Posted on July 13, 2011


Day 1

Upon arrival we picked up the car.  We rented it through an irish car broker for a great price. However, the car company does not tell you that insurance isn’t included in the price.  Thus, we got whacked for another $280 per couple for full comprehensive coverage.  It’s expensive, but well worth the price knowing you wont be liable in case of an accident.

Our first stop was Powerscourt and its gardens. We highly suggest stopping here if you are heading south out of Dublin.  The drive was about 40 minutes and was very pretty.  The drive brings you through the famous Wicklow Mountains, which are beautiful.

From Powerscourt to Glendalough we stopped at the Coach House in Roundwood for our first pint
of Guinness in Ireland, which was one of the best pints we had.  It had an outdoor beer-garden and good food.  We got fish and chips and fried Brie bites

Let’s get the Guinness discussion out-of-the-way.  Was it magical? Yes!  Was it some of the best beer we have ever had? Yes!  There you have it, you haven’t lived until you drank Guinness in Ireland.  It is much different from Guinness in the states and worth flying there just for a couple pints.  It has much more head, no after taste, is very smooth, and never fills you up.  Irish Guinness is wonderful.  One must note though that each bar’s Guinness pours are different and some are distinctly different from others.  Thus, upon arriving in town, ask someone which pub serves the best pint and frequent that establishment often.

Glendalough was cool. It was another 30 minutes past Roundwood and about 40 minutes from Powerscourt.  The lakes were beautiful and it was a great place to picnic if we had food.   Note that there is a second parking lot past the first one, which will save you the 10 minute walk to the lake from the visitor center.

From Glendalough we headed to Kilkenny, which was about 45 minute drive.  The Garmin brought us through a beautiful mountain pass.

Upon arrival in Kilkenny we went straight to our B&B, O’Malley’s guesthouse.   Kilkenny is a beautiful and colorful town with a ton of pubs.  It is very walkable and was a great place to spend our first night.  We ate at Kytelers Inn in Kilkenny on Kierans street.  This is a traditional Irish pub and one of the oldest in Kilkenny.  It has a beer garden.  Be sure to note that in these smaller towns/cities, they eat dinner fairly early, most kitchens stopped serving by 9pm.  It was a bit deceiving because it doesn’t get dark until 11pm, so even though it was 8pm we could have sworn it was late afternoon.

After dinner, it only took a couple of minutes to realize that the Irish get really drunk.  They are also obsessed with breaking glass when they get liquored up.  Kilkenny is known to have a ton of bachelorette (hen) parties with women of all ages.  It’s hilarious because they bring out their mothers, grandmothers, mother’s friends, etc…. along with their friends and they all dress up in a theme.   There were also many bachelor parties (stags) where the men dressed the bachelor up as a woman.  Very interesting.    The second bar we went to was a karaoke bar.  They played and sang all the regular popular songs: don’t stop believing, country roads, bill Joel . . . but were much more rowdy.  We have to give a shout out to our new buddy in Kilkenny, Niall Minogue.  Mary and Sil also did a great rendition of Brown Eyed Girl.

Next we went to Birdies, which is a great hidden bar.  To reach the bar, you have to walk through Birdies General Store, which is an old school grocery store.  Once in the bar there is an outside garden area with picnic tables and they pour the best Guiness in Kilkenny (this was affirmed by the locals).  After Birdies, we walked into this amazing club, by accident, that was blasting Nirvana and we decided to continue the night past last call.

Day 2

When we woke up we had breakfast, which is included in the price, at the B&B.  We then walked into town to visit the Kilkenny castle, which is worth a half hour.  Our stay at Omalley’s was not very  memorable, would suggest a different place if you plan on going.

From Kilkenny, we headed south.  Follow the signs for Callan, very pretty drive and brings you to the Rock of Cashel , which is about an hour drive out of Kilkenny.  Rock of Cashel was cool.  It was set a top a hill in the middle of a valley.  The best part was the views, the actual castle/church was dilapidated.  We parked at this hotel at the bottom of the Rock and walked up the “hiking trail” to the Rock.  It was very surreal as we found ourselves to be the only people walking through this green pasture with cows staring at us.

