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TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

Annapolis, Maryland
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TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

I think the easiest way to organize this is to separate each day of our trip as a reply to my main post. First, I want to thank those of you who answered my many questions, especially with my somewhat complicated itinerary.

I need to preface my trip report with an explanation as to why we had kind of a crazy tour instead of a more natural circular path to and from our starting point, which was Dublin. Our trip was planned around the Navy-Notre Dame game which took place on a Saturday. Due to our kids’ school schedule and the pricing of airfare, we could not get reasonably priced tickets allowing us to fly in and out of Dublin, with either the game at the beginning or end of our trip. So, essentially, we drove back and forth to Dublin in the middle of our trip. Our trip consisted of this - one night Kilkenny, one night Kinsale, two nights Dublin, two nights Dingle, one night Killarney and one night Swords (near Dublin airport). The trip was a belated 15th anniversary trip for my husband and me. Much to our four kids' dismay, we were leaving them behind. They started school the day before our trip so we couldn't take them along with us. Well, we could have but we didn't want to! Not this time anyway. We arrived in Dublin at the end of August and stayed through the first week of September 2012.

CAR RENTAL – We arrived at the Dublin airport mid-morning. Our car rental was incredibly smooth. I had booked our car with Hertz using EasyTour Ireland, which I’d heard about on TA. My husband had previously booked with Avis, but it was cheaper going through EasyTour. The car we booked was not ready yet, so they offered us a larger car with diesel gas, saying the diesel would be less expensive. I didnt really want a larger car as I figured it would just be harder to maneuver on the small roadways, but my husband was driving and he didn't seem concerned. We also rented a GPS and while it was helpful many times to have, the touch screen was incredibly sensitive. It kept entering the wrong letters, forcing me to punch in one letter numerous times, which meant it took forever to enter one address, causing lots of cursing on my end! We are anticipating a refund for the GPS – Hertz gave us a customer service email address and indicated they are quite good about refunding the rental fee. Anyway, when it worked, it certainly was useful, especially when we were driving in towns and villages. Later, in Dublin, it did not work well getting us out of the city center. Based on advice here, I bought the spiral bound OSI Road Atlas once we got to Kilkenny – it was incredibly useful and definitely a must have for those doing a lot of driving. Having that along with the GPS was a huge plus (I love looking at maps anyway so was glad to have it to be aware of our surroundings as we drove).

Now on to our adventure!

Annapolis, Maryland
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1. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

DAY ONE - AIRPORT TO KILKENNY

From the airport, we headed to Kilkenny. It was fairly easy getting to the motorway, but only after having to gently, well, maybe I screamed a little, remind my husband at the first roundabout that he needed to look to the right. Following that, the initial part of the trip was on the motorway, which was great as my husband could adjust to the opposite side driving. He wasn’t really worried about it and had driven once in Ireland, but that was 25 years ago. I must admit that I was cringing many many times during our trip at how close he would get to other cars. He also has a lead foot, so on some of the curvy roads, I felt like I was doing a lot of ducking in my seat b/c I couldn’t look! Don’t know how many times I uttered, “Huhhhhhh” in fright and covered my eyes.

Anyway, at some point, we left the highway, but must have missed our turn at one of many roundabouts (LOOK RIGHT!) and ended up coming through the village of Gowran – cute little place that had a beautiful church, St. Mary’s, I believe. Fortunately, I had a little map that Hertz provided so I was able to navigate along with the GPS to get us headed in the right direction. We proceeded on to Kilkenny. We had several hours before we could check in to our B&B, so we headed into the town center, parked the car at a public car park then decided to look for something to eat. Although I had copious notes with recommendations for all the places we were going, we were starved and it started to rain, so we ducked into the closest place, Matt the Millers Pub, which is right on the main road in town. It was decent and reasonably priced pub food, but more importantly, my husband was able to enjoy his first Guinness! He was very excited to take a picture of his beer and email it to his friends back home. Did I mention how much he loves Guinness? Our 16 y/o dog, who we lost in January, was named Guinness. :) We ended up hanging out there for a while as the sky opened up and it downpoured for a bit (only downpour our whole trip!). By the time it stopped, we headed to our car and went to check into Rosquil House. The owners Phil and Rhoda, were very nice and helpful. Phil gave us a map and showed us a shortcut walk back to the town center that took us along the river. He also gave us several recommendations for dinner as well where to find the tourist office. On a side note, later when reading reviews of Rosquil House there were some complaints that it was too far from town and not a scenic route. Totally disagree there – it was scenic most of the way along the river, lighted sidewalks the entire way and only 15 minutes from the main bridge over the river. I suppose if you want to stay right in the center of town, where it can be quite noisy from the traffic, of which there was quite a bit, but one person called it a suburb which is not at all true!

