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Trip Report Trip Report: Castles, Sheep, & Beer! Our 2 weeks in Ireland!

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I would like to say a quick thank you to everyone who helped me plan our last minute trip to Ireland. I don’t know how I traveled before I found this site! This is my first trip report so please let me know if I forget to add something (or if I add too much!). One of the hardest parts of planning a trip for me is budgeting for food/sightseeing so I tried to keep tract of how much everything cost in hopes that it will help out someone else in their trip planning! We found that things were very similar to the prices that we pay at home so we were happy!


DH and I are in our late 20’s and traveled to Ireland to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We both grew up in Texas but have lived in Southern California for the last 2 years. DH has traveled extensively throughout Asia and the South Pacific while in the Navy but hadn’t been to Europe until our honeymoon last year. I grew up with parents who hated to travel so my trips consisted of a few road trips growing up but I had always dreamed of seeing the world. During our honeymoon to Paris/Rome I officially caught the travel bug and now spend all my free time planning trips! This was our third oversees trip this year and 5th vacation (what can I say I caught it hard!) ☺

We originally planned a 3 week trip to Thailand/Cambodia for our anniversary but that was cancelled 3 months out due to airline problems (we consider ourselves lucky now since we would have been in Cambodia when the fighting broke out! Yikes!). I quickly hit the internet and found a good airline deal to Ireland… the Green Island it was! We spent 2 nights in Dublin, 1 night in Kilkenny, 2 nights in Kinsale, 1 night in Kenmare, 3 nights in Dingle, 2 nights in Doolin, 2 nights in Westport, and 1 night in Ennis.


1. The weather
2. Renting a car and driving in Ireland

First, the weather. We knew that we were going to hit lots of rain and cold weather going in October, but we were pleasantly surprised with moderate to decent (dare I say it even good) weather! We had rain about 50% of the time but usually it was light drizzle with lots of overcast/fog outside (perfect for photos). We had one horrible day with hard rain/drizzle that you can’t hide from and hurts when it hits you, but we decided to have fun anyways and rain around getting soaked/frozen but having a great time! We luckily managed to see most of our “must-sees” during bright sunny weather. When we found sun we made the most of it by skipping lunch and hitting the sites. Our B&B owners told us we hit more pretty weather than the travelers in August had (this has been Ireland’s rainiest year ever!).

Second, driving in Ireland. I was so confused about renting a car in Ireland even after reading everything I could find on this site (CDW, SCDW, what??!). I finally went with because they were the cheapest I could find. We had no problems with them….but sadly I still didn’t’ understand everything so I way under budgeted for this! The car plus CDW for 12 days was 205€. We ended up adding the SCDW (dropping our deductable from 900€ to 100€) for 117€. DH was our driver but he had forgotten his credit card so we had to add me as a driver (they won’t take anyone but the drivers credit card, and they won’t accept debit cards!), which added 120€. Once taxes and everything was added our total bill for an economy car for 12 days was 563€. Considering I budgeted 350€ for this I was unpleasantly surprised! Oh well live and learn!

The actual act of driving in Ireland was surprisingly easy!! I had read horror stories of small horrible roads and about how long it takes to get from point A to B….we experienced none of that! DH had driven on the opposite side of the road before so he was comfortable with it and we found the roads to be in great shape! There are some small (i.e. 1 ½ lanes but 2 ways!) streets but we never had any problems. We also always arrived at our destination before we planned to. This could have has something to do with it not being tourist season so we didn’t have to fight tons of tour buses! We arrived at every town we were staying at between 5 & 6pm.


What to pack? I am the worst overpacker you can meet, but I am slowly learning (I took 2 large suitcases to Paris….crazy!). This trip I was determined to do it right! DH and I both managed to fit all our clothes in one checked bag (could have fit in a carry-on 21” bag but we had a bottle of champagne we were bringing from our wedding). We also had a carry-on backpack with our camera bag, computer, & books as well as a small carry-on with toiletries in it. Perfect!

What we wore – We both wore jeans (2 pairs each) with light cotton shirts or t-shirts. We also had fleece jackets with light raincoats that fit over everything. We also packed 1 pair of khaki pants for really rainy days (easy dry). I had packed a few nicer sweaters and sometimes wore them to the pubs at night…but could have gotten away without them! We packed enough for one week and did laundry once during the trip. We were warm/dry/comfortable…perfect! One note though: on this board I kept reading about how laid-back and relaxed the Irish were in terms of dress, we did not find this to be true! At all the pubs we went too the locals were dressed nicely for their night out! We sometimes felt underdressed. Men of all ages wore jeans or slacks with button up shirts (older gentlemen wore overcoats as well sometimes). Girls were the same thing American girls wear for a night out on the town (jeans with cute shirts or nice dresses…always with heels!). It was exactly what I am used to seeing every weekend at the bars here!


Sunday Oct. 5th – Off to Dublin!

We left LAX mid-afternoon on US Airways. Check-in was easy and we quickly boarded. Once in the air we were surprised to find out that they do not provide any drinks during the flight unless purchased ($2 for water or a cup of ice!). Considering that it was a 6hr flight we were not happy! The TVs were old and placed at odd places so DH got a neck cramp trying to watch a movie from the window seat. The trip was extremely bumpy so we were happy when we landed in Philly unscathed! After a quick bite to eat at the airport we boarded our plane for Dublin! Imagine our surprise when we boarded the EXACT same plane! All of our oversees trips had been on the larger planes (don’t know the models!) so flying 7hrs oversees on a small plane had me a little uneasy. The plane was still dirty from the previous flight and most of the blankets had been removed from their packaging (which littered the floor). DH’s tray table was even held up with duct tape….oh lord! Luckily they served free drinks this time though! After a normal crappy airplane meal I took half a sleeping pill and managed to sleep the rest of the ride. I awoke 30 minutes before landing in time to look out the window and see Ireland!!

