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A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

Midland, Michigan
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A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

Ireland Trip Report April 2013

My wife and I just returned from a 20 day trip through Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Limerick and Galway. Along the way, we made day trips to Kinsale, Bunratty, and Cashel. We used all public bus transportation either by Bus Eireann or City Link. Our interests were mostly Ancestry, Nature, History, Art and Traditions.

We began in Dublin where we spent three full days. In one of those, we had a wonderful day tour to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough Lakes (Wild Wicklow Tours). In general, Dublin was not a city we enjoyed very much, the place is crowded, very busy and with just a few sites of interest, but it was a good introduction to the country, the food and the Irish people. One memorable experience in Dublin was a dinner/show (Irish House Party) with excellent food and delightful music and dances.

From Dublin we traveled by bus (Bus Eireann) to Cork. There we enjoyed our visits to the English Market and St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral. This cathedral was so much in our interest that we visited it twice. Kindly, the ticket officer, allowed us to use the same ticket in two days. From Cork we had very nice day trips (by bus) to Cashel and Kinsale. Our visit to the Rock of Cashel lasted more than half a day and we enjoyed it very much, the site is full of history, the guided visit was excellent and we had ample time to take our pictures. As expected, Kinsale turned out to be a charming place, we took a walking tour of the town (by Dermott Ryan) and we learned a lot about the history and life of this place. Also, we had an excellent meal at the deservedly famous Fishy Fishy Restaurant.

From Cork we traveled to Killarney, a comfortable 90 min bus ride away. While there, we enjoyed day tours to the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. It was here and while at Cork that we learned how variable Irish weather can be. During the Dingle Peninsula tour bad weather kept us all wet, but we managed to enjoy it anyway and take lots of good pictures. In contrast, our walking tour of the Killarney National Park was in a gloriously beautiful day. The beauty of the mountains and lakes, particularly those around the Muckross house and Ross castle are just beyond words.

Our desire was to visit a Castle during our trip, and that we did at Bunratty. For this, we traveled from Killarney to Limerick and then we took a local city bus to Bunratty, just 20 mins away from Downtown Limerick. This castle and its surrounding farm village is very interesting, but it takes a good 4 hours to thoroughly enjoy it. This was one of the high lights of our trip.

Our last stop in Ireland before returning home, was Galway, where we spent five nights enjoying the city and surrounding sites, which we visited on day tours. The beauty and splendor of the Cliffs of Moher are just fantastic, it did help that the weather was very good, all sunny and bright on the day of our visit. A comment we heard along this visit, was that the day before, strong winds and lashing rain prevented visitors from getting too close to the edge of the cliffs. Equally enjoyable was the tour to the Connemara Park, and the Kylemore Abbey.

Our visit to the Aran Islands was also blessed by good weather, but it was obviously a different kind of tour. Less well organized, ran by very friendly people, but not to the level of professional behavior of other tour companies. It was also clear that Inish More is a place of limited infrastructure with few places to eat and incredibly narrow roads. However, the visit to the ancient fortress of Dunn Angeus is something we will remember the rest of our lives. By, the way, it should be mentioned somewhere that some minimum level of fitness is required to climb to that place.

We returned from Galway to Dublin on a comfortable express bus ride (City Link), one of very express services available. Our return from Dublin Airport was certainly different. The fact that we cleared customs and immigration requirements at the airport made things easier arriving in the US.

In the final part of this report I can offer the following tips, but I will be glad to entertain any specific queries regarding Cities, Sites, Hotels, Restaurants etc.

Plan well ahead of time if you like to travel independently. But do not be surprised if the information you collect along your planing is not complete or correct by the time you arrive in Ireland.

Do not be surprise if the Tourist Information Offices are not that helpful. In many instances, when we walked in, the people there did not help much or gave us wrong information. Two notable exceptions were the Galway and Killarney offices.

We found that in general taxi services were very good and relatively inexpensive. The drivers were always friendly and honest.

Do some research on the “Tourist Traps” and decide if you still would like to visit them. In our case we avoided the Guiness brewery in Dublin, and the Winery in Bunratty.

The cost of food in Ireland is in line with costs in other European cities. But irish food is somewhat limited in variety, after two or three weeks you may want to get something different.

In most cases the breakfast buffets will include the “Full Irish Breakfast”. It is good, but once again, not something recommended for everyday. In most cases there will be other common items, but not much fresh fruit. In some hotels we found a continental breakfast buffet readily available, and the option of ordering some “hot breakfast” as well, prepared at the moment you order.

If you are going to travel by bus, try to learn how to use the automated ticket-vending machines at the bus stations. In many cases we were not able to buy tickets in advance and sometimes when we wanted to travel early in the morning the ticket counters were not open. These open at 9am, and the machines even though they work at all times, they do not take 50 euros bills, or do not always sell tickets for travel other that on the same day.

If you need to connect your computer or other devices, make sure you bring the required electrical adapter. The outlets in Ireland are the UK type and hotels do not always have some that you can borrow. In all the six hotels we stayed, only one offered American type or European Continent style outlets.

ATM machines are everywhere in Ireland, but we had the problem that at least two banks, Ulster and AIB, did not accept the 4 digit pin for our card, even though they were affiliated to the correct networks. We did not have any problems with the ATMs of the Bank of Ireland.

One of the Irish food ingredients is Pork Belly. I tried twice, and I can tell you that unless you are a lot into pork of pork fat, perhaps you should avoid it. But, in many places you can find pork chops.

