Celebrating the big 3-0 in Ireland: click here for the full itinerary. When I turned 30 I decided to celebrate by travelling across Ireland, including through Killarney National Park, County Cork (including Blarney Castle and Fota), Glendalough National Park, and Powerscourt Estates.
We had stayed at Earls Court House for our overnight in Killarney and started our day with ANOTHER huge Irish breakfast before we packed up and headed out to Killarney National Park.
The park was huge and since we didn’t realize we had parked 5 KM away from the actual entrance, we had a lot of walking and picture-taking to do.
I think we logged about 10 miles in that park. Not too shabby if I say so myself.
Below are some of the hikes you can take throughout Killarney National Park:
Note: One option you could choose at Killarney National Park was renting bicycles from David O’ Sullivan for €15 /day. I originally had this in our plans, but we decided to forego them in lieu of a leisurely walk. There are several outlets for these bike shops throughout Killarney town. From any of those locations there were numerous tracks and trails leading to Killarney National Park.
If you’d prefer not to bike or hike, another option I looked into (but also didn’t use) was for buggy tours. These are quaint horse driven buggies known as “jaunting carts” or “jarveys” that constantly clip clop down the lanes around the lakes. Rides were approximately €35 – €55.
After leaving Killarney National Park we took Moll’s Gap for a shortened Ring of Kerry drive to Kenmare. Kenmare was a postcard perfect town located at the mouth of the River Roughty on Kenmare Bay. Kenmare was loaded to the gills with flower boxes, enchanted shops, and places to eat. We found our bed and breakfast, Hawthorn House, and dropped off our car since Kenmare was just like every other town in Ireland we came across, tiny roads and no parking.
We ended up at Prego (an Italian restaurant) for dinner. I’ll admit, I’m a pretty big foodie snob and shun my nose at people eating McDonald’s in Poland (which I bring up because I’ve done that!) and yet I had pizza in Ireland. But I was really missing pizza!
Just a quick shout out to the Hawthorn House. This place was amazing. It was run by only two girls and I really don’t know how they managed to do it all. They checked people out, served others breakfast, and got the rooms ready for the next group all at the same time. If you are ever in Kenmare, stay there!
After a delicious breakfast we were off to the Drombeg Stone Circle on our way to Cork County. Drombeg is the Stonehenge of Ireland. It is a little smaller as you can see, but the coolness factor is sky high since you can touch and pose next to stones that were last used in 5 AD. These 17 standing stones are the finest example of a megalithic stone circle in County Cork and the circle itself dates back to 153 B.C.
From Drombeg we headed for Kinsale, the unofficial gastronomic capital of Ireland, for lunch at Fishy Fishy Cafe. Despite the ridiculous name, the restaurant was amazing. Everything tasted so fresh due to the fact that the fish were caught that morning right next to the restaurant. It took us awhile to get to Fishy Fishy Cafe. First, we got completely lost. Seriously, what does Ireland have against addresses? Listing your address as “next to the pier” is not helpful when the pier is not just a couple of blocks long. Once we found the restaurant there was a long wait for a table. In any case, I highly recommend Fishy Fishy Cafe and it is worth the search and the wait.
The delay did create a problem though as I wanted to squeeze in kissing the Blarney stone before heading to our hotel in Cork. Yes, I realize I’ve already been gifted with the gift of gab. The internet stated the castle was open later than it actually was so with 15 minutes to spare we sprinted to the castle and up the MANY stairs.
We made it to kissing that blarney stone (we were the last two people they took). So yes, I dangled off the edge of a tower to put my lips on a nondescript stone that thousands of lips have touched already. And I’d do it again!
By the time I finished kissing the blarney stone the park was officially closed. However, since no one looked like they would chase us off the property we decided to stroll through some other areas of the park. We followed the signs to the Rock Close though we weren’t sure what it was, and ended up in a partial enclosure surrounded by different storied rocks. So of course we had to go on a hunt to find the Rock Close.
We thought maybe it was this.
Of course we found out later that the entire enclosure WAS the Rock Close. Oops! Live and learn. The one (sort of) interactive piece in the Rock Close was the Wishing Steps. The point is to walk down the stairs blind and walk back up blind, thinking about nothing except your wish. Doing this will guarantee that it will come true.
I tried to concentrate on my wish but most of the time I kept thinking to myself, “don’t fall.” So maybe that was my real wish, which did come true. So look at that, the steps worked!
We finally left the Blarney Castle after getting worried that we might get locked in the park. From Blarney we drove on to Cork for dinner. Except that Sunday in Cork meant that there was barely anything open. So we pulled the typical American faux pas and ended up at Burger King (for myself) and a fast food Indian place (for Bryan), which just so happened to serve garlic cheese fries. Yum.
We spent our morning in Cork at the Old English Market which was like a huge indoors farmer’s market dating back to 1610. It would have been so awesome if we had had a kitchen at our hotel. The Old English Market sold everything from pounds of pork belly to sheep’s liver and buttered eggs. Fun fact of the day: buttered eggs are eggs that are dipped in butter after they are laid. Because they are coated in butter, they can never be hard boiled – only soft boiled. We ate breakfast there at a cafeteria-style restaurant and picked up sandwiches for a lunch later on.
We headed to Cobh from Cork to see the Annie Moore statue as well as the last port of call for the R.M.S. Titanic. History lesson of the day: Annie was the first immigrant to the US to pass through Ellis Island. In honor of that remarkable moment in history, a statue of Miss Moore has been erected at both Cobh and Ellis Island.
After the port we headed to Fota. If you love animals, Fota is the place for you. Fota is a wildlife park where there was a limited cages separating you from the animals.
Kangaroos were hopping around outside of a cage. A group of them even sat right next to the picnic table where we had lunch.
This was the extent of the cages many of the animals inhabited at the park.
Unless you were a cheetah. Cheetahs were caged.
Bryan’s favorite part was feeding the ducks. I swear he was like a kid in a candy store. There was him and a couple of preschool aged kids feeding the animals. And then there was me and all the moms taking pictures proudly of our “kids”.
They loved Bryan (or the food that he gave them anyway) that they started following him through the park.
Okay, last animal picture I swear, but baby monkey pictures are automatic posts.
After Fota it was time to drive up to Kilkenney for our last night’s stay in Ireland (at Pembroke Hotel) and our last dinner. After a quick stop to view the outside of Kilkenney Castle, we ended up at Kyteler Inn. Legend has it that a woman was accused of being a witch and sentenced to death. Her friends hid her and she escaped to Great Britain where she was never seen again. In her place, the mob captured her barmaid and burned her in a pyre. The ghost of the barbmaid supposedly remains to this day.
(Left picture – Kilkenney Castle, right picture – dinner)
In the morning we drove through Glendalough National Park on our way back to Dublin. Built around two dark lakes, Glendalough was an old abandoned monastery.
We made one final stop at the Powerscourt Estates for lunch and then it was off to the Dublin airport for our flight back to New York.