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Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Chapel Hill, NC
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Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Hey All! Wanted to report back what we learned on our trip to help others in their plans. Everyone was so helpful here, your advice allowed us to have a more fantastic time, and is greatly appreciated.

We arrived in Killarney on a Tuesday at around 7:30 pm. Dusk was ending just as we got to town, and it was dark when we got to the Riverside Hotel. We were originally supposed to land in Cork at 3:00 but were delayed two hours on our flight from Paris on Aer Lingus because, so they said, of weather in Amsterdam, of all places. I greatly dislike this airline now. Pitiful that they charge for soft drinks - 2 euro! Just the principle of it. Especially with the delay, which prevented us from trying to go Blarney.

So Driving in Ireland...we got in our rental and I set myself to drive on the other side. I made sure I never said the "wrong" side to anyone - but was surprised several Irish folk asked me how I was handling driving on the "wrong" side! I never thought to ask - but was afraid the pedals and turn signals, etc, would be opposite as well. I was relieved they were not. Although using the rear view mirror and gear shift (even automatic) was very awkward. Otherwise I found driving rather easy. I only tried to drive on the right twice - both times on empty, unmarked driveways. In fact it got so ingrained by the time I left that driving on the right at home felt odd for a day. The roads ARE super narrow (especially the ROK, whose posted speed limits are not only ridiculous and dangerous, are actually physically impossible in some areas), but driving in Kerry mid-week in March there was very little traffic. When large trucks or coaches come at you it can be scary - and being on the other side of the car makes it tough to gauge where the left side ends - but totally doable. I rarely got passed in a way it made me afraid. A couple times I saw someone behind me that wanted to go faster, so I just pulled out the next chance I could, but this was infrequent. I passed more cars than passed me. Driving at night was really fine, and driving though mid size cities (at least Kilkenny. Cashel & Killarney, all of which we had to go right through the centre at some point - was no harder than in a similar city in the US. The little towns were actually harder, since the buildings seem to be like walls for the road. Overall - I do consider myself an excellent driver - but I thought it was completely comfortable and I am extremely happy we rented a car. Even the M50 in Dublin was no big deal. 120 km/h on the highway - nice!

On Wednesday we drove the ROK. It really is a two day affair, and I am sorry we didn't have the extra day. Muckross House was pretty, but the tour was really here nor there for the precious hour of your one day ROK tour (by the way, from what I hear of the tours themselves, on coaches, they sound absolutely horrible, cramped on a bus with no power to stop as you please and rushing through sites). The Torc waterfall was beautiful, we caught it during a 10 minute hail storm which was actually really nice to see. Ladies View is a nice 10 minute stop. We just sat and looked. Kenmare is a jewel. Had great fish and chips with mushy peas - yum! The Staigue Fort is pretty cool, interesting road gets you up there, one of the scariest we found. I did often wonder why the roads were as they were - sometimes it seemed like they were curvy and narrow for no reason. We did not have time for the Skellig Ring (or Michael, sadly). And we did not make it for the Bog Museum, which I thought sounded great. White Strand beach was a total disappointment, but the nearby castle (Ballycarbery) was really cool - even though I don't think you're technically supposed to a few families were already wandering around, so we went up to it and had the most fun exploring it up and close like we could at no others. Sum is the ROK was awesome, best day of our trip (even weather from noon on was good and clear). I wish we had 2 days. And then one more for Dingle. But oh well.

Thursday we walked the Gap of Dunloe. We paid for one of the tours, which took us by coach to Kate’s cottage, which seemed lovely. The tour also included the boat ride back from the end of the trail. It was very expensive for the boat ride and coach, but there’s no other way to do it I can think of (park on one end and walk back and forth, which would be a lot, or take a cab, I guess). The walk was moderate, a good hike on a paved trail. About 7 miles total, took us about 2 hours with stops. Would have been nicer to have more time, but we only had 15 minutes to spare for the boat when we got to Lord Brandon’s, which was a total dump, worst meal we had in Europe (even the late night McDonalds in Dublin included). Great hike – highly recommend it. And if you’re at all fit, skip the crazy prices for the horse carriages.

Thursday, after the hike, we drove to Cashel, which took under two hours. It was an easy drive. We stopped at Caher to at least see the castle and really wished we had time to see the inside – it looked magnificent, nicest castle we saw, at least from the outside. In fact, I think I would have chosen to see it over the Rock of Cashel, which we saw on Friday.

Thursday night we stayed at Joy’s Rockside Inn – highly recommend it. Right next to entrance of the Rock, and the keepers were lovely people. We ate at Chez Hans that night – best meal we had in Europe. Wow was it good. Can’t recommend enough.

The Rock of Cashel itself was nice, but not as nice as I expect for some reason. Maybe because there was a 30 mph wind that morning and gloomy skies and showers. Anyway, we stayed for about an hour. We went to Hore Abbey, which was again really cool since it was empty and we could wander around on our own. The view of the Rock is great from here, too. Next we took a scenic route to Kilkenny that was recommended by Rem, one of the innkeepers at Joy’s. We got to Kilkenny and parked right near the Castle. We spent about 5 hours walking around Kilkenny, seeing the cathedrals (St Mary’s was amazing), the Rothe House (mediocre self guided tour) and Kilkenny Castle (reminded me a lot of Muckross, not a traditional castle at all, more like an 18th century mansion). The Design Center across from the Castle was a highlight, great store, crafts and restaurant. We stayed at Rosquil House, one of the nicest B&B’s we’ve ever been to (although that’s only about 12). The walk to town was a bit far – about 10 minutes. At night we went to many pubs, Kytelers and Matt the Miller being the most fun. We loved Kilkenny – great attitude, lovely city. Highly recommend.

