Over the next 10 short days in April 2016, we visited several beautiful and iconic places in Ireland.
We went with My Ireland Tour to arrange for the trip and I’m glad we did. I found them by searching on google. I forgot the exact terms I used for the search but their company’s link came up first. After reading a few reviews online, we decided on going with them. They were very helpful, especially Kristel, who answered all of our questions before the trip, and even went beyond to give us all the information we need.
There were only 5 of us on the tour, well, actually, it was more like 4.5 but that’s another story for another time 🙂
We stayed overnight at the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, a seaside property in County Dublin. This served as our launching area where the rest of the guests were gathered from the airport by Thomas Lavin, who was our guide and driver for the whole trip.
Portmarnock Hotel was the seaside getaway of the Jameson family in the 1800s, yes, that “Jameson” as in Irish whiskey. It was a very luxurious hotel, which was pretty much the same could be said of all the other hotels on this trip.
We then proceeded to Galway, but on our way there, we stopped by Clonmacnoise. Clonmacnoise is a monastery located in County Offaly on the banks of River Shannon south of Athlone. It was founded in 544 AD!
Upon arriving in Galway, we took the streets around the Eyre Square and the surrounding shopping center, appropriately called Shop Street.
Again, we stayed at a very nice hotel in Galway called the Menlo Park Hotel, which serves as our base for the next two days.
The next day, we went to visit Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway via the villages of Oughterard and Maam Cross before travelling up the spectacular Inagh Valley. Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle.
In the afternoon, we continue on to Clifden via Letterfrack. We had some free time in Clifden where we visited some of the small shops around town. The shopkeepers were very friendly and are very eager to share their life stories. One guy we spoke to who runs a shop of knickknacks and other souvenirs, told us that he was born 2 doors down from where his shop is. He’s probably in his late 70’s.
One nice bonus. We had some time to kill in the afternoon, and the sun was out. Our guide, Tom, took us to a seaside place in Galway called SaltHill. It was a great spot to watch locals enjoy the sea, sand and ice cream even though it was only in the 50s degree F!
We left Galway for Killarney the next day, but along the way, we stopped by The Burren National park and the famous Cliffs of Moher.
The Burren is an out of this world limestone landscape with crisscrossing cracks formed by the receding ice during the ice age.
The Cliffs of Moher is one of the most popular destinations in Ireland just south of The Burren. It is a series of cliffs that rises above the Atlantic ocean ranging in heights from around 400 to 700 feet! Very dramatic cliffs, and make you feel so insignificant!
We made the Dromhall Hotel in Killarney as our base for the next 2 days. Killarney is a very small and walkable town with only one main drag, where probably half of the businesses were pubs! Not that I’m complaining 🙂
After breakfast, we head out to the world famous Ring of Kerry. It’s over 100 mile circular tourist loop with nice views and areas to stop along the way for closer looks. It was beautiful at this time of the year. I can’t wait to see it on other times of the year, although I hear that this place could get crowded with big buses in peak season.
We had lunch at a pub called The Blind Piper in the village of Caherdaniel. It was a small pub but the food was excellent!
Today, we’re headed to Cork. First stop was Blarney Castle. And no, I did not kiss any stone 🙂 What I was looking forward to though, was a visit to the Old Midleton Distillery, home of all the Jameson Whiskeys in the world. I learned more than I want to know about whiskeys, and why Jamesons is the best. And I am not just saying that because of the free whiskey tasting at the end of the tour 🙂
Again, a pleasant surprise from our guide, Tom, was a stop at the English Market since we still have some time to kill before heading to our hotel. The English Market is a covered food market in Cork that is also popular with tourists. This was a great place to watch people and enjoy some of the great food at the same time. I really enjoyed this place.
We headed to Kinsale first thing in the morning, meaning around 9AM. Kinsale is a historic port and fishing town in County Cork. The day, being a Sunday, I felt like we were the only the people in town. But later on as we were leaving about a couple of hours later, I can see it getting crowded.
