Summer of 2017
Two weeks ago we returned from an amazing trip to Ireland, so stay tuned and get ready with your pens and notebooks, laptop or cellphones and start planning your next destination….
A trip to Ireland is like going back in time to the 90’s:., You will not find the familiar modern designs we know, such as skyscrapers or high- tech landmarks we have all grown used to. Most of the buildings are 4 stories high, the window shops look like those in the 1990’s as well as the food selection such as main food brands like McDonald’s or Sushi which will not be found as easily as in Europe or the United States.
As for coffee shops, you can find some that are more modernly decorated and they are also very friendly to all food allergies such as gluten free, lactose free, etc…
So, what will you find in Ireland? Amazing, colorful streets, with charming and kind people who are willing to help whenever they can and they will spend all the time in the world to do so. And above all Beer! Beer! Beer! And more beer!
First stop – Dublin
In general, I did not take a fancy to Dublin at all and I would not spend any time on it (sorry, my Irish friends) unless you are a city type that must shoot some city time into your veins or you are new to traveling and haven’t seen much of the world yet. In that case I would spend a day at the most and concentrate on the central area –The Temple Bar surroundings, Trinity College, Saint Patricks’ Cathedral, the Town Hall and The Guinness Brewery, of course.
My Tips of the Day:
Those of you who are short in time can fly through London to Cork which is located in the south of Ireland. Start your trip there and finish in Dublin instead of traveling back and forth.
POWERSCOURT GARDENS, GLENDALOUGH, WICKLOW, BRAY, HOWTH, MALAHIDE
As I have mentioned, Dublin is not the highlight of a trip to Ireland. A trip to Ireland is all about nature and magical green landscapes. But if you are short in time and you want to focus on the Dublin surroundings you can find some very beautiful places to visit for a day or two. This is also suitable as a starting point if you are doing the Ireland roundtrip.
Sites to Visit: Powerscourt Gardens – a delightful castle with charming gardens. It is a place to stop for an hour or two and have a great hike around (also the ice cream is yummy!)
Powerscourt Water falls – They say this is one of the highest waterfalls of Ireland. Unfortunately, we were short of time that day so we had to skip it. My friend who visited there just a couple of weeks after me said it is a great spot for picnic.
Along the shore, north and south from Dublin you will find some lovely seaside towns – Wicklow, Bray, Howth, Malahide. They don’t have the dramatic cliffs that you will encounter later in your journey but they are very lively and colorful. For those of you on a round trip with a tight schedule you can pass. If you came for a short trip to Dublin, you can spend a nice afternoon out of the city. And if you are lucky like we were, you will be able to join the locals at their common hangout – swimming contests when the temperature outside is 15 degrees Celsius. I did not dare to check the water temperature…standing on the dock and watching while buttoning my coat and tightening my scarf was all the exercise I could endure.
DON’T MISS! A great attraction to visit south of Dublin is the Lough Tay View Point in Glendalough and the round hike around Glendalough.
My Tips of the Day:
For those of you who are new to driving on the left side:
Switching to left side driving is all in all very simple and takes at most a day or two. All you need to do is make sure to memorize the following rules:
1. Always try to stay close to the center of the road.
2. The left turn is always the turn which is closer to you.
3. Entering a roundabout is from the left.
Stay alert to your left side while driving. In the first days there is a tendency to brush against whatever is there, so if you don’t wish to brush any one …Be Alert!
COBH, WEST CORK, ROCK OF CASHEL
We left Dublin and beautiful Glendalough and continued south towards Cork. Ireland is filled with castles and monasteries and old churches. Even if you think you have had enough you are wrong since each has its own magic and there are some which you should definitely NOT MISS! ROCK OF CASHEL is surely one of them. It is one of the most amazing archeological sites in Ireland! It is located at the top of a hill, surrounded with green spaciousness, the remains of another beautiful monastery and the town of Cashel. You can visit it on your way east to the Ring of Kerry or on your way south to Cork and make sure not to miss the hike to the Monastery at the bottom of the hill. Also don’t skip the great ice cream shop. We had 2 scoops and an exciting encounter with George from North Carolina who was 93 years old!! And still traveling around the world.
The town of COHB was our next destination. This is a charming, colorful harbor town and a wonderful place to stop for a great meal.
