We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Topic
Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Last year, I did the Great(*) American Roadtrip, so this year I scaled things back and decided to see my own country, um, Ireland. I travelled more than 2000km in just 12 days and got to see some fantastic sights, especially along the coast. I'll attempt to be brief with this report, but if you fancy delving into minutiae, I have a full report on my blog at

mgdd.net/wordpress/…

Photos are there too.

* Well, a part of it anyway

So I'll reply with my reports in a moment.

Edited: 12 June 2013, 14:08
Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Day 1 Cork to Killarney

I jumped in my car about 9am, and for the first time ever, was officially on holidays inside of 45 minutes as I crossed into county Kerry. First stop was the Staigue fort, which was not a bad first stop, although it's a lot smaller than I'd imagined, and the road there was a little iffy if you're not in a horse and trap.

After Staigue, I continued around the Ring of Kerry, stopping at Derrynane House, Daniel O'Connell's summer home basically. Again, a lot smaller than I'd envisaged, but very pleasant grounds and views.

I continued on the Skellig Ring, and crossed over to Valentia around lunchtime, but took a wrong turn somewhere and rather than ending up at the lighthouse as planned, ended up at the Grotto, a working slate mine. I skipped the lighthouse and the Skellig Experience but drove around the entire island before heading back over to the 'mainland' to complete the Ring of Kerry.

My final stop of the day was the Kerry Bog Museum which was both empty and awful. An open air museum with sad little buildings and even sadder animals, it was all a bit Father Ted Tunnel of Goats for my liking and I spent about 10 minutes there before moving on.

My first night was spent in the Killarney Court Hotel, a nice short walk from the town, although to be honest, Killarney town isn't my cup of tea.

Day 2 Killarney

It was a misty, fairly cold day which was a shame as I'd decided to spend most of it traipsing around Killarney National Park. I first took the Ring through the park and almost all the way back to Kenmare before doing a u-turn and heading back. I took a few stops, including a short hike to the Meeting of the Waters and Dinis cottage, before landing at Torc around 11.

After a long look at the falls, I continued on the Torc Waterfall loop although I had to stop almost as soon as I started, the steps at the start basically killed me. Once I'd recovered, the rest of the walk was very nice, despite the wind and misty rain, and after arriving back at my car, I continued onto Muckross house. On a nicer day I would've walked the short distance, and in fact, I ended up parking so far from the house, I may aswell have.

I signed up for the 2pm tour which gave me some time to explore the grounds before joining a large group for a walk around the house. We visited living areas, bedrooms, servants quarters and general areas and it was a pretty good way to pass an hour. After Muckross, I headed for Ross castle, but didn't try for the guided tour (the only way to see the inside) and just hung around outside for a while. Then back to Killarney for dinner and packing.

Day 3 Killarney to Dingle

First destination today was the Slea Head drive which was far busier than the Ring of Kerry, particularly with coach groups. It took me til 11 to arrive at my first sight, Dunbeg Fort, a small stone settlement close to the road which was crawling with tourists. I pressed on, avoiding some sights that looked busy and arrived at the Blasket Centre by lunchtime. The weather was pretty good, but unfortunately it was very windy and there would be no boats to the island today. So after examining the excellent centre, I drove onto Gallarus oratory. I'd never heard of this before, so really I was just following brown tourist signs at this point.

I arrived in Dingle in the late afternoon and then continued up to Connor Pass for one final photo op before returning to my hotel, the Skellig. I have family in the Dingle area, so the night was spent sitting at their kitchen table drinking their beer and eating their shepherds pie. Which was nice.

Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Day 4 Dingle to Clare

I left Dingle and managed to miss all sights between there and Tarbert, but delays due to An Ras, the Tour de France de Ireland meant that I arrived just as the boat was ready to get going. I was the last to board luckily, otherwise I've had to sit around Tarbert for another hour, and it didn't look like there was much going on there.

After crossing to Killimer, I drove the Loophead drive down to the lighthouse (which is still closed to the public) and enjoyed the cliff views, walking around behind the lighthouse as suggested.

Next stop was the Cliffs of Moher which was apparently relatively quiet by the time I got there around 3. It was still mobbed, but apparently most of the coach tours had moved on. Progress was single file along the path north or south of the visitor centre, but still an impressive sight from all angles and probably the highlight of my trip.

After a couple of hours there trying to fight the gusts of wind, I drove on to my hotel for the night in Lahinch. I spent an hour or 2 as the only person in the bar and then an hour or 2 on the beach which was quite nice on this particular evening. Not much else to do in Lahinch.

A lot of driving today, at least 5.5 hours, but the in-between stops made it all worthwhile.

