Click here for our full itinerary for Ireland and our days in Dublin. When I turned 30 I decided to celebrate by travelling across Ireland. We trekked through County Galway (including Kylemore Abbey), County Clare (including the Cliffs of Moher and the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park) and County Kerry (including the Dingle Peninsula).
Another day, another Irish breakfast. These breakfasts were really screwing with our appetites as we weren’t hungry again until around 4 PM on most days. But if we must we must. After leaving Westport we headed towards Galway via an out of the way stop at Kylemore Abbey.
Click here for a detailed write-up of our visit to Kylemore Abbey and its walled garden.
After the Kylemore Abbey we headed around the Galway coast and stopped at Clifden for lunch. Popping into the first restaurants we saw, I ordered one of my favorite meals of the entire trip: open Connemara smoked salmon sandwich. The smoked salmon in the US does not compare. At least not in either the NY/metro area or Hawaii. Their smoked salmon was so fresh it tasted as if the salmon had just been caught and smoked. Which may not have been far from the truth.
After completing our drive around the County Galway coast we arrived in Galway and encountered something we hadn’t experience in Ireland before, traffic. Arriving during after work commuting traffic does that to a person, I suppose. So after a long wait we finally made it to our hotel and were soon enough off to tour Galway. I was initially worried that I hadn’t given Galway enough time to see. However, the town was really small and quaint and we were able to finish our self-guided tour in no time and were about to focus on more important tasks: souvenir shopping.
(Top left) Lynch’s Castle – now the A/B Bank; (top right) I finally got my claddagh ring; (bottom left) Lynch’s Window; (bottom right) the Spanish Arch.
We ended up at Da Tang Noodle House (apparently now just called The Noodle House) for dinner after 1) needing a break from the heavy food we had been eating thus far and 2) reading that it was one of the best restaurants in Galway. Results? It was okay. Ireland may have cornered the market on smoked salmon and fish and chips, but I’ve definitely had better noodles in New York and Hawaii.
The next day we left early to travel out to Aillwee Caves. I found my usual place with the Budget Rent-A-Car Map, google maps, and GPS (yes, all three were necessary) and noted that the drive didn’t seem to be too difficult. That is, until we came to a detour. At a loss, we put ourselves in the GPS’s capable virtual hands and let her guide us up a steep cliff which was barely wide enough for one car, let alone two-way traffic. However, we did get breathtaking scenery views out of the deal.
We finally made it to Aillwee Caves. Their website advertised a “30-minute stroll through beautiful underworld caverns, over bridged chasms, under weird formations and alongside the thunderous waterfall.” It wasn’t quite as grandiose as that advertisement would lead you to believe but the waterfall was pretty cool.
Click here for our trip to the Aillwee cave and the nearby farm shop and woodland trail.
From the caves we headed out to the Burren smokehouse for some of the best smoked salmon sold around. The employee at the shop told us he had just started shipping to Dean and Deluca’s in New York.
After all this food shopping it’s a little embarrassing to admit that our next stop was to eat lunch. In any case, we made our way into County Clare and stopped at McGann’s. It was a perfect Irish pub. The only problem was that since McGann is raved about in every tourist book around, it was filled with tourists. Fortunately, we were already leaving when a gigantic tour bus pulled up.
Our next stop was the one place I knew I wanted to visit even before I opened my first guide-book, the Cliffs of Moher. I pictured standing on the cliff, looking out into the Atlantic Ocean and just taking in Ireland in all her Glory.
Click here for our detailed write-up of our visit to the Cliffs of Moher.
On the top of my list of things to do was visit Craggaunowen. It sounded just like Jamestown or Williamsburg with people dressing up as if it was a century (or several) ago. I love that kind of gimmicky stuff. Unfortunately, every place I turned had a different information listed in terms of when the place closed down for the winter. The actual website was still selling tickets but I wasn’t able to get in touch with anyone. Bryan offered to do his best in getting me to the park on time and actually floored that Skoda gas pedal to the speed limit of 100 kmh. The reason we weren’t actually ever going the speed limit was because… well picture a not-well paved road with about 1.5 lanes for dual way traffic. Now picture doing that at 60 mph? Exactly.
But he did it. And he got us there with minutes to spare before last admissions of the day. And… Closed for the season! So if you ever get out to Craggaunowen, please let me know if it was as fantastic as I picture it being.
I was sad about the closure but it did give us more time to head on over to Bunratty. The 15th century medieval Bunratty Castle and its charming 18th century village (known as the Folk Park) might have been the best part about our 11-day trip. We stayed overnight at the Bunratty Castle Hotel and spent the evening at the Castle and Park. We even got to be a part of an amazing medieval feast. Click here to learn more about our amazing time at the Bunratty Castle, the Folk Park, and the medieval dinner served in the castle itself.
In the morning we headed back to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park to experience the place when it was truly open in the daytime. Click here to learn more about our time at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park during the day.
After Bunratty Castle we headed out to drive around the Dingle Peninsula. While not his most enjoyable time, the Dingle Peninsula continues to be one of the most memorable experiences for Bryan. Before arriving in Dingle we drove by the Blennerville Windmill, supposedly the most photographed object in all of Dingle. I’m not really sure why… but since it was on the way, I decided to join the masses.
From Blennerville there are two options to get to Dingle, the Conor Pass or through Camp village. Conor Pass was touted as having some of the most beautiful sights to see in all of Ireland. Conor Pass was also only supposed to be done by the most skilled drivers because it was terrifying. Wooed by images of a beautiful first view of Dingle, I routed Bryan through Conor Pass. I did mentioned that there was some difficult driving ahead for him, but nothing he hadn’t already done. How wrong I was.
It started out a little treacherous but not too bad. We took a long break in order to take some pictures before continuing on. And then it got bad. And then it got worse. As in Garda (police) barreling down on us on the ledge of a cliff with no place for us to pull over. But after a furrowed brow (and perhaps a few gray hairs) Bryan showed he really was a pro at this manual car business!
Here’s a shot of the two-lane road of Conor Pass road to Dingle. No, that’s not an optical illusion, that’s the width.
Arriving in Dingle for lunch, we circled countless times before finding a tiny car park and a cafe nearby serving “the Dingle (hot) Dog.” After lunch we took a scenic tour around the Dingle Peninsula.
Click here to read more about our trip to the Dingle Peninsula.
Once we got our fill of the beautiful sights of Dingle, we made our way to Killarney for the night.
Next Up: Upward and Onward in Ireland: from Killarney to Dublin.