Before getting to Ireland we learned about the Jaunty Cart rides, something characterized as an expensive tourist trap. They are not cheap certainly, and you will find them only in some places such as Killarney and the Aran islands. On this I can say that even though we were not planing to do it, we took a ride and it turned out to be a memorable experience. The driver was willing to negotiate the price (very unusual in Europe) and all along the way told us all kinds of stories. We enjoyed the experience so much we gave him a few extra euros.

If you travel to the US from Dublin, allow at least two hours time to go through the whole process. In our case, it took us 90 min from the moment we stepped in the airport, to negotiate all the inspections (two of them), and immigration and custom procedures. By the way, do your duty free shopping before going through immigration, beyond that there are no more shops and just a few simple eating and drinking places.

Everybody makes a lot of noise about Guinness beer, it is good and special no doubt about it. But it would be good if you also try Harp, Kilkenny and Angel Brew among others. On this I can also say that one of my disappointments was that no place I ordered Guinness knew how to form a Shamrock foam on top of the glass.

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1. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

this really helped me, as my husband and I will be in Ireland May 19th-26th. We went back and forth about renting a car or doing the bus like you did. It sounded like it worked out well for you guys. We did decide to rent a car. We are staying 3 nights in Dublin, then picking up car at airport then driving down to cork and around the south/west of Ireland, then back to swords before heading home.

We are doing the wicklow way tour as well. Can you elaborate a bit on that tour? Was it worth it? ect....

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2. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

Thank you for a lovely detailed report. I'm not surprised that barmen could not make a shamrock on your Guinness. It is purely a kitschy thing for tourists

Midland, Michigan
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3. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

The Wild Wicklow Tour we took was perhaps the best, most informative and most informative of all we took in Ireland. It was just great. We started around Dublin going through some neighborhoods, then we visited the port area followed by a short stop at the Avoca area where we had a short shopping stop.

The great moments of this tour were the visit to the Glendalough lakes and St Kevin's abbey. The views are just spectacular. Due to the snow covering the mountains it was not possible to go through the Dunlop Gap (normally included in the tour) in the mountains, but the driver compensated this by stopping at the Guinness lake which it was just great.

Let me add a comment about driving in Ireland. I am sure you know that they drive on the left side of the road. But perhaps you do not know that the main roads have many roundabout areas where you really have to pay attention to the exits to take the correct one. The main roads, lets say between Dublin and Cork are just as functional and modern as any highway in the US, but the side roads on the countryside are incredibly narrow. be careful if you adventure on those.

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4. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

thank you for the info :)

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5. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

As a previous barman myself, if you put a shamrock on the top of a Guiness, Murphy, or Beamish it would be sent back! Don't drink it myself but supposedly it wrecks the head....

Loved the report especially how you were able to move around using public transport!

Ireland
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6. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

Thanks for posting, you did well without driving to see so much. Can't agree that Irish food lacks variety though. It can be limited in pub menus and touristy places, but it is amongst the best in the world.

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7. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

Lovely detailed report with lots of personal tips to help others :-)

I must admit to being a bit puzzled about your comment on lack of variety in Irish food?? I think the quality and choice available in Ireland is second to none: excellent beef and lamb; fresh fish and shellfish, dairy products - all those artisan cheeses . . . I could go on and on!

I'm curious to know what types of accommodation you stayed in (for the breakfasts) and where you ate, please?

Thank you for taking the time to post a report.

:-)

Edited: 25 April 2013, 21:22
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8. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

What a lovely trip! Where did you stay in Killarney? Can you post the contact info (website perhaps?) to the tour companies you used for day trips?

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Midland, Michigan
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9. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

Thanks to all of you that have read my trip report. Some questions have been mentioned about the hotels and restaurants I encountered during my trip.

As far as accommodations go, my wife and I decided to stay at 3 and 4 star hotels, all well rated by tripadvisor. The best of all in overall value, service, and friendliness was perhaps in Killarney (Earls Court House). The one where we felt not so good was in Limerick (The George Boutique Hotel). For some reason we never really liked the idea of staying at B&Bs, that make us feel like we are intruding in someone's home. However, everywhere we went, we saw many B&Bs, thus is obviously something very popular in Ireland

All along the trip, we tried to eat Irish food and that we did at well rated restaurants in each city. We had a lot of fish (Cod, Salmon, Hake, etc) and shellfish (mussels, prawns, shrimp, oysters, etc), lamb (cutlets, shanks, racks) , pork (belly, chops) and some beef. As far as I remember, we ate at Pubs only twice. We did not find a lot of variation in cuisine at the different regions we visited (Dublin, South, Southwest). In just about all cases, the food was very well prepared and beautifully presented at the table.

Let me finish these comments mentioning that the two most memorable meals we had, because of the food quality, and special taste of it, where at the "Chocolat" Restaurant in Limerick, and at "Cooker"s in Galway. We will also remember fondly for many years, a light meal we had at the Griffin Bakery in Galway, which by the way, someone (a local) told us, it is the best place in town.

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Whitney, Texas
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10. Re: A report on my recent Trip to Ireland

i'm with sarnia on this...the food in ireland is wonderful, not sure about well rated restaurants, but the pub food in my experience is great....most times i just stop when i'm hungry and find somewhere to have a meal....have found some really good meals and can't remember once in 8 trips having a bad meal.....very interesting....

i've stayed in hotels, self catering cottage, b&bs, a castle, hostel, townhouse, and farmhouse....i'll take a b&b anytime, hope you get to experience that in the future....you'll leave friends behind and have the opportunity to spend time with the owners, therefore experiencing ireland's best asset, the people......