Monday Oct. 6th – Dublin

We arrived in Dublin 45 minutes early (yay!) at 8:45am. We quickly picked up our bag, stopped by the ATM for some Euros, and grabbed our Heritage Cards (HC) from the TI at the airport (21€ each…highly recommend!!). With that settled we headed outside to catch the bus to our hotel. We weren’t entirely sure which bus we needed so we just jumped on the Airbus (6€/person). It took us straight to city center where we got off and walked the few blocks over to our hotel.

HOTEL – Trinity Capital Hotel (

We chose this hotel based on recommendations from here and trip advisor. We found it to be in a great location just across the street from Trinity College and a few blocks away from the Temple Bar area. DH got a kick out of all the funky furniture in the lobby and the room had plenty of space for the two of us. We also never felt unsafe walking through the neighborhood at night.

After a quick check-in and face wash we ran out of the hotel to get to Trinity College in time for the city historical walking tour given at 11am (10€ each). We both enjoyed the tour, as it was a great way to get our bearings in the city. The tour guide was nice and very knowledgeable with the history of Ireland & Dublin. The tour was over by noon and the rain had started to come down so DH and I decided to hit up our first pub for lunch! I should probably start this report off by saying that we love Pub Grub! We hit up Farrington’s Pub in the Temple Bar area where we enjoyed a chicken Panini (me), Lasagna (DH), and our first pints of Guinness in Ireland (total = 33€). The food was great (surprisingly one of the the best lasagnas I've ever had!).

After lunch we decided to take a walk over to Merrion Square. We quickly found the statue of Oscar Wilde and took a long stroll around the gorgeous park. This was our first introduction to the gorgeous green that you can only find in Ireland! WOW! After strolling the park and watching all the little ones run around with their cute accents we headed to #29 Georgian House. We found the house to be closed on Mondays (oops!) so we strolled over to Grafton Street for a quick coffee and some window-shopping. We decided to make it an early night since jet lag was starting to take it’s toll and headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest!

Trinity College:
Oscar Wilde Statue:
Merrion Square Park:

Tuesday Oct. 7th – Dublin

We awoke feeling fresh and ready to attack the day! We left the hotel and headed straight to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells before the crowds hit. We quickly paid the 8€ each to see the book and library and headed inside. All the displays leading up to the book were informative…but eventually got rather boring so we decided to head straight for the book. The book was gorgeous with the drawings and colors, but we felt that it was way too hyped up! Quite disappointing! After the book we strolled upstairs to the library. WOW! Absolutely gorgeous! I have a love affair with books so I was in awe of everything!

Once my husband managed to pull me out of the library we headed out to find some breakfast! We found a quick café where he enjoyed a full Irish and I had a great bowel of porridge (16€). We then headed to the Dublin Castle for a tour of the grounds (free with HC). The tour was informative but rather boring (the rooms are now used for state functions).

After our tour we decided to make a visit to Kilmainham’s Gaol (free with HC). We debated on taking the bus but decided that we could use the exercise and decided to walk it! Whew! What a walk! We managed to get lost a few times but eventually made it to the Gaol. This was by far my favorite site in all of Dublin! Our tour guide was funny and informative and we had a great time looking at the old jail! It wouldn’t take me long to crazy locked in a place like that!

We then headed back into the city and decided to walk to the Guinness Brewery. I had read about how touristy & silly it was but DH decided it was worth the $ just to not have to explain 30million times to our friends/family why we didn’t go when we got back to the states! After paying the admission fee (pricey at 13€/person) we headed into the self walk tour. We found it to be exactly what we were expecting – silly….but we LOVED it! This probably was because we came in expecting so little! They do make it sound like Author Guinness was a God for creating his beer but we had fun walking around and looking at all the exhibits. The 9,000 year lease was crazy! Great deal! ☺ After spending some time strolling around we made our way upstairs to enjoy our free Guinness. It was a cloudy/rainy day but the view was still spectacular! We elbowed our way to a pair of seats by the window and enjoyed our beer while reflecting on the fact that we were in Ireland! I must admit I don’t usually drink beer…and I don’t like dark beer, but during our two weeks there I made a point to drink it – and now I love it! It def. does taste different in Ireland! After enjoying our drinks and buying the required gifts for friends we headed out into the rain in need of some food before heading out to our next adventure – Music Pub Crawl!

By the time we hit the Temple Bar area we only had 45 minutes before the Pub Crawl started so we just jumped into the first place to eat we could find – The Alamo. This restaurant is across the street from the Pub where the crawl starts and serves up “Mexican” food in a wanna-be Texas atmosphere (being from TX we found this funny!). The food was decent and we enjoyed the early bird menu with 2 starters/2 entrees/& teas (35€). After wolfing down our food we headed across the street for the Pub Crawl (23€total). What a great night! Our musicians were hilarious and great at the different instruments! We went to 3 different pubs where they taught us the history behind Irish music, about all the instruments, as well as many of the words to popular pub songs. We loved it!! They are also helpful in telling where to go after the crawl for more fun & music! DH and I decided to call it a night after it was over at 10:30 so we could get a good night sleep before hitting the road the next day! Note: Most pints in Ireland are between 4-5€ with Temple Bar being the most expensive area in Ireland to drink (or so we found). Make sure to budget in your beer money! ☺

Thoughts on Dublin: DH and I were not overly impressed with the city of Dublin. I usually enjoy big cities but found that Dublin lacked charm (for us). I felt that with better preparation we could have easily fit everything in one day/night. If we return to Ireland we will most likely land in Dublin and head straight out!

Dublin Castle:
Kilmainham’s Gaol:
View from Sky Bar:
Music Pub Crawl:

Next up: On to KilKenny!

