Three cozy towns, fifty some miles hiked, fifty some beers consumed and over 500 miles driven in eight full days sums up our trip to Ireland. We drove the Wild Atlantic Way and the gray, rainy, coastal weather felt just like home here in Seattle.
We landed at the Shannon airport after a rough flight. I have a very, very sensitive tummy and let’s just say the airplane food did not sit well. Here is me looking glamorous and having an internal panic attack about having to drive on the left side of the road. Fun fact: It only took me thirty seconds to curb it. Another Fun Fact: It only took me thirty minutes to give up driving altogether and let my 23-year-old (uninsured) husband drive the rest of the trip.
With a new driver, we headed towards the Atlantic in route for our first of three towns, Doolin. We stayed at the cutest BnB, The Sea View House that provided a home cooked breakfast of your choosing each morning. The hosts, Dara and her husband Niall were so lovely. Niall even invited us to come to a fox hunt on one of our days there but unfortunately it got cancelled due to poor weather.
Day 1 (our first full day) included a hike on a farm where we ran into sheep (of course), cows, ancient rock cairns and a holy well. We found some cups and David drank some holy water. Fortunately he didn't get sick...but of course he would't since the water was holy, right?
Here is Father Teds house. Father Ted is a British sitcom about three priests who live on Craggy Island off the coast of Ireland.
We stopped at a church on our drive from our hike, on our way to the Cliffs of Moher! We tried to stop at as many churches and cathedrals as we could because they were all outstanding buildings with amazing history. After visiting the cathedral we stopped at a small store to pick up a snack.
We ate a lot of bread, butter and jam. It was seriously so good and perfect for us since we were constantly on the go!
We got to the cliffs during sunset and we were so lucky because the next day the visibility was terrible! It truly was magnificent and I have never felt so small. We live in a beautiful world guys!
Dinner at a pub was very typical, in fact almost every night. The fireside chowders and stews were so, so good and perfect after a long day of hiking and exploring in often cold, harsh weather. We also had a lot of Guinness and Murphys and the live music was always a kick.
Day 2 included a trip to the Burren perfumery where I got one of my favorite perfumes, Frond. All of their products are made from the flowers and plants found in the Burren. This is where we learned that Ireland has a legless lizard...that looks eerily like a snake...and according to legend Ireland isn't supposed to have snakes after St. Patrick banished them. This fun fact made David pretty uncomfortable since he hates snakes.
We also decided to take a drive up to Galway after stopping at New Quay and the Flaggy Shore (recommendation of Niall). I have never been to a European city so I was really excited about this spontaneous decision.
This was an adorable coffee shop we stopped at in Galway before we started exploring. All the coffee shops in Ireland were adorable but we learned the hard way that nothing opens before 9am...and this complicates things when you are road tripping. But somehow these caffeine addicted Americans managed!
We stopped at a lot of castles driving through Ireland. This was one we stopped at to eat some more bread, jam and butter.
Day 3 was a driving day so we packed up our things, sadly said goodbye to Dara and Neill and headed to Dingle. Dingle turned out to be my favorite of the three towns. Between the Slea Head drive, Dingle Dave, and Fungi the dolphin, what's not to love?
But first we made some stops along the way. First we saw a broken down cathedral and decided to check it out. It just so happened to also be a cemetery. We both silently walked around and were alone the whole time. It wasn't as eerie as I expected it to be. Without warning we got caught in one of the craziest rain storms I have ever been in which just added perfection to the experience.
I am super thankful for David and the countless hours he spent planning this trip to make sure it was just what we wanted. This is us on a short ferry ride to Dingle!
David's cool sunglasses he bought at the ferry dock because that was the ONE thing we forgot to pack..his sunglasses.
After the ferry ride we stopped at Annascaul, a small town on the way to our final destination. We tried to go to the somewhat famous South Pole Inn for lunch (the only restaurant in the town according to our Lonely Planet book) but found that they were closed. Options were rather limited but we somehow found this tiny, dingy pub that definitely looked closed and actually ended up staying for hours. It was called Hanifins and the bartender was the third-generation owner. His dad, the previous owner, was sitting just in the living room that was connected to the pub, only to be separated by one door that was left propped open. When we asked for food the pub owner said they didn't have any but he could make us something if we were really hungry. We took him up on his offer and he shortly came back into the pub with ham sandwiches with cheese and tomato. It was clear he was working on something because his hands were covered in dirt and oil. We ended up talking to him about everything… politics (Trump and Brexit), family, living in Ireland - the good and the bad, as well as changes that he has seen over the years. It was a lovely conversation and we could have stayed for much longer but Dingle was waiting for us.
After we checked into our bed and breakfast the Quayside B&B we decided to do the Slea Head drive. Once again we got super lucky because this was the only day we had great visibility. We explored Coumeenoole Beach where they filmed Ryan's Daughter, Dùn Beag Fort which was on the edge of a sea cliff, and the Gallarus Oratory. This drive was breath taking and it was hard not to back up traffic by stopping at every turn to soak in the view.
When we finished our magical drive on Slea Head we went back to the Quayside B&B to get dressed for dinner. We decided to actually eat at a sit down restaurant and chose Out of the Blue. It was definitely the priciest meal we had but it was worth it. We ordered fresh fish and chowder off of the chalk board menu, which changed daily based on what the town’s fisherman hauled in for the day. After dinner it was still pretty early so we decided to try a pub for a drink. We ended up at the Mighty Session where we got to experience more live music and a group of very fun locals. One young man was pulling people out onto the dance floor matching them up with a dance partner. I got paired with an awkward guy from Germany who was traveling with friends and David got paired with a fun gal from California, who was also here traveling with friends. It was a fun night of dancing and laughing with strangers who quickly became friends.
