Ireland Part II: Dingle All the Way

travelVirginia HartComment


For the second part of our trip, we stayed in Dingle, Kilkenny, and Swords. Dingle ended up being such a highlight of our trip (and this part II post!) thus Patrick suggested the title, Dingle All The Way :) You can read part 1 of our Ireland adventure here!

After we returned to the mainland on the ferry (we made sure to sit on the bottom that time!), we drove back to the little town of Salthill for dinner. We went to a cozy Italian spot called La Collina, and it was absolutely delicious! I also remember that it was the only night while we were there that we watched T.V. back in our B&B room, and we were so excited to see that Friends was on...that's been our go-to / can't-go-wrong show since college. It was the perfect way end to a perfect day.

The next morning we drove through the beautiful landscape of The Burren and down the west coast to the Cliffs of Moher.

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...and we found the end of the rainbow! Do you see the family of deer congregated in a circle underneath it? I mean really, Ireland was just showing off at this point.


It started to get pretty foggy, though. This was also around the time when Patrick went deaf in one ear. Yes..! We can laugh about it now because he's been to the doctor and it's fixed, but he seriously couldn't hear very well at all which made navigating what felt like 347 roundabouts ("take the third exit!" / "the first?" / "the THIRD!") an event that needed its own sitcom episode.




^ Dunguaire Castle


^ a familiar name

We later arrived to the cliffs which are supposed to look like this:



or like this in the summer:



But after buying tickets and climbing to the top, this was our view:


The wall of fog was so thick! It was actually pretty creepy because you could hear the waves crashing, but couldn't see past where the ledge dropped off.

Soooo we took some selfies and explored the visitor center.


But yeah, although the day before had gone off without a hitch, we weren't having the best luck on this particular day. We didn't get to see the cliffs, Patrick still couldn't hear (bless him), and then we missed the car ferry in Killimer by a matter of seconds (we drove up just as it was leaving!) so we had to wait in a tiny convenience store for an hour to catch the next one. We diiiid end up finding the funniest present in that little store, however, so I'm thankful for that and can't wait to give it.


^ Once we got on the ferry, we watched our GPS system take us through the water. We found that so funny!

It was a long day of driving, but then we arrived at the Castlewood B&B in Dingle, the nicest and most welcoming place we stayed all week.


Look how cozy it was!!! ^ And don't even get me started on those decorative hearts.


Our room was basically the size of our apartment.


Although the picture on the right was actually taken on our very last night ^, I wanted to document Patrick in his element. This was my view every night at dinner :) (sip beer, smile, repeat) The picture on the left is from that night in Dingle, our party-of-two Thanksgiving dinner at The Chart House which was unbelievably delicious and memorable. Dingle saved the day. Dingle all the way!


The best part of staying in B&Bs? The breakfast experience! And I have to say that the coffee quality at The Castlewood was far superior to anywhere else we visited. I found that most B&Bs were more tea-friendly, but If I'm going to have tea, I prefer it later in the day. I savor my morning mug of joe!


They even offered some to go! ^


When I have a home big enough for multiple Christmas trees, I'd love one dressed in pink.

After breakfast, we set out on Slea Head Drive, the most picturesque trail along the water:




^ This is the moment I learned Patrick's sheep impression is better than my sheep impression.




The water was the most beautiful shade of turquoise!



^ If you look in the distance on the left, you can see what they refer to as "the sleeping giant." Doesn't it really look like one? You can see a better picture of it here.



That's a two-lane road, ladies and gentleman.^



So there we were. We had finished one loop of Slea Head Drive (which took maybe an hour), and we hadn't seen the part that we had seen pictures of in our research. Naturally, we started bickering about what turn we must've missed and whose fault it was. Patrick was determined that we see it so he started the loop all over again while I was all, "Whatareyou crazy?!?" We eventually pulled over to try and plug something into the GPS, and we spotted another car and couple. I walked over to them and awkwardly described what we had seen in pictures. ("Um, it's like, a giant triangle coming out of the water! ...and it reminds me of a Christmas tree or an elf's hat! Hahaha! ... Seen it?") Just as they were excitedly telling me that we were right there and just needed to walk down a little path, Patrick yelled my name. He had just discovered it, too! We went from bickering and being annoyed with one another to high-fiving and cheering like little kids in a matter of point three seconds. #marriage


Then we walked down and saw this:





Pictures don't do it justice. It was my favorite view of Ireland!





here's a little video clip! if you look closely at the end, you can see a seal bobbing in the water:



FYI, this part of Slea Head Drive is called Dún Chaoin (one of my favorite pictures of it is here!) and it's not even halfway through the loop. If you're pressed for time, just start the Slea Head Drive (there are signs for the actual loop everywhere) and stop when you get to this part (it will be on your left and there will be a small sign marking it) and then turn around as that segment is the best part of the entire drive.


