I would hear Céad Míle Fáilte (A Hundred Thousand Welcomes), as I would arrive in the early morning and take the AirCoach from Dublin Airport to Grafton Street. From here, I would walk around the corner along Pearse Street to Trinity Capital, my city central accommodations for the night. I would check in and drop off my bags, while I waited a few hours for my room.
A stone’s throw away from Trinity Capital is Trinity College. So, I would kick-start my day seeing the gloriously illuminated Book of Kells and exploring the Library’s Long Room , where Trinity’s greatest treasures are kept.
I’m sure I would be feeling a little peckish, so I would walk up Dawson Street, behind Trinity College and enjoy the most succulent crepes at Lemon- definitely a Banana and Nutella delight. Afterwards, I would walk up the notorious cobblestone street of Grafton, catch the buskers, and stop in at Bewley’s Cafe for a cup of Ireland’s best java! I would continue my journey and give a little shout out to the Tart with the Cart, as I sing a few lines of Molly Malone. (In Dublin’s Fair City…There is a delightful modern version of the song-just ask Managing Director, Katie Fleming to sing you the rendition!)
I would then take in the sites and sounds, before I head to the lively and trendy Temple Bar area. I would stretch my legs some more and cross the Liffey up to O’Connell Street.
After I stopped at the GPO and the Spire, I would catch a Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour of Dublin. I would then, sit back and relax, while I was entertained and able to learn more about the history, culture, and breathtaking scenery of Ireland’s capital city .
I wouldn’t forget to get off at the Guinness Brewery , explore at my own pace, enjoy a pint, and soak in the stunning 360 degree views from the top of the Gravity Bar.
If I wasn’t too exhausted, I would make sure to visit Kilmainham Gaol where many of the 1916 Rebellion Leaders were held. More of a somber experience, but definitely well worth the trip. It’s truly fascinating.
Finally, I would finish the day with some traditional fish and chips at Leo Burdock’s-Dublin’s oldest chipper!
Day 2-Depart Dublin, Co. Dublin, Arrive Cong, Co. Mayo
I would wake up early feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I would start my morning out right, by enjoying a traditional Irish Breakfast-complete with delicious eggs,rashers, and sausages. I would be sure to take in any sites of Dublin I missed the day before and then make my way to pick up my car for my Self-Drive Tour of Ireland .
I would prepare my GPS, maps, and phone for Ireland for a beautiful road trip to Cong in County Mayo. To help me get in the Irish spirit, I would make a few CD’s beforehand for my journey. Maybe some Christy Moore, Paul Brady, and Van Morrison.
Sitting in between Lough Corrib and Lough Mask, Cong exudes all of the romantic notions of a traditional Irish village. Time appears to have stood still since the iconic movie of The Quiet Man was filmed. I would be prepared to be blown away by the stately Ashford Castle , where the serene setting would whisk me away to a different era. I would splurge and spend an unforgettable night feeling like royalty!
Day 3-Depart Cong, Co. Mayo, Arrive Galway City, Co. Galway
I would wake up bright and early in my pretend palace, have a scrumptious traditional Irish Breakfast , and walk if off around the breathtaking grounds of Ashford Castle . After having my fill of truly feeling like a King or Queen, I would set off for my next adventure through the heart of Connemara.
Connemara is Irish for Inlets of the Sea. The coastal roads bear this, as they wind around small bays, coves, and hidden beaches. Connemara is a kaleidoscope of rusty bogs, peaceful valleys, and shimmering black lakes. Towering through the area are the peaks of the Twelve Bens, while the rest of the land is laced with endless stone walls and spotted with sheep grazing freely.
I would take my time and be sure to stop at the magnificent Kylemore Abbey. Situated on the shores of a small lake; I would slowly take a stroll around the lapping water, peak in the Abbey (Which used to be a Benedictine Boarding School and Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes, was looking to attend.), and have a reflective moment in the Gothic Church. It would truly be a tranquil escape.
I would continue along, stopping for some delicious chowder in the quaint town of Clifden. There are many fantastic pubs, restaurants, and shops. I would definitely have many to pick from!
If I had some time to spare, I would make sure to stop at Dan O’Hara’s History and Heritage Center. I would ask for Martin, because I know he would give me some insight into life in Connemara during the 19th Century and the hardship endured by tenant farmers. Dan O’Hara was a man that was forced to emigrate to America and his story is immortalized in a beautiful Irish ballad. If I was lucky enough, Martin would sing me a few verses while I sipped on some poitin (Illegal Irish Whiskey-Shhh!). I would learn how to make soda bread, cut turf, and partake in some fun activities. I would definitely be entertained!