Kinsale is a very lovely town, with lots of colorful old buildings, mostly shops and pubs.
From the town of Kinsale, we headed to the Charles Fort just up the hill from the town. I can’t really say much about this place because all I can think of was how cold it was when we were there 🙂
Today, we’re headed to Dublin, but we had a couple of stops along the way. First was a stop at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. We had a guided tour, but again, it was so cold that my brain probably froze that I really didn’t remember much what was said. So I just took lots of photos because it was pretty up there.
We then had lunch at a real and working farm somewhere around Kilkenny, which is also a Bed and Breakfast. This was probably one of my favorites because we were really in someone’s house and was greeted by the farmer who owns the place and were fed with some homemade food. A good respite from all the hotel and restaurant food we were having for the last week.
We then continued on to Dublin, which was a long drive, but I didn’t mind at all because the scenery has been just beautiful.
We stopped by the Irish National Stud and Japanese garden before continuing on to our hotel in Dublin. I didn’t really know much about this place and I’m not into horses as well, so I didn’t know what to expect. But the place was amazingly lush and very nice to make some images with your camera.
In Cork, we stayed at the beautiful Gresham Hotel, which was close to a lot of things that you can get to by walking in Dublin City.
This was really our last full day of the tour, and it was a very light day, which was good since it gave us plenty of time to walk around Dublin on our own.
In the morning, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is an illustrated manuscript of the 4 books of the Gospels made around 800 AD. It was something to see, but you can not take photos of them. Upstairs, is the main chamber of the old library call “The Long Room”, because it was…long 🙂 You can take photos here, but it was hard because it was dark and there were lots of people. I don’t know if tripods were allowed, but even if they were, I don’t think it was safe to do so with all the crowd there.
We then went to Christ Church Cathedral where we had a guided tour from top to bottom, literally. We climbed up the belfry where they let us ring the bells in the tower. It was a tough climb and not for people with heart problems or claustrophobic. But the view at the top was just amazing!
Christ Church also contains the largest cathedral crypt in Britain or Ireland, according to Wikipedia, and it was big! It was constructed around the 1100s, although has been renovated in the early 2000s. The crypt contains various monuments and historical items.
The afternoon was a tour of the Guiness Storehouse. It was a self guided tour spread around several levels of the building, I forgot how many levels exactly, where you learn as much as you want about how they brew their popular stout. I just skimmed all of those and went straight to the upper part of the building. I had the best Guiness Irish Stew in the restaurant upstairs, again, I forgot what level it was. We then headed to the top floor where we claimed our free pint of this tasty drink with the view of Cork to enjoy. Even if you don’t like to drink beer, you should still probably go here for the view.
After our last dinner as a group, or what’s left of us 🙂 we said our goodbyes to the new friends that we made on this trip, particularly, Luke and
Laura Holly, who came from the land down under, where women glow and men plunder, but no plundering went on, just a lot of laughs and pints of Guiness, or Bulmers on some cases. When we first meet each other 9 days earlier in Portmarnock, we were strangers, but in the end, it feels like I’ve known these people all my life. I couldn’t have picked a much nicer travel companions and guide for this trip.
Off to the airport.
Ireland is everything I imagined it to be, but not only the green sceneries, but the friendly people we meet along the way. I have always wanted to come to Ireland, and this was my first time and surely, it won’t be my last. Our driver/guide, Tom, said with confidence that he can see me be back there soon. Well, Tom, I hope you’re right!
The View from the Bus
We spent a lot of times on the bus just getting from one place to the next, but the view was beautiful and intoxicating that it did not bother me a bit. I tried to soak in every moment and just kept on snapping my camera. It also helped that we’re a small group that we even took turns and sit at the front for a better view.
I also made a photo film of the sceneries we passed by along the way so enjoy it, then head down below to view more of the photos.
Ireland – Iconic Scenes
Ireland – It’s People
Ireland – The Churches
Ireland – The Bars
Ireland – The Places
Ireland – The View From The Bus