The Emerald Isle
Trip Length: 9 Days
Activities: Road Tripping, Rock Climbing, Hiking
Highlights: Trim, Dublin, Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede, The Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, Dingle Peninsula, Killarney
Day 1 - Dublin
Flying into Dublin is the perfect jumping off point for your trip in Ireland.
MONEY: The most economical method for exchanging money in Ireland is to just use the ATM at the airport. If your bank does not charge fees, you get the exact market rate. Be sure to withdraw Euro and British Pound. The Euro is used for most of Ireland (North West, West, South), however, the East/North East uses British Pound. Be sure to plan this out. We ended up not spending as much time in the northern part as we thought so we were left with a significant amount of British pound that we had to exchange at a loss.
TRANSPORTATION: We recommend not utilizing the bus tours in Ireland and renting a car instead. This gives you the flexibility to go wherever and whenever you want. Exploring is what Ireland is about. Some credit cards provide rental insurance in most countries. Almost ALL do not provide insurance in Ireland. You must purchase this separate. It is usually more than the rental itself but it is worth it. Roads in and out of town are small. It is a good idea to get an international driver's license. This can be purchased from AAA before you leave, even if you are not a member. You will have to drive on the left-hand side of the road but you get used to it. So much so you will find yourself going to the left side once you get back home.
LODGING: Depending on what you're looking for out of you trip to Ireland, we recommend leaving the lodging totally open and unplanned. There are so many bed and breakfasts in Ireland that you do not have to reserve ahead of time. This gave us totally flexibility. There were so many times we strolled into a quaint little town and did not want to leave. So we just drove around or asked around for the nearest bed and breakfast. In most cases these are families that open up their house. You eat home cooked meals with them, share stories late into the night, and make lasting connections.
Let the travel begin!
After landing in Dublin, we decided to spend our first night in town to explore the many ancient pubs, quaint streets, and feast on some authentic Irish food. Some of the highlights of Dublin is Ireland's oldest pub called The Brazen Head. Another great pub in the Temple Bar. Touring the Guinness Brewery was a great experience. If Beer is not your thing you can instead tour the Jamison Distillery.
Day 2 - Dublin to Trim
The second day we spent tooling around Dublin for a little while longer and then started on our way to the town of Trim. Trim is just 1 hour north of Dublin. The town of Trim offers quite a bit to see that you will be able to make an entire day of. Trim Castle tour is a must. This will introduce you into the Ireland Heritage Card. This card you can purchase (40 euro) at many castle locations. It gets you access to all historical site in Ireland for the rest of your trip. It will save you a significant amount of money. There are also many other cathedrals to visit. If you want to get in some nature, fly fishing is a popular activity in the river right in town.
Another must see in near trim is New Grange. This is about 20 min away in Meath. This is a circular monument that is older than the Egyptian Pyramids. This night is the only night we booked a hotel since we wanted to guarantee our stay in Trim. There is a great hotel just across the Trim Castle.
Day 3 - Trim to Giant's Causeway and Beyond
Day 3 we made our way to Giant's Causeway in the north. If you have the time, do stop in Belfast to tour the Titanic. Giant's Causeway is one of the most unique formations I have ever seen. It feels like true Ireland. Cold...Wet...Foggy. Giants Causeway has a self-guided tour with an audio handset to accompany you. We recommend doing the entire loop up onto the cliffs.
After visiting Giant's Causeway, we made our way to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This is a short drive from the causeway and offers some great views from the bridge. There is some great fisherman history here.
We then made our way toward the town of Galway. We stopped many times along the way to take pictures of old castles like the Dunluce Castle. We ended up finding a bed and breakfast along the way in Derry to get some sleep and have a nice homecooked dinner.
Day 4 - Road-trip to Galway - Grianan of Ailech, Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey
The breakfast offered at EVERY bed and breakfast is the "Full Irish Breakfast". This consists of Irish bacon "rashers", Irish local sausages, Black and white Pudding (not the sweet pudding your thinking of), baked beans, eggs, halved tomatoes, and potato farl "boxty". Yep, it is as big as it sounds. And its offered EVERYWHERE. After having our Full Irish Breakfast we hit the road toward Galway. This is a full day of travel as there are many places to visit.
We first stopped at Grianan of Ailech which is a round stone fort about 20 miles out of Derry. Along the way, the Kylemore Abbey is a must visit. After visiting Kylemore, we wanted to get some nature/hiking in so we stopped at the Connemara National Park. The scenery here is very beautiful.
Galway is an interesting city with many things to do. Quay Street is a popular are of town to visit and walk around. We spent this night in Galway at another bed and breakfast.
Day 5 - Galway to Adare- Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Doolin, Bunratty Castle,
This was our favorite day of activities. We first visited the Burren which is a unique historical landscape with a few monuments. We then made our way to the seaside town of Doolin near the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher were my favorite sight in Ireland. We had sunshine weather and very windy. This made for beautiful sea mist and water being blown upward toward the sky. This area will take most of the day to walk aboard, see the puffins, and just enjoy the sights.
We then headed toward Bunratty Castle. This castle offered a great tour. We later stumbled into the quaint amazing town of Adare. We fell in love so decided to find a bed and breakfast. This is where we met the sweetest old lady "Bridey". Bridey was a spit fire and ran hte bed and breakfast. She offered us tea and cookies in which we indulged. That night we made our way to a local pub down the street. Inside were the typical old country men on their 5th pint of Guinness. Locals were joining in with their instrument providing entertainment. They were missing a drummer in which a fellow visitor took on the task of providing the steady beat. It was a real Irish sight. These are the kind of experiences your might not see if you do the planned tour bus "thing".
Day 6 - Adare to Killarney to Cohb- Dingle Peninsula, Muckross House, Blarney Castle, Castle Island
After having yet another "Full Irish Breakfast" we set out to Dingle Peninsula. Dingle is a beautiful drive with plenty of sights to stop at along the way including the bee hive huts, abandoned castles, beaches, and wild horses. This could easily spend a half day here. If you are into surfing you can rent a board at inch beach and catch a few waves. After Dingle we made our way to the Blarney Castle to Kiss the Blarney Stone. This castle is one the busier ones but is well worth visiting. After spending a few hours here we made our way to the town of Cohb.
Cohb is the last stop the Titanic made before it sank in the Atlantic. This sea side town is very beautiful with colorful houses, old cathedrals, and an amazing cove.There is also a Titanic Museum in town. Try hit this town on a full moon. It is quite a sight to see it rise over the water in the cove. There are many hotels to choose from. You may want to book this hotel a day or se in advance if you know when you will be there.
Day 7 - Cohb to Ballykeefe to Kilkenny - Rock Climbing, Mahon falls, Ireland's Medieval City
We spent the next morning seeing more of Cohb and taking in the many coffee shops. We then made our way to Ballykeefe for a day of rock climbing. The climbing here is in a Quarry and is mostly sport climbing. Not a world class destination but enough climbs to keep you buys all day. We then made our way to Kilkenny "Ireland's Medieval City". Kilkenny is a great city to walk and explore. This is also the location of the Smithwick's brewery.
Day 8 - Kilkenny to Dublin
This last day we explored more of Kilkenny and made our way back to Dublin. This gave us an extra day to see more of the sights in Dublin and unwind at the Hotel.