Woke up at 6:15, ate a quiet breakfast, then navigated through the fog back to the airport. Flew from Dublin to Atlanta to Detroit to Grand Rapids – whew – and finally back home around 9:30pm! It was so great to experience Ireland!!!
Ireland Day 7 (Wednesday)
Woke up to traffic noises today instead! At breakfast, John’s wife gave us coupons for the Jameson Experience, so… why not?!? It was nice and close, with good roads. Went on the 11:00 tour, which was A W E S O M E. Seriously. Our guide took us through the old buildings which were shut down in 1975. Saw the largest pot still in the world – the world – and it’s made completely of copper. Free tastings after, including side-by-sides of Jameson, Johnnie Walker black, and Jim Beam 7. Went to the distillery store and got Dani her Midleton Very Rare and got to register it in a locked book – fancy! I got some Jameson Distillery Reserve and they personalized it for with my name for me.
Drove next to Cahir Castle. Cool old ruins, but we couldn’t get to the top – it was blocked off. Then over to the Rock of Cashel, the main part of which was built in the 12th century! Saw St. Patrick’s cross, and grave markers that spanned hundreds of years. Finally headed for our last *sigh* B&B – Oakleigh House in Portmarnock. Have to get up early tomorrow to get to the airport in time and return our rental car.
After unpacking and repacking our bags, we took a short walk along the coast. None of the restaurant options were appealing, so we tried to drive to Howth, but due to a closed bridge we turned around and drove to Malahide, where we found a pub called Duffy’s. Had our last pints of Guinness, then back to our room for journaling and a good night’s sleep!
Ireland Day 6 (Tuesday)
A loud, possibly sad, cow woke us up before our alarm. We got ready and had breakfast – fuel for the boat trip! Drove to the marina in Portmagee to find our “ship,” the Anchorsiveen. 12km = 1 hour ride out to the Skellig Islands. Paused at the smaller island; the puffins had already left for the season so it was covered in stinky gulls instead. Corrie did NOT make it to the islands without getting seasick. Yup. She donated all of her breakfast and unhelpful ginger pills to the Atlantic.
Finally made it to Greater Skelling/Skellig Michael. The landing was rough, and Corrie barfed on some small pink jellyfish, but was super happy to reach solid ground! Sat for a bit to catch her breath, then we both started the 600-step climb. Had to stop at the first turn because Corrie had a meltdown and cried (boats are not her thing and neither are heights we’ve extremes of both) but then felt better and kept going all the way to the top! Spent awhile checking out the monks’ “beehives” and graves and paths, etc. Took a polaroid (yeah, a polaroid) with a friendly girl from San Francisco, Helen. I took a LOT of pictures while Corrie rested, then started the climb down. Made it to the bottom safely (yes, obviously, because we lived to tell about it, but this is just for the record). Corrie chatted with their equivalent of the park ranger and found out they work for 2 weeks on, 1 week off, weather permitting, from May 1 to October 2. This particular guide had been doing this for 10 years, and the guide at the top had been doing this for 30 years! Had a less “eventful” ride back to the marina, but still rough. Ugh.
Drove back out of the Ring of Kerry, and made it to Blarney Castle and JUST had time to climb the stairs to the top and kiss the stone! Quickly checked out the gardens, but everything closed at 18:00, so we trudged back to the car and drove to Cork and met our host, John, at Kent House B&B. Got dressed up and headed back out the door for a fancy dinner at Fishy Fishy (bucket list item – check!). It was busy even though it was Tuesday, but we made the most of our 45-minute wait by trying some local beer (Kinsale Pale Ale) and gin (Kinsale Black) at the bar. Great dinner, long day!
Ireland Day 5 (Monday)
Woke up around 7:30 to get ready, then during breakfast asked Rosie about the name of the B&B. She said it’s pronounced “Cosh Fair-edge” and Cois = beside | Farraige = the sea. Boom! Learned something already.
Packed up and headed to the Cliffs of Moher. The drive was quick (less than 15 minutes) and the admission was included in our package – yay! Not many people around when we got there, probably due to the heavy fog, light rain and poor visibility – we couldn’t see more than 50 feet ahead! But we were patient and kept walking around, making good use of our rain jackets and waterproof hiking boots, and it finally started clearing up about 45 minutes later while we were hiking south on the non-park trail through puddles and along an electric fence. I know. Safe.
Since we could now see, we paid €4 to climb O’Brien’s Tower (cool!) and we could see for miles!!! Bought some postcards and a Christmas ornament at the gift shop – we are tourists, after all – then mapped our drive to the next B&B in Cahersiveen.
Just outside the cliffs, before even getting back to Lahinch, we made a sudden stop on the right to check out a fallen-in chapel covered in ivy with an ancient (but still in use) cemetery. Old celtic crosses were mixed with new headstones. Humbling!
Back on the road, we made another quick decision to stop off at Bunratty Castle (mostly because it was right off the freeway and admission was also included in our package). It was pretty touristy, but climbing the spiral staircases and checking out the different levels of the castle was fun! The view out of the top of the turrets was amazing, plus we discovered Durty Nellie’s.
One quick pit stop for gas and crisps and drinks, then drove all the way to our B&B with only one quick turnout on the Ring of Kerry to look across Dingle Bay! Arrived at Sea Breeze and met our hosts, Leesha and Tom, who gave us some dinner recommendations and brochures of the area. Dropped our bags, washed up and walked to supper at the Ring of Kerry Hotel/John D’s Bar. Wrote all of our postcards while sipping our Irish coffees for dessert, then walked into town to buy water, fruit, and cereal bars for tomorrow’s excursion lunch. It’s bedtime for nerds heading to Nerd Island!!