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    Wednesday Oct. 8th – Kilkenny

    DH and I awoke early to a bright and sunny day (no clouds!) and headed out for some breakfast and in search of the bus to take us back to the airport to pick up our rental car. After a quick bagel we jumped on the Aircoach bus headed to the airport (7€ each). Picking up the car was a breeze and we found ourselves on the road by 10am. DH and I brought our own GPS system with us since we already had the Europe chip for it (Her name is Cindy and at times she saved our marriage and at times we were ready to feed her to the sheep!). We had programmed her to stay away from Toll Roads since we weren’t sure exactly how they worked, DH plugged in the address for Powerscourt Gardens (our first stop) but didn’t pay attention to the route she had us going. It wasn’t until my husband said “hey this is the same way we went the other day” that I realized our mistake…..we were going straight through the city! YIKES! Luckily we are used to LA traffic and my husband has driven on the opposite side before so he stayed calm and managed to get through it ok….I wasn’t so lucky! After a few screams (which DH did not appreciate!) and a lot of eye closing we finally made it out of the city around 11am.

    We pulled up to the Powerscourt Gardens at 11:30 and debated on whether we wanted to pay to walk the gardens or not (we weren’t tired of driving yet!). We finally decided to pay the 8€ each and do the 60 minute walk. I was so glad we did! The gardens are GORGEOUS! It was a relaxing walk with lots of little fun things along the way. This was also our first real view of how vividly green things are in Ireland! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was actually pretty warm. We strolled around and took millions of pictures before heading back to the car. Our Rick Steves book (which I do NOT recommend for anyone going to Ireland…not his best book!), talked about a “military road” that would lead us to Glendalough so we decided to try it. Big mistake! This was our first experience with the small “crappy” roads we had heard about in Ireland! I do believe this was the worst road we had to take on our entire trip! Poor Cindy was sure we were driving through a lake somewhere! The book boasted that this road had the best views but we found them to be blocked by the huge bushes on either side of the road. Luckily we made it unscathed and pulled into Glendalough by 1:15. We had a quick lunch at the hotel (split a sandwich, soup, & chips - 25€) before hiking up to the 2 lakes.

    DH and I LOVED the Glendalough area! It could have something to do with the gorgeous weather we had that day but we found it to be the prettiest area of Ireland! We enjoyed the long hike up to the top lake – DH especially loved all the waterfalls! After sitting by the lake enjoying the scenery we decided to head back down towards the ruins before heading out for our last stop in Kilkenny. We left the ruins around 3:30 and managed to pull into Kilkenny at 5:30.

    Kilkenny was one of the only places where I had not made B&B reservations. I was scared that I had crammed too many things into the day and we wouldn’t make it that far! With it being October we found most B&Bs to have vacancies (but I learned I am much to “A” type personality to not have things confirmed! Drove me crazy all day!). After pulling into town we found a shopping mall that had internet and quickly logged on in search of a B&B. We only had a few minutes before the mall closed so we took one of the first ones we found. While it was perfectly acceptable for a quick night it wasn’t the best! I guess that’s what you get for not researching too well!


    This B&B was in a great location being walking distance to Kilkenny Castle and only a few blocks away from most Pubs. The rooms were clean but beginning to show signs of wear/tear. The owners were out of town on vacation and the man that let us in was slightly rude (kept making comments about how he had to drive over from his house since he wasn’t expecting us because we didn’t have reservations). We also had the only bad breakfast on our entire trip here. The eggs weren’t cooked right (somehow had hard yolks but runny whites…yuck!) and the bacon was still pretty raw. Wouldn’t recommend this B&B!

    After getting settled in we went out in search of food. We stopped by the grocery store to get supplies for the following day (chips/sandwiches/water..) and the headed over to Kyteler’s Inn for supper. The Pub was packed with a lively crowd and we enjoyed hearing the story of their Pub Witch (ask the bartenders!). After a good meal of Fish/Chips & Lasagna (35€ with 3 pints) we decided to skip the music (we weren’t that impressed) and head to bed to prepare for another long drive the next day!

    Powerscourt Gardens:

    Thurdays Oct. 9th – Kinsale

    After eating our not so great breakfast we headed out to the Kilkenny Castle. The times posted said it would open at 9:30 and the first tour would start at 10am…..but while we were waiting someone came and posted a sign saying that it was closed till noon for a private group! What?! DH and I didn’t want to sit around doing nothing for 2 hours so we decided to just skip the castle. We were bummed but figured there were plenty of castles to see on our trip! We spent a short time looking around the craft shop across the street before heading out of town. The day was overcast with heavy showers on/off during the day.

    Our first stop of the day was the Rock of Cashel (free w/ HC). Just like everyone else has said…..WOW! The view of it as you entire town is incredible! It was very rainy but DH and I had a blast running around and exploring everything we could! The view from the cemetery of the ruined abbey below is just jaw-dropping. We managed to explore and walk around for 2 hours before the rain got too bad and we had to leave.

    We ate a quick lunch on the road before arriving at Cahir Castle (free w/HC). I hadn’t ready much about the castle so I wasn’t sure what we would find, but we loved it! DH and I were the only tourists at the castle (probably due to the crazy rain!) but we had a blast running around and exploring for an hour! It felt like a playground for adults! ☺ Everywhere you turn there are more stairs taking you to different places! DH and I lost each other and had fun running around the grounds playing “hide-and-seek” (we truly are just weird big kids!).

    After we had wore ourselves out we headed out of town and made it to Kinsale by 5:30 to check in to our B&B.


    This was probably our second favorite B&B of the whole trip! Chrissy & Tom run a cute B&B where you feel more like old family members than customers! After showing us our room Chrissy spent some time going over EVERYTHING there was to do in and around Kinsale as well as giving us great information on where to eat and hear music. She acts just like a sweet grandma! Parking at the B&B is tight due to construction around town but Chrissy will show you where you can park legally. Breakfast was delicious (DH especially loved her eggs & salmon!). Plan to spend some extra time at breakfast because she loves to chat! ☺

    After checking in we hit up a quick internet café to shoot and email off to family informing them that we were still safe and having a great time, then we hit the streets for a lovely walk around the harbor at sunset. We found Kinsale to be a charming seaside town, we loved watching the boats go in & out it was a great location for lots of side trips!

