a difference for folks who drive a lot (we tend to do that too, although having small children has curtailed the driving a bit). The drives you described would have been completely different in May or June with all the extra daylight. But I'm glad it all worked out for you to have a great trip. Looking forward to the pictures.

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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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Thank you all for your kind comments. The pictures are finally posted.

(Which self catering cottage was the best? Were they clean and comfortable?)

The cottages were both perfect. I'd say the decision should be based on which area you want to visit. (Couminole is on the Dingle Peninsula; Graham's is in Co. Donegal; and Limepark (from last year's trip) is near the Antrim Coast in the North.) Based solely on the cottages, I'd have to pick Limepark -- but they were all spotless and offered everything I needed.

(I may have to go to Ireland in January just to stay at the castles.)

It would be worth it!

And Barbara, thank you again for the recommendation. It worked out GREAT!

All the best,
Jason (Songdoc)
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 10:27 AM
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"The pictures are finally posted."

Anxiously looking for them! I can't wait, it sounds like you took some really great ones but I don't see the link anywhere. Also, very good trip report.
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Old Feb 20th, 2007, 10:40 AM
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HA...Nevermind. Found them on the next thread! Sorry!

They are beautiful!!!! And Love the Cottages you stayed in.
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Old Mar 8th, 2007, 04:40 AM
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Oops. Just noticed that I posted the wrong web site for the wonderful cottage where we stayed on the Dingle Peninsula. The correct site is www.couminolecottage.com.

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Old Mar 8th, 2007, 08:04 AM
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I too want to go back. At least we can look at your wonderful photo's.

Kind Regards, Joan
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Old Mar 8th, 2007, 05:23 PM
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I really enjoyed your post. When we were in Ireland last summer; we looked forward to our driving so we could listen to Gerry Ryan at the same time as seeing all the lovely sights. He was a hoot, as was most of his callers.
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Old Mar 9th, 2007, 03:00 PM
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Thanks to all who've responded. Here's the link to my pix. Hope you'll enjoy.

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Old Mar 10th, 2007, 08:44 AM
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Thanks for sharing your pictures! I especially enjoyed your snow pictures.
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