Karen and I spent two weeks there and got back last Saturday. Karen's travels plus my travels plus our travels adds up to a fairly impressive list of places (for Americans anyway) but, shockingly, neither of us had ever been to Ireland and so, for the first time, we travelled to a place where neither of us had ever been before. By the end of the trip, it is fair to say that, although we plan on returning to Ireland in the future, if we never make it back, we've given the Emerald Isle a pretty good touring.
If you have never been to Ireland, all I can say about it is: Go.
Below is the first part of our itinerary. My purpose is to perhaps help others considering going as well as to document our trip. If you're considering going to Ireland and you have two weeks to do it, then I think you'll find you could do a lot worse than to follow this plan.
Before the first part though I want to thank Paul Hannan. I pinged him last year for some thoughts on our trip planning and his general advice was spot on which was to move from place to place and see the sites as we could. When you're planning a driving trip it is tough to gauge how far you can go in a day but his input was really very helpful to get us going in the right direction. Thanks Paul!
And so...Cead mile failte! A thousand Welcomes!
We've travelled enough to know that, if we can afford it, we choose nice places to stay. On this trip, Karen was six for six on B&Bs, inns, castles, hotels. Every single one of the places we stayed on this trip (they are listed on the maps) is someplace we would definitely go back to and highly recommend.
They drive on the left side of the road in Ireland. Tourists drive VERY slow because the entire country is like being in a Thomas Kinkade painting. The place is green, it's beautiful, it rains quite a bit, the roads can literally be treacherous and there are lots and lots of sheep who may decide they prefer being on the road to being in their assigned and fenced field.
If you are a competent driver (which rules out 90% of Americans), then you will be fine. The whole left side driving thing takes a day or two to get used to but it works out fine.
First, the locals believe that the slow drivers are "90%" tourists. That was not my experience. I would say 50% is more like it but my point is there are a lot of slow drivers to watch out for.
Second, in many cases it is damn near impossible to speed so if you are a competent driver (again, 90% of Americans...this does not include you), you can zip through these roads almost as fast as you care to try and you will find that on the infrequent occasions when the road actually allows you to get up to the 100kmph allowed, very, very soon you will be confronted with a turn that simply is not possible to take at speed in your Avis rental car. You learn quickly but it's fun if you're a Driver. Definitely see the appeal for the motorcyclists.
The roads can be very small. Think Matchbox size. Think "...a Mini might have trouble staying in this lane..." That being said, I found that virtually all people stay well within the lines even though there is ample cause on these roads to, uh, shall we say, cheat.
Ireland Nights 1 - 7
We arrived Dublin on Saturday morning from Chicago.
Got the rental car from Avis. Longest car rental experience ever. For real. The $5,000 credit card deposit for not taking the car insurance was a bit of a shock (we get car rental insurance from our credit card) and we had to let them know there was a cricket bat-sized dent on the front fender they had not notated on the car condition report but then we were off to our first location: Trim.
We chose Trim because it was near Newgrange and, of course, Trim Castle. You need to see those things if you go. Do the tours. They filmed some of Braveheart at Trim Castle. Newgrange and Howth are really something to see given that they pre-date the Egyptian Pyramids by about 1,000 years or so and have only really been open to the public for the last few decades.
You can see from the map that we did not just see those two places but we also drove the area.
Our first night, we headed over to the town of Longwood for no particular reason other than that is what we do: We head out.
We were looking for some dinner but ended up just drinking Guinness in a pub. Funny story though. The first pub I entered was packed. Packed. With all of maybe twelve people all of whom gave me the look when I opened the door. No room there so I shunted out and went around the corner.
Ended up catching the exciting part of the Football Finals between the two Madrid teams and had a great time. The couple sitting at our table told us that our original pub was reviewed by someone who rates pubs on a four pint scale. One pint is the minimum. The reviewer gave that pub zero pints in all categories! We laugh about that a lot!
Closing the Pub with Musicians
Our second night we ended up closing down a pub that was finishing an annual music benefit for a local music teacher who had passed away at a young age about ten years ago. It was fascinating and delightful. After the musicians were done playing officially they all just sat around a table eating and drinking and one would start a tune and the others might join in. Really something. Then that broke up and the tin whistle player moved to a bench to drink and play. I mustered the pluck to go and chat with him and before we knew it the pub owner was throwing us all out at 2 A.M.
The Rest of The Nights
You can see on the map where went and what we visited. We see a lot when we travel but this route and sights was pretty doable if you have the stamina and the desire. Not grueling but steady for sure.