We finished up our trip with three days in the Dublin area, first driving from Kilkenny to Knowth and Newgrange (about 2.5 hours). Those sites are must sees for history buffs. Just so neat the way you go into Newgrange for the “solstice” presentation.

I’m not going to add a lot of the Dublin trip details on here, since that’s now way out of Kerry. Needless to say it was a great way to finish the trip. But I wanted to thank everyone on these forums (I chose Kerry to post this report since we were there the longest) and report back on our trip. Again, really appreciate everyone’s assistance on making a wonderful trip to Ireland!

Ireland
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for Kilkenny
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1. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Jahausa

Thanks very much for your excellent trip report. I really enjoyed reading it. Your driving experiences will be helpful to

I am so glad you enjoyed Kilkenny, both by day and by night. But I must say it took my breath away a bit when you described Kilkenny Castle as "not a traditional castle at all, more like an 18th century mansion". I don't know what qualifies in Chapel Hill, NC as a traditional castle, but Kilkenny's only dates back to the 12th century, of which three towers from that era still remain, remodelled in the 17th century, following Cromwell's seige, and again in the 19th, due to the fact that it was a family home continuously until the 1930's and true to the tradition of Castle homeowners, they kept up with the times. The fact that the Castle is in such good condition owes much to the wealth of the families that owned it and the wonderful restoration work carried out by the Office of Public Works since the 1960's. Perhaps you were misled by the fact that many of the rooms have been authentically restored to their final decorative period - that of the Victorian era, including copying the original wallpaper that was left on the walls when the last occupants moved out. This was a choice made by the restorers to emphasise the fact that the castle had been lived in up to the almost present day.

Anyway, forgive me for being so defensive of our wonderful castle, of which we are so proud. And don't let me take away from your report which is great - very honest and descriptive.

Chapel Hill, NC
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2. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Rover - To elaborate more. Yes, the outside was certainly as much of a castle as anything. I guess it's just that I didn't expect a Victorian mansion-like tour in a 12th century castle. They explained on the tour that they restored it to its final state rather than the 12th century original due to the fact this made the restoration much more reasonable. But on the inside I felt like I was on a tour of any Victorian mansion - very pretty - but not "ancient."

Ireland
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3. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Well, I suppose it is a surprise to people. But you must at least have been impressed by the Long Gallery.

Cork, Ireland
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4. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Jahausa - great report, such enthusiasm !!! I am delighted you took my advice and walked the Gap, it is beautiful. I'm sorry I didn't warn you about the 'fare' at Lord Brandons cottage. I would never eat there, I always carry my own lunch. LBC is a rip off and quite a depressing building to arrive upon after walking the gap.

Thanks very much for writing about your driving experience. It's great to hear you found it easy as so many write about how worried they are about the prospect of driving here. I must cut and paste your driving paragraph for the benefit of others. Well done.

Regarding those places you missed (including beautiful Cork) you'll just have to come back again soon.

Allentown, PA
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5. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Great report. We leave May 4 for Shannon. Your driving experience has helped ease my nerves! Thanks!

Cavan
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for County Cavan
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6. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Nicely written an excellent report of what was a good tour of Ireland and not trying to do to much. Have you any idea of the miles that you clocked up in total and what were your experiences of driving and parking in Dublin.

Guernsey, United...
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7. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

jahausa

Really have enjoyed reading your trip report.

So pleased you like Kenmare - one of my favourite towns in Ireland. We also enjoyed delicious fish n chips; I seem to remember they were from a "take-away" place on Main Street.

You've really got me wanting to walk the Gap of Dunloe . . .

A really entertaining and helpful report - thanks once again!

Cavan
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8. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Sarnia Girl, I never before marked you down as a fish'n'chip person but I am now thinking that you are addicted. The traditional pub tour of Ireland is probably made more difficult these days by the drink/driving restrictions. Could be that you are reviving another tradition, the fish'n'chip tour of Ireland, certainly better than those awful pannini's which have crept in through the backdoor.

Next time you are in Ireland head for McDonagh's in Galway, a gourmet delight and worth every penny, or should I say euro and plenty of them, but what the heck.

Guernsey, United...
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9. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

Cavan007 - good afternoon :-)

Aaah, there are lots of things you still don't know about me :-))) - but just in case you haven't realised, I really LOVE food! But it has to be well-prepared with the best fresh ingredients available. I really, really, dislike packaged food full of additives, preservatives, colours, etc, etc.

Must say, the fish n chips I've had in Ireland take some beating! When visiting Ireland I do very much look forward to dining out a few time; I've had some very enjoyable and memorable meals over the years . . . and not just fish n chips!

Looking forward to going to some farmers markets in the summer when in co. Meath . . .

Co. Kildare
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10. Re: Report back on March Irish Road Trip

jahausa, thanks for the very entertaining trip report!

Your section on driving in Ireland will be of great use to other visitors.

I'm glad you had a good time!