To preface, this trip is not for the faint of heart. My husband and I decided to spend our anniversary in 2022 traveling around Ireland. We wanted this first trip to be a “see all” – it sure was. We enjoyed finally getting to spend uninterrupted time together in a new country making memories that we know we will treasure the rest of our lives.
Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Shopping, St. Patricks Cathedral, & Guinness Museum
Our journey to Ireland began with an early arrival in Dublin at 5:30 am. Although we should have considered taking a day off to recover from the jet lag, our excitement got the better of us. Determined to make the most of our time, we embarked on a whirlwind tour of Dublin, determined to see everything despite our sleep-deprived state. Here’s a recount of our eventful first day in the beautiful country of Ireland.
Exploring Dublin Castle: After a quick power nap in our parked car, eagerly awaiting the opening of coffee shops, we kick-started the day with a much-needed cup of coffee. Fueling ourselves up, we ventured into the heart of Dublin and began our tour at Dublin Castle. The castle’s grandeur left us in awe, but the highlight of the visit was an enchanting sight – a rainbow gracing the steeple, creating a quintessentially Irish moment.
Trinity College and Unexpected Shopping: Refreshed by our second cup of coffee, we continued our adventure with a tour of Trinity College. This historic institution quickly became one of our favorite spots from the day. Arriving early gave us the chance to explore the nearby shops, where we stumbled upon Dubarry and purchased a waterproof jacket for Luke. We soon discovered that “water-resistant” was no match for Ireland’s unpredictable weather.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Serene Surroundings: Next on our itinerary was a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a truly breathtaking architectural marvel. While the interior of the church left us in awe, we couldn’t help but feel that the shops inside detracted from its beauty. Nevertheless, we took a moment to soak in the serene ambiance and were delighted to find a park and trails adjacent to the church. Regrettably, we couldn’t explore them at length, but we made a mental note to return someday.
The Guinness Museum Experience: Our final destination for the day was the Guinness Museum. Rushing through the exhibits, we eagerly awaited our turn for the much-anticipated beer on tap lesson. The museum itself was interesting, but it was the top-floor restaurant that truly impressed us. As we enjoyed a delicious meal, an incredible band provided live entertainment throughout our time there. Before retiring for the night, we took a quick peek at the stunning 360-degree bar at the museum’s summit, promising ourselves a return visit.
Exhausted from our eventful day and eager to recharge, we made our way back to the car and drove to our charming hotel. Day one in Ireland had been a whirlwind of sightseeing, coffee-fueled exploration, and memorable experiences. We learned that even with jet lag, determination can lead to incredible adventures. As we drifted off to sleep, anticipation for the next day’s adventures filled our dreams, knowing that Ireland had so much more to offer us.
Tips for Dublin:
-Stay in the city and just remain parked in ONE SPOT if you have a car. It’s so much easier to walk everywhere than drive to the next paid parking garage.
-Arrive in the afternoon and just commit to one or two things. Jet lag is real and it can rob the excitement of the day. Give your body rest.
-Watch out for the bus lanes “lana bus” they creep on ya…
-We recommend doing all the guided tours in Ireland. There is just SO much to learn trying to read it off a brochure takes some of the fascination away from it. Plus… those accents!!
-Book everything ahead of time. The lines are long and scheduled tours allows for more site seeing and less time waiting in lines.
Kilkenny Castle, Rock of Cashel, Hore Abbey, Blarney Castle, Killarney
After a much-needed 12-hour sleep, we awoke refreshed and eager to continue our Irish adventure. Day two promised to be filled with historical landmarks and captivating sights. With our coffee fix in hand, we set off on the road, excited to explore the wonders that awaited us.
Kilkenny Castle and Coffee Break: Our first stop of the day was Kilkenny Castle, a stunning architectural gem. But before immersing ourselves in its grandeur, we couldn’t resist a detour to a charming local coffee shop. Fueled by our second cup of coffee, we embarked on a captivating journey through the beautiful castle grounds. Though we could have easily spent the entire day in Kilkenny, we knew we had more to see and eagerly pressed onward.
Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey: Continuing our adventure, we arrived at the awe-inspiring Rock of Cashel. Perched atop a hill, this ancient structure left us speechless. We explored its rich history and marveled at the breathtaking views it offered. As if that wasn’t enough, we made our way down the hill to Hore Abbey, an adjacent ruin that added to the magic of the experience. My patient husband kindly allowed me to indulge in my passion for photography, capturing the essence of these remarkable landmarks for hours.
Blarney Castle in the Rain: Determined to make the most of our day, we decided to forgo lunch and head straight to Blarney Castle before it closed. Arriving just in time, we braved the pouring rain to reach the castle. With excitement and laughter, we kissed the famous Blarney Stone, creating a fun and memorable moment despite the inclement weather. It was an experience we would fondly recall for years to come.
The Victoria Hotel in Killarney: With the day drawing to a close, we made our way to our accommodation for the night, The Victoria Hotel in Killarney. From the moment we stepped inside, we knew we had found a true gem. The hotel’s charm and warmth enveloped us, making it our favorite place to stay throughout the entire trip. We indulged in a delightful dinner and looked forward to a delicious breakfast, ensuring we had booked our preferred slot in advance.
Day two of our Irish adventure had been nothing short of extraordinary. From the enchanting Kilkenny Castle to the majestic Rock of Cashel and the whimsical Blarney Castle, we had been immersed in history and captivated by the beauty of the Irish landscape. As we retired to our cozy room at The Victoria Hotel, we reflected on the unforgettable memories we had made. Excitement buzzed in the air, knowing that the following day would bring new wonders and discoveries as our journey through Ireland continued.
Ring of Kerry, Drive to Galway
Day three of our Irish escapade promised to be filled with breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable experiences. After enjoying a delightful breakfast at The Victoria Hotel, we embarked on the renowned Ring of Kerry. Although we had a jam-packed itinerary, our desire to see it all led us to continue our journey towards Galway. Here’s a glimpse into the highlights and lessons learned from this eventful day.
Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall: Our first stop on the Ring of Kerry was Ross Castle, a majestic structure surrounded by natural beauty. Although we didn’t opt for a guided tour, the castle’s allure was undeniable, and we enjoyed a leisurely walk around its grounds. Continuing along the route, we found ourselves at Torc Waterfall. The hike to the waterfall felt like stepping into another world, immersed in the tranquility of nature’s wonders. Each stop along the Ring of Kerry captivated us, making us wish we had allocated more time to fully savor the breathtaking scenery.
Charming Sneam and Coastal Beauty: To refuel and indulge in the local charm, we stopped for lunch in the delightful town of Sneam. Its quaint streets and warm hospitality made it a hidden gem worth exploring. While relishing the local cuisine, we encountered a friendly town dog freely strolling in and out of shops and restaurants, adding to the unique character of the place. As we resumed our journey, we couldn’t resist pulling over to admire the beautiful beaches and catch a glimpse of Skellig Michael, a destination we vowed to visit on our next trip.
Galway Bound and Accommodation Recommendation: With the day drawing to a close, we embarked on a 3+ hour drive to Galway. Our chosen accommodation, Galway Bay Hotel Salthill, unfortunately didn’t live up to expectations. We advise future travelers to opt for a place within walking distance of Eyre Square, as it offers convenience and accessibility to the vibrant heart of Galway.
Biggest Takeaways: Amidst the picturesque landscapes and remarkable experiences, a few key takeaways stood out:
- Sheep Everywhere: Ireland’s iconic residents, sheep, dotted the countryside, further immersing us in the rural charm and natural beauty of the country.
- Allocate Sufficient Time for the Ring of Kerry: The Ring of Kerry is a treasure trove of stunning scenery and captivating stops. To truly appreciate its wonders, it is wise to dedicate a full day to explore its delights without rushing.
