Europe

Driving the Irish Roads

     We recently took a trip overseas, to the land of the Leprechauns and Guinness. We had been planning for a while, and thought maybe the best plan was to not have a solid plan, which was a little challenging for me to handle; nevertheless we jumped on our flight with limited plans, and had an incredible time.

    Here is the perfect Itinerary for 11 days in Ireland…

Day 1- Dublin, spend a whole day exploring this beautiful city, do a free walking tour, spend a few hours at the Guinness factory, sip and Irish whisky in a small pub or go party in Temple Bar. There are a million ways you can spend your time in Dublin, and as beautiful as it is, I believe there are more beautiful small villages to be found in Ireland.

Day 2 – Go pick up your rental car, and yes if you’re from Canada, or some other place that drives on the Left side of the car like we do you’ll find yourself slightly terrified as you turn out of that car rental and onto the left side of the road while sitting on the right side of your car. As terrifying as our first moments were on the road we ended up really enjoying cruising the small Irish roads.

   Now it’s time to head to Belfast, it’s not a long drive, only around 2 hours, and you can

take a big divided highway to get there so it is less complicated on your first day in the car. One word of Caution, they have about a million traffic circles in Ireland, I don’t think they actually believe in street lights, instead there will be 4 or 5 traffic circles in a 3 block radios.

Once in Belfast you can take your time enjoying what is close to your accommodation, go out for a beer and visit with some locals, day 3 will also be spent in this Northern Ireland Capital City

Day 3 – Belfast, now that you’re oriented it would be a good time to either join a walking tour, a hop on hop off bus tour or just zip your own way down to Titanic. Today can be a day of full leisure in Belfast before you get back in the car for another day of driving.

     **Tourist tip. Make this your first stop, its about 45 minutes north of Belfast, and tour busses start to show up around 10, so if you arrive earlier you will have the place almost all to yourself. **

   The next stop you make could be at one of the small castles in the north, the Dark Hedges, or the famous Giant’s Causeway. No matter what you choose to do first, you should leave time to visit the Causeway, it left me speechless, it’s a true wonder of the world and I’m glad we were able to spend a few hours climbing the rocks and exploring the region.

   You can take as long as your would like exploring the north but eventually head west, we stayed in Derry for the night, and even got there early enough that we were able to explore the whole village before having a nice dinner that our airbnb host recommended.

Day 5 – Start to drive west or south. We chose south and ended up in Sligo. It was a small village, we didn’t explore the village a lot, we actually drove our car around to a few castles, tombs and beautiful farmland areas that surrounded. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery was one area we stumbled upon and it was quite interesting, we had to drive down a small road that was technically made for 2 way traffic, but only fit 1 car on the road. After the slightly scary drive we made it though, not sure what it was we visited the sights and the info centre, it was a huge area of passage tombs, and there were many theories about why they were there.

Day 6 – Get up early and drive the Connemara coast, this region just north of Galway is stunning. You could drive directly from Sligo to Galway in just a few hours, but we chose the route that took almost 7 hours and visited small fishing villages along the coast, enjoyed fresh fish and chips, and saw beautiful west cliffs.

Day 7 – Galway, we joined a free walking tour in the city and got to learn some of the history of why Galway is actually so famous, we visited the Spanish arches, the Cathedral and wondered the shopping lanes for a few hours before we finally set ourselves down in a pub, where we stayed listening to live music until all hours of the night. Galway is truly magical, the music, the people, the scenery, and should definitely be a place you stop to check out!

Day 8 – This turned out to be a pretty long day for us, but we started early so it was okay. We left Galway and headed to the Cliffs of Moher, which are very famous and are known as filming locations for Princess Bride and Harry Potter. When we arrived we were stunned by how beautiful they are, but after continuing to the Cliffs of Kerry a few days later, came to realise that the Cliffs of Moher aren’t really all they are talked up to be. They are beautiful don’t get me wrong, but they are also highly populated with tourists and tour busses. If you can do the Ring of Kerry I would consider avoiding this tourist trap and continuing on.

   After the cliffs we drove to Dingle, through Harvy’s pass, which was all cliffside, and really beautiful and eventually made it to Dingle for the night. The fastest way to get here is on the Shannon Ferry, which will take off about 2 hours of driving, and is only a 20 minute passage across the canal.

Day 9 – The Ring of Kerry, today was one of the days I truly fell in love with. The Ring of Kerry is absolutely stunning and has so much to offer. We left Dingle and headed for the “start” of the loop, our first stop was at a small Thatched Roof cottage village that was set up in the bog region as if it was “stuck back in time”. We learnt a bit of history, and got to see some really cute cottages and bog ponnies, Then we raced out of there before the Tour busses rolled in and headed south. There were so many villages to stop and wonder through, great fish and chips, beautiful sea-side views and gorgeous abandoned castles.

One of our favourite castles was on this loop, Ballycarbery Castle, a small totally abandoned place, the grass, trees and moss were growing on all the broken down rock sides. This was another place that you had to drive down really small roads to get to, so there were no tour busses which was really great, and we pretty well had the castle to ourselves, we climbed up through the moss rocks and saw views of the villages across the water.

   After the castle we saw a small sign for the “cliffs of Kerry” and decided to follow it. The men were a little hesitant to be on the road because of how small it was, at a few points it seamed like we were just driving into an abandoned area, we followed a few motorcycles, and again no tour busses, because of the tiny roads.  We made it! These cliffs were incredible, we were all left in awe at how gorgeous they were and couldn’t believe we had wasted our time at the Cliffs of Moher when these were hiding in Southern Ireland.

 ** Tourist note – HIGHLY RECOMMEND A VISIT HERE ** 

We kept driving the “ring” and came across a national park which was a rain forest with hikes to waterfall, not something we expected to find in the chilly country of Ireland, and something very unique to visit. There are many options for accommodation in the south, you can stay in Cork, a farm house, Kerry or any other small village close to the end of the loop. We made our way to Cork, we never spent a lot of time here, it was busy and we were tired from spending 10 hours in the car.

Day 10 – Cork Region. We woke up early and drove to Blarney’s Castle, where we spent about 3 hours. First thing was first, we were kissing that stone, so we climbed up the small staircase and kissed the famous Blarney stone, and all were granted good luck! They have a really cool “poison” garden you can tour around, and a forest you can hike through, the weather was great for us that day so we spent a few hours in the gardens and walking around the land. Once we got back in the car we drove towards Waterford, couldn’t find accommodation so we booked an airbnb and stayed in a farm house with a really lovely family for the night. We even got to play with their pet lamb.

Day 11 – We left the farm and started our drive back to Dublin, we stopped at a few castles we saw on the way, and had lunch in a small village, there are millions to choose from, and they all serve the same food, the best was always fish and chips though! We arrive in Dublin     around dinner time so went out for one last Irish pub meal, listened to some live music and then packed our bags to catch our early morning flight the next day.

         If you have more time spend more time in the south, we wish we could have explored a bit more down there, but overall we were thrilled

with the amount of Ireland we saw in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to go back one day!

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