|Everyone who knows me knows how much I love
Europe. When I dream about the next destination to travel,
my mind inevitably goes to London, Italy, France, etc. I
have extremely fond memories of traveling in 2011 and 2012
and I can’t wait to be back. I can’t wait to get back to
road trips through the country side, the amazing food, and
the incredible culture and architecture. This post on
Ireland is from 2011, when I first visited this tiny
Ireland was never one of the places that I sought to visit up until recently. It was always a place associated with that weird accent – or so I thought when I was in highschool. But when I arrived in London just over 3 months ago, I realized that it had everything that I now wanted to see: natural surroundings, ocean, great food, and a varied culture. That is when the research started. While it only begun with Dublin and Galway, I soon discovered through the wonders of Google that there was much more to be seen in Ireland. One of those things was the Ring of Kerry.
As the control freak that I am, I had an itinerary in mind but what we saw in Ireland was far from what I expected. The first day began with us (Jennifer and me) spending a day in Dublin – Ireland’s capital. While Dublin was a place that you had to say that you at least saw, we were mildy disappointed by the city as it was just that, a big city. The architecture was not particularly unique to Europe but I have to confess, I don’t think I give Dublin enough credit. Well, this trip was more about the country side anyway.
After spending a day in Dublin, we took the early train to Galway in western Ireland. It was a smooth train ride and only about 2.5 hours long. Since I don’t mind long trips (good earphones will do the trick), I actually enjoyed it! We didn’t spend any time in Galway though as we caught a taxi straight to the airport to pick up our car and headed off.
The first thing I noticed about the roads in Ireland was how incredibly narrow some of them were. Lots of curves, narrow roads, blind corners, and lots of hills. That was essentially what we drove through. Some roads were so narrow that only 1 car could get through at a time yet the speed limit in both directions was 100km/h. Not surprisingly, people have been killed on this road. Driving around the Ring of Kerry, we were told by many to go counter clockwise but we went clockwise anyway because it was more convenient for us and we had a small car. The reason for this is that coaches and big buses go clockwise and well, if you went around a small bend with a coach in front of you, there is a danger you could be hit! For those of you who watch anime, it was like Initial D but with oncoming traffic lol. Eventually, when you got used to the speed and the curves though, it became a very fun drive!
When it comes down to it, the experience would not be the same if we had not driven. Those of you who are looking to visit the Ring of Kerry, you really should consider driving. Just rent a small car and drive carefully. People in Ireland are very nice and patient, they will just pass you if they get a chance but rarely do they honk on that road. By driving you can venture off into off paths and you can stop whenever you want! Plus, the drive along the coast of Ireland is incredible. There was stunning landscape after stunning landscape. We wanted to stop every chance we could get.
P l a c e s V i s i t e d
The first stop along the way down south was the Cliff’s of Moher. Leading up to it, the landscape was gorgeous. Rolling green hills, stones, old houses, and lots and lots of ocean. It all looked so natural and untouched. The Cliff’s of Moher are a huge landmark in western Ireland. In fact, it is being lobbied for being named one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. The first thing I noticed was just how huge those cliffs were (over 200 meters high). The sheer scale of it was jaw dropping. The waves crashed up on the foot of the cliffs and the winds carried crisp, cold, fresh air. It was really a sight that takes your breath away. I came back again during sunset the next day to get some pictures in that lighting. Note that you can stay on the cliffs as long as you want or at any time.
We then drove about 3 hours further south to reach the town of Killarney where we stayed the second night. A great town where there are loads of nice restaurants, pubs, and scenery. It is also the home to Killarney National Park, which apparently has some incredible natural green hills and beautiful lakes, but unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go. I did have an amazing meal there though (see below on food).
The rest of it is history. Along the Ring of Kerry, we drove through many towns but made stops in Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Ballinskelligs (where you can catch a boat out to the Skellig Michael). All had different characteristics but they all had that small town feel to them. People knew each other and how could they not? The houses don’t even appear on the GPS and they don’t have house numbers in some of these towns. I loved how laid back and friendly the people were and it made me realize that this is the way it should be. We have it all wrong in the city sometimes.
All in all, we saw so much while we drove around. Ireland is an incredibly beautiful country with so much to see. I might not have enjoyed this as a kid when I was less appreciative about scenery but this trip wow’d me. I will definitely be back to see the rest of Ireland sooner rather than later.
A c c o m m o d a t i o n sWe had a total of just 3 nights to complete what we had in our itinerary and we moved around quite a bit (being a road trip and all) but we ended up staying at some nice places that were not too expensive. Call me a snob but we did not stay in any hostels along the way. A big part of the experience in places like Ireland is the fact that you get to stay in just about any bed and breakfast and enjoy the home cooked meal, the homely hospital and comfort. Of course, while I say this, we ended up staying in a hotel in Dublin (haha).
First Night - We stayed at the Central Hotel (1-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin, Ireland) for our first night in Dublin. It was only €89 for the night and it was situated within the centre of the city so it was very convenient (ie. Temple Bar, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ’s Church were all within a 10 minute walking distance). The room was also very clean and lots of natural light came in as well. Wifi was also provided for free all over the hotel. Believe it or not, this is a huge benefit as you have to pay for this service in most metropolitan tourist hotspots such as London and New York for example. Overall, I would recommend this place for a short stay.