After checking in, we walked back to town to see the sites. We headed to the Kilkenny Castle, which is very impressive with beautiful grounds and situated right on the river. We had planned to do a hired tour around town that someone at the visitor center told us about. We saw on the sign that the next and last one left at 6pm, so we walked across the street to the Kilkenny Design Center where various shops sell artwork, pottery, woolen items, etc. We then headed back to Kilkenny Castle. The sign said it closed at 5:30, but we arrived at 5:05 to discover the last “mandatory” tour left at 5pm so we were unable to see the castle interior. So mad at myself for that mistake! We walked the grounds for a bit which were beautiful, then walked back to the design center to browse while we waited for the last hired tour of town. We headed back about 5:50 only to discover the sign for the tour gone. A local woman was standing there waiting for the bus, so we asked if she knew anything about the tour. She said she had just seen it driving down the hill, so we missed it! It left about 15 minutes early! UGH! Bad luck twice over. That’s okay, we are in Ireland! And our four kids are not! ☺ Would it be horrible to say that I only missed them a little?

Thankfully, before we left for our trip, I had printed out a walking tour of Kilkenny that IrishRover posted here on TA for someone else. And, I just happened to have it on me! THANK YOU, Irish Rover, it was wonderful! We then spent the better part of the next couple of hours visiting all the places on his (her?) tour. At one point, there was a steady but light rain as we were walking along, but that’s expected in Ireland right? What I wasn’t expecting was the most beautiful double rainbow that appeared. Sadly, there was no pot of gold at the end of it for us! Our last stop was St. Canice’s Cathedral. It was closed as was the Round Tower, but we enjoyed walking around the grounds. It started to drizzle on the way back into the town center, so we ducked into a pub – the Daniel Bollard Pub - so I could warm up with a cup of tea and my husband another pint. We sat for a while just talking. Realizing we were exhausted, rather than go out to one of the several recommended restaurants for dinner, we decided to just grab some stew there for dinner and head back to the b&b. I had the Irish Stew which was good, but the Guinness and lamb stew my husband had was fabulous. Headed back to our room where we decided to Facetime the kids at home to let them know we arrived safely in Ireland. They didn’t seem all that excited to talk to us, but hey, couldn't say I blamed them. Second day of school and their parents are in Ireland without them! We said our goodbyes, and we were both asleep by 9pm. Turned out to be our earliest bedtime the whole trip!

Edited: 28 September 2012, 22:00
Annapolis, Maryland
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2. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

DAY 2 – THE SCENIC DRIVE TO KINSALE

Before checking out, we had a lovely chat with Rhoda. She and her husband had actually lived in a town about 45 minutes from us in the States about 10 years ago. Their background and how they got into the B&B business was interesting. Part of the reason I wanted to stay in B&Bs for our trip was to really get a feel for the people not only hosting us, but also the other travelers we might meet along the way. Rhoda and Phil were very personable and helpful.

After a delicious breakfast (I had fruit, yogurt and a delicious scone, plus fresh eggs, scrambled, with Irish feta cheese, spinach fresh from Rhoda’s garden and mushrooms.), we mapped our route based on the various places we wanted to see along the way to Kinsale. We started out driving south out of Kilkenny to see Jerpoint Abbey. The Abbey wasn’t part of my original plans but while looking for the best way to get to the Vee on the map, I saw a little indication for the Abbey and looked it up in my guidebook. The OSI map really came in handy here for help with unexpected stops. Shortly into our trip out of Kilkenny, we passed a sign for Nicholas Mosse pottery. We decided to make an unplanned stop here. This is the nice thing about driving yourself around – all the unexpected places you get to stop and explore. Located in an old mill, you can see the pottery being made in front of you. We walked around, reading the history of the place, and checking out the beautiful handpainted pottery. The women working there were very friendly – we ended up spending way more time (and money!) than I initially anticipated, especially for an impromptu stop.

