While we were making our list of places to travel before the baby arrived, Ireland was tops on our list. However, I had my sights set on Croatia for September and Ara suggested Ireland instead. I’m not entirely sure how I was convinced but somehow we ended up moving forward with plans for Ireland. We knew we wanted to see several parts of the country and in researching cheap RyanAir flights, it left us two choices—either 3 days or 8 days. All of a sudden I found myself planning our 8-day excursion across Ireland! When we told all our local friends we were going to stay that long, they couldn’t believe it! It’s normal for a quick 3 or 4 day getaway to the close-by cities or countries here in Europe but 8 days seemed like so long for one trip!
On September 1, we took our first flight out of the Frankfurt Hahn airport to Dublin, Ireland. From the airport, we hailed a taxi and made our way to check-in to the The Dean Hotel. In researching hotels, this seemed like a central spot for several of the places we wanted to check out while in Dublin. The hotel is a beautifully done boutique hotel with tons of amazing amenities, including welcome gin and tonics in the gorgeous hotel lobby bar and the ever-handy electrical converter in the room. However, what they don’t tell you on the website is that the hotel is situated on a very popular club street and the noise in the hotel room will be bumpin’ until wee hours of the night. (sigh!) The hotel itself is lovely, but sadly if we return to Dublin we won’t be staying here again due to the noise at night.
The afternoon we arrived, we set out on foot to check out the Dublin city scene! We were ready to see the famed Temple Bar area, just a short walk from where we were staying. I always love wandering around a new city to check out the design and the buildings. Dublin had gorgeous displays of flowers situated on almost every building!
The next morning we started our day with breakfast at Herbstreet (no reservations accepted, get there when it opens!). We had some of the best eggs benedict and french toast that I’ve ever had—and that’s quite a bold statement coming from me! I’m a firm believer now that every order of french toast should come with a large dollop of clotted cream on it.
We made our way to Trinity College for a late morning tour of the grounds and most important, the library (no reservations needed for the tour.) This destination was tops on Ara’s list of sights to see in Dublin, and probably in life. We had heard quite impressive things about the library on the college campus, but until you see it in person, you can’t quite understand the vast beauty of it. There are books stacked as far as the eye can see (over 200,000 of their oldest books) and the light beckons in at just the right angle, lighting it all up beautifully. It’s a definite book lovers dream to see this library!
After the tour, we walked over to Powerscourt Centre for a quick bite of lunch before we made our way over to the Guinness Storehouse (make sure and book your tour online before you go!). As equal opportunity liquid lovers (a long way of saying, we thoroughly enjoy all beverages) we were very excited to make the Guinness Storehouse a stop on our Ireland adventure. Guinness does a great job walking you through their history and brewing process as you wind your way through their massive storehouse. With your ticket you are able to either learn how to make the “perfect Guinness pour” or use your ticket to enjoy a pint at the Gravity bar. I opted to use my ticket to learn the perfect pour and then we made our way up to the bar for Ara to redeem his ticket. I’ve never been a fan of Guinness when I’ve tried it before, but some say the best place to enjoy Guinness is from the Storehouse itself and I would have to agree 100%—it definitely tasted rich and delicious.
That evening, we had a short walk over from our hotel to dinner at The Lucky Duck (reservations recommended). This was such an unexpected surprise of a restaurant—after walking through their bar area, you walk upstairs to find a quaint seating area that looks like a cozy, living room with a small bar area. The wild mushroom risotto is something I’m still dreaming about to this day. I’d highly recommend a dinner reservation here if you’re ever in Dublin!
We woke up on our last morning in Dublin and walked over to have breakfast at Meet me in the Morning, a hole-in-the-wall cafe, close to where we were staying. Brunch is my absolute favorite meal and I love starting out vacation days with a nice full belly, especially when it includes a delicious, artisan coffee. Their version of french toast did not disappoint one bit! After breakfast, we packed up and headed back to the airport to pick up our rental car. Ara was our fearless driver, taking the helm on the right-hand side of the car (his second experience with driving on the “left”—first time when we were in New Zealand!)
