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With a name like Kathleen, I feel as if I’m part Irish. It has always been a dream of mine to visit the ‘Green Isle’ and experience what Ireland has to offer. Without any hesitation I would say that ‘Irish eyes were definitely smiling’ when we visited this island in 2008. I was completely mesmerized by the beauty and the quaintness of the tiny villages, the rugged coastlines, the abundance of regal castles, the narrow little roads through the countryside and the very trendy city of Dublin.
A favourite uncle of mine used to sit me on his knee when I was a ‘lassie’ and sing in full voice “I will take you home again Kathleen”, so this song has a special place in my heart. I heard this song played at many a little Irish pub during our travels, which seemingly are on every corner of every street in every village. It was a special treat to hear this Irish ballad sang in the country where it was composed.
This is the driving route that we travelled around the coastline of Southern Ireland which took us exactly seven days to circumnavigate:
The city of Dublin is a thriving modern city with fabulous bars (aka as Irish pubs), restaurants, top-end fashion boutiques and many historical points of interest. A walk through the area named Temple Bar, where the majority of the trendy bars and restaurants are located, is a must do. We enjoyed a few drinks and listened to a live Irish band who played some of the old Irish ballads. The shops in this area were also very upmarket and worth a browse.
A good way to see all the sights in Dublin is to get on a Hop-on, Hop-off double decker bus tour. You get to visit points of interest such as the golden Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Famine Museum, Dublin’s Docklands, Kilmainham Gaol, Christ Church Cathedral, St Patrick’s Cathedral and Phoenix Park (where Dublin Zoo is located). The major highlight of the tour is a visit to the Guinness Storehouse where the famous Guinness Ale is brewed. After a very informative tour of the brewery you finish at the top at the Gravity Bar, which has spectacular 360 degrees views of Dublin, and you get to partake in a pint of the ale. Not to my taste, but something that you should try whilst you are in Ireland.
After a few days in Dublin we headed west towards the south-west coastline in our rental car and the city of Galway. Our first stop was at the very pretty town of Athlone where the river Shannon flows through and checked out our first castle. Athlone’s other name to fame is that is has the ‘oldest pub in Ireland‘ called Sean’s Bar. This is definitely worth checking out!
On arrival in Galway we immediately set off on foot to explore this exciting city on Galway Bay. Galway Bay is renowned for a range of activities from sailing , fishing, diving and cruises to the Islands of Aran and Inishbofin. We stopped to watch a game of canoe polo in one of the lakes which was very entertaining.
Eyre Square (renamed John F Kennedy Park) is located in the city centre, which is an open green park where you can sit and relax and view the Statue of Paraic O’Connaire ; erected in 1935 in memory of the writer who travelled the roads with his horse and cart. We had dinner at one of the many Irish Pubs in town and enjoyed our first authentic Irish stew – very delicious.
We headed south towards county Clare to Burren and stopped to visit the Ailwee Cave, which consists of a cave system of over a kilometre of passages leading into the heart of the mountain. Its features include an underground river and a waterfall as well as some large stalactites and stalagmites. The views from Burren overlooking the countryside were breathtaking.
Next stop was at the infamous Cliffs of Mohr, which is an expanse of 200 metre cliff faces with magnificent views out to the Atlantic Ocean.
After a very eventful day, we arrived at the town of Dingle on the Dingle Peninsula, the northernmost of the major peninsulae in County Kerry. Dingle is significant to me as it is where one of my favourite movie’s of all time, Ryan’s Daughter, was filmed. The scenery here was truly magical and the town of Dingle, as I expected – a little fishing village with quaint little houses and Bed & Breakfasts.
After a delicious breakfast at The Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, served by our hostess, Kathleen, we drove around Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula. The countryside and views, as anticipated, were spectacular and the morning air very fresh and chilly.
Lunch stop was in the town of Killarney and then off to drive the panoramic Ring Of Kerry. Once again the views were picturesque of the ocean and there were some lovely sandy beaches. We visited Kerry Bog Village at Glenbeigh which gives you a fascinating insight into how people lived and worked in Ireland in the 18th Century. Then on to Cahersiveen to see the ruins of Ballycarberry Castle and the Old Barracks. Further on a stop at Derrynane on the beach to see the beautiful old home where Daniel O’Connell, the famous 19th century Irish Political Leader, lived. Also a visit to the Beehive Cells – located alongside the ancient world heritage listed 6th century monastery at Skellig Michael.
After a very long day driving and seeing the magnificent sights of The Ring of Kerry, we happily found another excellent bed & breakfast called Nieden B&B in Kenmare, and dined at Foley’s Pub, where once again the meals were delicious and the Irish music very entertaining.
Driving southwards we enjoyed the vista of lush green paddocks with the stone wall fences and little farmhouses dotted along the route. We had lunch at Bantry which is a town on the coast of County Cork and is famous for the mansion called Bantry House and Garden – a privately owned stately home in an incredible location with views over Bantry Bay. It was totally charming with wonderful decor and magnificent gardens and a teahouse that looked like it was out of the set of Downton Abbey.
Further on we stopped to view Inchydoney Island near Clonakilty, which is a small island, long connected to the mainland by two causeways and features Blue Flag Beach, a very popular beach resort area.
Our days journey terminated at the pretty little fishing village of Kinsale, located on the south coast near the Old Head of Kinsale, it sits at the mouth of the River Bandon. Kinsale is a popular holiday resort for Irish and foreign tourists. Leisure activities include yachting, sea angling, and golf. There is a large yachting marina close to town and Charles Fort is located on the water’s edge on the harbor. The fort was built in the 1670s and 1680s to a star fortification design – a layout specifically designed to resist attack by cannon. It has magnificent views out to the harbor and beyond.
Driving in an easterly direction we visited the large city of Cork, famous for the medieval Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. The stone is kissed by many visitors each year, and tradition is that those who kiss the stone will receive the gift eloquence.
A stop at the Waterford Crystal Factory, in Waterford where we partook in the guided factory tour to see the very talented glass-blowers mould silica (sand) into ornamental pieces of crystal glassware. Some of the pieces were magnificent, such as sporting trophies for The Ashes cricket competition and the US Open Tennis championships.
An hours drive east, we came to the sleepy port town of Wexford and The Hook Peninsula, where there is the oldest working lighthouse in the world, Hook Lighthouse.
We arrived at the lively town of Arklow for our last night in Ireland which is situated on the river Avoca in the southern corner of county Wicklow. Arklow was, in its day, one of the busiest ports in Ireland and a renowned centre for boat building and sea fishing as well as having a fine tradition in the pottery industry.
Heading back to Dublin, and our flight to London, we drove through the county of Wicklow, known as the ‘Garden of Ireland‘. The area is popular for the scenic Wicklow Mountain range and the The Wicklow Way which is the oldest waymarked long distance walking trail in Ireland. A popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
There are a number of mountain streams, rivers and lakes in the Wicklow Mountains National Park which are important habitats for fish, invertebrates, birds and mammals. We would have loved to have more time to explore the stunning landscapes of this area.
Although, our time in Ireland was short, we covered a fair amount of territory. I was very sad to leave the green lush landscapes of this small country. I felt as if, for all that Ireland has endured, it has absolutely earned its place as one of most interesting and scenic tourist destinations.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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