I shared recently that after moving to the DC area, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and attended a few Meetup events where I met some pretty fantastic ladies, one of whom I will be traveling with to Ireland in the near future! The idea for this trip came up during a jog several months ago, my new friend and I were chatting and got on the topic of international travel. She had never traveled to Europe, I had never been to Ireland. The timing in both of our lives was perfect and thus we had decided a summer Ireland trip was a must! After booking our flights, I soon learned that in many ways, she is the female equivalent of my husband.
When my husband and I traveled to Florida to tour wedding venues he surprised me at the first venue by pulling out a tabbed binder with pre-printed sheets that had 30+ questions and hole-punched folders to include any handouts that could be organized accordingly. Having pre-selected these locations, my process was quite different and basically consisted of "taking in the vibe" of each location. He is the much-needed Yin to my Yang.
After booking our flights, I was giddy to receive an eight page Google Doc outlining a suggested itinerary for our impending Ireland road trip with correlating links, and descriptions of each suggestion that she had put together through her own research and consulting friends. I helped find our lodging accommodations, and also added really helpful bullets to the itinerary like:
Arrival: 10:10 AM
Check-in to hotel: 12:00 PM
- 12:15 PM: Dance around the room and squeal with delight!
Over the past several months, I've been surprised to learn how many people have also been to Ireland. I thought I would share our ambitious itinerary, and see if anyone has strong feelings about any of these cities and attractions. We will be staying at a combination of hotels, airbnb's, and bed and breakfasts, and will NOT be able to hit everything listed below, but this list gives us a great place to start. I will also obviously share photos and my own personal insights after our return, but in the meantime, please share if you have any suggestions for our ridiculously ambitious Ireland road trip! We will be going to the following cities: Dublin, Sligo, Galway, Dingle, Cork, and back to Dublin.
Dublin (2 nights)
Tour Trinity College
Old Library (Book of Kells), will likely be a line
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Chester Beatty Library, Amazing art and artifacts
Christ Church Cathedral
Hike (Run?!) around Howth Head,
Tour Guinness Factory Hour long tour, you drink your free pint of Guinness at the top of the building which offers a 360-degree view of Dublin.
Kilmainham Gaol: Creepy but fascinating, with excellent guided tour. It can be chilly.
Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
Dublin Castle Tour
Dublin Writer’s Museum - Browse books, letters and manuscripts and listen to evocative audio recordings in the Georgian mansion housing the Dublin Writers Museum.
Grafton Street Shopping, Walk from Trinity College, down Grafton Street, then St. Stephen’s Green
St. Stephen’s Green, Park for walking and picnic lunch
Bridges on River Liffey, Near Temple Bar area and Downtown
Temple Bar Area, Mulligan’s , John Kavanagh - “the Gravediggers” , Third Space , Green Bench Cafe, White Friar Grill
Drive to Meath (Newgrange) on the way to Giant’s Causeway. It's a historical site and it's actually really interesting. It's older than the pyramids and you can go inside, if you are not afraid of tight places. Daily 09.00 - 19.00; (3-11 Euro) Access to the monuments at Newgrange and Knowth is only by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre on the south side of the river Boyne. Tickets for individuals and small groups are sold on a first come first served basis and cannot be reserved in advance. Demand for tours of the Newgrange and Knowth monuments is very high during the summer months. It is advisable to arrive as early in the day as possible
Drive to Giant’s Causeway, 3 Hours
Amazing. Wonderful coastal rock structures and cool bridge to get there. Don’t look at too many photos before you go so you don’t spoil it. It will be out of the way but worth it.
Drive to Sligo, 3 Hours
Streedagh Beach, is the best one for my money. It’s just before Grange in North Sligo, and is sign-posted if you keep your eyes peeled- look left after the Supervalu. When you land on the beach drive keep right and head for the further beach. Great walk.
Hargedons– Have a proper pint Sligo has loads of “proper” pubs. The best two in town are; spruced up but still old school. Lovely staff, best pint of Guinness in town, and lovely lovely wine served in glasses from a real bottle, none of your terrible mini-pub-bottles going on. Oh- and great pub grub too. If you want a less sprucy version head to Connolly’s. It stretches between two streets and traditionally it was marginally fancier on the Markievicz Road end- which was where the bankers and solicitors from Stephen’s Street drank, than it was on the Holborn Street side where the folk from the hill drank. The two had to meet in the middle where the toilets are positioned, Fureys on Bridge Street Have a proper pint Sligo has loads of “proper” pubs. The best two in town are; Another good call for a proper pint, and some live music, McGarrigles, especially at the weekend, MUSIC: McGlynn’s (called “Dudes” locally- the Dude himself plays on Sunday nights), Sligo has more music than you could possibly wish for, but it’s often hard to uncover. There is great Trad/folk in pubs like, MUSIC: Foley (very knowledgeable owners and tons of regular old school sessions
Galway (2 Nights)
Knocknarea , If you want an easy option walk up, and visit with Queen Maeve. It’s a pretty easy walk, but it can be VERY cold on the top if it’s windy at all, so layer up. The views from the top are breathtaking- you can see 5 counties (sligo, Mayo, Donegal, Leitrim, Roscomoon) laid out below you like a Postman Pat episode, and legend has it that Maeve is buried standing up – weapon in hand. About an hour round trip, it can be a little slippy so wear good shoes.