- Explore the Dingle Peninsula: While not part of our itinerary for the day, we heard enchanting tales of the Dingle Peninsula’s beauty and allure. It left us yearning for another visit to experience its magic firsthand.
Day three of our Irish adventure allowed us to immerse ourselves in the mesmerizing landscapes along the Ring of Kerry, uncover charming towns like Sneam, and witness the allure of Galway. As we reflected on the day’s highlights and lessons learned, we eagerly anticipated the next leg of our journey, knowing that Ireland held countless treasures yet to be discovered.
Cliffs of Moher
Day four of our Irish adventure brought us to the bustling city of Galway and the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. While we encountered unexpected challenges along the way, the day turned out to be filled with remarkable sights and memorable experiences. Join us as we recount the highlights and lessons learned from this eventful day.
Navigating Galway Traffic and Tour Confusion: Underestimating the traffic in Galway, we found ourselves stuck in congestion, turning a short 10-minute drive into an hour-long ordeal. In hindsight, we realized that walking to the bus stop, approximately 30 minutes away, would have been a wiser choice. Additionally, a mix-up with our intended tour resulted in us joining a different one, excluding the Aaron Islands. However, the tour operators were accommodating and promptly arranged an alternative tour for us. We learned the importance of arriving at the designated meeting point at least 30 minutes early to avoid any complications.
The Majestic Cliffs of Moher: Despite the initial hiccups, our visit to the Cliffs of Moher became one of the most cherished moments of our trip. A fantastic driver guided us along the way, allowing us to make stops at stunning locations (captured in the pictures below). During the tour, he shared fascinating information about the ubiquitous stone walls seen throughout the countryside. Known as “Famine walls,” these structures were built by the Irish during the potato famine as a means of earning income. The Cliffs of Moher themselves left us awestruck, their sheer beauty and grandeur truly taking our breath away. We couldn’t help but feel the desire to spend an entire day in this area, fully immersing ourselves in its natural splendor.
Exploring Galway’s Charm: After our tour, we were dropped off at Eyre Square, where we seized the opportunity to indulge in the local culinary scene. Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen provided a delicious dining experience, rejuvenating us after a day of adventure. To savor the vibrant atmosphere, we strolled through the Quarter, enjoying some delectable ice cream while listening to the melodies of street musicians. Galway’s lively ambiance left a lasting impression, and we felt grateful for the chance to soak it all in.
Day four of our Irish journey was a mix of unexpected challenges and extraordinary discoveries. Navigating the Galway traffic proved more time-consuming than anticipated, and a tour mix-up taught us the importance of timeliness. However, the day’s highlight, the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, made it all worthwhile. We marveled at the breathtaking views and learned about the history of the famine walls that dot the landscape. Galway’s charm further captivated us as we savored delicious food and immersed ourselves in the city’s vibrant atmosphere. With each passing day, our love for Ireland grew stronger, and we eagerly anticipated the adventures that awaited us in the days to come.
Breakfast in Galway, Drive to the North, Benbullben, Londonderry
Day five of our Irish adventure greeted us with a leisurely morning and a delightful breakfast at Coco Cafe in Galway. Our journey took us north, where we encountered hidden gems and fell in love with the enchanting city of Londonderry. Join us as we recount the highlights and recommendations from this unforgettable day.
Benbulben and its Mystique: On our drive north, we made a captivating stop at Benbulben. Although the route may seem intricate, rest assured that if you find yourself in a back neighborhood, you’re on the right path. The walk to Benbulben proved to be well worth the effort, as we were greeted by the majestic beauty of the landscape. The serene atmosphere and scenic vistas left us in awe, reminding us of the magical wonders Ireland has to offer.
Londonderry’s Endearing Charm: Londonderry, or Derry as it is also known, emerged as the standout city of our journey. With its intact 17th-century walls spanning the entire city, it presented a unique and captivating experience. We quickly fell in love with the city and its surrounding areas, realizing that a week could easily be spent exploring this remarkable place. Our chosen Airbnb in the heart of the city offered a cozy and convenient base, complete with the comforting provisions of coffee and biscuits.