Day 5 Clare to Galway

Leaving Lahinch, I headed into the Burrren area. After checking out Kilfenora cathedral, I had a plan to do a loop and a half of the area, taking in as many backroads as possible. After Kilfenora, I passed by Lemenagh castle which I was able to photo from the road and arrived in Caherconnell Fort, the same basic idea as Staigue but a lot bigger. Then it was the Poulnabrone dolmen for a short while before getting to Aillwee Cave just after 12.

I took in the Birds of Prey demo that was just starting and then walked up the Cave itself for the next tour. This was ok, although there's not a lot to be said about walking around in a mostly dark cave for 30mins.

After that I continued on to Ballvaughan before turning back south along the Blackhead drive. I took a few photos, but somehow missed the lighthouse and nothing else was really that compelling, so I mostly just drove. I think the Cliffs of Moher yesterday ruined me for other cliffs. I raced through my next stop, Dunguaire castle as I'd added Athenry castle to my itinerary that morning, and I had no idea how late it stays open. As it was, it stays open til 6 and didn't really take that long to go around. Taking the advice of the guide, I wandered down to the nearby Dominican Priory which was a lot more interesting - the castle is mostly reconstructed and just a little... clean.

I left Athenry and got caught up in Friday evening rush hour heading into Galway, so it took me at least an hour to travel the short distance to Salthill hotel, my home for the next 3 nights. I checked out the Salthill prom and the strip and retired to my room.

Day 6 Galway to Aran Islands

Today was spent on Inishmor, despite the best intentions of the asshats in Aran Island Ferries - tickets were supposed to be on the bus, but noooo. So I had to queue in the office in Rossaveal and was the last to board the boat, in something of a mood. But that lifted as we hit open water, it was a gorgeous day, perfect for touring the island. I hired a bike and set off. I bypassed the seal sanctuary which looked empty and stopped for a short while at Seven Churches before doubling back towards Dún Aonghasa. It was a bit of a rough hike with my unsteady ankles but totally worth it. The fort juts out into the sea at an impressive height and there's not an inch of Health and Safety in the place.

I had one more sight to see this day - I spent a lot of the day just cycling down roads and stopping every now and then to check out the view - which looked a lot closer on the map provided by the bike hire place. It was Dún Dúchathair which while in no way even a little busy was to my mind a little bit better than Aonghasa. The views of the cliffs below the fort were just stupendous. However, it was only after I returned to my bike that I realised that I hadn't really seen the fort, just the flattened area around it. Oh well. I was starting to get sunburned (in Ireland!) and my bike's inability to go below third gear had rendered me exhausted, so I returned to the pier and promptly lay down to wait for the boat. Or death, whichever came first.

The boat and bus back to my hotel was uneventful (although the bus had to wait for the second boat to arrive, another reason to drive yourself down if possible) and I arrived crumpled and exhausted. I really liked Aran, and would love to go back for longer, although I'm not sure how nice it would be with rain and wind and whatnot battering it. Definitely a place to go back to though.

Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
1,573 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

O.M.G !!!!! you called it

Daingean Uí Chúis

Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Day 7 Galway

I didn't take to Galway city at all, the walking groups of tourists had me in a bad mood and I spent only a very short time in there, before returning to my hotel. I sort of thought about sitting in the bar for most of the day, relaxing and reading, but a wedding party was ensconced there and a bit shouty, so I examined my Heritage Ireland map and headed for Aughnanure Castle in the rain. Still better.

The castle was again reconstructed and a little bit too clean, but pretty cool all the same and after it, I returned to Galway where again I have family who treated me to a bit of a night out in the wilds of Barna.

Day 8 Galway to Westport

Another long day of driving was ahead of me, so I left Galway after breakfast and headed into Connemara country. Clifden was absolutely thronged so I drove straight through and got on the Sky Road drive. More spectacular views of the coastline, although the weather was brutal and remained so as I reached my first stop, Connemara National Park. I spent only about 15mins here in total though as the day was already half gone and I wanted to get the 230 boat in Renvyle fjord. I made it there 10 minutes before the boat came back, got my tickets and climbed on board. Heading out was pretty windy and rainy, but by the time we'd u-turned and were heading back, the sun came out, and the mist cleared a little. It was quite a sight.

I continued driving around, with nowhere in particular to go, and arrived in Westport on a rain soaked Sunday evening. Westport is a pleasant little town, and after dinner and a few drinks, I walked around a bit, window shopping.

Day 9 Westport to Sligo

I went into Westport one more time before I left (my hotel, Hotel Westport (genuis!) is pretty close to town) and I think I'd like to come back here for a longer stay too. I then headed north for one more day. First destination was Achill Island, which you can drive to. I spent a good few hours driving around checking it out, and drove all the way to Keem beach before turning around to check out the Deserted Village and then off the island.