From there, we headed out to Jerpoint Abbey. There are guided tours available for a small fee, but we didn’t want to spend that much time there. The man working there ended up giving us a brief 15 minute free tour, explaining all the important features of the abbey, which is in ruins. I was glad for the explanations because we would have missed as well as not understood the symbolic nature of the carvings and artwork. We bought a Heritage Card here to use as admission to many of the places we would later visit (it was worth it – we saved quite a bit of money on admission fees).

Onward we went through many small villages to our next stop, the Ormond Castle in Carrick on Suir, a beautiful little town that was a little bit off the beaten path, and the castle so off the beaten path that we couldn’t find it. We stopped to ask for directions and the man we asked, rather than try to explain it, said, “Here, follow me.” After a series of turns and multiple streets later, we were at Ormond Castle. How nice of the man to guide us there! An example of the friendly and hospitable Irish! Here we again had a “mandatory” guided tour but entrance and tour was free. The manor house portion has been restored and learned lots of interesting information from the tour guide about that era.

From Carrick on Suir we were headed to the scenic “vee” to cross over the mountains. After reading about it on TA, I decided that though it was longer than taking the highway, it would be more fun than riding on a boring highway. We stopped at the Dove Hill store hat the women at the pottery store recommended for woolen goods. Dh found a couple of nice sweaters and I got a beautiful scarf. Continuing on toward the vee, we got a little lost in the town of Clonmel. While the GPS was good about letting us know when to turn, we discovered that roads are not marked well, if at all, in villages, so we couldn’t find many of the roads the GPS was telling us to turn on . Ending up stopping for directions but the woman sent us on a better roadway which took us toward Cahir, rather than taking the slower country road. We ended up passing right by Swiss Cottage, but thought we’d stop there later in our trip when we had plans for the Cahir Castle and Rock of Cashel. In hindsight we should have stopped b/c the day we went to Cahir Castle, we did not have time for the Swiss Cottage. We finally found the Vee pass and nearly had a heart attack when there was a big “road closed” sign at the beginning of the pass with a detour sign. We decided to follow the detour in hopes that the road closure was in a spot that would not prevent us from crossing the mountain. Thankfully, we were able to make the drive but the detour took us onto some really tiny roads that felt like were leading us to nowhere. That seemed to happen to us several times in Ireland .We started up the mountain road - many gorgeous views and scenic panorama of the valleys and hillsides down below and in the distance. At the bottom, we reached Lismore. Here we stopped at the Lismore Castle (can’t go in), and then stopped for lunch in town. We met a quirky woman and her friend coming out of a pub who suggested a café up the street for lunch. I think she had already downed a few pints at the pub, but we sat next to her at the bar at the café she suggested (Foley’s on the Mall). She told us all about Lismore and its sights, including a lesser known spot called The Towers. Interesting place that isn’t marked well and not much visited apparently by tourists. Legend has it that a man built it for his wife but ran out of money before it could be finished. Unfortunately, it meant backtracking so we didn’t go back there, but later regretted it.

From there, we headed directly to Kinsale. The woman at the café gave us a roundabout way to go to avoid traffic in Fermoy and though we seemed, according to the map and GPS to be making progress, we never found the highway so we ended up taking some tiny country roads and eventually managed to end up on the highway well south thanks to redirection from the GPS and the map.

