Driving from Dublin it took about 4 hours to get to the small village of Kinvara, south of Galway on the west coast of Ireland. We had a nice dinner on the seaside and then were treated to a gorgeous sunset before going back to the hotel for an early morning.
We awoke to a mostly sunny day and got on the road for a drive through an area called The Burren, which is made up of plains of criss-crossing limestone formed from glaciers, that spills into the sea near the Aran Islands. It’s beautiful in a wild, desolate way.
About an hour south, we stopped at one of the most spectacular parts of Ireland – the Cliffs of Moher. Soaring 700 feet above the sea, and topped with the most gorgeous mossy green that cameras can’t do justice, you can hike right along the top of the cliffs to Hag’s Head (about 2 hours out and back), and you’re rewarded with amazing views all along the way. Just when you think you’ve seen the best vista, the next one tops it.
After our hike, we hopped back in the car and continued down the west coast, across the River Shannon via the Kerry-Clare car ferry and ended the day in the town of Killarney. Our home for the next couple of days was the elegant Europe Hotel, situated on Lake Lough Lein and a perfect location from which to explore southern Ireland.
The next morning we took a drive to Dingle (only in Ireland does that name work) where we walked around the town, then took a boat ride to see the famous Fungie, a dolphin that’s made the Dingle Harbour its home since 1983. He made several appearances on our 90-minute boat ride to the delight of the passengers.
Next we drove the Dingle Loop, which follows small country roads around the Dingle Peninsula, and provides lots of dramatic photo ops of the ocean overlooking the Blasket Islands, verdant hills diving into the sea, vivid wildflowers all along the roads, sweet little villages and, of course, lots of sheep. It is Ireland, after all. Ah, and you also run across the most westerly point of Europe…the next land stop to the west is the USA.
We stopped along the way to do a hike near the Blasket Islands Visitor’s Centre which was very pretty until we got caught in a rainstorm with literally no shelter, so we just kept trudging along until it stopped. When the rain stopped we happened to make it to the small schoolhouse where the Robert Mitchum movie “Ryan’s Daughter” was filmed in 1970. I haven’t seen it, but it’s now on my “to watch” list.
We ended the day with a good ol’ pub dinner of lamb stew for me, and fish & chips for Mom. A very good Irish day indeed.
We began the next day with a 7km hike into the Gap of Dunloe, (very close to our hotel) a narrow pass in the mountains of the McGuillycuddy Reeks. It was a lovely hike, surrounded on both sides by velvety green, through the middle of which flowed a river with stone bridges zig-zagging across all along the way.
After our hike, we did a hurried drive around the Ring of Kerry (considered by many to be one of the best activities in Ireland, but if we had to choose, we preferred the views on the Dingle Loop), with a stop in the town of Kenmare before we headed toward Cork for dinner. After a chaotic drive in the Cork city limits, we found a super cute tapas restaurant (Jacques), then took off for our next stop: Kilkenny.
We had a good night’s sleep in Kilkenny, and then spent the day exploring the town. Highlights include Kilkenny Castle and numerous churches…particularly St. Canice Cathedral which has a detached tower that you can climb up for great views of the town below.
After a late lunch, we got back on the road. It was time to head north to Dublin, turn in the car and stay the night near the airport as we both had early flights the next morning: Mom was heading back to the US, and I was on my way to Amsterdam…
What a great trip! T’anks for a great time Ireland!