Ireland Day 4 (Sunday)
Set the alarm for 7:00, got dressed, and quietly made our way outside to see the morning sun on the water and green hills and sleepy sheep – we were quite close to the coast. Took some photos (this is a recurring theme), then went in for breakfast: sausage, ham, fried egg, fried soda bread, half a tomato, toast, coffee, and orange juice – whew! Got directions from Rosie and drove to the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. Hiked almost a mile from the ticket counter to the bridge, then climbed over and up onto the rock island. So cool! Hung out a bit looking at the sea and the cliffs and the caverns.
Drove further down the same road to Giant’s Causeway, bought our tickets, and hiked down to the rock formations!! Climbed around for awhile, then waited in line for the bus back up the cliffs – well worth the €1.30 apiece. Bought some postcards and started our long (~6.5 hour) drive southwest. The car wifi didn’t work in Northern Ireland, so we used Mom & Dad Z’s borrowed map (thank you!) and the GPS on my phone to track our progress. It was SO WINDY!!!
After covering a lot of territory and seeing some gorgeous countryside (with a couple of stops to stretch our legs), we finally made it to Cois Farraige B&B in Lahinch around 19:15. Our hostess here was also named Rosie! She pointed us to the beach walk and towards the town. Took a nice – albeit windy – walk along the coast, watched the waves and a brave surfer! Then to the main street to find a pub (there were more than five in a 2-block area) and settled on Kenny’s. I had the best seafood chowder of my life and of course more Guinness, while Corrie had cottage pie and Cloughmore Heather IPA – everything was amazing! Rainy walk back and climbed into bed. *yawn*
Ireland Day 3 (Saturday)
Woke up around 9:15am and had breakfast at the hotel. Drove through the border to Northern Ireland and up to Tollymore Forest – well, we TRIED to drive there. Google maps took us into the middle of the forest – NOT to the Car Park/Visitors Center. Helpful. After getting thoroughly lost and driving across an old stone bridge and past some hikers, we turned around in someone’s farm (sorry) and found the main road – which sensibly led us to the entrance to the park. Got a map and followed the River Walk, which was supposed to be 5k and take 1.5 hours, but we took some scenic detours and lots of photos. Took in some old cool bridges, huge trees, beautiful and bountiful shamrocks, two sets of stepping stones, a meditation hermitage, and small cascades! While trying to find the White Fort, we met a friendly couple (Jerry and Lisa) from Denver and chatted for awhile.
We were quite hungry and thirsty after our hike, but the fish & chip food truck at the car park only took cash – which we didn’t have yet since we just crossed the border. Drove into the next town, Castlewellan, and found a free (what?!) place to park. There was a guy (Jared? Maybe? His brogue was the thickest we came across) collecting money for something, just standing in the street with a bucket, so I asked him about the parking, finding an ATM, and someplace to eat. He pointed us down the road to an ATM and then a pub, and he wasn’t even from the town! Had a lovely dinner at Maginn’s Pub including some beautifully-poured Guinness. Walked back to the car, thanked Jared (?), and headed for…
THE DARK HEDGES! Nerd alert!!! It was getting late, so we couldn’t stay long. Walked through and back, and took lots of photos. Took some narrow (say scary) roads to Garron View B&B. We were warmly welcomed by our hostess, Rosie, who also took our breakfast orders – 2 “full Irish” please!
Ireland Day 1 and 2 (Thursday/Friday)
Going to Ireland is the first overseas trip for me!
My Dad dropped us at GRR around 2pm for check-in to our flight. First flew to DTW, then overnight to CDG on an Airbus 330. Had to go back through security in CDG, where we had a friendly agent (he told me I was gorgeous) and then a scary TSA agent lady who threw away our water from the plane #whyohwhy… Had a bit of a layover and attached to the wifi, which was sponsored by AXA (Corrie’s broker-dealer)! Then finally boarded our little tiny stinky bumpy commuter plane to Dublin. Arrived in one piece, then got our Nissan Micra gray rental from Dan Dooley – had opted for the CDW inclusive insurance coverage ahead of time and it turned out to be some of the best money we ever spent!! More on that later… now into the drizzly day!
Our vacation package included a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, so we turned our Micra towards downtown Dublin. Had a bit of a rough start, because the parking lot was full and once we finally took several turns (while driving on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road – yikes) and found some street parking, we couldn’t actually pay because we only had large bills and no coins to feed the meter. Bad planning and bad luck all around, so we left the big city and headed for Bru na Boinne.
On the way, Corrie 100% freaked out and I pulled the car into a gravel lot so she could get out and catch her breath (she’s still super sorry about that, btw). The lovely car park was next to a field with grazing cattle (nice) but also 2 burnt husks of cars (what?!?).
Finally made it to Bru na Boinne and grabbed tickets for the 16:15 tour of Newgrange. Had a few minutes to kill and starting to feel woozy from lack of sleep and unfamiliar roads, so got veggie soup, brown bread, and water at the tea room. Went over the bridge to the bus stop and chatted with a friendly bus driver who told us about the bus and train strike – turns out that’s why we couldn’t find parking in Dublin – and then his take on Ireland’s economy and tourism. Had our RAINY tour of Newgrange. Could barely hear the guide past the rain/wind/hail combo, but it was impressive and super cool! Walked around the outside of the tomb a couple of times once the tour of the inside was over.
Relatively short (12km) drive to Drogheda to our hotel. Thought we’d charge our phones for a bit and get cleaned up and head to dinner, but we fell asleep for the whole night. Oops…