We arrived in Kinsale around 6:30 pm and headed to the Cloisters B&B. Lovely place in the heart of town, but on a side street away from the noisy restaurants and bars. After checking in, we walked through the town and out to the harbor, stopping in several shops along the way. Made reservations at Fishy Fishy for dinner, then headed back the White House Tavern for fresh oysters before heading back to dinner. Food was awesome, but didn’t start off well. Had to wait 30 minutes past our reservation for a table (didn’t sit til 9:30 so were happy we stopped and had oysters). The bartender kept apologizing but never once did we hear from the hostess or manager. Eventually the bartender took our order so that our meal would arrive shortly after we got seated. However, we then sat there for nearly 10 minutes before a waitress arrived. My husband expressed some annoyance at the wait for service. She must have told the manager because next thing we know, he brought over a bottle of wine and started placing all blame on the bartender, saying he should have made sure we had drinks when he sat us (the bartender was clearly overworked as we saw him later bringing food out to some tables!). In the end, the food was fabulous. I had monkfish, which I’d never had before and it was okay (not because it wasn’t prepared well, but I prefer a flakier fish). My husband had lobster with bernaise sauce. On our way out, we talked to the bartender who apparently had been admonished by the manager. We felt bad for him because he was nothing but nice, as well as apologetic, while we sat at the bar waiting for our table. That side of things left a bad taste in my mouth, but I did appreciate that the manager wanted to appease us and comped us the bottle of wine. We weren’t anticipating being out so late but with the late start of dinner, we still wanted to hear some Irish music so we headed out to a few places our hosts had recommended. We started out at the Blue Haven Hotel where there was live music, but it was a bit dead. We crossed the street to the White House Tavern where a great band was playing, and several people from the crowd joined in on a few songs. I didn’t realize how early the bars stop serving though – last call was at 11pm! The poor bartender has quite a load of work to do when he makes last call – people were double fisting at that point as the music went on for quite a while after last call. This was the first of many late nights for us! And I realized I'm not so young anymore...

Ventry, Ireland
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3. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

Great reports. More please!

Annapolis, Maryland
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4. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

Off at a soccer match so I'll finish when I return. Apologies for being so wordy but I appreciated having the details in other trip reports so figured I'd include them in mine. Plus, I'm saving this "diary" for next time we go back so i can remember exactly what we did, what we liked and didn't like.

grafton
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5. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

Loving the little details you're adding in your trip report. No, it's not terrible you only missed the kids a little. We have five and I love taking every available opportunity to get away for a weekend with just my husband.

Annapolis, Maryland
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6. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

DAY THREE – KINSALE AND ST. MULLIN

Next morning, my husband and I got up early and went for a run out to Charles Fort. Our hosts had warned us that it was hilly and boy, were they right! It started off well, but there were some really steep hills! I don’t mind short and steep, but these went on forever! However, the path took us all along the coast with some amazing views. It was well worth the effort, but I was cursing the wine I’d had the night before with dinner! We got back in time to shower and enjoy a delicious breakfast of eggs with salmon, both were tastefully fresh.

After breakfast, we checked out and took our baggage out to the car, then headed out in town. We had hoped to do one of the guided walking tours which our hosts had recommended, but unfortunately, we were a tad too late following breakfast to make it in time. So instead, we walked about on our own. First stop was the Desmond Castle which was right around the corner from our b&b. It is now a wine museum but also has some historical information about how the castle was used over the years, including a stint as a jail. After checking in, we were given a brief history of the castle as well as information about the Irish and their influence on the wine industry in France. We walked around town some more, somehow ending up on the backside of one of the main streets and found a really colorful little block of cool shops. We then meandered back down to the harbor to stop at the Kinsale Art Gallery where I’d seen a painting in the window the night before. We went inside and looked around and chose a painting to bring home. I had picked out a smaller one initially because I didn’t want to pay the higher price for the larger one, which I liked more. A terrible thing happens when your husband goes to pick up the car and come back to get you….you realize you don’t want to regret not getting the one you really wanted so you buy the more expensive one! Thankfully, my husband indulged me when I told him what happened upon his return to the store (the painting arrived at home just days after we got back and is already hanging above the mantle). We then drove out to Charles Fort and saw even more amazing views along the way that we hadn’t been able to see during our morning run as the road ran higher than the pedestrian path down along the waters’ edge. The fort itself was quite different than the castles and other ruins we’d visited so far and is well worth the trip out to see.

From the fort, it was time to head back toward Dublin. We had a very meaningful place to stop along the way. My great-grandfather was born in a small village called Drummin which is northeast of Waterford, outside of St. Mullin. At the church to which my great-grandfather’s family belonged, we were being met by a family friend, Brigid, whose father worked on an estate that my great-grandfather’s sister, Maya, owned. Brigid has always welcomed my relatives who travel to Ireland and gives everyone a tour of the old family homestead and the graveyard where they were buried. Anyway, we took the coastal road along the southern shore of Ireland. We originally had hoped to stop in Middleton for the tour of the whiskey distillery but we were behind schedule so had to skip it. We finally arrived in Drummin around 3:00pm. We went into the church where Brigid showed us a candelabra and stained glass window that Maya had donated to the church in memory of my great-great grandparents and her brothers. We then went back to Brigid’s father’s house. He is now 92 years old but had great affection for my ancestors and loves to have visitors. We reminisced about my last visit, which occurred when I was a 9 y/o girl – over 30 years ago. Brigid then took us around to the family homestead which is still standing but in total disrepair – it dates to the mid 1800s. Inside, there were a few pieces of old furniture about and a stairway that went up to a second floor room, but everything was pretty much in bad shape. But standing inside, it was amazing to think that this was where my grandfather’s father was born and raised. Such emotions running through me to stand in a home that had been part of my family over 100 years ago!