After we finished our loop(s) of Slea Head Drive, we ventured back into town to grab lunch and explore for a little bit.


I love how colorfully they paint their store fronts! ^


After that, we had to get on the road and head to Kilkenny. It got dark pretty quickly into our drive which made it an adventure to say the least. It was probably the longest we had to drive all week and we discovered that our GPS system was programmed to take us through every single village along the way. At one point, we pulled into the main street of a small town called Mallow. Just as we pulled in the front of the line at a red light, masses of people gathered around us yelling, "5! 4! 3!..." We didn't know what the heck was happening until they got to "1" and turned on all the holiday lights. We couldn't. stop. laughing. ...because we literally arrived for their annual town lighting JUST in the nick of time. To think of all the decisions we made that day that put us there at the perfect moment...

We stayed in a B&B that night called Carriag Rua. Despite a minor miscommunication with the hostess who wasn't there to let us in when we arrived (we met some friendly neighbors, though!), it worked out just fine. The best part of that B&B was how close it was to downtown! We walked and grabbed a bite to eat, and crashed early once we got into our room.

The next day, we left our car parked there and walked to check out Kilkenny Castle:




We pretended we were on House Hunters Kilkenny.

Just a slight size upgrade from our current digs (!), but we'll take it!


This picture ^ is for my stepdad because Patrick calls him "JB" :)

Also, I love how many pictures on here are all, Can you find the man in the yellow coat? haha!


We had to get to Swords that night, which is right outside of Dublin, so we did a fair amount of driving that afternoon. We wanted to take the scenic route so we drove up the east coast and pulled into Bray, a cute little town on the water, for a late lunch.

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(There are some pictures that make me want to immediately hug the person. This is one of them.) ^

We arrived in Swords that night and stayed in a B&B called San Augustine which was really nice and cozy. Swords honestly looked like a super cute town, but we didn't see much of it since it was dark when we ventured out. It was another convenient location, and I highly recommend staying in Swords if you need to catch a flight out of Dublin as it was seriously 10 minutes away from the airport.

Our evening (and trip!) ended with a waiter treating us to a free beer and Bailey's Irish cream.




We dropped off our rental car the next morning at the airport, which was miraculously still in on piece. It was sad to wrap up the week, but we were also eager to get back to such a busy and exciting time of year. Patrick has started a wonderful new job and we've already celebrated a round of Christmas with my folks and got to show them our apartment for the first time!

However, I keep thinking back to this trip and how refreshing it felt to get away and just "be" without multiple distractions. It was good for us in so many ways. If I ever have the opportunity to return, I'd have a hard time deciding between spending the entire time on the west coast between Galway and Dingle (my favorite part!) or exploring all the places we didn't get to go. Ireland, you are absolutely wonderful...thank you! ♣

P.S. I was successful in my packing-super-light attempt as I ended up wearing every clothing item I brought at least once which must be some sort of record for me as I typically have at least a couple extra outfits. The most important things you need in Ireland? ...a pair of comfortable + waterproof boots, a warm + waterproof coat with a hood (no one uses umbrellas), an outlet plug adapter, and you know, Band-aids + Neosporin in case you wipe out on the sidewalk immediately after you arrive ;)

Dublin, Galway, and Inishmore

travelVirginia Hart3 Comments


Well 'ello there! (you know...shouted in my new, improved Irish brogue)

Although I often neglect this blog in my list of priorities, I'd like to share a couple posts from our recent trip! I took WAY too many pictures, and I'm fairly sure I killed my computer uploading them, but I thought it would be fun to post a bit of what we did in case anyone is planning a similar trip. I'm going to start by sharing the first half of our journey: Dublin, Galway, and the biggest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore.

So let's back up. The days before we left were chaotic, to say the least. The biggest thing I took for granted at a typical job? Paid time off. When you work for yourself and alone, and you take a vacation, there is no one taking care of things while you're gone. And when you're not working, you're not making money, which makes you feel like you should be working constantly. It's stressful. But it also makes vacations necessary for your sanity. So even though I was still shooting off emails to my printing studio on that Friday night at midnight, laughing a "hello" to my birthday, it felt worth it to tie up as many loose ends as I could. With all of that said, I can't express just how nice it felt to get to the airport Sunday night... there was a restaurant near our terminal where we split an appetizer and enjoyed a beer, and I remember feeling the biggest sense of relief and excitement. The older I get, the more I enjoy vacations and traveling, and it makes me want to save every penny to do more of it!


We were like two kids on Christmas Eve. I attempted to sleep and wore an eye mask they gave us for the majority of the flight to sort of pretend it was working (and it did - for, like, seventeen minutes), but Patrick watched movies the entire time. In retrospect, this probably wasn't the best decision, but I don't really know if we could have avoided it. It's so hard to sleep on a plane! When we landed in Dublin, it was about 8:30AM local time, and we took a bus from the airport to downtown where we were staying. I would highly recommend that operation as the bus couldn't have been easier.