    Dinner was at Muddy Maher Pub where we enjoyed a huge bucket of mussels (yummy!), Chicken pita, huge seafood plate and 2 pints for 50€! Great seafood!! We once again found ourselves too tired to stay up late so we hit the bed again determined that the next day we would stay up to enjoy some music!

    Kilkenny Castle:
    Rock of Cashel:
    Cahir Castle:

    Friday Oct. 10th – Kinsale

    We awoke to an absolutely dreadful day! The sky was black and the rain was that horrible cold hard drizzle that soaks you in seconds, blows from all angles and hurts when it hits! Chrissy tried to talk us into heading back to bed after breakfast (there are better ways to spend a day like that! Haha!), but we had places to go and things to see!

    Our first stop was Desmond Castle in Kinsale (free w/HC). We found this to be a site that you could easily skip for more interesting things. There isn’t much to the castle on the inside and they have turned most of it into a wine museum explaining Ireland & Kinsale’s history in the wine market. DH and I are huge wine enthusiasts but were quickly bored and ready to move on!

    Since the weather was still horrible we decided to head out to the Jamesons Distillery outside of the city. I am not a big fan of whiskey but figured that DH would love it (plus it was inside!). I was surprised with how much I liked the tour! When we arrived we had just missed the tour (they go every hour) so we decided to have a quick lunch in the café there. We enjoyed a large bowl of chowder and some salmon pasta (23€) before they called for our tour (12.5€/person). Our tour guide was very informative and it was interesting to see exactly how they make whiskey. I had read that at the end of the tour (when you reach the barrel room!) they ask for volunteers for a taste test. I had told DH about this but unfortunately he got stuck in the back behind a group of guys so the guide couldn’t see him and didn’t pick him….I have never seen the poor boy pout so bad!! Note – make sure you stand up front in clear site if you want to be chosen! We headed back to the tasting room so that everyone could get their free shot of whiskey, DH almost crying the whole way! When we arrived we headed up to the bar and got our free drinks (they have mixers if you don’t like straight whiskey!), I happened to notice that there was a free seat at the taste test table and told DH to run over there and see if he could take it (turned out someone decided they didn’t want to do it). He was like a 5yr old on Xmas day when she told him to take a seat! When you do the taste test you are given half shots of Scotch (Scotland), Jamesons (Ireland), and Jack Daniels (America). They have you smell and taste all of them before declaring your favorite (any surprise that everyone picked Jamesons?!). They then hand out another free shot of Jamesons! Since DH had already picked up his free shot at the bar he suddenly had 5 shots in front of him! Yikes! I can now see why they have a café next door! ☺ Note – if you are not driving and love your whiskey you can sneak the extra taste by giving your ticket to a partner who can pick up 2 at the bar (they tear a section of the ticket off). After you enjoy your taste test go get the other drink from your friend! After the taste test all participants get a certificate (DH was so excited…..he is still a kid!).

    When he was done tasting (I wouldn’t let him drink all of it since he was driving!) we headed out back into the rain for our next stop at Charles Fort (free w/HC). When we arrived the rain had gotten worse than ever and we were the only tourists around (the people at the reception desk thought we were CRAZY to go out!). We decided to say “screw it” and just get soaked! We had a great time running around the fort in the rain and looking at everything. I couldn’t believe how big it was! Definitely worth a stop! The views of town were pretty obscured by the rain but we loved watching the angry sea! The small museaum on site was very informative (and actually interesting!). After an hour of running around we were absolutely soaked to the bone and frozen so we headed back to the B&B for a shower and some rest! Chrissy was so sweet and even threw our clothes in her washing machine so that we wouldn’t have to pack up dirty we clothes!

    Warm and rested we headed out to the White House for dinner as a recommendation from Chrissy. Yummy! We opted to eat in the Pub side due to the rugby game on TV (DH wanted to watch). The pub was full of businessmen and other locals enjoying the game (loud loud loud!). We had a blast watching all the “crap” talk during our dinner (Red Snapper, Salmon, & 2pints = 42€). After we were done eating we decided to hang around to finish the game and listen to some music. This turned out to be one of the best pub nights we had! Once the music started the locals who had been watching the game decided to stay and enjoy it (all feeling pretty good by now if you know what I mean!). Everyone was singing and a few were even trying to do a few drunk jigs! At one point DH and I looked around and realized……we were the ONLY tourists in the entire small pub! Everyone there was local! It was as real as you could get! We enjoyed the music (the banjo player was crazy!) and ended up drinking a few too many pints (oops!). We stayed until they closed at 1am and stumbled our way back to the room so I could get some medicine (I sadly caught a small head cold that day….probably from running around in the rain!). All in all it was a great day & night!

    Taste Test:
    Charles Fort:

    Next up: On to Kenmare!

    (but for now I have to get some laundry done and bills paid!)

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    I'm really enjoying your report, Waterlily! Hubby and I were in Ireland too, from 10-3 to 10-8, 2008. I'm curious to see if we went to any of the same places. One thing's for sure: we experienced cold, chilling rain too, and also some hail balls!

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    Hi Waterlily
    Just letting you know that I am loving your trip report - content, style and detail!
    I usually only read France trip reports, but your title caught my eye and I'm loving it. My husband and I went to Wales and Scotland (2 different trips) in our mid 20's (i.e. before kids!) and you tales of being "big kids in castles", and the tone of your experiences reminds me of us, and bodes well for the healthy longevity of your marriage! Looking forward to the next installment...!

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    What a great report so far! I'm very glad you enjoyed Ireland. I'm addicted and keep going back. My only critique on your report is one I had to learn myself. If you use an exclamation mark after every sentence, it stops being special - and the good stuff is no longer emphasized. I literally went back to prior reports I'd written and took out about 20 exclamation points per page. I do understand how wonderful Ireland is, and how exciting it can be :) Now I just have that same problem with smileys!

    I'm glad you enjoyed Powerscourt, I did as well. The various gardens are just so beautiful. I spent so long in the wild garden :)

    You didn't miss too much at Kilkenny Castle - while it is beautifully restored inside, there are other castles as gorgeous. Muckross house is one, if you managed to get there.