Second Night - By the second night, we had taken a 2.5 hour train ride to Galway and driven over 5 hours south so we were fairly tired. Eventually we made our way down to Killarney within the County of Kerry. We booked our stay at the Earls Court House (Woodlawn Road, Killarney, Ireland). From the outside, it looks like a very nice country style home. You could tell that they placed an enormous amount of attention to detail as it was very presentable both inside and out. The bedding and the room itself was spacious, clean, and in many ways, looked quite luxurious. The great thing about a bed and breakfast is how there is a distinct lack of commercial feel to the surroundings. The lady we spoke to at the front desk (who, I’m not afraid to say was easily the prettiest girl I saw all trip long haha) gave us great advice for places to eat for dinner. The breakfast that was served at the B&B was also extremely tasty and very filling. Be sure to try their porridge! I highly recommend this B&B not only for value but for convenience as well. It was only €99 per night for our room and it was a 10 minute walk into the main road where a number of great restaurants are situated.
Third Night – On the third evening, we chose to stay nearby Galway but out far enough that we could still enjoy the country side. We ended up booking a room at the Atlantic View B&B (Pier Road, Doolin, Ireland) in Doolin (which was about an hour and a half drive from Galway). Situated right by the coast, you get a fantastic view of the coast straight out of the bedroom window and you can see the cliff’s that lead up to the Cliff’s of Moher (only a 10-15 minute drive). The other side of the house, you could see fields with cows grazing on the grass. You get the picture, this place is situated right in the midst of the country side and that in itself is the experience. The decor was very country style but again, very homey. It wasn’t quite as luxurious as the Killarney experience but it was a fine place for a one night stay. We were also provided with a decent breakfast before we headed back to Galway for our train ride. Overall, I would recommend this B&B for its location and simple hospitality.
F o o d
Dublin. When I thought of Ireland, I did not originally think of the food as being a major highlight. I thought, bacon, sausages, poached egg and black pudding, but did not think about how good this food might be. In Dublin, we had quite simple meals such as Irish Fish and Chips at the Elixir (not too different from English fish and chips but the sauce was distinctly more citrusy than that of the regular tartar sauce we get). Not a place I would necessarily come back to.
We also found a cafe called Queen of Tarts which was packed with tourists. Providing caffeinated drinks as well as many different types of desserts and pastries was their specialty. I enjoyed a carrot cake (dubbed the best in Dublin) and double espresso for an afternoon snack here. Overall, nice out door setting and the food was quite decent.
Killarney. On the second day, we didn’t have a proper meal until dinner since we were driving around and did not have much time to waste but after we checked into our B&B, we asked for a recommendation for good ol’ Irish cuisine. The pretty lady suggested Bricin down in the heart of the town. It was only a 10 minute walk and when we arrived, we found the place was very busy (always a good sign). We ended up getting the 3 course set menu for €26 and enjoyed it thoroughly. The last time I had such a good meal was... probably back at Vij’s in Vancouver! The seafood chowder made me want to take my friend’s plate and finish it all off for her. I couldn’t put the spoon down it was so good. For the entree, I had the boxty (an Irish specialty that is essentially a potato omelette) filled with chicken and vegetables in cream sauce. Now, if that isn’t like a home cooked meal, I don’t know what is. It was delicious! Absolutely, I would recommend this restaurant to ANYONE in the area. Though, I heard that there are impressive restaurants all around Killarney, this one definitely stood out to me.
For breakfast the following day, we ate at the B&B (breakfast provided) and it was great. There is a self serve counter filled with all your essentials such as cereal, porridge, milk, coffee, tea, juice, fruits, etc. Their porridge had won awards in past years and it was indeed so good that I had to go back for seconds. They also serve a great Irish breakfast as well (consisting of sausage, bacon, poached egg and tomato).
Doolin. By the time we checked into our B&B it was already 9:45pm and most restaurants in the small town of Doolin were closed or no longer serving. However, we were recommended to go to the O’Connors Pub just down the street and grab some grub there. Now, I don’t know about you but I have learned not to expect much from pub food. So we went there and noted right away how busy it was despite it being based in such a small town. It was loud in there but not in any way that would be obnoxious, people were greeting one another and they all knew each other it seemed (other than the tourists) and this made for a great atmosphere! We quickly ordered our meals (lamb stew with mash and baked salmon) and grabbed my first of a few pints of Guinness and sat down. The food came within 10 minutes and we were given a table even though it was packed with people (the waitress had taken the initiative to ask others to give way for us – talk about service!).
Remember how I said that I don’t expect much from pub food? Well this was on a league of its own. The lamb stew was mouth wateringly good. The meat was tender and the stew had enormous flavour. It was the best meat stew I have ever had. I also then tried my friend’s salmon. If you are like me, I am always afraid that salmon would be overcooked. Well, we were very happily surprised. The salmon was delicious and very moist. Far above average... in fact, if this had come from a Michelin star restaurant, I would be surprised in terms of texture and overall flavour. Really great food and a great atmosphere, what more could one want from a neighbourhood pub? Sorry, no pictures of this since we were too hungry and forgot to take pictures before scarfing our food down haha.
Guinness. Since this beer is world famous and is from the country of Ireland, it deserves a section of its own. I love my beer and Guinness is definitely high on the list. It doesn’t matter which country you are in, you can find some good Guinness wherever you go. However, it is different in Ireland. If you get a pint from the tap, you will taste the difference in that it is smoother and somehow seems more refreshing than compared to the other parts of the world.
I m p r e s s i o n s
Our impressions of Ireland were a surprise to us. When people ask me what my favorite country was, I have to say that Ireland is right up there. Maybe we got lucky with the weather but Ireland is truly an incredibly beautiful place that everyone should give a chance.