When we lived in the U.S. people were always taking their two-week holidays to Europe – all the places that were on the doorstep as a Brit, but lost out to places in Asia or the Americas which were more alluring. Now that we’re back in London we decided we should see what all the fuss was about, so when England announced a friendly international football game against Ireland, in Dublin, we saw the perfect opportunity
We’d heard mixed reviews on Dublin, but rave reviews of the west coast. Being big fans of road trips we focussed our attention on the latter, book ending the trip with some time in Dublin. We decided to drive our car up to Holyhead, N Wales, to take the ferry over to Dublin (EUR 130 one way for 2 & car) and back from Rosslare to Pembroke, S Wales, doing an anti-clockwise loop on the way. Obviously, great plans go to waste: our clutch blew on the way up leading to a trip to the garage and a rental car being hired. Including the driving abroad fee it was a pretty reasonable GBP 400 for a garish blue Merc B class. In hindsight flying to Dublin, renting a car from there and driving a loop would’ve worked well.
Arriving in Dublin very late on the Saturday night we checked in at the awesome Trinity City Hotel and head out to town to sample the night life. We met some friends at the Arlington Hotel in Temple Bar before moving on to Kehoes then O’Donoghues by St Stephen’s Green for some live music. Katie was chatting to a barman whilst ordering a Guinness, but was quickly informed “not to fall in love” after apparently talking for too long. Check him out: girls must be throwing themselves at him nightly.
The next day saw the most boring game in footballing history take place at the beautiful Aviva stadium where we witnessed a 0-0 draw. The biggest cheer of the day was for Jack Charlton – a man who won the World Cup with England but the Irish think of as Irish – and the biggest boos were for Raheem Sterling… from the Irish fans… for not signing a new contract with Liverpool. Makes sense. The crowd seemed mostly focused on nursing their hangovers, but would occasionally remind the Irish that Sepp Blatter paid for their stadium.
We wandered Trinity College and Grafton Street (the shopping area) before having an early one.
Time to hit the road and we were on our way to Galway known for its harbour, the famous boats – hookers – and its music and bar scene. We strolled the harbour and canals during the day and hit up the bars in the evening.
Our mini pub crawl consisted of pints and Jamesons in Taaffees, Tig Coili, Tigh Neactain, Crane bar and Tigh Neactain (our favourite reminding us of our local, Swift, in New York) again. Most of these are on the main drag and are small, quaint bars with fiddlers.
Crane bar was over the bridge, away from the tourist crowd, and is famed for its nightly music (free).
Back on the road the true road trip segment began and we picked up the southbound Wild Atlantic Way headed for Ballydavid on the Dingle peninsula, county Clare. The route is really well sign posted and takes you past all the major attractions with scenic detours highlighted too. It took about nine hours including all the stops.
We’d been recommended oysters at Moran’s Oyster Cottage just south of Oran More so stopped there for lunch. You can see the oysters growing in the water opposite.
Next stop was Dunguaire Castle at Kinvara (EUR 6 to go inside. We didn’t). A beautiful castle overlooking the bay.
After that we detoured from the main route to Flaggy Shore. A rocky beach where the water was so clear and you can drive a 15 min loop around the peninsula and take in the views. Highly recommended.
From here we past the ocean hugging Black Head before arriving at Fanore dune beach which reminded us Nantucket or St. Andrews.
Passing more incredible vistas we finally arrived at Ireland’s number one tourist attraction – the Cliffs of Moher (EUR 6pp). We spent over an hour here taking in the views, venturing to the north towards O’Briens tower (EUR 2pp and hardly worth it).
After the main view back across the cliffs you can head round to see The Stack, being circled by seagulls and puffins.
The final stretch of driving for the day was to Dingle and we cut an hour off the journey by taking the Kilimer-Tarbet car ferry (EUR 18 one way). The drive through the peninsula was stunning with the sun sinking into the ocean in the distance. We decided against staying in Dingle itself, a nice harbour town, to really get remote. We stayed a Gorman’s Clifftop B&B which had a restaurant and incredible views out over the Atlantic. After dinner we watched the sun set with a well deserved beer. We heard there were even better views to seen at the end of the peninsula, but with the sun setting we didn’t make it that far.
The next day we drove the Big Sur-esque road along the cliff edge to Inch Beach. This would’ve also been a great place to stay and The Strand looks out over the beach.
Carrying on we left left the Dingle peninsula and started driving the famous Ring of Kerry. We were accompanied by lots of tour groups full of old people, but for good reason – it is stunning. One tip: drive it anti-clockwise from Kilarney so you don’t have to pass the buses. The roads are narrow and at one point one of them clipped my mirror. The first few detours at Rossbeigh beach and Ballycarberry Castle were pretty but the beauty really gets going at Valentia Island (take the bridge at Portmagee, not the ferry).
There are views from Bray Head of the Skellig Islands in the distance where you can take a short hike and there are boat tours to visit the ancient monastery on the island, but we gave it a miss as we were pushed for time. After some good fish and chips at The Moorings we drove up to the Kerry Cliffs (EUR 4pp) which had some great views out to sea – a la Cliffs of Moher – and took in the Skelligs from there.
Having spent too much time we rushed the final part of the trip but enjoyed stops at St. Finian’s Bay and Waterville before entering the Kilarney National Park
I wish we’d saved more time as some of the views in the valley of the park were amazing. We got a few snaps but wished we had longer.
We finished up at Ross Castle before reaching our hotel and hitting town for some well deserved beers. The band and Irish dancing at The Kilarney Grand Hotel was particularly good fun.
On our last day we played a round of golf at the Kilarney Golf and Fishing Club (EUR 60pp on the Mahoney’s Point course). It was a beautiful course and the sun showed up for our final few holes where you play along the lake. Highly recommended.
We wished we had longer, but what a trip.
Until next time