    I look forward to the rest of your trip!

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    I'm really enjoying your report. I stayed at the Olde Bakery in Kinsale 3 years ago. It's good to know Chrissy and Tom are are still there.

    I also enjoyed a pint or two at the White House in Kinsale. When I was there they had quite a character entertaining. His name was Dessy Walls and he definitely had his way with songs. He actually wrote and performed his own music and the lyrics were hysterical. I even have one of his CDs.

    Looking forward to more of your report! :)

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    Thanks for all the kind responses! I know I tend to use exclamation points too much, I will try to keep an eye on that in the future. It is so hard sometimes when you are excited about everything!

    Also does anyone know why my smiley faces turn out frowning when I post? Just know that they are really smiley faces!

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    Saturday Oct. 11th – Kenmare

    We were a little slow getting up and going this morning due to the amount of pints we had the night before. Luckily Chrissy made us a huge pot of extra extra strong coffee to get us going. We decided to fill up the car before leaving town (we ended up having to fill up 3 times on our trip, a lot more than I had originally thought! We spent between 45 and 50€ per tank).

    Our first stop of the day was Blarney Castle. This was another site that we had debated on going to after reading most of the comments from this site. Once again it was easier to visit it than explain to everyone why we didn’t, and once again we LOVED it! I found the price to be pretty steep (10€/person) and I can see why people would hate it during the height of tourist season. Luckily there was only a small handful of people at the castle while we were there so we had no lines and could walk around at our leisure. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous and it would have been a great place to picnic if we had thought ahead. After reading the tour guides I expected to find a completely gutted castle but was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the rooms were still intact. The plaques in each room were informative and really helped us “see” how the castle used to be. It actually turned out to be one of my favorite castles! After climbing the tight, steep….and yes scary stairs to the top we found the kissing stone. Note- if you are clausterphobic or have problems with steep narrow stairs then Blarney Castle is NOT for you! The poor girl ahead of us started having a panic attack halfway up! Once at the top DH and I went back and forth on if we actually wanted to kiss the stone (we are both nurses so the germ thing freaked us out), but after that crazy climb I couldn’t leave without doing it. My only complaint about the entire thing was the 2 men that were there to assist people in kissing the stone. They both acted compleltely bored and were extremely rude during the whole event. I can understand the boredness (I wouldn’t want to do Bthat all day!), but they signed up for it. I was annoyed with the rude/pushy attitude because there was no one behind us wanting to kiss the stone so we weren’t holding anyone up (they got upset when I stopped to hand DH the camera bag and coins from my pocket). They sort of killed the experience! After kissing the “spit slathered, makeup smeared” stone we rubbed our lips with hand sanitizer (sadly I’m not kidding!) and headed back down the crazy staircase. My DH spent the rest of the day using big eloquent words during any conversation just to be funny….drove me crazy!

    As soon as we left Blarney we hit horrible traffic and ended up sitting still for over an hour as construction crews worked on the roads. Thankfully we still had snacks left over and could enjoy lunch in the car. We finally started moving again and made it to Muckross House around 2pm (free w/HC). From the car it is a good mile hike to get to the actual House, and we decided to take the scenic unpaved pathway (highly recommend to others as the paved pathway is completely covered in horse poop!). Along the hike to the House there are gorgeous view of the lake and DH kept having to drag me along since I was stopping every few minutes to take another set of pictures. Before long though we found our way to the huge driveway leading up to the house. Wow! What an amazing house! I kept telling DH that he had to build me a similar house one day (we can all dream can’t we?!). We made it just in time for the tour and spent the next hour exploring the huge house. DH and I thoroughly enjoyed Muckross House. It is kept in great condition, the tour guides are very knowledgeable, and it was great just imagining how the wealthy used to live (we really enjoyed exploring the servants quarters though!). This is a definite “must-see”!

    After leaving the house we decided to walk back to the car using the paved pathway. Big mistake! The amount of poop on the paved road makes the walk stinky and hard (I kept holding up my jeans to keep them from getting yucky!) ☺ Once we made it back to the car we considered heading to one of the many other sites in the National Park but decided that we needed to head towards Kenmare since our B&B owners had asked us to check in before 4pm (they were heading out for the night). This was the one day that we did feel rushed and wished that we had more time in the area. All the guidebooks we read said to give Kenmare 1 night but we really feel that it is worth at LEAST 2 nights! There was so much more in the area that we would have liked to have done!

    B&B: Whispering Pines B&B

    We loved this B&B and were sad to only get one nights stay with Mary & John. The rooms are comfortable and spacious and the location can’t be beat. We also loved that Mary had coffee and tea ready for us in the TV/reception room upon arrival, so nice after a long day of driving! It really is the little touches that make the biggest impression! Breakfast was incredible (DH enjoyed the full Irish and I enjoyed French toast with fresh fruit) and Mary was always helpful when we needed ideas on where to go and what to see.

    After enjoying our tea and checking up on local news (they have full cable in the reception room!) we decided to head out to explore Kenmare and try to make it to the Druid Stone Circle by sunset. The stone circle was a quick 5 minute walk and although it is a small “off the beaten path” site we were in awe! Just the thought of what all that circle had seen made us feel so blessed to be standing there. DH and I kept finding ourselves whispering to each other because it felt like such a sacred place. We left just as the sun started to set and headed to town centre.

    Kenmare, oh Kenmare. I believe that this is my second favorite town that we visited in Ireland (favorite coming soon!) ☺ Just walking through town at sunset I felt at home. The town has won the “Tidiest small town” award 8yrs in a row and it it easy to see why. The colorful buildings, cute churches, and friendly atmosphere invite tourists to join the “family of Kenmare” as one local put it. This was the one town in our entire trip that felt completely untouched/ruined by tourists. Just walking around town we were stopped a long the way by locals to talk, joke with, and even sing a quick tune! All the pubs seemed full of locals having a good time (and a good number of Hen parties!) and we had a hard time deciding what pub to try out! We ended up heading into the Coachhouse for dinner and enjoyed some good food (guinnes & beef stew/lasagne - 33€) and good entertainment in the way of several Hen parties at the pub. After our crazy night the night before we decided to make it an early night and headed back to the B&B after dinner to get ready for the Ring of Kerry the next day!