My Tips of the Day:
COHB is definitely not a plateau town, so be prepared for steep hills. But don’t miss a walk around its colorful streets and alleys and don’t forget to look back at the magnificent sea view as you ascent uphill.
KINSALE, BALARNY CASTLE
Many people have asked me what the most beautiful place to visit in Ireland is. What is most recommended? Truly there is no one answer for this. Ireland is so beautiful, each place has its unique characteristics, its special nature wonders and splendidness that it is really hard to point to just one place that is the best.as they are all outstanding! You can tour Ireland for a week and you can stay for a month while spending 3-4 days in each location without feeling that you have had enough. We traveled for 12 days and were left with a strong will for more.
WEST CORK is considered one of the beautiful areas of Ireland. It has an abundance of small bays, picturesque towns and an endless beauty. The area begins from the town of KINSALE and goes all the way until BERE ISLAND. KINSALE is one of the most picturesque towns we have visited. It is worth to stay there overnight and spend an evening out in an Irish pub in the center while dancing to some good old Irish music. In the morning you can tour the town and visit JAMES FORT which is an old fortress located above the town’s port. It used to be a military base. The views are intoxicating due to the combination of the ruins, the old stones, the green landscapes and the blue sea. they are just amazing!
My Tips of the Day:
“Kitty O’Ses Bar and Restaurant” for your night out in KINSALE.
Don’t miss BALARNY CASTLE. Although KINSALE has many fortresses and castles, BALARNY is special and is worth the drive, mainly because of its gardens with ancient trees, caves under the trees roots, sculptures and hiking trails in the woods. The line to enter the castle is usually very long so if you are short in time or have seen enough castles you can easily miss it and focus on the gardens.
KILARNY, RING OF KERRY, GAP OF DUNLOE AND DINGLE
The RING OF KERRY, THE RING OF KERRY oh THE RING OF KERRY… The place most talked about before my trip to Ireland. One of my Shaolin Chi Kung masters lives there so I was really excited to visit, and of course I heard so many good things about the area so my expectations were high and they didn’t fail, I must say.
We started off with the famous view point: LADY’S VIEW. This was basically the first time in our trip to Ireland that the weather influenced our plans, since it was foggy and started to rain. Yes, believe it or not we were in Ireland for 12 days with only 2-3 days in which the rain was something to consider. We really took the jackpot!
The ring of Kerry is amazing! I really recommend that you will take your time and stay in the area for a couple of days as there is so much to do and see.
KILLARNEY is a vibrant town. Go out at night to the main street. It is full of people and tourists and it is nice being back in society after traveling through the side roads and rural areas.
THE GAP OF DANLOU is by far the best day we had there. We didn’t even plan on touring it for the whole day, only to pass by, but the hotel concierge recommended it, so we took his word for it and it was amazing! We walked the entire 12 km which is a fairly easy walk since most of the time it is on a paved road although quite a climb. After the walk you take a boat to ROSS CASTLE and a bus waits to take you back to the car. Don’t surrender to laziness and take the horse carriages, do the walk! It is a full day. You will finish around 16:00. Then we moved on to DINGLE.
I feel like I am a broken record repeating myself but every place is so beautiful that I can’t help myself and say DON’T MISS these sites: THE GAP OF DANLOU, DINGLE.
My Tips of the Day:
If the weather is good take a picnic basket when you go out to the RING OF KERRY and stop when you see a viewpoint or some cars on the side of the road., Usually you will find that you are on a cliff and down below you have a nice seashore or a bank of the lake where you can relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
DO EXPLORE in DINGLE, as well. Get off the main road where you see small signs of a beach or a road that looks like it is going to nowhere. You don’t know what you might find.
MOHER CLIFFS, ARAN ISLANDS, THE BARREN
The green, the endless spaciousness and the unique stones and rocks have made me so enthusiastic with my camera and excited like a little girl, I have plenty of pictures and it is taking chunks of time to go over them so I hope you still have it in you to wait for me…
Our journey continued along the west coast to the grand MOHER CLIFFS and ARAN ISLANDS.
MOHER CLIFFS lay over 11 km and you should plan on spending at least 3 hours there. From the visitors center you can go either to the cliffs on the left or to the right or do both sides depending time and fitness. We liked the northern side better, the one that is on the right of the visitor’s center.
