Why Ireland?

By Marlo Klein.

Why Ireland?

The world is a big place and I intend to see it all (if I’m lucky). So not every destination I pick is popular. I found recently that when I chose Ireland as this summer’s place for Andrew and I to explore, I got many of the same reactions..”really, why Ireland? Are you golfers?”…Nope…First, let me say I do not like to lie on a beach.  I like culture, adventure and a mixture of activities to fill my days. I prefer to get up early and get my day started.  I guess I suffer a bit from T-FOMO (travel fear of missing out).

I have always wanted to see Ireland, and Andrew’s work was taking us to London in early July, so this seemed like the perfect place to tag on to his trip. It’s only a 45 min flight from Dublin to London.

Choosing where to go and how to get around seem to be the hardest part.  Ireland is a tiny island packed with things to see. You can drive across the entire country in just 3 hours.  We decided to rent a car. I have to be honest, this made me very nervous because in Ireland they drive on the left hand side of the street.  However, after leaving the car rental place, Andrew got the hang of it in minutes, but it took me a few days to stop gripping my seat in fear.  Having our own car was amazing.  We could really explore the small towns in between the big cities.  As the navigator, I love a paper map, so the overall trip is planned out on that (we grabbed a free map at Hertz), but we used Waze the entire trip to help navigate us through the winding roads.  It worked perfectly in Ireland especially for all the dozens of silly roundabouts.

After some light research it seemed most of the places I wanted to see were in Southern Ireland. There are so many great sites in Northern Ireland too, but I didn’t have enough time to do it all. Here’s our 6 day journey…

Day 1….We started in Dublin.  I’m not a big city person on my vacations, they remind me too much of NYC, so I like to hit the main attractions and move on. Our flight landed at 10am, we checked into the hotel and headed right out to see the sites. We visited Trinity College and Kilmainham Gaol Prison, walked up Grafton Street, grabbed a drink at The Temple Bar and toured the Guinness factory-where u can learn to pour the perfect pint. All of that took about 4 hours total.  Food tip-Grab an afternoon treat at the Bubble Waffle Factory for a fresh waffle cone filled with ice cream or stop into The Rolling Donut. I think that the best area to stay is anywhere near the famous Temple Bar, that’s a very central location.

Day 2….We woke up in Dublin, went to the local Hertz rental car store front and headed south stopping at Powerscourt House & Garden, Glendalough & the small town of AvocaThis was a great day mixed with exploring magnificent castle grounds, taking small hikes through ruins and cemeteries and learning about the oldest wool weavers in Ireland (www.avoca.com), including touring the factory where these beautiful blankets and sweaters are from.  Shopping tip…Be sure to purchase your wool products here, I never saw them again on my trip.  You can have them ship your purchases home. We finished our day in the town of Kilkenny.

Day 3… We woke up in Kilkenny and headed to town and toured the Kilkenny Castle. We then walked around the small town.  We skipped the Smithwicks Brewery tour because we had just done the Guinness one and after talking to some people, it seemed too similar.  The morning took us about 1-2 hours.  Then we headed south again.  We stopped at The Rock of Cashel in Cashel,  (takes about 1 hour) and continued south to Cork.  The famous Blarney Castle is about 8 minutes from the center of town.  No trip to Ireland is complete without kissing the Blarney Stone.  Be prepared to wait.  It took us about 1 hour, but it was fun hanging upside down kissing the rock to get a bit of good luck!  Afterwards we did pop into the well known English Market in the center of town for a late afternoon snack, but it really reminded me of the market in Grand Central Station.  If you are tight for time, skip it.  Leaving Cork, we drove west to Kilarney. We arrived early afternoon and we walked the small town (it was my favorite!!!) and had dinner at The Porterhouse in the center of town.  A must stop is a pub called Mrs. Reidy’s Sweet Shop.  Don’t be fooled by the name…Be sure to explore all the small rooms and make your way to the courtyard bar in the back for live music and great people watching. Grab some of Ireland’s famous Murphys Ice Cream right across the street on your way out.

Day 4… We woke up in Kilarney and headed out to the Dingle Peninsula. Our original plan was to drive the Ring of Kerry. However, it was the annual Ring of Kerry Charity Bike Ride and all roads in that direction were closed. Bummer! I really believe everything happens for a reason because this wound up being an unexpected joyful and amazing day. We stopped at Inch Beach along the way to feel the ocean, asking the local sheep which way to go. We hiked Dunmore Head Mountain along side some very friendly furry friends and then headed to the charming and colorful beach town of Dingle. Along the way, we stopped at Tin Aign for the best omelette we both have ever had with a view that is beyond breathtaking.  We finished the day in Newmarket on Fergus at The Dromoland Castle.

Day 5….We woke up at Dromoland Castle and started our day with a traditional falconry experience on the grounds of this magnificent estate (1.5 hours – took selfie with a hawk) and then headed north up the coast to the Cliffs of Moher.  We hiked the trails along the top for about 1-2 hours. We then headed about 15 minutes further north to the seaside town of Doolin for the night.  We ate dinner at the famous Gus O’Connors for live music and great seafood chowder. Shopping tip-pop into the cute pink thatched roof house next door called The Sweater Shop to buy your traditional Irish cabled wool sweater.

Day 6…We woke up in Doolin early and headed to the ferry for the Aran Islands.  It was super crowded at the ferries, so get there early to grab a seat or you’ll stand the whole 40 min boat ride.  We did a combo ticket to the small island of Inis Oirr on the way there and a view of the Cliffs of Moher on the way back, worth it! On the island as soon as you step off the ferry there are several places to rent bikes, or grab a horse and buggy ride if you don’t feel like walking/biking. We spent 2 hours exploring a ship wreck, church ruins, small villages, miles of unexplainable rock walls and coast line with water as blue as the Caribbean Sea.  Have lunch at Tigh Ned (just off the ferry boat path and up to the right), the locals eat here and you’ll see the town in action. Grab some home made fudge on your way back to the boat from the Man of Aran Fudge stand. On the ferry trip back the boat hovered under the cliffs to get incredible views from the water, where we also saw hundreds of birds including the famous Puffin.

This was the last stop on our journey. From Doolin we continued east on one of the major highways for a 2 1/2 hour car ride back to Dublin, we stayed near the airport since our flight left early the next morning.

As our journey ended and we headed across the country for our final drive I couldn’t help but take one last long glance around at the beautiful green patchwork-like landscape.  Ireland is a country sewn together with rich culture, amazing history and the friendliest people. The warmth of an Irish welcome stays with you long after you leave. So grab a pint and raise your glass…cheers to another amazing adventure!

 

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