Benbulben, A tougher walk- a proper hike really- is our very own table-top mountain. For years there’s been access issues for walkers but the county council have managed to come to some arrangement with the landowners. You can find out more about the new route on sligowalks.ie
Coney Island is a teeny little island off the coast of Sligo- smack in the middle between Strandhill and Rosses Point. You can reach it by land when the tide is out, so you have to be careful with the times, but that makes it all the more special. Generally it’s ok to cross about 2- 3 hours before low tide, but you can usually tell by looking – if the tide is all the way out you’re good to go in a car, but be careful when walking. Beautiful, quiet and Cartystown beach is a great bathing beach. This web page is good for tide times for 4 weeks in advance (just select sligo/oyster island and give it time to load) or if you’re in sligo you can pick up a tide timetable in Call of the Wild in town – it’s very cheap little guide. The Irish Times also publishes a daily tides timetable.
Strandhill, Whether you surf, or just want to watch the surf, head for Strandhill. Great walks,
Sligo Abbey which is a beautiful spot for photographs
Lang’s Pub in Grange. Get to the old mans part of the pub (on the left) and order a toastie and a pint. Sweet as. Go after Streedagh Beach
Dooney Rock for a great viewing spot of the landscape (take the route to the right at the car park)
Slish Wood which has a proper path so is great for buggies and little ones and is so beautiful along the lake
The Holy Well which is a curious mix of catholicism and pagan traditions but incredibly peaceful.
Slow Shopping, Sligo’s a great spot for some old-fashioned browsing in little shops. You want Grattan/Castle Street (one becomes the other) where you can poke about in Georgian Antiques, If you like vintage bargains wander up the hill to
The Curiosity Shop, and if you’re lucky with the date you visit you might catch the sligo flea
Kate’s Kitchen (fab deli and beauty shop),
Cosgroves, actual old school deli with supplies in sacks and money worked out on a brown paper bag- KILLER cheeses
The Sligo Flea while you’re in town. The aforementioned Shells Cafe in Strandhill has a beautiful little shop of gorgeous things.
Glenliff Horseshoe Drive is pretty great. You can see Diarmuid and Grainne‘s cave, see lots of ruined houses, gorgeous scenery and a “magical” road where you can get your car to roll “up” a hill. – look out for the Blackboard sign hanging from a tree on the left (so irish that one, I love it) to find the spot, leave the car on, and in gear, and you’ll roll up the hill without using the accelerator, good fun. This one is a perfect rainy day driving route, and you can still pop out in Grange and go for that recommended pint and toastie in Langs
- Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden, http://www.kylemoreabbeytourism.ie/
Connemara National Park, One of the most beautiful, unspoiled places it's possible to find. From the rugged Twelve Bens mountain range in the north through lake-rich Roundstone Bog to the golden beaches reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean, you'll know you're in Connemara by the light that constantly changes the mood and tone of the landscape. Connemara has long been regarded as the real emerald of Ireland.
Drive to Galway, 2 Hours
The Crane and Taaffes, Soak up the timeless charm, Toisin Dubh, Catch up-and-coming bands , The Blue Note, Hang out with hip Galwegians , Tigh Neachtain, “Perfect Pint”
The Dingle Peninsula (Dingle, Between Galway and Killarney, off the path, coastal) ,County Kerry’s Dingle Peninsula is awash with postcard-worthy vistas of sandy surf beaches and Caribbean-blue stretches of ocean. Its 'capital', the charming fishing village of Dingle, is a tangle of higgledy-piggledy streets teeming with art and craft shops, old-fashioned pubs and sublime seafood restaurants serving the day's catch.
Ring of Kerry, Southwest Ireland is where most tourists go. It is beautiful.
Blarney Stone, Blarney castle was cool even if the castle itself was underwhelming. The stone was a fun thing just to say you kissed (the germaphobe side of me was disgusted). More so though the gardens were really really pretty at Blarney Castle and there was a store there called Blarney Woollen Mills that sold tons of Irish goods (sweaters, touristy items, Waterford) and will ship everything back to American for a pretty low fee. We ate there too at a really good restaurant attached to blarney Woollen mills.
Killarney National Park, Fanning out from the vibrant town of Killarney in County Kerry, Killarney National Park is a wonderland of mountains, lakes and woodlands. Wildlife in the park's sprawling 10,236 hectares includes Ireland’s only remaining wild herd of native red deer (living here continuously for 12,000 years), as well as fish, rare insects and birds like the white-tailed sea eagle. Beyond the park boundary, don't miss the glorious Gap of Dunloe, a majestic mountain pass most entertainingly explored by jaunting car (pony-and-trap) helmed by a charismatic jarvey (driver).
The Rock of Cashel (Between Cork and Dublin), Don’t let the unassuming name fool you: the Rock of Cashel is no mere rock. Standing proudly on a green hill rising from County Tipperary's plains, it's a historic treasure trove of ancient religious structures including a 12th-century Romanesque chapel and a 13th-century Gothic cathedral. But its history dates back much further – for more than 1000 years it was a symbol of power and the seat of kings and churchmen who ruled over the region
Wicklow Mountains National Park (south of Dublin)
- Glendalough and St. Kevin’s (south of Dublin)