I smile just thinking about Ireland. Of course it is the greenest place ever, like one expects. The people are charming, warm, funny and I truly enjoyed everyone I encountered. The weather…hmmm. You sort of have many seasons in one day. Layers are essential. Beautiful blue sky one minute and dark clouds the next. I happened to be unlucky and had unseasonably cold and rainy weather, even worse than the usual cold and rainy weather.
We flew from Miami to Shannon with a stop in Philadelphia. Shannon has a major airport and is in western Ireland, making it a good starting point for seeing County Clare and Kerry.
On our first day (arrival day…ain’t no stoppin’ us!), we wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren national park, all in County Clare. We rented a car at the airport (I’m going to skip the drama about how four ladies managed to get way too much luggage into a European car) and drove straight to the Cliffs. This was not a long drive, perhaps 1.5 hours. If you haven’t done it, make no mistake; that whole driving on the left thing is SCARY but we somehow managed…with lots of screaming and white knuckles.
We were well prepared with rain boots and insulated rain jackets, even though this was June! Not the typical Miami girl apparel, I can assure you!
The cliffs are breathtaking. We spent hours walking along until we got hungry. We drove to nearby village of Doolin which is tiny and adorable. Our first pub experience! The food was surprisingly gourmet. I was especially impressed by the Irish soda bread! Who knew? I couldn’t stop putting it in my mouth…with that good Irish butter. Mmmm. Some locals at the next table explained to us the difference between ale, lager and stout. Very educational.
Close to the Cliffs is the area known as The Burren. The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place.
This first evening we spent the night in Ennis, a pretty village that apparently is one of largest in County Clare and is close to Shannon Airport. We stayed at a wonderful inn called Glenomra House. The home cooked Irish Breakfast in the morning was fantastic. The staff could not have been nicer. Great first day and night.
The sun was out and the sky was blue! We left after breakfast for County Kerry. We saw many interesting sights along the way. The countryside is littered with shells of old churches and castles. We would just stop and check them out and sometimes there was actually a little sign with some history. We really lucked out just outside of Limerick with this find.
I love the celtic style crosses.
We then stumbled upon a stone circle. These are everywhere and two of us were quite obsessed after reading “Outlander “.
We continued our drive to the lovely village of Adare. We had read that this was considered the prettiest village in Ireland and was the recipient of the “tidy awards 2014”.
We stopped to have lunch and a drink at the Blue Door Inn.
We continued our journey and finally arrived at Ballyseede Castle, our hotel for the next 2 nights. It was pretty cool to drive up to our “castle” but once we got our sort of average looking room after a below average check-in experience, the castle thrill wore off. Not wanting to waste time…or a sunny day…we decided to use the remainder of the day to drive through the Dingle Peninsula. I’m so glad we did because it was truly lovely. Small seaside villages, waterfalls along the road, majestic sea views and lots of sheep.
We made it back to the castle for dinner which was good but not mind – blowing cuisine.
We drove to the Ring of Kerry. It’s basically a circular road that takes you around a peninsular section of County Kerry and it is part of the Wild Atlantic Way that is an oceanside road all around a large part of the country.
This was something I had heard wonderful things about but sadly we had a cloudy windy rainy day. I mean RAIN. EE!
We almost had a head-on collision fairly early in the drive and it did cause some screaming. This pic was taken after the other car backed up to find a little “dent” in the road in which to let us pass. Note how the rental car has the sweet little reminder to stay on the left!
After the near death experience we went to Valentia Island on the southern end to the town of Knightstown and had coffee and pastries at the KnightsTown Coffee House and Bistro aka The Dwelling House. They had delicious homemade rhubarb cobbler that I’m still thinking about. The other girls had some incredible hot chocolate. Nice place to escape the rain.
We had hoped to see Skellig Michael island’s monastery but the ferry was not running due to the HORRIBLE weather. I guess I have to come back! I’m going to add a link for it because promise me you’ll see it. It looks mad cool!
We continued on the Ring, a bit demoralized but open to seeing more before giving up and heading to a pub for a pint (always my default plan).
We saw a sign that indicated a castle so we got excited and drove where the sign pointed. Turned out to be a SAND castle picture indicating a beach. Somebody should have learned the road signs!
We later saw signs for a fort. A quick double check on the map indicated that yes, there was in fact a fort. Staigue Fort, to be specific. A great example of a ring fort and one of largest best preserved in Ireland. Probably built between 200-500 AD and possibly during Celtic period. I was particularly impressed that this has stood so long in light of the fact that no mortar is used. The rocks are just fitted together. Amazing!
The fort was very cool! We were quite soaked at this time and decided to end this little rainy drive in Killarney, one of the larger towns along the Ring.
Killarney is a fun town with many lively pubs. We had a nice pub meal here (did I mention how absolutely scrumptious Irish soda bread is?), walked around and discovered the cutest candy shop called Grandpa Charlie’s Auld Sweet Shop on Main St. They had to drag me out of this place. The proprietor was the sweetest man, giving us samples, telling us the history (Charlie was actually his Grandpa), telling us about the different kinds of candy and chocolates. He had so many unique candies and I am wishing I could buy more. The Irish chocolate made by hand locally can really give better known chocolates a run for their money. Ask anyone how much chocolate I eat…I’m a good source!
After that we discovered Murphy’s Ice Cream shop with homemade ice cream made in Dingle. They make unique flavors like Irish Whiskey, Caramelized Brown Bread and Dingle Sea Salt which was my favorite! They give samples too…dangerous.
So to recap, after the rainy day, near collision, pub dinner, candy, ice cream, we found a pub with live music and had a great time singing along before finally admitting defeat and taking a cab back to our castle.
The next day we headed to Dublin for two days and then to the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
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