I fell hard for Ireland. Love at first site and more at last glance. I still dream and talk of it and would welcome a return visit anytime. Wanna go? I can pack in no time.
For a trip to West Ireland I recommend flying into Shannon Airport.
This is a more quiet, centrally located airport. with plenty of space to learn the tricks of driving and get a feel of the roads without the fanfare of Dublin, ireland.
We were so happy with the decision to fly into the middle of the Ireland. Our desire was to go south then drive up the west coast, along the Wild Atlantic Way, which felt more navigable and a better choice for our 9 itinerary days.
Day 1: After picking up our rental car we drove south (1 hour 30 minutes) straight to the Blarney Castle and Gardens. I just had to kiss the Blarney Stone! Blarney castle was built in 1446 with original structure and site dating back to 576. Yeah. That date is correct.
The castle itself was stunning and such an ireland icon. I fangirled all over the place.
However, the gardens that surround the castle were showstoppers. We were impressed with the varied grounds. From the interesting Poison Garden to the secluded waterfalls with the oldest trees and beautiful flowered paths we were stunned over and over. This stop was a charming welcome and introduction to Ireland.
After exploring Blarney Castle and Gardens we checked into our Bed and Breakfast for one night at The White House. This B & B is within walking distance to Blarney Castle, pubs, and a town village with shops. There is also free parking on site. We rested a bit before walking to dinner!
Trip Tip: We stopped by a local grocery store and purchased simple, easy lunch foods and snacks. We saved money eating lunch on the road and it freed us up to explore more without stopping to eat during the day. We used a cardboard box from the store to keep our lunch food in.
Our kids thought having a literal lunch box was hilarious. We talk about this funny memory often.
Day 2: After our first traditional Irish Breakfast we left our B & B and headed to Dingle. On our way we stopped at Ross Castle (1 hour 19 minutes). Located on the fringe of Killarney, within Killarney National Park, this location is where the Ring of Kerry essentially starts. This 15th mid-century Castle was fun to explore.
Sitting on an inlet of Lough Leane Lake, Ross Castle boasted spectacular views.
At our next stop, just 15 minutes away in County Kerry, we had an unforgettable experience. We met with a falconer for a private and exceptional Hawk Walk through Killarney Falconry.
This was an exceptional time of beauty and adventure and a unique ireland experience.
Walking along a private and pristine path of fields and forest we were able to have hands on learning for all ages in a comfortable environment. It is unforgettable when a hawk swoops down from a tree to land on your gloved fist. Trip tip: Book early!
Our next stop was the town of Dingle (39 minutes). This beautiful coastal town is a perfect home base for phenomenal adventure on the Wild Atlantic Way. This town is walkable, friendly and a lot of fun. We stopped at Inch Beach for a gorgeous stroll along the ocean.
Vast, alluring and a perfect stop. oh, ireland.
We checked into The Lantern Townhouse that was our home for the next 3 nights. Parking was free and available on the street. That evening we headed out to explore the shops and get dinner. We had ice-cream on the way back to our townhouse at Murphy’s. We were in Dingle 3 days and ate their ice-cream 4 times. Favorite flavors were Sea-Salt (from the actual sea) and Brown Bread.
Day 3: The next day we adventured out of Dingle to take the legendary and most scenic Slea Head Drive (25 minutes). It takes around 3-5 hours to complete the entire loop including the stops along the way. If you don’t take any stops the drive is about an hour.
This drive highlights Irelands old civilization history while mesmerizing you with the most jaw dropping views.
We stopped at the preserved 12th century Beehive Huts, the Iron Age Dunbeg Fort, and the Reask Monastic Site. On our way back we stopped at the small parking lot for a visit to the romantic Coumeenoole Beach. Their are picnic tables here overlooking the gorgeous beach so we grabbed our lunch box and enjoyed the view.
later we explored this tucked in, rugged gem of a beach.
From bottle feeding baby goats to checking out where The Last Jedi was shot we were ready for a little rest back in Dingle. Late into the afternoon we walked to a local park, checked out Fungi the famous local dolphin, looked for Claddagh rings for our girls, and had dinner. Such a fun and memorial day!
Day 4: A twisty one-lane road lead us to Conor’s Pass parking area (10 minutes) . We hiked to the top of the overlook and marveled at the views. Once at the top we spotted a beach and decided to take a drive to find it. Off the beaten path on quiet back roads we found Fermoyle Beach (15 minutes).