Following that, we went to St. Mullin where there is an ancient graveyard in which my great-great grandparents and two of their sons are buried. My great-grandfather was buried in the US but he is memorialized on the same gravestone. St. Mullin has its own unique history. It is the site of a monastery built by St. Moling in the 7th century. The ruins remain and are adjacent to the cemetery. Brigid was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the ruins as well as the surrounding area. It was a very enjoyable day and pretty cool to re-visit my ancestral home. Down the hill from the cemetery and ruins is the Barrow River. There is a pedestrian path alongside and you can walk all the way up to Graiguenamanagh, apparently quite a scenic journey. There is a nice café along the riverbank where we dipped inside for a bottle of water and chatted with the store owner. He seemed to think one of his employees might be related to my great-grandparents and wanted me to email him their names when I got home. (Note to self, still haven’t done that but not sure there is any connection).

After spending several hours with Brigid and her extended family, we departed for Dublin, another two hour drive. We stayed at the Stephens Green Hibernian Club which was centrally located. This would not have been our first choice, but by the time we tried to obtain lodging in Dublin, the entire city and its suburbs were booked! Thankfully, we got the last room at the Club because my husband has a club membership to a different club that has reciprocity. It was a very old place with a lot of historic charm but way overpriced. Our most expensive stay by far. Starving by the time we arrived, we went out for a quick bite to eat at Davy Byrne’s just off Grafton Street, around the corner from our hotel. Lots of action in the area as there were 35000 Americans in Dublin for the Navy-Notre Dame game. Coincidentally, as we stepped out of our hotel for dinner, my husband ran into someone he went to high school with who also went to the Naval Academy with him – they hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years. Drained from the long day of travel and sightseeing, we went to bed reasonably early, knowing we’d have a late night following the game.

Saint Cloud, Florida
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7. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

Oh wow! I am so enjoying your trip report/s. thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about your trip. I love the details so don't skimp.

You husband meeting a friend from school outside your hotel in Dublin reminds me of a similar experience I had. Years ago (~46 now) after high school I took trip to Europe and while touring outside Buckingham Palace I ran into a girl I knew from the church I went to in Rockville, MD. Since I had moved twice since Rockville neither she nor I had any idea we would be in Europe at the same time much less London or Buckingham Palace.

Ventry, Ireland
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8. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

I met a friend I hadn't seen in 30 years while queuing for a ride in Disney in Florida. A week later we bumped into each other in Clearwater. Funny old world

Western Ireland...
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9. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

Great reports, glad ye hit St. Mullins, a real gem.Did ye miss Duiske abbey??

Annapolis, Maryland
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10. Re: TRIP REPORT-Kilkenny Kinsale St Mullin Dingle Killarney

No Harvey, we didn't get up to Graiguenamanagh. I was really glad though that we made the trip to St. Mullins. What a beautiful area that is and just so off the beaten path from a tourist perspective but a true personal journey for me. Unfortunately, my ancestral homestead was sold years ago, but the owner, a man who inherited it from his uncle, who knew my great aunt, still allows my extended American family to check it out when in Ireland. We plan to bring our kids to Ireland in the future, so I'm hoping it will still be around and not yet razed, but I don't know what his plans are for the property. It's all farmland there.

My husband is also part Irish, but his ancestors came to the US well before mine and there isn't much information as to their Irish roots. It would be pretty neat to try to find information about them but don't think we'd have as much a link to them as we do to mine.

Kajo and Soonas, the last time I was in Ireland, when I was around 9 y/o, we were at the top of some castle (can't remember which) when my mother heard someone talking, clearly an American. She struck up a conversation with her and it turned out they were from the same town as we were! We didn't know them, but small world. Kajo, I grew up about 45 minutes from Rockville!