Eventually, I would head to Galway and stay at the comfortable Forster Court Hotel-a few steps away from Eyre Square. I would get settled and then head out on the town for some diner and Irish drinks . I would make sure to stop at McDonagh’s on Quay Street and tantalize my taste buds with some of the best fish and chips in Ireland.
I would finish the evening with some pints at some of my favorite pubs-King’s Head, Monroes, Róisín Dubh, Spanish Arch, and Tig Cóilí.
Day 4-Galway City, Co. Galway
Depending on how my head felt, I would enjoy a nice and relaxing morning. I would go at my own pace and discover what the bohemian city holds. With a very contemporary feel-I would notice the painted pubs that heave with traditional Irish music and take a front row seat to the unique street performers.
I would then walk down to the end of the quay and notice the Spanish Arch. Built in 1584, the Arch is an extension of Galway’s medieval walls and thought to be the passageway where ships entered the city to unload goods from Spain.
Further along the pram is the Claddagh Village, which was one of Galway’s first fishing communities. Now, colorful cottages mark the area with Hookers sporadically anchored in the bay. (Get your mind out of the gutter, Folks. Not those kind of hookers. Boats!)
Legend has it that the many swans swimming in the bay are actually the fishermen who passed on from the Claddagh Village protecting the people of Galway. True or not, it’s a nice thought.
I would pick up some souvenirs for family and friends, as Galway offers great shopping. If one of my friends wanted a Claddagh , I would make sure to stop at Thomas Dillon’s, where the first Irish Claddagh was made. Love, Loyalty, and Friendship .
Day 5-Depart Galway, Co. Galway, Arrive Killarney, Co. Kerry
I would rise and shine! A new day awaits as I would say goodbye to Galway and make my way south to the Kingdom of Kerry. I would set trails for the Burren and make my way up Corkscrew Mountain, soaking in the views of Galway Bay. I would notice the barren limestone rocks that encompass that exquisite area, but I would make sure not to take them for granite. Hey-o!
My first stop of the morning-a large slab of stone, perched upon two upright stones is the Portal Tomb of the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Built more than 5,000 years ago, the remains of 16 people, pottery, and jewelry were found inside the burial ground. It’s a site that often gets overlooked, but is too impressive not to see.
Further down the road, I would stop at Burren Wild Tours. I would work off my fish and chips and pints, and get some exercise, while I take a gentle walking tour up the hills of the Burren, discovering a maze of archaeological and early Christian sites. I would experience the beauty of the lands unique flora and fauna and hear stories of traditional folklore.
Knowing me, I would probably be hungry afterwards, so I would stop in the quaint town of Kilfenora. Known for where the popular Irish sitcom, Father Ted was filmed. I would take a gander at some of the beautiful Celtic crosses in the nearby cemetery and then stop in to see Mark at Vaughn’s Pub. With an appetizing menu, I’m sure I would find something that my stomach desires. The chowder and brown bread are my favorite!
Now on for the highlight of the day…, the Cliffs of Moher. The picture postcard vertical cliffs rise to a hight of over 750 feet. Their edge falling abruptly into the constantly churning sea. A series of heads, the dark limestone seems to march in a frigid formation that amazes you and will leave you speechless-no matter how many times you look. The image will be forever in my memory no matter how many times I see it.
Depending on time, I would stop off at St. Brigid’s Well and offer a prayer for a passing of a loved one. From here…, a long drive awaits. I would sit back and take in the views of the patchwork fields of the countryside.
Once to Killarney, I would check into the the lovely International Hotel. Situated five minutes from the center of town, it’s a perfect location for my next stay. I would unpack my bags and walk around the corner to one of my favorite pubs-Murphy’s. The Guinness Stew and Shepherd’s Pie are to die for. I would top either or off with a pint of Guinness or a Pear Bulmers . Then, I would end the day with a nightcap of Bailey’s and get a good night’s sleep for another amazing day tomorrow.
Day 6-Killarney, Co. Kerry
After I woke up, I would head for breakfast and have the Egg’s Benedict. An International Hotel specialty. Dee-lish!
Dependent on weather, I would try to schedule a visit to Skellig Michael. George Bernard Shaw said, “Skellig Michael is the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world.” Situated off the coast of Kerry, the sheer natural beauty and ancient ruins of the island always blows my mind away. Among a puffin’s paradise, I would see monastic buildings, part of a Christian monks’ community in the 6th-13th Centuries. It’s fascinating.
After a full day, exhaustion would probably set in. I would make my way back to my base and if I decided to venture out, I would have dinner at Mac’s. They do wonderful filets of salmon and steak. It will be a fantastic way to end my magical day.
