There is never enough time to see everything I want on a trip and in Ireland, six months still probably wouldn’t be enough. I loved Ireland, it’s beauty, it’s castle and it’s friendly people. My friend and I flew into Dublin and I had the trip planned out with great detail, even down to some budget conscious hostels and hotels picked out for each city we would be at in the evenings. I though we would spend the first day in Dublin before heading out into the country. We went to pick up our car rental, and my friend started looking at the map and asked me if we should just head out of Dublin right away. Sure, why not. I’m flexible, and driving in Dublin after just arriving might have sent me over the edge! We zipped out of Dublin with great ease, which surprised me.
Kilkenny was our first stop and since it was time for lunch, we went to The Field for lunch. It was great little bar/restaurant near Kilkenny Castle. A gentleman came in and wanted a pint for the road. He and the bartender got into it because he was getting denied his request, then as he was leaving, she said “see you tomorrow.” After our lunch we walked across to explore Kilkenny castle. Beautiful and majestic. Construction was started in 1195 and completed in 1213. The castle was built for William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke. After the castle, we headed south to Waterford where we toured the Waterford Crystal Factory (more to come). Amazing craftsmanship and I highly recommend this tour if you have the time.
We ended up spending our first night just south of Waterford at the Blenheim House Bed and Breakfast. This was a beautiful place and amazing hospitality. The yard was massive and there was even a fenced in area with deer. In the morning, we had a wonderful traditional Irish breakfast then continued on to Lismore. Lismore Castle is owned by the Duke of Devonshire, so we couldn’t go through it. Fred Astaire’s sister Adele married Lord Charles Cavendish, the younger brother of the ninth Duke of Devonshire. So Fred would visit and frequented Maddens Bar in Lismore. We did some shopping around town and then continued on.
The driving in Ireland, or any country where you have to switch sides of the road and car, took some getting used to. I love roundabouts, but being on the right side of the car and the left side of the road challenged me, I think I hit the curb 90% of the time. The roads in Ireland don’t have much as far as edges. It is line, vines, rock wall all within inches of each other. So by the time we made it to Cork, I was becoming uncorked! What’s worse, we couldn’t find a parking spot on the street, so we had to go in a garage. I had a melt down when I put the car in park…it was clearly time for a very large glass of wine! Or two. I had them at Rafferty’s @ Clancy’s in Cork. We took a long time out from driving and enjoyed a great lunch. We split deep fried brie as an appetizer, I had pasta and my friend had Irish Stew. We wandered around some of the shops in Cork then made our way to Blarney Castle, which is about 5 miles northwest of Cork.
We spent our next night in Limerick at the Clarion Hotel on the Shannon River. We could even see St. John’s Castle from the hotel. You can probably guess at this point that hostels or cheaper hotels weren’t happening on this trip. We just drove into Limerick, rode around a couple of blocks, we stopped at a hotel along the river, my friend went in to check the rates and availability and came out and said we had a room. OK, I can roll will a nice hotel right on the river! We parked the car and headed inside. After checking into our room we went downstairs to use the internet to connect with family and friends then had a great dinner at the restaurant facing the river.
In the morning we drove to Bunratty Castle. Instead of going into the castle, we went to Bunratty winery. Sometimes a woman has to have priorities! While I could handle one castle after another until I have seen them all, my friend was kind of done after one. We had some great tastings at the winery and bought some of the Bunratty Mead, made with honey. Yum. I also bought some of the Potcheen we tasted to take back to my husband to sample, it was very strong.
Cliffs of Moher was a must see. It was beautiful and well worth it, even though we were enjoying all of the countryside along the way, this was an added bonus. It had been raining during the drive, but then stopped as soon as we got to the parking lot. We had strong winds, but enjoyed the views of the cliffs and the birds soaring in the wind. This is truly an amazing place. We stopped by the gift store and some of the other shops and as soon as we got back to the car, the rain started again. What wonderful luck we had.
Near Doolin we found a store where we each bought a handmade sweater. We continued north, enjoying the countryside and stopping occasionally for photos. We drove into Galway and were going to spend the night there and continue north the next day, but instead, we cut back over towards Dublin and spent the night at Hayden’s Hotel in Ballinasloe. After making it to Dublin, we toured around some spots including the Guinness Factory (post coming soon) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I took a lot of pictures of the cathedral, but my flash card had some issues and all of the photos are gone. Beautiful cathedral and gorgeous grounds. We shopped and browsed around the Temple Bar area then went to a hotel near the airport and flew home the next morning. My return visit cannot come fast enough!