    Blarney Castle:
    Killarney National Park:
    Muckross House:
    Druid Stone Circle:

    Sunday Oct. 12th – Dingle

    We awoke early and managed to make it out of Kenmare by 9:30 in order to get a good start on the Ring of Kerry heading towards Dingle. We were sad to leave Kenmare as we would have loved to have spent more time in this amazing town (next time we plan on basing in Kenmare for a few days before moving on!).

    We decided to use Rick Steves as our guidebook to the ROK in hopes that we would stay clear of big tour buses. I’m not sure if it was his book or the low tourist season/Sunday (I have my bets on the later!) but we did not encounter a single tour bus on the entire ROK! In fact we were the ONLY tourists at all the sights (there was a blue car ahead of us that was always leaving as we arrived and a group of motorcyclists that were arriving just as we were leaving!). We felt like we had the entire ROK to ourselves. That alone was worth coming in October! We enjoyed Staigue Fort and all the views along the way (DH got rather annoyed by my screams of “pull over” every 5 minutes as I spied something I wanted to take a picture of!). One thing we noticed on the ROK is how much darker the colors were (as in landscape). There was a lot more brown/dark green colors, not so much the bright yellow, green that we had seen up in Glendalough.

    We made great time since we were the only ones on the road and managed to pull into Waterville by 11:15 (we skipped Darrynane House since it didn’t open till 1pm). Once we reached Waterville we decided to get out and walk the beach to stretch our legs. We also enjoyed walking through the hotel there (forgot name!) and looking at all the photos of Charlie Chapman. After a short stroll on the beach we were ready to hit the car again. By 1:15 we made it to the Cliffs of Kerry. This was not in any of the guidebooks that we had read but the huge signs along the road piped our curiosity so we decided to stop. We paid the 3€ each fee to walk to the cliffs and enjoyed to great views. While nothing compared to the Cliffs of Moher, it was definitely worth the time & $. The sun was just peaking through the thick overcast we had had all day and the sea looked beautiful! After awhile the sun headed back in and the rain began to come down so we headed back down to the café they had at the base of the cliffs for a quick lunch. We each enjoyed a bowl of veggie soup and half an egg salad sandwhich (not bad at 8€) before hitting the road again.

    We decided to skip Valentia Island and just keep heading out to Dingle. Towards the end of the ROK we were headed to yet another set of stone forts when we happened to see a sign for a castle partially hidden by the trees. DH decided that we had seen enough stone forts and decided to veer left instead of right in search of the castle. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we made the entire trip! We pulled up to a random castle ruin (which we later learned was Ballycarberry Castle) and decided to jump the barb wire fence surrounding the property for a better look. What we found was a gorgeous half collapsed castle surrounded by nothing but huge emerald green fields. We started poking around the castle and found staircases leading up. While we knew it was probably stupid to be climbing an old castle ruin, we just couldn’t resist! This is my #1 favorite memory of our entire trip….one of those memories that I will one day remember on my deathbed. DH and I climbed up to the top of this amazing castle, running around calling to each other to come see something “amazing” that we had just found. With no one around but the cows it was easy to pretend that we had just found this old castle that no one knew about. Was it smart…, safe…, legal…..probably not, fun….YES! I have no regrets and would easily do it all over again!

    We tore ourselves away from “our” castle to head towards Dingle. We reached Inch Beach around 5pm and decided to take advantage of the decent weather to walk around the beach. DH and I couldn’t stop laughing when our first sight of the beach included a surfer! In Ireland??!! What?! Being from So. Cal. we are used to seeing surfers all along the beach all year long…..but I NEVER expected to see people surfing and playing in the water in Ireland! There were even a few people in swimsuits playing in the waves. They had a lot more nerve than I had! Brrrrrrr! After driving through a few more sheep filled pastures we arrived at our B&B.

    B&B – Emlagh Lodge
    I found this B&B on fodors and once again your recommendations didn’t lead me wrong! We had let Maggie know ahead of time that we would be celebrating our actual anniversary with her and she set us up in her best room. The view of the harbour out of window was gorgeous! The room was by far the nicest we had in all the B&B’s we stayed at. Maggie went above and beyond for us during our stay. We had brought a bottle of champagne with us that we bought on our honeymoon in France (same that was served on our wedding day) and she kindly put in her fridge for us. She also went as far as to leave us 2 champagne glasses and truffles in our room on our actual anniversary (we later found out that they were Waterford glasses she bought herself as a celbration for buying her B&B and they had only been used on a few special occasions…..we felt blessed that she allowed us the honor of sharing her family crystal).

    For dinner we took a walk around the harbor and ended up at one of the pubs on the main street by the Harbor (forgot the name!). Sadly we had one of our most disappointing meals the entire trip on this night. ☹ We both tried fish dishes (figuring that since we were right by the sea they would be great), but learned that this is not always the case! Luckily we weren’t about to let one bad meal get us down and decided to walk around town after dinner in search of some music and fun! Our first stop was the Dingle Pub where we found a local playing the guitar and singing fun “pub” songs. After a pint though we were ready to move on and look for something a little more lively! We found it easily enough down the street at the Small Bridge Bar. While this Pub was definitely touristy it was also a ton of FUN! It started out with just 3 players (guitar, accordion, and drums) but soon other locals showed up with instruments and decided to play. The end result was a 7 piece band featuring pretty much all the traditional instruments. DH and I found ourselves sharing a booth with 2 ladies from Australia (we met a ton of Aussies on our trip!) and spent the night singing and talking about the medical fields in the US & Australia (they were a nurse & doctor). We bought each other pints and had a great time! I love making new friends on trips! All too soon the pub was closing and we headed home for some rest before another full and our FIRST anniversary!