From Cashel we drove about and hour and a half to Kinsale, a lovely seaside town.  Drive was mostly highway, but the road from Cork to Kinsale was pretty.  Kinsale is quaint and the buildings are all bright colors, similar to a Caribbean town.

After touring around Kinsale and getting about 5 espressos we went to Fishy Fishy restaurant for some lunch.  The fish here was amazing.  We ordered yellowfin tuna, grilled salmon, and mussels.  The mussels were amazing.  They melt
in your mouth.  Another thing we noted, Irish love soft serve ice cream.  It’s everywhere.  While in Kinsale, there was a carnival in town and Mike got us tickets to do bumper cars.

After bumper cars, we drove 30 minutes north to Cork.   In Cork, we stayed at the Blue Dolphin B&B.   It was great.  It was very clean and the owner was “lovely” and more than willing to give you the history of Cork and every place to visit in town.  The B&B was across the street from one of the University of Cork’s entrances and was about a 10 minute walk to the center of town.
Cork has a good nightlife.    The first bar we stopped at was Mutton lane off St Patrick’s way.  It was an old bar with a dark cozy atmosphere and is a good place for  conversation type night.  It also had outdoor seating in the alleyway, which was littered with cool paintings and strung lights.  We noted that Cork’s downtown is very European looking and it reminded us of Vienna.

We stopped at a couple other bars for one beer each, but ended up at the Crane Lane which is the same owners as Muttons.  Great place for live music.  There was a great Irish music band and indie style people.  It was fun and loud and was open until 2 am on a Sunday. We stayed here until about closing time.  On the way home Mike and James had their first, of many kebabs on the trip.  Actually, they ate two each at  two different Istanbul establishments.

Day 3

In the morning we went to the famous English Market.  Shortly before we got to Ireland, the Queen of England visited Cork and came here.  It reminded me of the Mercato Centrale in Firenze.  Great food everywhere.  We purchased a bunch of cheese, vegetables, and baguettes for a picnic in the national forest we were going to later in the day.  Mary and Silvia voted it to have the best Scones in Ireland and they sampled throughout!  Cork is a very “foodie” oriented town and known for their great and diverse cuisine.  Unfortunately, we had eaten late in the day in Kinsale (amazing food) so by the time we were out we just grabbed dinner at Burger King.

From cork we took a ten minute drive up to Blarney Castle to kiss the stone.  The grounds are beautiful, but it is definitely  A tourist trap. It took us over an hour sitting in line to get to the stone.  It was a bit misty and cold climbing up so make sure to wear layers!

From Blarney we took the motorway towards Macroom.  Shortly after Macroom, take R584 towards the  Gougane Barra national park.   R584 is a beautiful windy drive.  Upon entering the park there are two awesome lakes with green mountains behind.

There is a cafe and a hotel, but we tried picnicking with our English Market food next to the lake and were attacked by bugs 10 minutes in.  We then took the road past the bar and followed what seemed to be a one lane road to the actual entrance to the park.  There you will find a toll booth. It costs 5 euro (in exact change) to get in per car. Well worth the price. The park is right out of a Tolken book. Moss is everywhere growing up the trees. The moss floor is like stepping on a giant sponge.

The pub in the park served a great pint of Guinness.

From here we headed out to Dingle. It took about 2 hours, but we made a couple stops. When you get to the dingle peninsula you will run into inch beach which is a great place to surf or learn to surf. There were surf trucks located right on the sand where you could rent a learners board and wetsuit for 20€ an hour.

We were late and it was too cold for us to partake that day, but the waves were  definitely  surf-able.  The ride out to Dingle is beautiful. Very narrow roads and it cuts in and out from the sea.

