Flights From Home Customer Support Expert Amy Travels to Ireland
By Amy Anson | March 16th, 2020 | Flights from Home
When flying to Ireland, you have a few airport choices. We chose Dublin because it is usually the cheapest. The Dublin airport, I am afraid to say, is anything but what you want to see in Ireland. It seemed like only a few people were working there because we had to wait in several long lines that didn’t move at all. The process to get through customs was slightly archaic, but after a few hours, we made it out to the street where we forced ourselves, along with every other person on our flight, onto a hotel shuttle.
Dublin is a large city with diverse scenes spread out through quaint neighborhoods. I have never heard so many different languages spoken in one place! It is a vibrant place full of colorful window boxes, vast parks filled with ancient trees and brightly painted stone structures.
The streets are full of jaywalking tourists as the nation’s flag flies proudly along original architecture. Pubs are frequent and shoppers often stop along the famous Grafton Street, to listen to music vendors.
The shopping is plentiful, but expensive around the main city center. Famous spots to visit here are Trinity College, hosting the famous Book of Kells; St. Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre park in the center of the city complete with a duck pond and immaculate gardens; Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library.
We asked the local staff at our hotel where they liked to eat, and the choice was unanimous. Ironically, we traveled all the way to Ireland to eat at “Captain America”, a quaint little upstairs restaurant and bar, with American decor and memorabilia. The food was good and the clientele was entirely made up of local families out for a family night. We enjoyed watching the bustling street out the window as we ate and headed back to our hotel happy with the experience!
The next morning we pointed our rental car South, towards Waterford County. We hiked to Mahon Falls and caught our first glimpse of sprawling pastures dotted with fluffy sheep. Green hues dominated the landscape as we traipsed up the mountain to the waterfall. Besides our sheep companions, we had the trail to ourselves. It was the perfect first stop along the way.
The second stop of our journey was the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove). I had read a few articles on this quaint, little place, but nothing could have prepared me for the real thing! It is the place of storybooks and Irish songs. The crowning feature of the town is St. Colman’s Cathedral. It rivals any grand European cathedrals that I have ever seen and is a wonderful example of Irish architecture.
The restaurants were fabulous! We ate at a hidden gem, called The Quay’s. Try the Seafood chowder and you will be craving it for the rest of your life! This is a wonderfully photogenic town, famous for the colorful rows of houses that dot the coast. Be prepared to walk some hills and be on the lookout for cats napping in store windows!
The next stop didn’t quite go as planned. We hoped to stay in a castle in Cork for the night, but unfortunately we took a corner a wee bit aggressively and punctured two of our car’s tires. We ended up on the side of a cow pasture, at 6:30 PM, in the middle of nowhere. Here are two tips that may help you if you end up in this situation. Make sure you are able to communicate with the rental car company and buy the insurance! In the end, a beautiful rainbow graced us with her presence and we were rescued by a crass local named Des, who drove a battered, blue jalopy. Irish hospitality is alive and well folks! He took us to a hotel, helped us tow and fix our tires and got us back to our waiting car in the morning. We missed Cork but gained a truly authentic experience instead!
Day four we headed up to Killarney National Park. There are plenty of hiking trails and places to explore for the adventurer. We booked ahead with Mor Active Tours for a kayak tour of the loch around Ross Castle. I have never seen water so black and deep before! We paddled through the canals and out onto the loch. Giant rocks jutted up out of the water and we hopped out of our kayaks to explore them. The tour was small enough that we had ample time to wander to our hearts content. If you go, bring a swimsuit to wear under the wetsuit they provide. Water shoes are also a plus! Ross castle is small but still worth a bit of your time. It does cost extra to go in, however, so plan accordingly.
After the kayak tour, we headed towards the next town in our itinerary, Dingle! If you have ever seen the movie, Leap Year, you will know where I am talking about. I had wanted to go there ever since I heard this wonderful, little town existed and it did not disappoint! Nor did the journey to get there! We drove along incredibly narrow, windy roads that took us up and over rolling hills and down into meadows and valleys.
