At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Ireland was so amazing! We loved every bit of it, so we thought we’d share with you our detailed itinerary, because if you aren’t planning on going, you should add it to your list ;)
We spent 7 nights in Ireland total. To be honest we could have stayed more, but if you’re going to be doing a big loop like we did, I’d suggest at least 7 nights. We started in Dublin (we could also have flown into Belfast, but for us the flights were all expensive) went straight north and around the west coast and flew out of Cork, which was almost a complete circle around the island. If you were going to fly in and out of Dublin, it would be a little longer of a drive if you were doing a complete loop. So you’ll have to determine how much time you have, what you want to see, and where you are flying in and out of.
One thing you’re really going to want to pay attention to before leaving, and even plan around before you book your flights and hotels, is weather. We just happened to get there during the best weather. It was pretty much sunny our entire stay. Even the Irish were mentioning to us how lucky we were. It was still windy and chilly at times, but we had very little rain. The weather in Ireland being what it is, you’re going to want to pack lots of sweaters, jeans, good shoes for walking/hiking, and a shell for rain. We actually just bought 2 really cheap umbrellas there because they were really inexpensive so we didn’t want to worry about taking up space if we didn't end up needing them. I won’t go into too much detail on other items we packed because most of that will go into my newly update “traveling with children” post that I’m working on.
Whenever we can, and whenever it makes sense, we get rental cars. Ireland is the perfect place to get a rental car... in fact I really don't know how the trip would happen if you didn't have one since you are road tripping so much. We always rent with Avis because as a preferred member you are in and out so quickly which is super nice. (I hate when it takes forever and I am chasing Atticus forever while waiting in line etc.) Just remember 1) Lots of the cars here are manual, so if you can’t drive a stick, be specific when making a reservation and ask for an automatic and 2) You’re going to be driving on the left side of the road! This can seem so scary at first, but it just takes a little getting used to (even though David did all the driving.) Also, remember that Diesel is the cheaper option in lots of Europe, but just make sure that you’re pumping the right gas as most are diesel.
STOPS: (Where we Stayed, what we did, what we ate)
We were originally only planning on staying in Ireland 5 nights, but we had to change our trip a bit so we ended up adding Northern Ireland to the itinerary. Unfortunately we didn’t have a ton of time to plan for it because it was kind of a last minute change in our plans. So we stayed at a little inexpensive bed and breakfast in Castlerock. It’s about 3 hour drive north from Dublin, so definitely not a quick trip, but a great drive. Don’t feel like you need to stop at every quaint field full of sheep because you’re going to see plenty of them.
The town is adorable and the beach is so pretty. This is the beach I took these sunset photos on from this post. Honestly, the B&B wasn’t anything special, but the location was so great. From there we were able to get to Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the dark hedges pretty easily. All within about a 30 minute drive. But the drive is so gorgeous. It’s all along what’s called the Causeway Costal Route, so time in the car isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Castlerock is a pretty small town, so there wasn't much in terms of food. Because we were in a small cottage, we just stocked up with essentials at a local super market. During the days when we were out went to Portrush, a nearby town, and they had some great restaurants and pubs. Definitely go to Ramore Wine bar and get the chilli chips!
Also a long drive, but so worth it! You’re going to be doing a lot of driving on this trip.
We stayed at Ashford Castle if you remember this post, here. There was so much to do. Our favorites were the horseback ride and the picnic which you can arrange through the concierge. They have a picnic menu and we were just able to chose our location on the castle grounds, and just show up to the most perfect picnic with an incredible castle view. They even have a school of falconry, which we would have loved to do if Atticus was a little older. They also have archery, fly fishing, boat rides, and tons more. For the most part we ate at the castle. The breakfast was incredible and they had the freshest and tastiest croissants I have ever had. We also ate in Cong, Try the Hungry Monk Cafe on Abbey Street in town. It’s a local favorite.
CLIFFS OF MOHER:
After Cong we had our longest drive which we broke up with 2 stops. Non stop it would have been about 5 hours. Once again, such a gorgeous drive, but 5 hours in a car is 5 hours in a car, so you might as well take advantage of the beautiful countryside.
We first stopped at the Cliffs of Moher which is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Cong. You have to go there! If you saw David’s Instagram, you caught a glimpse of the magnitude of the cliffs. They’re awe inspiring, almost like the grand canyon. The cliffs themselves are free to walk and explore, but they do charge per person for parking. I was so worried at first because of Atticus and the cliffs. I kept having reoccuring dreams of me holding Rosie and Atticus running towards the edge of the cliffs - it was horrible!!! So I actually bought a leash to keep him corralled ;) Fortunately we didn’t have to use it because they had brick walls, not just fences, so that was a huge relief. Although you can walk along the cliffs without a wall and even sit on the edge if you're crazy enough.
From there it was about a 2.5 hour drive to Killarney. There is the most quintessential castle there and an adorable mainstream with a place called Murphy’s Ice-cream. You’ll want to go there. They have a few specialties that are unlike any ice cream I’ve ever had! There are 3 locations in Ireland and we managed to stop at 2 of them on our trip.
We actually didn’t stay on the Dingle Peninsula, but we could have. And if you're planning on spending a lot of time there, you might wan to. We were just wanting to explore and drive so we weren’t too worried about actually staying on the peninsula. We stayed in County Kerry. We actually stayed at a little cottage in County Kerry for a night, but we woke up to no water. It was so nice being in a little Irish, thatched roof cottage that had a water well, but with no water we had to move. David found the cutest little bed and breakfast called Kells Bay House and Gardens. They had a delicious Thai restaurant, but other than a little postoffice/shop, there wasn’t much for food so we mostly ate in the nearest city, Cahersiveen.
We were about an hour drive away from Dingle but the drive is incredible and probably my favorite drive of the trip. We stopped at Rahinnane castle and Ferriter’s castle. We walked around Dingle and spent a few hours at the Dingle Ocean Aquarium. It was so much fun, Atticus was in heaven! He just ran from exhibit to exhibit screaming his lungs off loving all the fish, sharks, otters and all the other animals. We were so impressed with how great the aquarium is. We’re firm believers in dedicating time for kids activities when traveling with young children, otherwise they’re just along for the ride, so this was so much fun. We then ate at the Boat Yard Restaurant & Bar in dingle. We didn't take a lot photos (or any really) on this portion of the trip. We like to have days set aside sans camera.
We had one final drive from Kerry to Cork which is where we flew out of. It was about a 2 and a half hour drive, but we stopped in Killarney to see Ross Castle and get Murphy’s on the way out;)
Here's a list of places we wanted to see but weren't able to:
Skelig Islands - The boat tours are shut down until May:/ But they are these twin islands with jagged cliffs and a walkway winding to the top where there is a Monastery. David said that the final scene of Star Wars the Force Awakens was filmed there(Don't judge I haven't seen it yet)
Aran Islands - Inishmore
Kylemore Abbey - We pretty much had to chose between Kylemore and Ashford, and we decided to go with Ashford, but if we had more time we would have done both. It just would have taken us a little out of our path.
Galway - Yet another adorable town that we would have loved to visit, but also would have taken us out of the way. If you're going to do either Kylemore or Galway, do both because they are in the same region.