The cliffs demonstrate the power of nature and the wildness of the sea. It is a highly touristic place and you will not be able to escape the selfie culture which is so much part of our lives today, especially amongst the youngsters. You will find them taking their chances on the edge of the cliffs for the ultimate selfie. We, of course didn’t dare. After visiting the cliffs, we moved on to DOOLOIN a small charming fisherman’s village from which you can take the ferry to ARAN ISLANDS. We decided to relax there for a day and a half and it was super! There are 2 Pubs in the village with great music in the evening and also a chef’s restaurant – “Roadford House B&B & Restaurant” that was one of the best places we have eaten in during our stay in Ireland.
GALWAY, here we come…our next stop! On the way to GALWAY we drove through the BARREN. It is Ireland’s impressive vast landscape of barren rock rich in history, flora and fauna. The combination of the glaciated karst, the sea views and the Irish greenery is a sheer pleasure even for those of you that don’t care much for rocks…
My Tips of the Day:
ARAN ISLANDS – Most of the tour guides will recommend them as “a don’t miss”, we had a great time but it was definitely not one of the highlights of our trip and if you need to choose then I would go for a NO. Consider that you need a full day in order to visit them.
There are 3 islands. The biggest and the most popular is INISHMOR. A ferry and a tour around will end around 17:00 pm. It has many historic landmarks on it and this is what makes it so popular. According to our B&B owner’s recommendation, we chose to go to INISHEER which is the smallest and the closest island to DOOLIN. We finished around 15:00 after a ferry ride to the MOHER CLIFFS and we got to see some dolphins as well.
CONNEMARA & NORTHERN IRELAND
Well, it took me a while due to the summer vacation, holidays and the beginning of the school year but I am here to tell you about the end of the trip because a trip to Ireland without CONNEMARA and Northern Ireland is not really a trip to Ireland. (Due to lack of time and some basic laziness I have combined these two areas together although if to be fair they each deserve special treatment.)
The last post ended with us heading to GALWAY, yes Ed Shiran’s GALWAY….a nice city, very vibrant especially at night. Our trip was a nature trip so we didn’t spend much time on cities. We rested there for the night and moved on to CONNEMARA.
There is the CONNEMARA round trip that includes all the views and towns. You can get a map at your hotel or the local tourist info. The tour includes KYLEMORE ABBEY which is recommended for those of you who love gardens and also you will get a beat of history and some gossip of the local aristocracy.
Beautiful towns to stop for a stroll – CLIFDEN, ROUNDSTONE, LEENAN and the Fjord of Ireland at the port of KILLARY. We left the area travelling northward to Northern Ireland, a 5 hour drive. If it’s too much for you, you can make a stop off at SALLIGO or any other place you pick.
Northern Ireland is surely a big DON’T MISS. It is certainly beautiful although you can see the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland mainly in the colors of the houses. In the north it is somewhat gloomy like the famous English grayness. You can spend a week there and you can brief the area in 2 days. We had only a day and a half so we focused on 4 sites:
THE DARK EDGES
In my opinion the most impressive one is definitely BALILNTOY HARBOR even though the CAUSEWAYS are considered a unique phenomenon.
My Tips of the Day:
•Plan a night over at CLIFDEN. There are some gorgeous B&BS that are located on the tip of the cliffs. We stayed at one of them and it is highly recommended – ROCKMOUNT HOUSE 095-21763
• GIANT’S CAUSEWAYS – You should visit them before or after the opening hours of the visitor’s center. Before 09:00 am or after 19:00 pm because during the day it is very crowded you will miss the whole impression of the place. At those hours you can enter free of charge through the parking lot. (After 19:00 applies if you are traveling in the summer time when the sunset is a round 22:00)
• THE ROPE BRIDGE- You should consider that if the weather is windy you will not be able to board the bridge but the views are so beautiful that it is worth the hike even in windy weather.
• BALLINTOY HARBOR – Don’t get lazy. Make a left from the parking lot, pass the houses and go into the fenced area (the fences are merely to prevent the sheep from wondering around), Walk as much as you can along the shore and the rocks and you will see a bunch of sheep, water creeks and wonderful sea views.
Hope you enjoyed traveling with me …!