We enjoyed lunch here and explored Irelands longest beach.
As we headed back towards Dingle we enjoyed views of wild sheep along the roads before deciding to check out Minard Castle Ruins (38 minutes). This 16th century castle boats a natural stone beach. We ended the night with ice-cream, dinner and we restocked our lunchbox.
Day 5: We said goodbye to Dingle and headed for Doolin (3 hours 40 minutes). Doolin packs the drama of Irelands landscape. Picturesque turns in every direction. This town is a perfect host city where you can venture out from this home base. We checked into Blackberry Lodge and loved the elegant and comfortable space. Just down the road is a parking area at the base of the Cliff’s of Moher. Here we started our hike up the Cliff’s of Moher. We have no regrets about this decision.
We were able to leisurely take in the phenomenal views, experience sea spray, farms and animals, and climb one of the most iconic splendors of the world.
This hike is both rugged and charming. This is an rather easy hike that took around 3 hours. We got to the top of the Cliff’s to explore and every so often we stood in awe of the landscape. We headed back to our car via bus that is available at the top visitors center parking lot! If the bus is not available there are other options here. Our car was parked near Gus O’Conner’s Pub were we decided to have dinner.
Day 6: We booked a ferry this morning to the Aran Island of Innishmore. We rented a horse and carriage to take us to Dún Aonghasa, an over 3,000 year old circular Celtic Stone Fort, perched high above the Atlantic sea. They say its the edge of the world and it sure felt that way.
We stopped at the 7th Century Saint Breacan’s Church ruins where we left prayers among the walls.
We had plenty of time in town to do some shopping and grab a quick-service lunch before we headed back to Doonlin. A day of hiking, exploring and adventuring on Innishmore wiped us out. We all fell asleep on the ferry back and then relaxed in our B & B before heading back to our fun loving local pub. Great time, music, and food!
Day 7: We left Doolin and headed for Bunratty Castle and Folk Park (57 minutes). We thoroughly enjoyed this stop. This 1425 castle now sites inside 26 acre historical living village with plenty of things to do for all ages.
We explored a mystical fairy garden, enjoyed exquisite coffee and pastries, meandered through beautiful gardens and historical buildings.
We spent a lot of time here and loved everything. In late afternoon we checked into Newpark House where we stayed for our final two nights. This B & B is gorgeous with walkable grounds, gorgeous home and privacy. We loved this romantic stop. We returned to Bunratty Castle this evening (19 minutes) for the best Medieval Banquet Dinner we could have imagined. Eating inside the castle was truly an unforgettable experience. We enjoyed multiple courses of food along with perfect entertainment.
We laughed so much this night.
Day 8: For our last full day in Ireland we headed to The Burren National Park to hike.
Initially formed during the Lower carboniferous period, the Burren was once a sea bed roughly 350 million years ago made of compressed sediments. Hiking in the region, you can easily spot fossils embedded in the rock – such as fossil corals, ammonites and sea urchins and more. However, the Burren as we see it today is largely a result of the last glacial period, during which it was covered in ice. The melting of this ice had a dramatic effect on the landscape – moving and depositing sediments and large boulders (Glacial Erratics) as well as chipping away and eroding at the limestone beds. The Burren is today recognised as one of the best Glacio-karst landscapes in the world.https://www.wildernessireland.com/blog/burren-national-park-brief-guide/
This a rural and vast location with few amenities and all the splendor. The weather changes every fifteen minutes so dress for the changes. We didn’t experience a downpour and were comfortable the entire time. Trip Tip: There is no bathrooms for use (at least where we were) so plan accordingly! After we left the Burren we saw that the nearby town of Corofin was having their annual Festival of Finn. We were interested in their Myths and Legends Bus Tour but they had plenty of activities to choose from. We purchased the bus tickets online and met up at their pickup location.
The tour gave us a wonderful history of the area, drove us by a multitude of amazing sites (including a Bronze Age Burial Site), and we met local people.
The bus tour ended with tea, coffee and desserts in Dysart Castle. We had the best time! After the bus tour we went back to Newpark House and laid low all evening.
Day 9: We spent our last moments in Ireland enjoying a marvelous breakfast feast and exploring the grounds at Newpark House. We rested before it was time to leave for Shannon Airport (20 minutes). As I left Ireland I was struck with how much I loved it, how much I would miss it and how much I learned.
Ireland is magical, affordable, and the best color in the world.
Have you been to Ireland? Any must do’s?
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