41.9000° N, 12.5000° E
There are so many places on Tom’s and my bucket list in Europe, so it was really difficult to make our itinerary. Tom’s mom is full Irish and lived in Ireland herself for a year while she was in high school. Tom has grown up hearing countless stories of the homeland, so we knew Ireland would be a must hit.
We flew into Dublin and spent a couple days eating our way around the Trinity College area of town. I had only heard and read that Dublin wasn’t that exciting so I had very low expectations about this Irish city. I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Dublin. An Irish Bar is the last place I would want to eat in the states so I was expecting to eat a lot of overcooked meat and potatoes, but Dublin had an awesome selection of delicious international food. We had amazing Kebabs at Fafafel and Kebab and our final night had a tasty vegetarian feast catching up with my Irish Yogi friends at Cornucopia.
After 2 days chilling in rainy Dublin, we picked up our rental car and began our journey South. Our first stop was Cork County, home to Tom’s ancestor Michael Collins.
Cork is another cool little city also on a river like Dublin. We stay at the Bru hostel. Bru was ok itself, but right next to one of the best BBQ places I’ve ever been in my life; The White Rabbit BBQ.
In Cork, everyone will tell you visit and kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that those who kiss the stone will gain the gift of eloquence. We, however, heard that if you kiss the stone the joke is on you as drunk university students like to pee on the Blarney stone.
We did venture to visit this famous Irish landmark, but the 13 euro cost of entry turned us away. (In Europe you have to pick and choose your entry fees wisely and this one just didn’t make the cut.)
Disappointed by the high fee to see the Blarney Stone, we instead chose to pay $22 for all 3 of us to do a Whiskey Sampling at the Jameson Distillery. I still haven’t quite gotten the taste for whiskey down, but I did enjoy learning how to taste the subtleties in flavor and judge the alcohol percentage and age based on the legs. The older the whiskey, the slower the legs move down the glass; and the higher the alcohol percentage the closer they are together.
If you are visiting this area of Ireland, I would recommend venturing out to West Cork to visit Michael Collins’ Family Castle, Donovan Castle. There is no entry fee and the entire time we were there, we only saw 1 other car come by.
Driving along we passed through and had lunch in Kenmare and took the time to do a hike in Killarney National Park to the Torc Waterfall.
Continuing on our Road Trip around Ireland, the next stop was Dingle. You’ll find many tourists visit the Ring of Kerry and others write to avoid the tourists visit the Ring of Beara. We were told from a fellow well traveled traveler that the best place to visit in the area is actually the Dingle Peninsula and I believe she led us to the right place.
We may have hit a rainy 2 days, but even the rain couldn’t hide the beauty of Dingle. The town itself is another super cutesy colorful Irish town, but what made our time in Dingle was the water front Coastguard Lodge where we stayed.
The next day we would hit the Cliffs of Moher on our journey North to Galway, and while those were spectacular; I personally liked our private cliff walks during our 2 days in Dingle.
For those traveling to the Cliffs of Moher, a travel hack to avoid paying 6 euro a person to view this natural wonder is to hike in a km from the north. As you wide down the hill you’ll see a small road that only a few other people use to park.
We took advantage of parking here and I will definitely say the walk to the cliffs was memorable. We found out later after arriving in Galway that we braved gail winds to see the cliffs. At one point Mary, Tom, and I were literally huddled together holding onto a fence to avoid blowing away. We left the cliffs thinking it was crazy so many people brave those winds to see the site, but it turns out we just had a rare experience.
Many travel blogs will tell you that you must stop in the college town of Galway. I’m not sure if I would call it a college town, but rather B&B town as there are literally streets full of B&B’s. We thought the town was cute enough but learned later from a friend who had lived there for years, the charm of Galway is the vast number of festivals it hosts. We didn’t happen to hit a festival and once again we did hit some crummy weather, but the many festivals it hosts explains the abnormal number of B&B’s.
We enjoyed some craft beer from Galway Brewing and tasty coffee from the hipster coffee shop in downtown. Otherwise the highlight of our time in Galway was the party we had in our room cuddled in blankets watching movies.
The last stop on our Ireland road trip was into the British Territory in the north, Northern Ireland. We stayed at an awesome airbnb right in the town of Bushmills making it very easy to get to all the attractions.
We didn’t hit up the Bushmills Distillery, which is arguably the #1 site next to Giant’s Causeway, but we finally got some sun to take advantage of Bushmills Natural Beauty. Within a 20 min radius of Bushmills is not only Giant’s Causeway, but also Dunluce Castle, and the dark hedges.
Dunluce Castle was my favorite castle if not favorite highlight of Ireland. The ruins are set right on the coast overlooking some gorgeous Irish Cliffs. You can pay to walk inside the ruins, but we thought you can see plenty walking around the ground for free.
Dark Hedges is a road made famous by The Game of Thrones Season 2. The long road, while just a road is definitely worth visiting if you are a fan of the HBO series. We went at sunset and got some pretty epic pictures.
Giant’s Causeway is just as cool as the pictures and articles make it out to be, but it is also another site that has a bunch of hidden fees. If you want to avoid paying the 9 pounds per person + 6 pounds per car, you can park in Portballintrae and follow the coastal trail right up to Giant’s Causeway. The walk is absolutely stunning and almost better than Giant’s Causeway itself.
Just park in the Portballintrae Parking lot on the coast and there follow the well marked trail. It’s about an hour there and an hour back, but well worth the walk to not only save money but to also see more of the gorgeous coastline!
What can’t be beat in Ireland, are the friendly locals who will go out of their way to make sure you have a good time in their country.
I wish we’d have had more time to explore as I feel like we missed so much! We had a blast though and our Ireland Road Trip definitely has me excited for our Road Trips through Italy, Croatia, and Iceland!
What should we put on the must see list for the next time we’re in town?