First off let me say thank you to the folks on trip advisor that provided me with advise, suggestions, recommendations and laughs. You all were so valuable in helping me plan a successful trip for me and my husband.
After some flight delays we landed at Shannon airport around 8am and immediately hit the ATM to get some euro's and picked up Heritage cards for the two of us. I will say throughout our whole trip we found no issue's with finding ATM's or using our debit cards to withdraw money as well as using our credit cards. We picked up our rental car which we reserved through Easy Tour Ireland/Hertz and had no issues. The price came with the super CDW which I would highly recommend. We didn't have any accidents but did go off the road a couple of times the first day in an attempt to avoid oncoming traffic. Once we got the car we were off to Bunratty Castle. Since our flight was early we got to the castle as it opened which was nice as we had it mostly to ourselves. As we were enjoying the view from the top of the north tower we saw the dolphins in front of the pub that I had been reading about. We were off to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. It was a beautifully clear afternoon which we were so fortunate for! My husband picked up the driving fairly easily although he said the hardest part was keeping the car centered in the road. After a long day of travel/sightseeing we headed to Ennis to the Old Ground Hotel. The hotel was lovely and I would highly recommend it to others. We enjoyed a couple of pints and dinner at Brogan's before ending the night.
We started the day with a traditional Irish breakfast. While I enjoyed it and actually thought the black pudding tasted good I knew I wouldn't be having that much more on our trip as it was way too heavy for my stomach to handle! We visited the Ennis Friary and the Quin Abbey (which we both really enjoyed and would highly recommend to others) before heading out of town. We wish we would have had another day in Ennis as we quite enjoyed the city. We were off to Dingle via the ferry in Killimer. It was my first ferry experience and I thought a good way to get across the estuary. The views coming into and going through the Dingle penninsula were amazing and my husband really enjoyed the drive. We arrived at the Greenmount House and were very pleased with our accomadations (will write a report on that under the hotels TA profile). We had a pint at An Droicead Beag, dinner at Doyle's which was lovely and then turned in for the night.
After exploring town for a bit we hopped in the car to do the Slea Head drive. WELL worth it!!! We followed stops suggested in the Rick Steve's guidebook and found most of the key stops. The views were amazing and the drive was really nice. We had lunch at Bhric pub and microbrewery which we both enjoyed. We finished the drive and headed back for a much needed nap (do plan time for one of those each day as we found we needed it and for reference we are in our mid to late 30s). We had dinner at Global Village and me and my husband cannot say enough about that restaurant, the food was simply amazing and service was top notch! After that we headed back to An Droicead Beag pub again and had a great conversation with a local for quite some time which was really nice.
We were off to visit the Rock of Cashel. We mostly took national primary roads to Cashel so the drive wasn't bad at all. The ROC was well worth the drive and the scaffolding didn't take away from what a beautiful place it is. We took the walk down to the Hore Abbey which was also well worth the visit. Again we had the place to ourselves which was pleasant. It was off to Kilkenny and to the Butler Court. The hospitality of Yvonne and John, and of course Bob the dog was five star and the location was perfect for walking the town. It was a Saturday night so the town was very busy with hen and stag parties. This was by far the busiest place we encountered yet but it was fun to watch from afar all the young kids getting a bit wild. We stopped off at Kytler's for some pints, pub grub and trad music and then off to Hibernian for a couple more pints before calling it a night.
We spent the day exploring the city, stopping off at Kilkenny castle, St. Canice's Cathedral and round tower (we really enjoyed this visit and would highly recommend stopping if in town), the Black Abbey, St Mary's Cathedral and St John's Church. After dinner at Hibernian we retired to the B&B as it was a very long day, I was a bit dehydrated and just needed some rest. Too many pints and not enough water in between:)
We headed to Stoneyford to visit the Jerpoint Glass Studio and the Jerpoint Abbey. I highly recommend a visit to the glass studio as they put on a very nice demonstration, are ready to answer any questions and most importantly they make really nice and unique pieces. And Milo the dog is such a friendly face, especially to a couple missing thier dog at home! The Abbey was nice and the carvings on the columns were something we had not seen up to that point. We were off to drop off our car at Dublin airport and take a taxi into the city to our hotel, the Westin. I'm not sure what we were anticipating but Dublin was a much bigger city than we had expected, and really really busy compared to what we had encountered up until then. We explored the Temple Bar area, Grafton street and walked through St. Stephen's green. We had dinner at O'Donoghue's and then drinks around the temple bar area.
We walked the city checking out Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle (just the outside as it was closed to the public), St Patrick's Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse (very cheesy but the gravity bar was pretty cool) and Kilmainham Gaol. We had a really great tour guide at Kilmainham and he gave a great depiction of the history of the jail and the importance of it to Irish history. Since it was a pretty long walk to the jail from the city center we decided to take a cab back! By this point we were a bit over the pub food (not that it wasn't good so hopefully no offence) and wanted something different. A hotel staff recommended Il Vicoletto and it did not disappoint! I would highly recommend that restaurant and it was easily five star quality. After that we hit some good (in our opinion) pubs: The Long Hall, The Stag Head, The Palace Bar and then finished off the night at the Mint bar in our hotel which is quite nice.
We visited Trinity college to see the book of Kells and the long library. We were very impressed with the library and how nice it was. We then took the Dart to Howth which was a highlight of our trip. It was a very windy day which made the cliff walk interesting but the views were spectacular of the Howth harbor and the Irish eye. We stopped of for lunch at The Bloody Stream and had an incredibly fresh seafood board! With all the chaos in Dublin it was nice to get out and visit this lovely place. We had another good dinner at Eden before heading back to our hotel to pack.
While we enjoyed Dublin very much we were so happy to have seen other parts of Ireland as I felt that Dublin wasn't a great representation of what most of the country is like (again, only my opinion and hope to not offend).
*Yes, the roads are small, be polite and pull off when you can and you will notice others will do the same
*Do not rely solely on a GPS as it wants to take you on some very interesting routes. We found the road atlas just as handy as the GPS.
*It's impossible to prepare yourself for how the roads will be but don't stress, you'll figure it out.
*It can be hard to find places to eat before noon in smaller towns. If on a long drive pack a lunch to take with you if you eat early. Bottled water can be hard to find at times to but never hard to find a pint or soda.
*The farm to fork concept while relatively newer to the states is widely practiced by most of the places we stopped to eat which I though was great. We enjoyed a lot of really great food, from seafood to the usual pub grub, low end to high end and enjoyed it all.
*You will get lost, most likely on a daily basis. Just go with it, be patient, as someone if need be.
*Most of all have a great time, try to talk with locals when you can as you will find the people so friendly and enjoy as much guinness as possible!
Thanks again to those that dedicate their personal time to help people like me plan our trip so that we make the most of our adventure with the least amount of mistakes in planning.