Just returned from a wonderful (albeit brief) first trip to Ireland. What a fabulous country!
I was traveling with a girl friend and our travel philosophy is that while we want to see as much as we can, we also want to relax and enjoy ourselves along the way. If we miss some sights, so be it.
We flew into Dublin from Newark, arriving around 9:30 .am. Easy flight. We quickly learned that picking up a rental car is not quite as easy as in the US. We had reserved with Dollar but couldn't find a sign for Dollar anywhere. After wandering aimlessly, we called Dollar and were told that in Dublin, Dollar is Thrifty. Off we go to find the Thrifty counter. We didn't. Ended up getting talked into renting with Budget by a very persuasive agent. It's amazing what you'll agree to when you're operating on little to no sleep!
Finished filling out rental forms and walked out side to find the car. Found it (after more aimless wandering) and hit the road to Enniskerry and the Ritz Carlton at the Powerscourt estate. The GPS we had was not the best--I was very happy to have my friend as co-pilot to supplement the GPS or I'm pretty sure I'd still be in a car somewhere in Ireland.
Arrived at Enniskerry and immediately went to grab some lunch. What an adorable town! We found Poppies--a casual, order at the counter place. Great food and very friendly folks.
Following lunch we drove up the road to the Ritz. Wow. This place is magnificent! I'll post a full hotel review separately but let's just say we loved it and if you're looking for a splurge, this is worth it. We got settled in our room, took a short nap, went for a walk and then had tea at the hotel followed by a trip to the spa. In other words, perfect first day in Ireland!
Friday morning we hit the road early and headed to Waterford--about a two hour drive. We both really wanted to see the factory tour and I have to say, it far exceeded my expectations. These craftsmen are amazing. The amount of concentration and physicality that is required was really something. They truly are masters. We grabbed a quick lunch in Waterford and then turned toward Kilkenney.
Now, Kilkenney isn't that far from Waterford. We had no problem finding the town itself, but we had a heck of a time finding the castle. Our GPS was no help and we couldn't find a single street sign anywhere so our paper maps weren't very useful. After about 25 minutes of driving in circles and not getting anywhere, we pulled over and asked for directions. Fortunately, a very helpful man pointed us in the right direction.
We made it in time for the last tour of the castle. Very interesting and worth the price of admission. We then wandered around the town a bit and did some shopping before getting back in the car to head back to the Ritz. Long day but we felt it the time on the road was worth it. Had dinner in the pub at the Ritz that night--great fish and chips and live music to boot!
We slept in a bit on Saturday morning, and then walked to Powerscourt Gardens. Our intent was to tour the gardens and then hit the road for more sight seeing. However, we got completely caught up in the Avoca shop that is now in the Powerscourt house and spent about an hour there. And honestly, I'm not much of a shopper but I couldn't get enough of this place! We toured the gardens and while there weren't many flowers at this time of year, they truly are breath-taking. We just soaked up the views. I could easily see myself going back to Powerscourt again and seeing how the landscape changes from season to season.
We left Powerscourt and drove to Glendalough for the afternoon. Seeing the monastery was at the top of my "must do" list and it did not disappoint. What a peaceful, lovely site. The weather was quite cold and damp (more than any other part of our trip) and it was late afternoon so we didn't get to the lakes but that was okay. On the list for next time. We spent a bit of time in Laragh, stopping at a pub for an afternoon snack before heading back to our hotel. The drive from Enniskerry to Glendalough was gorgeous. Some of the most beautiful country side I've ever seen. Dinner at the hotel again tonight.
Sunday we were up early to check out and return our car to the Dublin airport. We cabbed into the city and checked into the Westbury. Another great hotel in a perfect location. After check in we strolled along Grafton Street and then did a HOHO tour of the city. We did the full loop. Our guide was great--very informative and quite funny. Following the tour we had lunch at Avoca--we were a little excited to find this shop again so we visited the cafe and had a great lunch.
In the afternoon, my friend and I split up. she wanted to shop and I wanted to see the Book of Kells. I'm so glad I did. I got there about 45 minutes before closing and tickets were 1/2 price. There were about 8 other people in the viewing room, so I decided to spend some time reading the display information in the ante room. When I finished, I went back to the viewing room and no one else was there. I got to view the Book of Kells by myself. Incredible. A definite highlight of our trip. I went upstairs to see the Long Room and it was truly overwhelming. To see all of those books is such a stately setting--I left Trinity College incredilby happy.
In the evening we went to see the Merry Ploughboys. Mixed feelings about this experience. Music was fabulous but the overall experience was "eh". Back to the hotel to pack.
Monday morning, back to the airport for our return home. Did we see all we wanted to? No. Did it matter? Not a bit. We had a wonderful time and I wouldn't change a thing.