Day 4 consisted of a hike out to Dunmore Head, the westernmost point of the Irish mainland. It was wet and gray which only added to the fun. There were points where it would be so foggy we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of us and would suddenly be surprised by a sheep or two, sometimes a whole herd!
After hiking Dunmore Head we headed to Dunquin Pier also known as sheep highway. If you look this place up on Google you will see an image similar to the one posted below except filled with sheep!
Once we finished exploring we headed back into Dingle for a bite to eat and a beer or two. We ended up going to Foxy John's. This place was a hardware store by day and a bar by night. And quite literally it was all in the same room. When you walked in there was a store with hardware supplies on your right and to your left there was a bar. This is where we met Dingle Dave. Dingle Dave was a character and a man both David and I will never forget. He was a local who was always hanging out at Foxy John's and had to be the friendliest man I have ever met. We talked about hiking, politics, the World Series, photography, his farm, and a young lady he met a year ago who he took out on a hike who was also from Seattle. Believe it or not she actually works in David's building in Seattle for Docusign. David looked her up when we got home and messaged her and she really did know Dingle Dave. What a small world. Anyway, by the end of the night we got Dingle Dave's number because he insisted that he took us to his "secret hiking place" to take amazing pictures. When we tried to get a hold of him the next day we realized, but weren't surprised, that he typed his number in David's phone incorrectly. But here is a picture that he took of David and I, and after about the 5th try we got one that wasn't too blurry!
At about 10pm we realized that we hadn't had dinner yet and we were all of a sudden starving. So we said good bye to Dingle Dave and the rest of our new friends at the bar and headed out in a search for food. You guys...everything was closed. EVERYTHING. And we were seriously so hungry. So we ran around town (literally - this may have been partly due to the beers we drank) and found one pub that was attached to a restaurant. We went inside and asked if there was anything they could feed us. They said their kitchen was closed but they may have a place they could call. So they kindly got on the phone and started calling local restaurants asking if they were open. Finally they found a small Chinese restaurant that was still open but they were closing soon so we had to quickly get there. Once again, we ran through the empty streets of Dingle looking for this restaurant with no map and no phone service. Luckily Dingle is pretty small so we found it in time and ordered some Chinese take out. We brought it back to our room and ate our food on the floor in our jammies. This memory is one of my favorites from our time in Ireland.
Day 5 we headed out to Connor Pass - where Dingle Dave suggested we go. We ended up pulling off the side of the highway and just started hiking, not really knowing where we were going. We ran into a lot of sheep and small lakes and just explored that area for an hour or two. Once we made our way back down to the car we headed into a small town and asked the ladies at a gas station where we should go. They told us about a "fence" a few miles down the road that was a great place for a walk. It happened to be a farm that had an incredible waterfall and miles and miles of land with big hills begging to be explored.
We put in a lot of miles this day and walked up some STEEP hills. I have never felt so isolated in my life. Besides David, there wasn't another human being for miles and miles, which seems to be a rare occurrence in one's life, and I can really only think of a few times that I have experienced this. When we finished our big hike we headed back to Dingle and checked out another famous pub, Dick Mack's. This place had a quiet feel with a lot of fancy whiskey.
Day 6 we packed up our things and headed to Kenmare! But before we hit the road we had a slow morning at a coffee shop, walked around Dingle and explored the bay where we were told Fungi, the local dolphin hangs out. I didn't manage to get a good picture of him, but as promised he was hanging out, greeting us as we explored the beach.
On our way to Kenmare we stopped by Inch Beach, Ballycarbery Castle, Kerry Cliffs on Skellig Ring, Staigue Fort and Valentia Island for lunch where we stopped by Geokaun Mountain.
And slowly but surely we finally made our way to Kenmare where we met two friends from high school, Garett and Kassi. These two also happen to be high school sweethearts and we got to spend the last leg of our trip with them.
David and I stayed at Virginia's guesthouse, another cozy bed and breakfast right in the middle of town. After we checked in we met up with Kassi and Garett for drinks and dinner which took up the rest of the evening as we caught up on each other's lives and laughed until we cried.
Day 7 we woke up, had breakfast and headed to Dursey Head to ride the old cable car to explore Dursey Island. This was one of the things David planned that he was most looking forward too....but alas, we missed the morning trips out to the island and the cable car operators evidently take 3 hours lunches. But, so you have an idea of what this small cable car looks like click here. It not only brings humans to the tiny island but livestock as well, so if you go you may be sharing the car with a couple sheep. Since Dursey Island was no longer an option with the other things we had planned for the afternoon, we decided to just hike and explore where we were at and we found some gorgeous scenery while we hiked around the perimeter of sea cliffs.
After Dursey head we made our way to lunch where we ended up at THE Murphy's Pub, by complete accident. This pub is on the cover of McCarthy's Bar, a book David and I read before our trip. After lunch we made our way to Gleninchaquin Falls and did another hike.
Garett fell in the water shortly after this picture. Anyone see him in the background??
We managed to make it down and to our car just before dark, ready for beer and food. We left the falls and made our way back to Kenmare for another night out.
Day 8 we had breakfast together and made plans to drive through the Gap of Dunloe, visit the Muckross House and see the Torc Waterfall. We had a slower morning walking around Kenmare before heading out, browsing through the stores and historic sites Kenmare had to offer. After hanging around town we piled back into the car, off to our next adventure!
Once again, can anyone spot David and Garett?
And lastly, here is a picture of the four of us on our last evening in Ireland. We just finished up an intense game of tag on the lawn of Muckross House. Of course dinner and drinks were to follow once we got back into Kenmare - then David and I packed up our things and got ready to head home the very next morning.
Ireland - you were too good to us.