It was nearly 4 by the time I reached Céide Fields in North Mayo, so I had about an hour to check it out. To be honest, there wasn't all that much to see, so an hour will definitely do it. I left Carrowmore for the next day and Knocknarea for the next holiday and continued all the way into Sligo.

Sligo is as far north as I'll go on this trip, it's taken me 9 days to go 330km from home, and it'll take me 2 days to return. (Spoiler: I should've done it in 1 day)

Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

> Daingean Uí Chúis

Yeah, I had trouble finding translations for most of my places (is Connemara really Conamara?) but that was on a signpost coming out of Dingle, is it wrong?

Edited: 12 June 2013, 14:18
Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
1,573 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

I'm reading from your link - see you did not dare to mention "that place" on here!

I love this "a man jogging with his arms down by his side – I’m definitely in Galway."

I'm still laughing.

Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Day 10 Sligo

Sligo was pretty rainy and sad looking, so after checking out the Abbey in the pouring rain, I returned to my car and on the advice of the very helpful Tourist Office woman, drove east out of town. First stop was Parkes castle, yet another reconstructed castle on the shores of Lough Gill but at least this one had other buildings inside the keep and even the dried up moat was visible.

Next I headed for Glencar waterfall, not quite as impressive as Torc, but still pretty good, the rain of the last few days making it a sight to see, and then the sun came out and I started to enjoy myself again. I continued driving north of Sligo all along the coast, trying to get one last spectacular view of the Atlantic coastline and getting several. I then moved inland to take in the short Gleniff Horseshoe drive between Truskmore and Benwiskin peaks before going to Rosses Point just outside Sligo for one last beer in the sunshine. Excellent way to spend an afternoon.

This had all the makings of a rotten day, but the Tourist Office saved me, and the things I saw outside of Sligo made it worth the journey. Sligo itself, meh.

Day 11 Sligo to Birr

First stop was Carrowmore which I'd missed 2 days previously, and was worth the small detour. I was the first there so had the place to myself. The larger area is pretty good, but the smaller area across the road is even more impressive. Well worth a visit.

Next stop was Boyle Abbey in... Boyle. Nice place, although I didn't get too long to explore before being gently hustled out because it was the guide's lunchtime. So I headed towards Athlone, taking a detour to check out the Rinn Dúin castle walk which while I saw the castle and nearby church was a bit shambolic (to me anyway) as there was no clear path, so I ended up just sort of stumbling across the field trying to avoid wildlife and their various leavings.

I arrived in Clonmacnoise by 4, and just about caught the last a/v show of the day before heading out to the see the impressive pile of towers, churches, cathedrals, temples and high crosses, a theme for my last 11 days. It was my first time today really being surrounded by people, but still a great place to visit and I'm glad I saw it.

I arrived in Birr at 6, and at 610 was ready to leave Birr, but I had a hotel room booked which came with dinner, so it would be rude not to. My hotel in Birr though was definitely the worst I stayed in on this trip, being more of a b+b than a hotel. It just wasn't in any way a nice place to stay. Anyway, I had my dinner and relaxed in my room; with the Birr main street right below me, I was glad I'd brought ear plugs.

Day 12 Birr to Cork

I was up and out of Birr as soon as I could this morning, my last day of the trip. I took a look around the Birr Demesne with its nice gardens and the reconstructed Great Telescope, but forwent the walled garden for getting out of Dodge (a task made a little more difficult by some gimp who had parked his car blocking the car park which meant I had to drive along the pavement) and heading home. I had 2 more places I wanted to visit today, but dropped the first - Bunratty - along the way and by the time I got to the second - Blarney - it was too busy and I was a little too narked, so I just went home, feeling a little put off by the day I'd wasted. I could've done the Demesne yesterday and just come straight from Sligo to Cork, but you live and learn.

And that's it. I really enjoyed my trip around Ireland, despite the last day, and put in more than 2000km in the old car, which doesn't even come close to what I did in the States last year, but at least this year I got the benefit of a Full Irish every single morning. Being able to see your feet is frankly overrated.

Thanks all on the TA forums for their help. Next trip... Scotland!

Maryland
Destination Expert
for Las Vegas, Washington DC, County Donegal, Western Ireland
Level Contributor
51,559 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

"Being able to see your feet is frankly overrated."

Lol - loved the report!

Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
1,573 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

Daingean Uí Chúis - don't mention the war :-)

You actually found that on a sign down there???? The natives ripped them down when they got the Ministerial Order to change the name back into English!

Great report. Loved the pictures too! It will be a great asset to visitors planning to visit the coastline from Kerry to Sligo

Cork, Ireland
Level Contributor
859 posts
214 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Trip Report West Ireland May 2013

I do have a photo of it at home, I think, which I'm nearly sure I took on the way into Annascaul when I was leaving. So what is the Irish for 'Dingle Penisula' then? And what's the story with... actually don't tell me, I suspect it will annoy me :)