After a whirlwind of a nine-day vacation, I am back in the states, facing regular everyday life. I had a wonderful time in Ireland, but returning to the real world, while jet-lagged and sick to boot, has not been fun. I miss daytime beers, late night dancing and flying down tiny country roads on the left side.
I still can’t believe how much Ryan and I packed into eight days in Ireland. We flew out on a Friday night, basically taking a red eye due to the time changes. Ryan fell asleep almost immediately. I remained wide awake the whole eight-hour flight, setting myself up for a rough first day in Ireland.
Day One – Saturday
We touched down around 11 am in Dublin (5 am in Chicago) and immediately started exploring. The city is amazing – the people are incredible, the culture is rich and the selection of beer is huge. We spent our first day sampling local brews, partying at Oktoberfest, and exploring Temple Bar, the nightlight district.
I also took a power-nap. I never would’ve made it that night if I didn’t. Adult naps, FTW.
Day Two – Sunday
After waking up refreshed, we walked the half-mile to Trinity College. I suppose I should tell you about the Book of Kells, but I was much more excited to step into the Old Library, a magical place of books, literary collections and other treasures.
We then walked a bit south to Dublin Castle and then on to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Ryan opted to sit outside at the cathedral and wait while I paid to go inside. I wasn’t expecting there to be so much to read and see in the cathedral. Apparently I was in there for 40 minutes, and Ryan was not happy with me when I finally emerged into the sunlight. Whoops.
Looping back up north, we purchased tickets to the Guinness Storehouse tour. This was the only thing on our entire trip we wished we skipped. The tour is expensive and is self-guided, which rubbed two people from St. Louis, home of the free and high-quality guided AB tour, the wrong way. We did get one free Guinness each, but the glasses were snatched out of our hands 10 steps from the exit. Apparently, you don’t get to keep them. €40 for tickets, and we don’t get to keep the pint glasses?! Lame. We rolled our eyes and moved on. The Irish have a sport unique to their country called Gaelic Football, and the final was on Sunday. Dublin won, and the city just exploded. I’d never seen this level of partying on a Sunday night. Ryan and I didn’t watch the game, but we sure did help Dublin close down the bars that night.
Day Three – Monday
Monday was a packed day with three destinations on our agenda, so we left early. Our car rental experience was, well, an experience. It took us almost 90 minutes just to get our car and drive off the lot. I wasn’t really worried about driving on the left side of the road until the second I sat in the driver’s seat. After an anxious few hours, I relaxed, though. It’s easier than you think; you just have to shift your mindset.
After zipping around in our little Toyota Yaris, we stopped at our first destination, Kilkenny Castle, which kind of reminded me of Downton Abbey because of its early twentieth century style furnishings and decorations. I enjoyed its art gallery the most, but the grounds were beautiful. Then Ryan drove for 20 minutes. We almost got t-boned, and I got us lost. That’s when we realized I am the better driver, and he is the better navigator.
We stuck to those roles for the remainder of the trip. After finding our way back to the motorway, we headed to Rock of Cashel. It was interesting to see these historic landmarks back to back. Ryan had thought Kilkenny would be more rustic and have a centuries-old feel. He was more satisfied with Rock of Cashel, which has crumbled and fallen apart over the years and feels a bit eery.
After exploring the different buildings and enjoying the tour, we jumped back in the Yaris to drive up to Kinnity Castle, our home for the evening. The countryside is breath-taking on those drives, but I didn’t enjoy them that afternoon. The roads in the more remote countryside are just wide enough for two tiny cars to pass one another, and the speed limits were between 80-100 km/h. Ryan and I spent the drive just waiting to hit someone head-on around a bend.
Home sweet home for the evening. A photo posted by Allison Arthur (@allisonarthur) on
The castle was amazing. We booked a suite to get the full effect and had a massive bedroom with a sitting area and a bathroom larger than my entire living room. After changing, we explored the castle a bit with our bottle of complimentary champagne, and then enjoyed a fancy meal. I felt thoroughly spoiled for my anniversary.
Day Four – Tuesday
Ryan and I decided last-minute to go on an hour-long horse-back ride in the morning, and it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was just the two of us with a guide, so it felt incredibly private and intimate.