Exploring the City on Foot: To fully immerse ourselves in Londonderry’s charm, we opted for valet parking at a nearby hotel—an excellent decision that allowed us to experience the city on foot. We traversed the entire wall, marveling at its historical significance, and crossed the iconic Peace Bridge, a symbol of unity and reconciliation. For dinner, we discovered the quaint Walled City Brewing, a brewery that offered delicious fare and a delightful ambiance.
Musical Delights at Lizzie O’Farrells: Determined to experience the renowned Irish pub music scene, we ventured to Lizzie O’Farrells, a local pub that exceeded our expectations. The service was excellent, and the live music transported us to a world of traditional Irish tunes. A valuable tip for fellow travelers: be prepared to stay out late if you wish to immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of an Irish pub, as the musicians typically begin playing no earlier than 10 PM during weekdays.
Day five of our Irish journey presented us with the splendor of Benbulben, the charm of Londonderry, and the captivating melodies of traditional Irish music. We marveled at the intact city walls, savored delicious food, and relished the warm hospitality throughout our time in Londonderry. As our appreciation for Ireland continued to grow, we eagerly anticipated the adventures that awaited us in the days ahead.
Dunluce Caste, Bushmills Distillery, Giants Causeway, Belfast
On day six of our Irish adventure, we decided to take a leisurely approach, prioritizing our desired activities. We started the day by visiting Dunluce Castle, immersing ourselves in its rich history and capturing stunning aerial views with a drone. Our journey then took us to Bushmills Distillery, where we enjoyed a fascinating tour and sampled their renowned beverages. With appetites whetted, we indulged in a scrumptious lunch at a local burger joint. The highlight of the day, however, was undoubtedly our visit to Giants Causeway, a mesmerizing and otherworldly natural wonder. Join us as we recount the enchantment of the day’s adventures.
Exploring Dunluce Castle: Dunluce Castle, with its rich historical significance, captivated us with its stories of nations vying for control of this coastal city. It was an opportune moment to unleash our drone and capture the castle’s majestic presence from above. The sense of history and the breathtaking views left an indelible impression, reaffirming our appreciation for Ireland’s remarkable past.
Immersing in Whiskey Culture at Bushmills Distillery: Just a short drive from Dunluce Castle, we arrived at Bushmills Distillery, the oldest operating distillery in the world. Our visit surpassed expectations as we delved into the art and craft of whiskey-making. The guided tour provided insights into the distillation process, showcasing the care and precision that goes into creating their renowned spirits. We relished the opportunity to sample a variety of flavors and found the experience more to our preference compared to the Guinness Museum. To commemorate our visit, we picked up a few whiskey-related gifts for our loved ones.
Marveling at Giants Causeway: Giants Causeway stole the spotlight as the day’s most awe-inspiring destination. Words fail to capture the sheer beauty and intrigue of this natural wonder. The distinct hexagonal basalt columns seemed to defy logic, creating an atmosphere that felt truly out of this world. We were left mesmerized by the dramatic coastal scenery and spent hours exploring the formations and soaking in the captivating surroundings. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover a charming coastal hotel nearby, noting it for future visits.
Belfast’s Missed Opportunities and Cozy Evening: Despite our initial plans to visit the Dark Hedges and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, time got away from us, and we were unable to explore these attractions. Instead, we headed towards Belfast, where we opted for a cozy evening in our lovely Airbnb. A quick grocery store run provided us with gluten-free pita bread and turkey for a satisfying dinner. We embraced the opportunity to unwind, leaving the windows open as we indulged in an episode of Gilmore Girls before drifting off to sleep.
