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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

IRELAND ADVENTURE

My daughter and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Ireland, so I'm taking this opportunity to share some pictures, insights, and impressions from our adventure.  When I put together a trip for the two of us, I do A LOT of research.  Some of what I use is from travel bloggers......so I thought I would share in the event anyone might benefit from our experience. 
We flew into Dublin, but instead of starting our trip there I chose to pick-up a rental car and drive approximately 2 hours to Kilkenny.  I'm happy to report the rental experience went well!  I had my concerns about driving on the opposite side of the road, but I had an awesome navigator in my daughter.  I will tell you that I thought I was going to be able to manage the trip with the National Geographic map that I had purchased, especially since the GPS could not be reserved in advance....but there's no way!  Thank Goodness for google maps....my daughter saved us with that on a number of occasions!    Try as much as you can to use M or N roads, but know that you will find yourself on the R roads, which are generally very narrow, filled with sharp turns and at times downright frightening.                                                                                         

Without a doubt, Kilkenny was my favorite city! It's very quaint and loaded with history galore.  After our 1.5 day visit, we were on our way to Cork.   Along the way I traveled through Tipperary to see the Rock of Cashel and Cahir castle....both worth the stops.  In addition to seeing Cork, I also planned a day trip to Cobh.  Loved Cobh.  Lots of history with the Titanic experience (the last 123 passengers boarded in Cobh) and the Heritage Center which is all about Irish immigration to the states; Irish immigrant Annie Moore was the first person to pass through Ellis Island.   We also visited Blarney Castle that day.  I totally enjoyed that day, not just the castle, but the grounds were absolutely amazing.  
Frankly, Cork (other than a wonderful hotel that I booked) didn't trip my trigger.  Larger city centre, and certainly not as much character as the other cities we visited. 

From Cork, we had our longest driving day to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren (approximately 3 hours).  So much beauty to see.  I had also booked a midieval banquet for that night at a castle (Bunratty).  It was fun! We had a 4 course meal, and the staff was dressed in costume; lots of singing and entertainment.  
We stayed at a lovely B&B lodge (Wild Atlantic Lodge) in Ballyvaughn and explored the burren the next morning on our way to Clifden.  I planned a visit along the way to Galway....that was a fun little city.  Spent the day there exploring their historic city centre and enjoyed a great charcuterie board with wine at The Cheesemongers (highly recommend) in town. 
We stayed two nights at the Ballynahinch Castle in Clifden.  It was a lovely stay, the facility is beautiful.  Library, sitting rooms, fireplaces to enjoy.  One of our day trips was to the Kylemore Abbey (a must see) and the other day we went out to the Ashford Castle for tea!  Great day.  The tea was impressive to say the least and the Castle was beyond impressive.                                                        
To break up our final leg of the trip a bit, I opted to not drive all the way back to Dublin from Clifden, instead I overnighted at the same hotel in Kilkenny....we took a different route so that we could see some additional sights and went to Offay and saw the ruins of the Clonmacnoise Monastery.  It was amazing and totally worth the revised route to see it.  

While I much prefer the smaller towns, we HAD to see Dublin.  I strategically chose to drop the car off, there's no reason for it in Dublin, and you'd go crazy trying to get around in it, there's just so much vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  I took the bus into the city, which was reasonably convenient.  I would suggest the Hop On/Hop Off bus to get your bearings and truly take in the city from one corner to the other....without the bus, you'd be hard pressed to do this.   I bought a 24 hour pass and it worked great.  We headed out the first day mid-afternoon which gave us until that time the following day.  Consult the "must see" sights about times/tours, etc.  We really had to revise our thinking to take it all in in the amount of time we had there.                                                                                                                                                        Some additional thoughts....take advantage of the breakfasts that most hotels offer (some for an additional $10 when booking online).  We started our day with a full breakfast which would last us until late in the day.  In some cases we could go all the way until the "early bird" dinner offerings from 5p-7p at discounted prices.
....which is another way to save costs.  Some of my favorite dinners were soup and an appetizer, or a charcuterie board.  We obviously had to try the fish and chips which were awesome and I couldn't go home without tasting some Irish stew, which was also delicious!  Hope this inspires, or helps in some way if you're thinking of traveling to the Emerald Isle.   Since we didn't take in Northern Ireland this trip, I'm thinking I'll have to combine that with a trip to Scotland in the future.   

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