Soooooo in true Ginny form, as my husband would say, I made my mark on Ireland within 90 seconds of getting off the bus... We we were walking to the hotel and I was both incredibly excited, but also unbelievably exhausted, and I suppose my legs just stopped working at the appropriate speed because before I knew it, I was falling flat on the sidewalk. Let's be clear, it was not some graceful trip with a quick recovery. When Patrick thinks of how hard I fell, he can't stop laughing. I went Boom. Ka-put. Splat. The color drained from my face and I had to sit / sprawl out, whilst holding my leg on some little, nearby stair for a good five minutes. Patrick later compared it to this Family Guy clip. Alas, the first thing on our agenda after checking in?...find Band-aids (or "plasters" as they call them there) for my bloody knee. Why am I such a hot mess?!!!


We stayed at the Harding Hotel ^ which had a perfect location and it was exactly what we needed that first night - a basic, simple room to crash. Our first day consisted of this: take a cat nap, leave the hotel to walk and explore, eat, return to hotel, repeat. We did this three times!



lots of Patricks in this pic ^^^


and then St. Patrick's cathedral!





It was stunning inside.







the Dublin castle ^



We sat inside this bar for a bit and enjoyed the music. Here is a snippet if you want to listen to one of my favorite songs:



After dinner and breakfast in the restaurants of our hotel (and a lot more sleep), we took a cab to our rental car and our driving adventure began!



Let's just say it was a wee bit scary ;)


On our second and third nights, we stayed in the Marless House in Salthill, right outside of Galway. Mary, our hostess, couldn't have been sweeter or more helpful. She made us a delicious breakfast both mornings (she had an enormous menu, but we could also just basically pick and choose any combination!), and gave us helpful maps and instructions for what we wanted to see and accomplish. My favorite part of our stay was the electric blanket on our bed haha! You could control the temperature of both sides so I could make my side nice and toasty even though Patrick didn't want to. It was a dream, especially for my feet which are always cold! I also have to mention that we left a few clothes at her place (oy!), and she's already mailed them to us. So nice.

The first day we were there (it's just over 2 hours from Dublin to Galway - that's how small the country is!), we took a bus to downtown Galway near the bay to explore.





I loved seeing all the holiday decorations! This was a few days before Thanksgiving (but they obviously don't celebrate that holiday in Ireland) so I'm guessing they start decorating in early November. Another thing we noticed was the smell of peat everywhere, which is what they burn as a heat source in the colder months. It has a strong sweet, smoky smell and I felt like everything we wore smelled like it at the end of the day. To be totally honest, I wasn't a fan of the scent, but I got used to it by the end of the week.


The store on the right is the original maker of the Claddagh rings! ^


We then stumbled into a little bar and went upstairs where it was empty, and we made ourselves at home.



I'll never forget how good of a mood Patrick was in, drinking a Galway Hooker beer in Galway :)



The next morning, with the help of Mary's directions, we drove to Rossaveal and took a ferry to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore. We sat on the top of the ferry and I almost got sea sick because it was so rocky...I was doing everything in my power to take my mind off the fact that it felt like we were going to tip over at any minute! So little tip: sit on the bottom, if you can. When we arrived on the island, we teamed up with a crew in a tour van with the funniest guide named Bertie. It was such a great way to see the entire island (another way is to rent bikes, but I can't ride one), and to hear the history from someone who grew up there.

Inishmore (or Inis Mór) has a population of about 800 people. They still speak Gaelic there, too! The schools teach the language and many children come from the mainland during the summer for weeks at a time to learn. The first thing we wanted to see was Dún Aengus, a prehistoric fort (believed to date back to the Iron Age, built in the 2nd century BC) on the edge of a cliff. We certainly weren't in NYC anymore...




Miraculously, I didn't fall walking up this treacherous path. You know, it takes a flat sidewalk.
















Do you see Patrick on the left? I was fah-reaking out and yelling his name, but he couldn't hear me! Apparently it only looks like he was super close to the edge, but he wasn't. Still, though. Heart attack.



After we climbed to the fort, we had some lunch in a little cafe. This salad was surprisingly delicious and that local feta cheese? The best. Not pictured is a shortbread caramel treat we split that was to die for!


We then visited a horse...


... and a donkey named Ruan!


We bonded. And we might have taken a selfie together ;)

Afterwards, we visited graveyard ruins, and went down to the water.





We came home with sweaters made on the island that I know we'll have forever. Out of all the places we visited, Inishmore was probably my favorite. I felt so far away, in the best of ways!

***stay tuned for pictures and stories from the second half of our trip!