Monday, September 7, 2015

How to Enjoy an Amazing Long Weekend in Ireland!

This year hasn't given me many breaks but thankfully back in January we booked the most amazing trip which turned into a long weekend getaway at the end of August.

Last week we went to Ireland!   I worked from 7:30 - 2:30 on Wednesday, then ran home to take a shower and made it to the airport by 4:00 to be ready for our 5:50 flight.  Typically I'm not one for packing those neck pillows but because we only had Thursday - Saturday to do our sightseeing so I needed to be rested and ready to tour as soon as we hit the ground. Pillow in the backpack...check!  This trip I packed really light with just a small carry-on bag and of course packing a sturdy pair of walking shoes.  We arrived in Shannon by 10:00 on Thursday morning, picked up our rental car (one of the bravest things we've ever done) and set out to see County Clare.

Day 1 - Our first stop was Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and it was a perfect start to the trip after such a long flight.  We walked the grounds saving the climb up in the castle until the end.  By the time we finished it was lunchtime so we headed over to Gallaghers before driving on to Ennis.
Maybe I'm in the minority but flipping my driving mindset from L-R to driving R-L would be impossible but my husband was agreeable to handle the driving, provided I made no sounds while he was at the wheel.  Leaving Shannon it was a big deal to adjust differences.  Little did I know the driving would be even more challenging over the next few days with all those narrow country roads but now that we are home I'm so glad we had a car and that my husband was willing to handle the driving.

We arrived in Ennis and after circling many blocks several times we finally found our hotel AND the hotel parking lot.  We spent our days at the Old Ground Hotel and it was wonderful.  We had a suite which was fabulous (thank you Delta vacations).  The hotel is right in town so the location is perfect and it also has great restaurants and a top-rated pub.

We ended the day with Irish music at Cruises Pub.

Day 2 - Friday morning we got up early and hit the road.  We were headed for the Cliffs of Moher and were encouraged that even though it was overcast, there was no rain.  That is until we got to the Cliffs.   As soon as we stepped out of the car it started sprinkling and by the time we got on the walking trail it was pouring.  We were drenched but we continued our walk. Seeing the cliffs in the rain, with crashing waves, winds and heavy clouds, gave the scenery a haunting appearance and it made the walk more beautiful.  We stopped in to the cafe and had some tea before heading to Doolin.
From Doolin we waited at the port to catch a boat to the Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands.  Our boat ride was the scariest, most turbulent ride ever and I'm not exaggerating or kidding about this.  We were not asked to wear life jackets but I spotted their location and had we capsized I was going to be ready.  There were so many distractions - people throwing up and working as hard as I could to hold on to my seat actually made me feel like I was holding on for dear life. We had windows from our seating but all we could see was crashing waves. Luckily it was only a 35 minute ride and soon we were on the dock, the sun was out and we were seeing a dolphin!  Apparently Dusty Springfield's ashes were strewn near the Cliffs and shortly afterwards "Dusty" the dolphin made an appearance and now stops in every day to visit with visitors and natives alike.

We spent the day with a local man touring Inis Oirr.  It is a beautiful island and we saw St. Kevin's Church, the O'Brien Fort, the Plassey shipwreck, the Holy well, the lighthouse, the handicraft workshop and much more.  And we got to enjoy one of the best bowls of seafood chowder ever!  After a full afternoon of walking the island it was time to get back on that boat and face the rough sea and another boat of seasick passengers.

That night back in Enis we made another trip to Cruises for some Irish music.

Day 3 - Again we got an early start and hit the road in search of faeries and the Burren.  Okay, I knew I was pushing my luck to think that I would see the faeries but I was eager to see a ring fort and was hoping to spy a faerie too.  Along the way we stopped at the Burren visitor center to learn a bit more about the land and nature before heading to the stone fort. At the fork in the road where we were to turn was a beautiful abandoned castle called Leamaneh so of course we had to stop for photos.  I later learned that the fireplace in our hotel was removed from the castle and installed at Old Ground.  Driving on we finally arrived at Caherconnell Stone Fort and enjoyed taking in the beauty of the landscape as well as learning about the excavations.  We took some time to enjoy the sheepdog demonstration which was an added bonus before heading up the road to Poulnabrone.
Poulnabrone looks huge in photos that I'd seen but it is not that big really but it was eerily beautiful to see the stones mounted in the midst of nothing but stone.  On the drive back to Ennis we stopped to see the Kilnaboy Church with its round tower.

One thing I've failed to share is that at every stop we just took in the views.  The landscape is so beautiful and so perfect that it almost doesn't seem real.  We decided that on our last day we needed to see the Ennis Friary and needed to enjoy some time in Ennis.  The town has lots of shops, cafes and a lovely river.  It seemed like a perfect way to slow down and relax and it was.  By late afternoon we decided to go back to our hotel to sit in the garden and have a tea.  It was amazing to enjoy a wedding and sunshine!  The garden was filled with love, flowers, friends and family celebrating the marriage.  As the sun went down it only seemed right that we return to Cruises for our last night of Irish music.
As we headed out to the airport I couldn't help but think about this trip as perfect.  We saw so many things but had plenty of time to relax and visit with people.  In fact, I felt right at home.  People were so friendly and welcoming making our visit even more memorable.

I don't know if I'll make it back to Ireland any time soon but I can honestly say it was one of my favorite trips and I sincerely hope to visit again. Delta Vacations helped me put this trip together and while it was short, it was amazing and affordable.  I'm sold on Delta Vacations.  

9 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip. You got some great pictures. Driving does sound good. However, I don't think I could handle that. The cabs in Dublin were too much of a thrill ride for me. I road on a motorcoach which on a few days were a real waste.

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    1. Ann, I would never be able to drive there but riding on the big buses seemed like a challenge too. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to get around and we ended up being able to see a lot in a short amount of time because we had a car. We were surprised at how much we loved the trip but now we know why three of Ireland's cities have been named a most friendly city. It is such a nice country!

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  2. What a great little trip and you did so much an saw such a variety of sights. I’d love to go to Ireland but my husband does not drive anymore – I would be too afraid to drive on the left. In places like this, a car helps so much to see all the surrounding countryside. Your pictures are lovely and give a good impression of what you saw.

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    1. Vagabonds, I agree. There are buses galore but nothing beats being able to take unplanned paths or make unexpected stops.

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  3. What a terrific get away! Good for you! The photos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl.

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    1. Thank you Sarah. There were so many beautiful sights.

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  4. Cheryl, what a grand getaway! Your photos make me want to go there right now!

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  5. Wow! I love your photos. Looks like a wonderful trip.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. What a wonderful special trip!!! LOVED seeing all the pictures. You created some very Happy Memories!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR, my dear!

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