    Sights from the Ring of Kerry:
    Cliffs of Kerry:
    “Our” Castle:
    Inch Beach:
    Entry to Dingle:

    Next up: Dingle Peninsula X 2!

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    Great trip report.I am looking forward to the next installment.The pictures are wonderful.Brings back some great memories and gives me something to show DH who has never beeen to Ireland. DH and I are planning on doing the same trip in the future.We were just talking today rather we should do a tour(which I have done) or drive it ourselves. You have convinced me to drive ourselves. I agree about Dublin. Not my favorite city either.

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    I am enjoying your trip report. Fodors has also made our travel planning so much easier and we love the other travelers' recommendations for lodging and restaurants.

    We visited Ireland in Sept. 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. We only had 10 days but we luckily were blessed with great weather. We also did not have one tour bus on the Ring of Kerry. We enjoyed Kinsale, Kenmare and Dingle as you did so it's great to read you report. Brings back great memories.

    Hope you will continue writing reports as you continue your travels.

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    Waterlily, thanks for sharing your trip with us. I'm taking my 14 and 15 year old girls with my DH for Christmas and New Years. Your posts are great prompts for our planning sessions!

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    Your trip report is awesome. Thank you for posting it so far. I keep checking back for the rest of it.

    My friend and I are planning a trip to Ireland in April and this is helping us a bunch.

    If you have the time, I was wondering if you could email me at [email protected], I have a few questions that I don't want to bog down the thread with.

    Thanks and keep posting :)

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    Spent the last little while pleasantly reading your trip report and throughly enjoying it. I'm from Ireland and missing home, your trip report was just the perfect antidote for my home sickness. Thank you! Oh and keep it up! :)

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    Monday Oct. 13th – Dingle

    DH and I awoke hoping that the weather forecast would be wrong and it would be bright and sunny for our anniversary, but it just wasn’t to be. The weather was foggy & rainy :) Determined to still have an amazing anniversary we decided to sleep in a little bit and then take a long walk around town. We explored the whole town of Dingle and strolled around the harbor before hitting the road to make the quick circle around the Peninsula. We had a map from our B&B owner but mainly used the Rick Steve’s book since he had the entire loop broken down kilometer by kilometer. We drove slowly getting out to look around a long the way (I can’t pass a beach and not get out!). We bypassed some of the sites on the way (like the Dunbeg Fort and famine cottages) because we could pretty much see them from the road and didn’t feel like walking down to pay the 2-3€ each and watch a video. We did get out and pay the 2€ fee for the beehive huts because I was really wanting a picture with one after seeing them on others trip reports. They don’t have much to them but it was fun to imagine how people used to live! After we left the huts the rain started to come down pretty hard so we headed to the café/gift shop at Slea Head for a quick lunch in hopes that it would pass quickly. DH and I shared some soup/bread/tea (8€) with 2 amazing couples from Ohio that we kept running into on our trip. I can honestly say that the soup in Ireland is better than any I have had anywhere! We have been trying to copy the taste since we got home but haven’t been able to. *If anyone knows of a great soup recipe from Ireland we would LOVE to have it! *

    Luckily after eating the rain had slowed down to a light drizzle and we were able to hit the road once again. We spent a lot of time standing on the cliffs looking at the angry waves below us. One thing that really surprised me was how much pollution there was in the water! I had a hard time taking pictures of the water/cliffs because the nasty yellow foam kept showing up. We always noticed that it was worse/more visible when the weather was crappy. We decided to drive down to Slea Head Beach and play in the sand since the rain held off for a few minutes. This was by far my favorite beach! We were the only tourists there and it was just gorgeous watching the waves crash up on the rocks by us. DH and I decided to brave the cold and roll up our jeans to play in the waves for a few minutes……whew that was COLD! Haha! This is my favorite part of our anniversary and a memory I will not forget!

    When our feet were to numb to walk on we slowly made our way back to the car (and I am not exaggerating here!) to finish the loop. The rain once again started to come down so we decided to skip the final stops and just head back to town. All along the way DH and I couldn’t stop talking about how unimpressed we were with the peninsula. After reading all the amazing stories on fodors I was expecting something amazing and was really disappointed (before you get out your pitchforks keep reading to the next day!!). We made it back to town in time to freshen up and make our reservations for dinner. We decided to have our anniversary dinner at a cute restaurant called the Half Door per our B&B owners recommendations. Boy did she deliver! We got there just in time to get the 3 course early bird special and had our best meal of the entire trip! We both started with the seafood chowder which was a whole meal in itself. Huge chunks of fish/shrimp with tons of mussels still in the shell. I am drooling just thinking about it! For a main course DH enjoyed the salmon while I had fish cakes in a Thai sauce (sounds weird but was amazing!). We felt that we got a pretty good deal considering we both enjoyed desserts and a nice bottle of French wine for 90€! By far our most expensive meal but worth every penny!

    Feeling like we were about to explode DH and walked back to the B&B to enjoy our champagne and watch our wedding video that we brought (both things a tradition we decided to create).

    Feeling a little woozy after drinking the bottle of champagne (didn’t mean to drink the whole thing….oops!) we headed to town to toast our anniversary with a pint of Guinness. We once again ended up at the same pub and enjoyed a pint while listening to the music and chatting up a couple from Maine celebrating their 50th anniversary. We met so many great travelers in this small town! Once the pub closed we stumbled back to the B&B relishing in what a great anniversary it had been!

    Trinity Tree in Dingle
    Beehive Hut
    Slea Head Beach
    Anniversary Toast

    Tuesday Oct. 14th - Dingle

    After another amazing breakfast (if you stay with Maggie make sure to try her eggs/bacon on a bagel…she serves it with a great tomato relish unlike anything I’ve ever tasted! Yummy!) we hit the road to explore more of the area. Our first stop of the day was Minard Castle. Although you can’t get up to the actual castle, the rocky beach that it overlooks was a lot of fun to walk around. With the fog and drizzle it really looked spooky! Once we left the beach we drove around trying to find the Puicin Wedge Tomb, but gave up after an hour of driving around. Not sure where we went wrong but we couldn’t find it!