In Dingle we stayed at the Emlaugh lodge, which is AMAZING.  It’s located right on the bay and every one of the 4 bedrooms has a view overlooking the water.  The hostess, Maggie also makes an amazing breakfast and you get a menu to choose from every morning. The bathrooms are also very nice and Maggie keeps everything really clean.  Recommend requesting the Bayview or Seaview Rooms, they are great, large and have excellent views.  Sil woke up every morning to the cows right outside our window in front of the bay.

The b&b is a little tough to find, but is near the water and only a 5 minute long walk along the water into town. The town is surrounded by Green rolling hills that Just roll tight into the water. From Maggie’s you can look out And see where the bay enters into the ocean between two green hills. Maggie also has  a picnic bench  in her backyard that is great to sit at and take it all in. For a room with a bathrooms it Is 35€ a night per person, which was the cheapest we stayed at and by far the nicest place.

Good live music at the small bridge bar. We Also really liked o’flaherty’s, dickie macs(really old school and all locals), and the marina bar which had benches outside it where you could  bring your Guinness outside and overlook the marina.  Since the bars are all pretty old they still have the old style snugs when the women used to have to sit separate from the men.

Day 4

This morning James woke up really early and drove 15 minutes to play golf at the Dingle Golf Club (ceann sibeal).  It was a very challenging  course right next to the Atlantic Ocean.  I lost a ton of balls.   The course cost 35€ to  play and the clubs were 20€ to rent.   It was also 1.75€  per used ball.  Get a bunch because the grass eats the balls up.  It was a good course and well worth the trip.

After golf, we took the car up to Connors pass, which was a great view.  It is a mountain pass in the middle of the peninsula with great views.  Once you park in the designated parking lot, walk up the mountain from the parking lot for the best views. On the mountain you will find a large pile of rocks. Maggie told us tradition us when u visit the pass to place a rock on the pile. When doing the short hike wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy and that have good traction.

After Connors pass we headed to the tip of the peninsula to do the Slea Head drive.  The drive is beautiful.  It’s similar to the Amalfi drive in Italy with narrow windy rides on the side of a cliff overlooking the water.

There is a great beach at the tip of the peninsula with a large sandy beach and beautiful turquoise water with the green cliffs behind you.  We hung out there for an hour or so.

That night we ate at Ain Canteen, which was good and reasonably priced.  Mike & James continued their kebab tour, and found a good and very cheap is the kebab place across from the marina.

Day 5

From dingle we headed an hour and a half north to Tarbert to take the ferry across the Shannon river. If visiting the Burren and Cliffs of Moher this saves you about 2 hours of driving. It cost 18€ and takes 20 minutes. The ferry leaves every 30 minutes. From the other side of the river it’s a 45 minute ride up to Lehitch which is a surfing town at the beginning of the Cliffs of Mohr. If you go just past the visitor center there will be a sharp turn in the road; park here and walk down the hill and follow the signs for a bike trail which heads out to the cliff.

Here you will find a great view of the cliffs and you won’t have to pay the 8 euro to park at the visitors center.  We actually ended up trespassing through some farmer’s land to get the good views.  Beware of the bull!

From the cliffs we drove through the Burren. At first it doesn’t seem like anything different, but the closer you gets rockier.  It’s worth driving through. We also drove through Kinvara, which is stunningly beautiful and worth a stop. This is a beautiful bayside town with a beautiful castle on the bay  that is portrayed on the 2011 edition of Fodors Ireland.

Next we stopped at Morans Oyster Cottage in cillcologan . Silvia stated “this is the best meal of our trip!” as she slopped down her first ever oysters. They were as good as advertised and it should be on everyone’s to do list in Ireland. It’s tough to find going towards Galway it is after —- on the left.  you take a mile long road alongside the bay and Morans will be on your right next to a thatch roofed house.  Morans was so good we drove back the next day for a snack.

After Morans we drove 25 minutes into Galway. In Galway we stayed at  Griffin Lodge and were greeted by the owner, Ann, who is a red-haired prototypical Irish woman who is extremely nice and talkative.  Every moment of our stay she was cheery and extremely helpful.