Day six of our Irish journey allowed us to appreciate the historical significance of Dunluce Castle and immerse ourselves in the whiskey culture at Bushmills Distillery. Giants Causeway stood as the day’s showstopper, leaving us in awe of its mystical beauty. Although we missed out on some other attractions in Belfast, we embraced a cozy evening in our comfortable Airbnb, relishing in simple pleasures and the tranquility of the night. As our time in Ireland drew closer to an end, we cherished every moment, eagerly anticipating the adventures that awaited us in the remaining days.
Belfast, Newgrange, Malahide Caste, Dublin
As our Irish adventure drew to a close, we embarked on our last full day, filled with mixed emotions. Despite a humorous start with a fire alarm awakening us, we remained excited for the experiences that awaited us. Determined to complete our journey around the island, we bypassed Belfast and continued towards Newgrange, where we encountered an unforeseen obstacle due to not pre-booking. Undeterred, we enjoyed the sights from the ground and relished in the charm of Malahide Castle, before concluding our day at the Temple Bar Hotel in Dublin. Join us as we reminisce about our final day in Ireland.
Exploring Newgrange and the Sheep-Dotted Landscapes: Although we couldn’t enter the Newgrange tomb due to not pre-booking, we made the most of our visit by admiring the majestic sight from the ground. The surrounding sheep-dotted landscapes added an idyllic touch, serving as a reminder of Ireland’s picturesque countryside. It’s a valuable lesson to always book ahead to avoid missing out on such historical treasures.
Malahide Castle: A Captivating Family Legacy: Malahide Castle, a Tolbert family stronghold for eight centuries, captivated us with its rich history and magnificent architecture. We embarked on a full tour of the castle, immersing ourselves in the tales and grandeur of the past. However, it was the castle’s gardens and grounds that truly stole our hearts. The tranquil beauty of the estate provided a perfect backdrop for reflection and appreciation of the enduring legacy of the Tolbert family.
A Vibrant Evening in Dublin: To conclude our Irish journey, we chose the Temple Bar Hotel in Dublin, a highly recommended choice. Conveniently parking our car nearby, we embraced the city’s lively atmosphere by exploring on foot. As we strolled through the streets, we even stumbled upon a pub that played “Sweet Home Alabama,” adding a touch of familiarity amidst the unfamiliar. We made a small purchase of an overpriced check-in bag to accommodate the cherished gifts we had collected for our loved ones, preparing for our return journey.
Our last day in Ireland proved to be a memorable mix of unplanned adventures and cherished experiences. Although we missed the opportunity to enter Newgrange, we relished in the picturesque landscapes and encountered the enduring charm of Malahide Castle. Dublin’s vibrant atmosphere provided the perfect backdrop for our final evening, as we embraced the energy of the city streets and enjoyed a touch of home in an unexpected pub.
3 hour customs and headed home
As our Irish adventure came to a close, we found ourselves faced with an unexpected hurdle upon our return to America. Despite being forewarned about the customs process, we were taken aback by the lengthy and arduous procedures we encountered. Our journey back home proved to be a test of patience and endurance, leaving us with mixed emotions as we bid farewell to Ireland. Join us as we recount the challenges we faced during our return.
Navigating Customs and the Bittersweet Goodbye: With a heavy heart, we returned our rental car, a task that was surprisingly effortless in comparison to what awaited us. The customs process proved to be an ordeal, with the need to go through multiple security checks and screenings. The entire ordeal took over three hours, a significant portion of our day. Although we had planned for potential delays, it was disheartening to miss the chance to bid a proper farewell to Dublin airport, a place that had played a pivotal role in our Irish journey.
As we bid farewell to the Emerald Isle, we carried with us a trove of cherished memories and a desire to return one day. Ireland had captured our hearts and left an indelible mark on our souls.
What to get before your Ireland Trip:
- Power adapters
- WaterPROOF jackets (water resistant doesn’t cut it)
- Solis Hotspot (totally worth it)
- Hiking Boots
- Travel Space Savers/ Pack Cubes
- Travel Bottles for liquids
- Huzi Infinity Pillow
- Gloves in the colder months