I have been hoping to post something on Ireland for a long time now. I’ve shared the following e-mail with dozens of friends and I decided to make it official on the Web in case anyone else is looking for travel tips. Slainte!
First things first: lodging. My mom and I stayed at the adorable Trinity Lodge in Dublin. It’s the perfect location on Frederick’s st. -between Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green. If you’re looking for a bit fancier, you might try the Fitzwilliam but I’d tell anyone to stay at Trinity. The rooms were huge and staff was great.
Second: getting around. Buy a ticket (good for 24 hours) to the double decker bus tours and use it as a taxi. That’s what my mom and I did and we saved lots of money. We were only in Dublin for two nights and went back to the airport to pick up our rental car AFTER so we didn’t have to deal with a car in dublin.
Third: what to see: Go to the entrance of Trinity Lodge (try Googling historic walking tours in Dublin) and meet a history student who will lead you on a 2-3 hour walking tour. It’s a great way on foot to acquaint yourself with the city. It starts every day at 11a.
In addition to the walking tours you might want to hit up the Book of Kells Tour in Trinity College Library. The highlight of this is not the manuscripts – they’re actually quite small – but the incredible library upstairs that was used as a model for Harry Potter flicks.
The other highlight, though a rather emotional experience, was Kilmainham Jail – you can hop off the bus right at its entrance and since it’s kind of far out you’ll want to get there on the bus. THIS IS A DO NOT MISS. For anyone with any Irish in them, or any love for history, etc. my mom and I got super-emotional on this tour. I had no idea how recent the Irish struggle for independence was and without giving away too much, 16 men were executed in the jail’s courtyard and their last words are on display in the little museum – incredibly powerful stuff. I think “In the Name of the Father” was filmed there.
If you like churches St. Patrick’s is definitely worth a stop. “Evensong” is every night around 5, 6ish, kind of Dublin’s version (on a much less impressive scale) of the Vienna Boy’s Choir. They rehearse for a while then re-enter in their robes and sing for anyone there listening.
I’d skip the Guinness tour- seemed like the only people doing it were a bunch of heavyset, midwestern tourist types – no thanks!
Now, where to eat: had an incredible meal at the Pearl Brasserie one night and Il Posto another night. If you like scones and need a snack hit up Marks & Spencers on Grafton (lots of shops here too)– they have an awesome selection of food-on-the-go.
Pubs: you must go to O’Neills, O’Donaghues and the Palace Pub. The only one we found music in was O’Donaghues and it was GREAT.
After two nights in Dublin, my mom and I headed straight to the west coast (which i highly recommend!!!) starting in Westport and winding south all the way to Dingle, then back up to Adare before flying out of Shannon Airport.
Other highlights, in brief – Westport– near Connemarra and Clifden (skip Clifden-nothing to see). climb Croagh Patrick if you’re brave. Connemarra is worth a hike. Ballynahinch is this incredible spot for a stay or even a meal in its old hunting/fishing pub. If you end up near Cong check out Ashford Castle (though a little over the top).
Cashel House in Cashel was the most incredible place we stayed the whole time. Charles de Gaulle stayed here. If you end up on the west coast, do not miss this place.
Depending on how much time you have the Aran Islands are beautiful, but I wouldn’t hurry back. The ferry is cool and if you go, do NOT take a “bus” (more like van) tour -total rip off. Drivers drop you off at a spot 10 min away from the ferry dock and say, “See you in three hours.” My mom and I were shocked. Bike if you go here.
The Cliffs of Moher are a DO NOT MISS, as is the Ring of Kerry (don’t miss Muckross Abbey either). M favorite town besides Dublin was definitely Kenmare. We stayed at the Sallyport House here – two minute walk into town. Lots of people stay in Kilkenny to do the drive but I recommend Kenmare for sure (and driving the ring clockwise, instead of counterclockwise which all the tour buses do). Pubs here: Coachman’s Pub, PJ McCarthy’s. Restaurants: Packy‘s and the Horseshoe Pub. Check out if Michael O’Brien is playing anywhere in town -incredible box player made for our best night in Ireland for sure.
If you make it to Dingle stay at the Pax House – incredible views, breakfast and the owner John is an incredible host.