Galway is very lively fun a lot more people than dingle it’s a large dingle.  That’s what she said.

First stop was Tig Coili. Traditional live music found a nice nook and downed some pints.  We also tried kings head bar which was very touristy but has 2 floors of bar and Irish music and dancers. We also tried salt house bar which had a great selection of beers and many locals. We also went to crane house bar which had a group of musicians playing around a dinner table while they drank their pints, which was really cool. Upon Fodors suggestion we also had a bunch of pints while sitting outside at tigh NEachtain.  It’s located right on the main drag and is great for people watching. We were told by two Irish ladies that it pours the best pint of Guinness in the county. There is a crepe place across the street that is good for a snack.

Day 6

This was a free day and a day for us to just relax after all the traveling we had already done.  After sleeping in and a big breakfast we walked around Galway and did some shopping.  Then we drove the car to Salthill, which is a resort town just west of Galway.  We didn’t care for it too much.  We then drive the car Back to Kinvara and walked around town and spent some time at the castle.  Once we walked off enough calories to work up an appetite, Silvia & I went back to Moran’s for some clams, mussels, beer, and oysters!

Upon returning to Galway, we all got some fish and chips and went out on the town.

Day 7

We adventured into the Connemara.  We took the road 336 out along the coast to route 340 towards Cliften. The road wrapped along the coast and then winded through the mountains and lakes. It took about 2.5 hours to get to Clifden with many stops. The route was very scenic.

We had lunch at Vaughans Pub in Clifden on market street where we tried our first shepard’s pie. The pie was awesome and the pub had good mussels.   It also poured a delicious pint of Guinness.  From Clifden we drove the Sky Drive, which is a must do.

The road looks like you’ll end up in the sky with a straight drop off to the water on your left. The views are magnificent and the water is a beautiful turquoise. From there we headed up to Cleegan in an unsuccessful attempt to go horseback riding on the beach.  For some reason we could not find it and cut our losses and headed to Letterfrack, about a 15 minute drive, to see the Kylemore Abbey.  This abbey is stunningly beautiful and can be viewed for free standing on the opposite side of the lake. To enter the grounds of the abbey will cost 12 € each. We didn’t think it was worth it and instead had coffee and scones at the cafe located on the premises, which was followed by a rock-skipping contest on the lake.

From here we avoided some killer sheep (sheep not afraid of cars and hang out in the middle of the road ) on our way to Leenane which sits at the end of the Killary Fjord, which provided some beautiful views.

It is the only fjord in Ireland. We then drove 30 minutes north to Westport, which is a beautiful little town in the County Mayo.  Here we had a pint and walked around the town.  We left around 7 and drove an hour and a half back to Galway.

That night we wanted a change of pace food wise and ate at Milano, a fancy pizza place where we split two thin crust pies for 20€.  As was custom for the trip, Mike and I, after we frequented the bars, went to Charcoal Grill for kebabs.  They are littered throughout the city and make a mean donor kebab and curry fries.

Day 8

We drove 2 hours and thirty minutes back to Dublin airport to drop off the car and explore Dublin.  In Dublin we stayed at the Hilton Dublin for $90 a night.

Our first stop was Kehoes heritage pub 9 south Anne st.  Many websites rate this pub as the best pour of Guiness in the city.  The pub is located in the Grafton street district.  Kehoes is an old style pub and its interior is beautiful.  It used to sell groceries as well as beer.

From Kehoes we walked through a couple of neighborhoods exploring until we found Gallaghers Boxty House (at the recommendation of Tracy), in the Temple bar section of town.   It served traditional Irish food and we ordered corned beef and cabbage potato dumplings boxty, murphys beef stew, and apple and pork sausages.  All were winners.  From here we went to get Murphy’s ice cream, which is an all natural ice cream parlor from Dingle (we went in Dingle too).  The ice cream is awesome and well worth multiple stops.