    With nothing really on the agenda for the day we decided to drive to the other side of the peninsula to see what could be found over there. Along the way we saw a sign for a fort and decided to go exploring to see what we could find. While we never found a fort we did manage to find a random road leading up a huge hill (or mountain as they call it!). We has a hard time seeing anything but had fun exploring an area that we had no idea about and playing with all the sheep on the side of the road. After looking at the map we figured we found a random road leading us over the Slieve Mish Mts. It really is true that you have the most fun in Ireland when you are completely lost! :) After awhile we turned around and headed back to where we had originally planned on going.

    By the time we hit the beach the weather had taken a turn for the worse so we decided to head back to Dingle for lunch. Somehow in reading the MILLIONS of trip reports I somehow missed the parts about Connor’s Pass. We saw on the map that it was highlighted as a scenic route so we decided to take it. OMG! This road is not for the faint of heart on a good day….but driving it with the worst fog we had on the entire trip and heavy rain was CRAZY! We could tell that we were driving on some sort of cliff (and that there was no guardrail for most of the drive), but I couldn’t have told you if there was water or land below us….or how far away it was! Dodging cars and large trucks in the fog on the windy road gave me a few minor heart attacks.

    Luckily we made it back to Dingle in one shaky piece. We stopped off at Murphy’s Pub for a bite to eat and a place to escape the rain (fish & chips/curry/irish coffee = 30€). Once our knees stopped shaking and our bellies were full we headed back outside to find……Sun! The clouds were heading out and we could see the beginnings of blue sky and sun! Yay! We had a few errands we had to run first so DH dropped me off at the B&B to rest for a few minutes while he filled up the car and dropped our clothes off at the Laundromat to be cleaned (13€ for most of our suitcase). With all that done we decided to make the quick loop around the peninsula to see the sites we skipped the day before. We weren’t too far into our drive when I started yelling “Stop Stop!”, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing……islands…..tons of islands! We hadn’t been able to see any islands the day before and I didn’t know how beautiful it could be! Now I knew what everyone was talking about. We took forever driving the loop this time because I kept making my poor DH stop to get out and explore/take pictures. Gorgeous does not even describe it! After several days of gloomy weather the sun breaking through and highlighting the green fields was perfection!

    We eventually made it around and stopped at the Oratory and Kilmalkedar Church. We loved the church and had a good time renewing our vows at the old ogham stone. Once again we were the only tourists at all the sites. October really is the time to go! We made it back to town in time to watch the sunset from our window and look at all the amazing pictures we had taken. Dinner was a quick sandwich at Subway but we still had a sweet tooth so we headed back to Murphy’s for a pint and crumbles (18€). After chatting with the bartender and people at the bar we headed back to the same pub we had been to the previous nights for another pint and music. It was the same group from the previous nights but we were soon too tired to keep our eyes open so we called it an early night and headed back for some much needed sleep.

    Thoughts on Dingle – While the loop around the Peninsula had some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve ever seen we were somewhat disappointed in Dingle. I think that we had too high of expectations after reading all the great things on these boards and in the guide-books. I could see remnants of the old charm that Dingle used to have but felt that it was getting slowly ruined with the huge amount of tourism it gets (sadly this was a common feeling all along our trip). Without good weather the peninsula is not as much fun and we felt we could have easily have cut a day off of Dingle and put it somewhere else (either Doolin or Kenmare).

    Minard Castle
    Views of Dingle Peninsula X 2

    Next up: Doolin!

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    Great trip report, waterlily! We're off to Ireland in August 2009, so I've already started my 'don't miss' list.
    It's also helpful to hear the bad as well as the good parts . . . look forward to the next installment.

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    Hi waterlily,

    Enjoying reading about the trip. The yellow froth that you saw in the sea was probably Algae. Useless fact coming up..... The southern coast of Ireland is right slap bang in the middle of the warm gulf stream. When the seas are rough it tends to churn up the Algae which thrive in this warm (matter of opinion!) water and produce a yellow/light greenish froth which collects in the inlets on the coast. It can also sometimes smell bad if there is a lot of it in one area.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

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    I'm so glad you got to see some of Dingle in the sun. It was misty and rainy when we started as well, and the Gallerus Oratory was all in the mists... but it cleared up shortly after that and it was spectacular. I do regret not seeing the Conor Pass in the sunlight - we also had a very scary, foggy drive up that!

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    Wonderful report Waterlily252! We missed out going to Ireland this year as Scotland took up a good portion of our trip so I am hoping that in 2009 we will get another chance - your report is going to be invalueable, thanks so much for taking the time to give us all such great tips for the road!

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    Enjoying your report very much. I predict great things for your marriage, based on 31 years with my husband. You have fun, are curious and enjoy being with each other. And the travel memories you create will come to be an important part of your shared memory.

    I also have never found Dublin charming, although we've been three times and I really want to like it. Although your music pub crawl sounded like fun. The White House in Kinsale is also a favourite spot of ours. The Mad Monk and The Spaniard are also good places to eat.

    Look forward to the rest of your report.

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    I'm really enjoying your report. So much of your perceptions are similar to mine. Dublin has a lot of interesting sites. The charm of Ireland, however, is outside of the big cities (beyond the Pale).

    Visiting Ireland is like going to a family reunion. Everyone is interested in you, what you do, where you live, are you enjoying your visit and gives more advice than you could take advantage of in a lifetime.

    Guiness in Ireland is the best beer I've tasted. Unfortunately it doesn't travel well, so you'll have to go back to really experience that taste.

    My favorites also surprised me: Blarney Castle, Killarney (and the National Park), Gallway, Hill of Tara, Newgrange. I went in May, had great weather and not too many tourists (probably more than you saw though).

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