We hopped back into the Yaris afterward and drove down to Cork, which is so tiny we were able to do most of it in the half-day we were there. We spent our anniversary evening on a brewery tour at Franciscan Wells and then had tapas afterward. Perfect way to celebrate three years together. We stayed out a bit for drinks, but we couldn’t keep up with the Irish. Every bar is full by 10 pm there every single night. I don’t know how they do it.
Day Five – Wednesday
Ah, our Ring of Kerry trip day. Ryan and I spent most of Wednesday, in a car, driving from one beautiful outlook point to another. We started in Killarney National Park and then made our way around the ring over the course of the day. No words can capture the beauty of Ireland’s seaside, so here are some pictures:
#nofilter #perfection #ireland #killarney A photo posted by Allison Arthur (@allisonarthur) on
We stayed in Tralee for the night in a lovely B&B called the Tralee Park Guest House. I highly recommend staying there if you’re taking a trip through the Ring of Kerry.
Day Six – Thursday
Ryan and I got up early to catch a car ferry from Kerry to Clare and make our tee time at Doonbeg Golf Course. We spent the afternoon playing the most beautiful, albeit most difficult, round of 18 holes of our lives. Ryan was excited to finally play a links-style course, and we had a lot of fun.
We started to get sick on Thursday, an unfortunate consequence of walking around in the cold and rain. We had a light dinner and then called it a night to save our energy for the next day’s activities.
Day Seven – Friday
We left the resort after I stuffed my face with cheese and salami. God bless the Irish for serving that for breakfast. Our first stop was Cliffs of Moher. Here’s the thing about this beautiful place – 15 people die here every year, yet hundreds of tourists still go beyond the hazard signs and directly onto the cliffs, often hiking just a few feet from the edge. I was one of them. Ryan was not pleased with me.
After he reached his zenith of exasperation, we drove up to Galway and started exploring the town. We visited Galway Cathedral and then started our usual festivities of pub-hopping.
Day Eight – Saturday
We started off our last full day in Ireland with a trip to Newgrange to see tombs that predated the Egyptian pyramids. History is cool.
Ryan and I then drove back to Dublin to return the Yaris (which I already miss!) and started checking our remaining adventures off the list. We started off by becoming the luckiest tourists ever by somehow snagging the last two Jameson whiskey tour tickets of the day.
After a couple of drinks, we headed out to find a Christmas ornament. We get an ornament on every vacation and then get to relive our trip memories every holiday when we put up our tree together. Family traditions, FTW.
The 18-hour trip back was long and exhausting, but I’m glad to be back in the Windy City.
A few tips from my lessons learned:
- The cities were smaller than I expected. We saw most of Dublin in a few days. Cork and Galway can easily be done in a day each. We made many new friends who planned on staying in one city for three to five days to “see everything,” but time dedication is unnecessary. See as much of Ireland as you can if you go.
- Research cab prices. Ask someone at the airport how much a cab trip into the city should cost. We got ripped off and didn’t even realize until we had a much cheaper return trip to the airport to pick up our rental car two days later. Most cabs in Ireland are cash only and don’t run a meter. If you’re unprepared, you’ll pay for it. Ryan and I ended up using Uber Taxi as often as possible to make sure we got an honest fare.
- If you get lost, suck it up and ask for directions right away. Ryan and I must’ve asked for help a dozen times. The locals are so kind and helpful and never make you feel dumb. Also, Google Maps and the locals call roads by different names. I’d ask how to get to a certain road, and they’d have no idea what I was talking about. My printed out maps and driving directions were useless in these situations. This all being said, skip getting the GPS. Finding your way around the country is fun!
- You must go to a pub and listen to an Irish cover band. They have a unique talent for turning an ordinary song into an opportunity for everyone within earshot to sing and dance along. And jumping and stomping is much easier dancing than all the moves I feel like I have to learn in the states. (I still don’t get the Nae Nae.)
- If you rent a car, go with a company you recognize and trust. We used a foreign company and had a few issues.
- Bring rain boots, a raincoat and an umbrella with you everywhere. It rained at least once a day, but it usually didn’t last long. Still, be prepared.
- Most tourism guides recommend doing the Ring of Kerry in a counter-clockwise fashion. Ryan and I did it clockwise, and I don’t think we missed anything. Go in whatever direction works best for your trip.
Well, I’m off to drink some hot tea and try to kick this cold. Cheers!