To walk off our gorging, we walked around all the neighborhoods until we ended up at the Porterhouse Brewing Company in the temple bar.  It is the largest brewery owned by the Irish.  Believe it or not, Guinness isn’t owned by the Irish any more. This bar had a really cool set up and had a stage positioned in between the two stair cases leading to the 2nd and 3rd floors.  On the first floor you looked up at the band, 2nd floor you looked at the band directly, and third floor you looked down at the band.  Really good idea and cool atmosphere.  There beer was tasty too.  Next we stopped at the garage band bar next door for a shot and pint.  The bar played American 50’s music and everyone there was dancing.  It was one of the better bars we stopped at in Ireland.  Finally, we ended our night at last call at the Temple Bar, which was full of Stags & Hens singing at the top of their lungs.  The Beatles never sounded so good! This is a must stop on a Friday or Saturday night.  It has a ton of room, a live band, and even an outside garden area.

Day 9

This morning we ate at Gibsons on Wicklow St.  It is a great French pastierre with good croque monsieurs and quiche.  We then took a  free walking Tour of Dublin with New Dublin Tours.  It was a great way to learn the history of Dublin and see some of the main sights.  It is about a 3 hour tour, ours took 3 1/2 and all you have to do is tip the guide at the end of the tour.  We had Eoghan, and each tipped him 10 euro because he was very informative and patient.

Upon locals warning, we decided to avoid the Guinness Brewery and Jameson distillery as both are expensive and cheesy.   At the end of the walking tour we took a bus to the hurling match: Dublin vs Kilkenny.  We purchased tickets on the recommendation of our friend we met the first night in Kilkenny. Tickets were 35 euro each and well worth the money. About 45,000 people attended the game, Dublin lost, but hurling is a fast-paced and violent game and was a lot of fun to watch (even the girls enjoyed it).  I don’t think I have ever heard the F word said so much in any sporting event I have ever attended.

The crowd was not as rowdy as we thought it would be, but players got into a couple of fist fights and were whacking each other with their sticks/clubs.

After the match we walked back to our hotel to freshen up and went to the Lunch! Calzone Cafe for dinner.  It  had good fresh salads and the burgers were great.  The pizza and calzones lacked taste.
After failing the previous night, we finally found Stags Head Pub on Dame Lane, not to be confused with Dames Road.  Stags Head is a cozy old world pub feel, which locals often frequent.  The bartender was one of the nicest people we met in Ireland and served a tasty pint of the black stuff.  We stayed here for about 2 pints then moved on to the Shebeen Chic Bar around the corner to listen to a live jazz band and play in their old photo booth.   The music was great and Mike, Mary & Sil went nuts with the pictures.

Last Day

For breakfast we went to the Cake Cafe, which is difficult to find, but a gem once you find it.   Their baked goods are amazing and their breakfast porridge was awesome.  It also made the best cup of coffee we had in Ireland.  Afterwards, we went back to Gibsons for a 2nd breakfast of more croque monsieurs and quiche.  Mike, Mary, and Sil then went shopping while I put some quality time in at Kehoes to get my last Guinnesses.  They tasted wonderful!  For lunch, we then ate at the Kitchen restaurant on Grafton street (same street as Kehoes), which had fantastic food.

Sadly, our trip was ending and we returned to the hotel to take a 30 minute taxi to the Dublin airport.  This cost 28 euro.  To our surprise, it was the 4th of July, and the airport had a rock band playing, a guy dressed up as a cartoon Elvis walking around, a guy dressed as Uncle Sam on stilts, American Flags everywhere, and all the employees were wearing red, white, and blue.  To say the least, it was a bigger 4th of July celebration than many I have been to at home.

Ireland is a great country.  The people were wonderful, the countryside was gorgeous, the seafood was amazing, and the beer was divine.  We will definitely visit again, especially to golf and to drink more Guinnesses (Beamish & Murphy’s are a close 2nd).

Posted in: Ireland