Tuesday, June 10, 2008
We're back and happy to report that Ireland was every bit as magical as we hoped it would be! The weather was gorgeous, the locals were friendly and the island was absolutely breathtaking. You can see some pictures from our trip here.
We arrived in Dublin around 9 am local time on Saturday morning, so we had the whole day to spend in the city. We got lost plenty of times searching for the city centre, but finally managed to find it and did some sightseeing and shopping and a lot of walking. We enjoyed it but we were definitely anxious to get to the countryside! We drove to Citywest, just outside Dublin to stay the night and highly recommend the Citywest Golf Resort & Hotel (http://www.citywesthotel.com/site/index.aspx). The rates were reasonable and the hotel and grounds were gorgeous.
On Sunday morning we had our first 'Irish breakfast,' and noticed right away why it's famous! They give you SO MUCH FOOD! Eggs, mushrooms, beans, tomato, toast, potatoes, and then the meat - pork cooked every way possible! And salmon! Luckily they also serve fresh fruit, cereal and yogurt or we would've left the country with clogged arteries for sure ;)
Military Road Scenic Drive
From CityWest, we took a scenic drive through 'Braveheart Way' and down to Military Road and Sally Gap in County Wicklow. The scenery along the way was absolutely beautiful and we must've taken 100 pictures out the car window! We saw rolling hills of green and beautiful wildflowers, sheep in the pastures and some on the road! http://www.explore.ie/features/feature.php?ID=30
Our first stop was Glendalough, the site of a monastery founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. The monastery is in ruins, but what's still standing is beautiful and surrounded by beautiful countryside. There are 2 old church buildings that are made of stone and a tall round tower and it's all surrounded by a cemetery. Since the site was once a monastery, it's considered holy ground and everyone wants to be buried there because they believe they'll get into heaven faster. The place is crammed full of gravestones, with multiple occupants in most graves. It was quite a sight! Our tour guide said it will continue as an active cemetery for another 50 years or so. From the main ruins it's a short (1-2 mile) walk to the upper lake, which is said to be St. Kevin's favorite place, and it was just breathtaking. http://wicklow.com/glendalough/
We spent the night in Waterford so we’d be close to Blarney for the next day. Nice B&B, very friendly hosts – Dunroven I think it was called?
Co. Cork - Blarney
We of course made a trip to Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone and it was a fun time! Everyone’s there for a good time and in high spirits, so it made for a neat trip. We spent the day in Blarney and checked out the woolen mills and had lunch at a cute café nearby.
We’d read about Mizen Head in our Ireland books and Mary really wanted to check it out, even though it was a bit off course. So we made the drive and got there just in time for a spectacular sunset view of the cliffs. It was a beautiful sight and a really cool place. We hiked down to the signal point and enjoyed the last bit of daylight there before high-tailing it to look for a B&B before it got too late. We found a great place called ‘Sea View’ right on the beach.
Ring of Kerry
We’d heard that the Ring of Kerry is one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland, but it took seeing to believe it. Just when you thought one sight was the most amazing thing you’d ever seen, you turn a corner or climb a hill and see that it’s even more amazing from that angle!
We ended the day in Tralee, where we’d begin the Dingle Peninsula drive the next day. We checked out the Blennerville Windmill and had dinner at a Tralee pub. Cute town!
We waited out the rain and set out for the Dingle Peninsula around 11 am and lucky for us it cleared up quick and turned out to be a beautiful day! We took Connor’s Pass through the Slieve Mish Mountains and got some great views of Tralee and Brandon Bays. Mary also attempted to feed some sheep with little success.
The drive around the Dingle Peninsula was nothing short of awesome. We did it backwards to avoid tour buses, and while we did meet a few on the narrow roads, it was better than being stuck behind them the whole way!!! We especially loved Blasket Sound and had a picnic lunch there and spent quite awhile watching the surfers brave the rough waters.
Tarbert Killimer Ferry
To save some driving time we took the Tarbert Killimer Ferry http://www.shannonferries.com/ to cross the Shannon River on our drive north to Spanish Point. This 20 minute boat ride saved us about 85 miles of winding roads. This was definitely a good find and now we can say we've ridden on a car ferry.
After the Dingle Peninsula, we drove back up to Tralee and then on to Spanish Point where we stayed in a great B&B and enjoyed a nice walk on the beach before turning in.
We stopped at the beach at Lehinch to play in the tide pools before heading on to the Cliffs of Moher and had a great time! It's amazing to see how much the tide changes from high to low. The areas we walked would be well under water during high tide.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs were everything we’d hoped they were and MORE! We spent HOURS there just taking in the majesty of the sheer rock cliffs from every possible angle. Over 100 pictures at least of just the cliffs! We hiked south along the clifftops in the ‘forbidden’ territory with the rest of the brave souls (which turned out to be 90% of the visitors;). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliffs_of_Moher
We drove through the Burren and it was a really cool area – completely different from everything else we’d seen throughout the week. http://www.moytura.com/burren.htm The Burren is a vast limestone plateau described as " a savage land, yielding neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury". We stopped to see the Poulnabrone Dolmen, and they had really nice info stations set up with detailed info on the tomb and a timeline of when it was built. Very cool!
Our last stop of the day was to see the castle and church ruins at Dysert O’Dea. The castle is still standing and is quite impressive. The Church, high cross and cemetery are a short walk away and you actually have to cross an active cow pasture to get to the church! It was really funny – an 11th century high cross standing tall in the middle of grazing cows! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysert_O_Dea_monastery
We drove to Shannon and staked out the Shannon Airport to make sure we knew how to get there and checked out the nearby hotel - all booked up though. So we drove around a bit and along our way saw a cute baby fox!!! We ended up finding a fabulous B&B just a few minutes from the airport and the rest, as they say, is history!