As someone who has already visited Ireland a few times, I was excited to take my mom with me on a memorable mother-daughter trip. Her grandparents were from County Clare and her lifelong dream has always been to trek to her ancestral home. After a few postponements due to Covid, we finally made it happen.

When we first started talking about our travel plans to Ireland, my mom had a short list of itinerary ‘must haves’: time in the countryside to explore the scenic routes, a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, and an overnight stay in a castle. On my list? A few nights in Scotland. A popular and easy pairing!

It was a sunny, breezy day in October when we departed for the Emerald Isle. The Irish winds that greeted us were far more appropriate weather for the fall season. From Shannon, we departed for Galway where we would spend the first leg of our trip.

Having only spent one day in Galway previously, it was much more relaxing to leisurely stroll around and enjoy the sights and sounds of this stunning city. We enjoyed a traditional dinner with a pint and live entertainment at An Púcán on our first night – a perfect introductory experience for my mom! Three days was more than enough time to explore Galway and the nearby areas of Eyre Square, The Latin Quarter, and the Salthill Promenade.

Aran Islands & Cliffs of Moher

We were fortunate enough to grab seats on one of the last tours of the season to the Aran Islands & Cliffs of Moher. After a guided small group tour through the Burren – a wide and rocky landscape – we departed via ferry to the Aran Islands. Although the waters were choppy and the rain was intermittent, I highly recommend adding this to your Ireland itinerary! A horse and carriage ride through the rocky isle of Inisheer, the smallest of the three islands, provided a mesmerizing look at the locals and their way of life. With just under 300 residents, the islands are celebrated locally and thrive off the tourism industry.

The winding trails led us past rock walls that protect crops from gale-force winds to the local schoolyard where children were running off their energy during recess. We were also able to pop into a tiny one-room hut aptly named “The Curiosity Shop.” It was filled with jewelry, scarves, and trinkets handmade by one woman from London who moved to Inisheer after meeting her husband. One of the most memorable moments was when she told me,  “I used to work in a big office in the city. Now, I can enjoy this view and do what I love, every day.”

We boarded the ferry to head back to the mainland (after warming up from a delicious hot chocolate at the local pub Tigh Ned). This time, however, we had a scenic detour to the miraculous Cliffs of Moher. While they made for a stunning sight from the sea, it was truly spectacular to climb to the top of the cliffs and look out over the ocean from where we came. Photos simply will not do it justice. You’ll have to see them for yourself! 

Edinburgh, Scotland

The next leg of our journey took us to the capital of Scotland: Edinburgh! Hands down, my favorite city. The crown of the city, Edinburgh Castle, sits atop Castle Hill and the rest of the city is built compactly along the hillside. The medieval architecture in Old Town is beautiful and the autumnal colors from the planted trees and shrubbery made for a picture-perfect backdrop!

While we were only there for 3 days, we spent our time exploring Old Town, including Edinburgh Castle, before departing for Stirling on a day tour. Along the way, we stopped to see the Kelpies – mythical shape-shifters in Scottish folklore that take the form of a horse on land – and then onward to Loch Lomond. A hike to the top was well worth the view – and we even met a nice young German family who shared some of their snacks from back home with us.

Once we arrived in Stirling, we headed straight for the main attraction: Stirling Castle. A gigantic fortress surrounded by a beautiful Scottish landscape greeted us. I preferred this one over Edinburgh. The castle was much more preserved and had the rooms renovated to show what life was like in the medieval ages – from cooks in the kitchen to troubadours in the great halls. I recommend setting aside a couple of hours to properly explore the castle and all its unique buildings and rooms!

Ending on a High Note

The last leg of our itinerary returned us to Ireland where we spent our last two nights at Dromoland Castle. Dromoland sits on a 450-acre estate and was established in the 16th century. While we were certainly able to cross off a castle hotel on my mom’s bucket list, we were able to relax on our last few days with leisurely strolls around the estate, spectacular meals, and a day at Dromoland’s renowned spa. 

Ireland and Scotland remain one of our most popular multi-country trip pairings. Browse our inspirational itineraries as a starting point for one of your own epic adventures!

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