We stayed at the Pax House in Dingle for two nights, and honestly, I would have stayed there the entire trip if I could. The breakfast alone was tempting enough! The location and views were perfectly Irish and we could walk into town if we wanted to. The accommodations were tasteful and incredibly comfortable. I felt like I was home.
Dingle is the sweetest little town. There are more tourists there than locals, however, but it still retains its original charm. Shopping is either done with cash or a Visa card. Not many other cards are accepted in Ireland. They sell everything Irish in the little shops that line the streets and purchasing a souvenir is a great way to support the town.
Try and get your hands on some fresh fish ‘n’ chips! They are caught fresh in the morning and served for lunch. The whole fish is deep fried in a scrumptious batter and presented with the morning’s paper!
There are two scenic roads you can drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, the more famous Ring of Kerry and the lesser known, Dingle Peninsula. We talked to a lot of people and they all recommended driving the peninsula. The Ring of Kerry tends to be over crowded with tour busses and the narrow roads make it hard to pass them. If you get stuck behind one, you end up seeing every site with about 200 other tourists. I was so glad we had asked! The peninsula was incredible and far less crowded. Another plus was it took us past the famous “Skellig Islands” where they filmed some of the Star Wars movies.
Our last stop on our way down the coast was Bunratty Castle. We hadn’t seen many castles yet, so I was really excited to tour this one. Unfortunately, we got there just a tad too late to see the inside, but we walked around the grounds and hit up the gift shop. Definitely plan ahead for this one and time your arrival right. It is such a neat place and I was sad to not see it all.
The next morning, we drove out to Kylemore Abbey and their famous gardens. The abbey is a Benedictine monastery that was founded for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium in World War I. It is still run completely by nuns today! They even have a restaurant where the food is sourced mostly from the gardens and livestock they tend. I had the Irish stew and it was fabulous! The seating is cafeteria style and all the proceeds go back into the estate. I would love to come back here and see it in the fall!
The tour of the gardens was so interesting! They were so well taken care of and beautifully manicured. They had everything from flowers and fruit trees, to herbs and ornamental bushes.
Next, we headed up to the city of Galway. We stopped at quaint little towns along the way including Adare, Limerick, Shannon and Kinvarra. Tasty food and beautiful streets are what draw the tourists here. Pinterest and Google are full of highly recommended restaurants and shops to visit. We had so much fun driving around the countryside and stopping whenever something looked interesting.
Galway is a bustling city and was quite the change from the slower paced, country towns. We checked into our hotel pretty late but had fun seeing all the city lights as we drove in.
In the morning we headed up to the Cliffs of Moher. One word of caution. Do not bring an umbrella, as it will be destroyed in seconds, but definitely dress for the weather! You will experience all of it. We had rain, wind, rainbows and sunshine on repeat for the whole few hours that we were there! There are no fences so you can walk right up to the edge. I would recommend caution, however, as it gets extremely windy and you can be blown right off the cliff!
After the cliffs we drove past the Doolin Tower. It was so cool to see the light on the surrounding hillside. Every vignette here looked like a postcard!
Our final night’s stay was in the town of Cliften. One of the best things about travelling around Ireland has been staying in a new place practically every night. Ireland is full of wonderful people and charming B&B’s. VRBO and AirB&B were great resources for us to help find the perfect places to stay!
We were excited to check out the Clifden Manor House and were thrilled to see that we had it completely to ourselves. For this trip, we purposefully stayed away from the most crowded spots as we both wanted a less-touristy experience. We were so happy to enjoy this spot with each other!
Our flight home was booked for early, Monday morning, so on Sunday we drove from Clifden to Dublin, straight across the country. We stopped in a tiny little town called Mulligan for church, and then continued our drive East. We stayed at a hotel close to the airport and flew out the next morning. We were so happy to return home to our family but will forever miss our home in Ireland!