Day 7-Killarney, Co. Kerry
I tend to prefer the Ring of Kerry over the Dingle Peninsula, simply because I love the diversity. It combines jaw dropping coastal scenery with land that is simply emerald green and blissful.
I would drive by the ascending Macgillycuddy Reeks, before stopping at the Red Fox Inn for an unforgettable Irish Coffee . Made to perfection! I would proceed, before visiting Kenmare and then going through the Gap of Dunloe and stopping at Ladies View. An ideal place for pictures. I would beware of the Leprechaun Crossing though.
If time allots, I would drive closer to Killarney and make a quick jaunt up to Torc Waterfall. I would feel the mist on my face as I snapped some candids of a truly beautiful landmark.
I would make my last night in Killarney count. I would probably enjoy a seafood dinner at Flesk, followed by homemade ice-cream at Murphy’s, before throwing a few pints back on my own Ireland pub crawl .
Could the day get any better?
Day 8-Depart Killarney, Co. Kerry, Arrive Baltimore, Co. Cork
I would wake up early for my next journey south into the Rebel County. I would make sure to drive along the Beara Peninsula-not quite as touristy as the Dingle Peninsula, but equally as stunning-if not more. The north side is surrounded with craggy drives in and out of nooks and crannies. While the south side, in contrast, is a series of beautiful fishing villages and scenery that is mild on the eyes. Truly serene in nature.
I would stop in Castletownbere and make sure to have a pint of Beamish in McCarthy’s Bar. Have any of you heard of Pete McCarthy’s bestseller? One of my favorite reads and the pub’s front is on the cover of the book.
I would still be jamming out to my Irish CD and would try to put in some Cranberries or U2.
I would arrive in the picturesque village of Baltimore-the southern most tip of Ireland. I would find a coastal B&B, get settled, and then walk to La Jolie Brise to enjoy some American comfort food of thin crust pizza. I would sit back and relax, as I watched the sunset on the horizon.
A delightful day!
Day 9-Baltimore, Co. Cork
I would be treated to a homemade breakfast at my B&B, stop at a Spar and prepare a packed lunch, and set sail for Cape Clear Island in the early morning. I would pay close attention, because I might even notice the dolphins guiding me out to sea.
With it’s lonely inlets, pebbly beaches and heather-covered cliffs, Cape Clear Island is an escapists heaven. I truly fell in love with this small, rugged Gaeltacht area. It’s a quiet place-perfect for me to really appreciate life and reflect upon my amazing Irish vacation . This, no doubt, will be the peak of my trip.
After exploring all the little island has to offer, I would make my way back to the port. I would treat yourself to a pint of Murphy’s-not Guinness (Murphy’s is brewed in Cork.) and nibble on some mouth watering Taytos , before I boarded the ferry back to the mainland.
Life is truly good!
Day 10-Depart Baltimore, Co. Cork, Arrive Kinsale, Co. Cork
I would say goodbye to my B&B hosts and set off for my next adventure-the charming coastal town of Kinsale. Known as the Gourmet Food Capital of Ireland , Kinsale boasts of excellent seafood restaurants.
I would walk up and down the narrow winding streets, spy the tiny houses, and see the bobbing fishing boats in the harbor.
I would find a delightful B&B to my liking and then make my way to Charles Fort-one of the best preserved 17th Century star shaped forts in Europe. It’s truly worth a visit for its spectacular views alone. Built in the 1670’s to guard Kinsale Harbor, the fort was in use until 1921, when much of it was destroyed as the British withdrew.
I would round out the day with dinner at Fishy Fishy or Jim Edwards. Both restaurants would definitely impress my palate.
I would retire early, before my last day in Ireland. It will be a long drive back up to County Clare.
Day 11-Depart Kinsale, Co. Cork, Arrive Bunratty, Co. Clare
I can’t believe my dream Irish vacation is almost over! A long drive awaits as I travel back north to prepare for my journey back to the US.
I would arrive at the Bunratty Manor House and relax for a few hours. I would then want to explore the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. A reconstructed traditional Irish village with cottages, a forge and working blacksmith, weavers and pie-makers. There is even a pub! I would love the smell of the aroma of the burning turf.
If I wanted to end the trip to Ireland with a bang, I would spurge for the Medieval Banquet-complete with harp playing maidens, a court jester, and food galore. I would eat with my fingers and make sure to sample the Mead-a honey wine that might make me a little pissed.
Depending on how early my flight is, I would try to cap the night off with one last pint at the famous Durty Nelly’s.
Then I would say, goodnight!
Day 12-Depart Shannon, Co. Clare, Ireland
Sad to leave, I would say Slán go fóill-Goodbye for now. Until my next trip to Ireland, the UK, or beyond with Tenon Tours!