It was time to start our driving portion of the Ireland adventure as we headed west to Clare County. We arrived a few hours later at The Spanish Point House, our bed & breakfast accommodations for the next two days. The weather was looking great and we decided to make our way to see the Cliffs of Moher while there was no sight of rain in the forecast. The cliffs were top on our “must-do” list for the trip and they were nothing short of breath-taking.
We made it back from the Cliffs with just enough time to walk across the street from the B&B to the beach for a nice sunset walk and pick up some seaglass. I love collecting seaglass and shells from each spot we visit. We’ve gathered quite a large collection of different little glass vases from our travel destinations.
The next day we made it our mission to journey around The Burren and The Wild Atlantic Way after a delicious breakfast at the B&B. Our first stop brought us to The Burren Perfumery and Tea Room. This quaint, small-batch shop was beautiful and we loved smelling all their great products. The highlight was stopping in their tea room to enjoy a cup of tea made from their fresh herb and flower garden along with some scones and homemade raspberry jam! We also found ourselves checking out Ireland’s first and only (to our knowledge) bean-to-bar chocolate shop, Hazel Mountain Chocolate. We received a great local recommendation for lunch while at the chocolate shop, so we headed just down the way to Linnane’s Seafood Restaurant. We were so glad we took the recommendation and had some of the best fresh crab (both claws and chowder) that we’ve ever experienced! After dinner that evening we walked to a local bar and Ara fulfilled his dream of listening to some live Irish music while drinking a pint of Guinness. You are starting to see why Ara tried so hard convincing me to go to Ireland.
The next day we drove down the coast and took a ferry to get to the Dingle Peninsula. The weather had taken a turn and the forecast said rain, rain and some additional rain. We stopped in Dingle for lunch and enjoyed some authentic fish and chips at Reel Dingle Fish Co. We had plans of wandering around the cute village of Dingle a bit more, but the rain had us ready to check into our Airbnb early. We made our trek on the Wild Atlantic Way to what I can describe as the “Irish sticks” and found our cozy Airbnb cottage. Our sweet host, Olga, had left us some fresh eggs from her chickens and some baked bread and muffins for us to enjoy. This was definitely the most we’ve been “treated” to during an Airbnb stay! The weather was still rainy and we decided to lay low for the next couple days while at the cozy cottage—we even got regular visits from the family cat, Louis! The weather was a tad disappointing and we didn’t get to enjoy as much of the Dingle Peninsula as we were hoping to. We drove over the Connor Pass, typically a scenic drive—but all we saw was terror in each other’s eyes as the air was covered in a thick, white fog next to the steep cliff adjacent to the one-lane road. A moment that’s memorable, but not as breath-taking as Rick Steves describes.
After a rainy couple days, we traveled down a bit of the Ring of Kerry and stopped for a sheep-herding demonstration. After seeing so many sheep along the the countryside of Ireland it was very informative and neat to learn quite a few things about sheep from the demonstration, and see those impressive dogs in action.
We stopped in Kinsale for the evening and checked into The Old Presbytery, a former Priest’s house dating back to 1829, turned B&B. We decided Kinsale was a good stop for our adventure as Rick Steves lists it as a foodie destination. We found ourselves dining at The Finn’s Table (reservations recommended) for dinner, awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating. Ara and I both ended up ordering lobster—lobster tail for him and surf and turf for me. This dinner was a definite highlight of our trip as we don’t indulge on lobster often!
The rain proved to be difficult for us again and we had to cut our sight-seeing of Kinsale down to a minimum due to the downpour. Our last destination coincided with my birthday so we decided to make it an extra special spot and stayed at Mount Juliet Estate near Kilkenny. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend (Hi Shelby!) had stayed at this property on her recent visit to Ireland and recommended it to us. It was a special treat to celebrate my 31st birthday at this beautiful property, complete with a delicious date night dinner and some spa time before we departed the next day. Our only low-point of this stop was not having enough time to enjoy the area or the estate grounds!
I loved everything about our Ireland trip—even the rainy days that caused us to slow down and enjoy some quiet time. The food was so delicious and the locals were all very welcoming and chatty. There’s not many times I say “let’s go back to this place” as we love to add more destinations to our list, but Ireland is definitely somewhere I want to re-visit again (perhaps in August when it’s less rainy!)