07 Apr Roadtrip Around the Republic – Ireland
Well, yes, to answer your most obvious first question, Ireland really IS as beautiful as you’ve imagined. On our short road trip around the southern part of the country, we saw so many amazing landscapes, that we can’t wait to come back and see more of the Emerald Isle. Being such a small country, it is easy to see a lot even if you only have a few days, so we made the most of it, covering almost 1300 km in four days.A lot of driving, some might say, but the narrow, winding country roads hypnotized us and the anticipation of each new village, coast and castle beckoned us to keep exploring!
Fresh from exploring the ‘craic’ around Dublin, we cut west across the country to Galway, a lively and charming city where we strolled along the river and found a beer garden to enjoy a pint. The weather was so much better than we had expected, not very cold for late October, and plenty of sun and clear skies to give reprieve from Ireland’s notorious rain. Driving west of Galway, we toured part of the Connemara area, which awed us with it’s eccentric beauty – an unusual mix of perfect pastures, unruly bog wilderness, rolling mountains, dense pine forests and inshore lakes – all largely uninhabited. We loved the low stone walls that seem to zigzag across the entire country, and came upon the first of many cemeteries that we’d see in Ireland, a common yet fantastic sight of ornately carved stone Celtic crosses.
After arriving in Doolin, County Clare, in the darkness the night before, it was a treat to wake up and see cows grazing in bright green fields along the sea, right from the window of our lovely B&B, Glasha Meadows. It was the start of an amazing day driving around County Clare and it was also Bex’s 29th birthday. Well, what an awesome birthday it was. Just 4 kms from Doolin, we came to the Cliffs of Moher, a incredible spot where 600 ft high cliffs seem to have folded up along the ocean. Half the fun of being there was trying to walk into the incredibly strong winds, which were up to a ‘Gale 8’, according to the locals. Our drive then took us through the Burren region – where lush farmlands contrast with crusty limestone and shale plateau – and along the coast to watch giant waves crash into the shore. Then on to our second night of traditional Irish music at McDermott’s pub back in Doolin. The bartender Fintan welcomed us back, the band sang to Bex for her birthday, and three Irish country boys, Declan, Mihol and Neil, provided us with great ‘craic’ (good conversation, good times, fun) all night.
On day three we drove a lot, really too much, but it was so worth it to see the Dingle Peninsula. We made a beeline for County Kerry, our trip made easier by a car ferry that connects the two counties, and by lunchtime we were on the peninsula. The scenic high road over the spectacular mountains took us through Conor’s Pass, where a one-lane road leads up to an incredible panoramic view. The scenery only got better as we hugged the peninsula’s south coast cliffs and beaches all the way to the point at Slea Head. Words can hardly describe the extraordinary beauty of this area, so please view the photo slideshow, though they, too, can only begin to show the contemplative, mystical atmosphere. Though we could have stayed there for days, we were happy to continue on to County Cork that night to rest our weary heads at the cozy White Lodge B&B in Farran Village.
Until now, we had been blessed with quite lovely weather, so it was only fair that we finally got a real Irish heavy-downpour-wind-blown-sideways-rain kind of day. No worries, we just did most of our sightseeing from the comfort of our car. In only 10 minutes we were in Cork city, where Gothic church spires towered over the charming and lively island city, surrounded by the River Lee. But our main destination for the day was Kilkenny, not only to see Ireland’s finest medieval city, but also to drink Brad’s favorite Irish beer…Kilkenny! The creamy beer was heaven-sent, and the medieval alleyways, cathedrals and castles were fantastic – the perfect end to our trip before driving back to Dublin.
Ireland Travel Tips:
- SURFING: Yes, there is surf in Ireland! Not much of a crowd in the water as well… it’s damn cold, but the coast near Doolin as well as the Dingle Peninsula had plenty of potential. It’s just a matter of being in the place with the right winds and swell at the right time.
- IRISH BEER: If you are looking forward to coming to Ireland to drink your favourite Irish beers, think again! Most of our favorites, such as Kilkenny, Caffreys, and Wexford are pretty much just export beers, though you can find Kilkenny in Kilkenny town. Funnily enough though, most pubs will have Budweiser, Carlsberg and Fosters! Of course, Guinness is everywhere and it DOES taste better in Ireland.
- RENTAL CARS: Ireland really has to be toured by car to be fully enjoyed. There are plenty of car rental companies, but at the time, the cheapest inclusive price that we found was with Europcar.com. Check with your credit card company to see if car rental insurance is included when used for payment.
Rebecca Rasmus – Written in 2004 – Ireland