I do. My loaf runs deep. This LOVE has been based on one of my BFF’s Irish family, beer, and countless movies, specifically the one involving a young Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman before things got weird called, ‘Far and Away.’ Come to find out, Ireland isn’t quite like the movies. Its beauty is more diverse, certainly more mountainous than I thought. It isn’t all cliffs or green pastures with stone walls as most movies would have you believe. I had an excellent time driving myself around on the opposite side of the road and the opposite side of the car, meeting some wonderful locals with the most wonderful accents and discovering what the real Ireland is all about.
I started in Dublin. It was an insane way to start driving. I wasn’t dipping my toe in the water to get a sense of the temp. I was jumping in, polar bear style. It was shocking and the two reasons I didn’t get into an accident were because I kept repeating to myself to stay on the left side of the road and I had a Garmin. If you are brave enough to drive, do yourself a favor and get GPS with your rental. It takes a TON of the stress out of the equation. I can’t imagine being on my own and trying to drive while navigating. Even if I had someone in the car with me, I’d still want the GPS. Another accident-avoiding strategy that worked well was to get behind someone and ride their coat tails, at a safe distance, of course. I did this on my way in and out of Dublin. I basically copy-cated them since I didn’t know all of the signage. It certainly helps to get acquainted with things before heading out on the road, so I would always do some research to ensure I wasn’t increasing my odds of really mucking things up while on the road.
Anywho, Dublin was not my favorite place. It was my least favorite of my AirBnb stays and I had no real desire to wander. Much of this was due to my interests existing outside of city life. I wanted to experience the land, not so much the busy city centers. That aspect will have to be for another trip, a shorter trip with more sleep. I was completely exhausted when I arrived from having such an early flight and only getting a few hours rest (rest does not equal sleep) the night before, so I only had energy to go to the Guinness storehouse, take a tour, have a few pints (priorities), some dinner and walk “home.” That may be lame, and I’m okay with that.
The next day, I left fairly early and drove just outside of Dublin, getting in a bit of practice on some narrow and winding roads, before I arrived at Wicklow Mountains National Park. I wish I had more time to explore, but I had to settle for 3 different hour or so trails. It was a beautiful park that I’d like to go back and get a proper hike in…maybe get lost, and get directions from a local who looks like Gerard Butler, fall in love, get married. If you know the movie ‘P.S. I Love You,’ you know what I’m talking about. All of it except the dying husband part, that was heart-breaking.
On my way out of Dublin, I went under the M50 toll to get to the park. This is a strange thing, at least to a girl from Michigan, but you have a toll to pay when you do this and you pay your toll online with this one. You have until 8pm the next day to pay, and I of course forgot because it’s weird. I then had to call to figure out how to take care of it, and you bet I remembered on my way back into Dublin. Just a little warning to pay in advance so you don’t forget if you ever encounter this.
My next destination was Blarney. I tried to make it to the castle and stone, but missed the last entry by 10 minutes, so I drove for a few more minutes to get to my AirBnb. I was greeted by my host Ann and her dog Fluffy. It was a lovely home with a large, bright, and clean room. Ann and I talked for a bit, had Fluffy do some tricks for treats, and then she did my laundry for me! It made me feel like a kid again. She was spectacular!
The next morning I decided to try again and go visit the Blarney Castle and Stone. I arrived a few minutes before opening, bought my ticket straight away, walked right to the castle, up the winding and narrow staircase, and kissed a stone upside-down that most likely had pee pee on it. It is definitely the most promiscuous rock in history and I just added another notch in it’s belt. I really do think it gave me the gift of gab. Or maybe it was just the loneliness. Either way, I can talk up a storm if people give me the opportunity now. The rest of the grounds of the castle were very beautiful, but my visit was cut short by rain. You’ll see that rain is a reoccurring theme on my trip. The grounds are beautiful and I definitely recommend getting there early to avoid lines and enjoy all that Blarney Castle has to offer without a large crowd.
I drove for much of the afternoon to get to my next AirBnb in Cahersiveen. I stopped along the way and spent some time at the Killarney National Park. Its grounds are immaculately manicured, and I got a small walk in before….you guessed it….RAIN. I somehow forgot my umbrella, so I had to briskly walk/jog back to my car to make sure my camera gear stayed somewhat dry. This is another place where I could have spent days. They have trails for walking, bikes or carriage rides are available, and there are also options for hiking and climbing. Best part is that it’s free.
Once I arrived to Cahersiveen, I was greeted by my host, Helena, who was one of the most memorable of my AirBnb hosts even though we spent very little time around one another. I think it was her warmth and sincerity or maybe it was because she had the most Irish accent I’ve ever heard…I mean, so thick it was almost difficult to understand her. I loved the way she said my name. More-say-laah. A thing of beauty. It made me grin ear to ear every time I heard it. As I told her a bit about myself and what I was doing, she would interject with, “You’re a good girl, you are, I can just tell…You’ll find a good man, don’t you worry, he’s out there for you…You’re such a sweet and good girl…” I wandered into town since it was a short walk from where I was staying and got some dinner. At this point I was still a nervous driver and was absolutely confused on how to know where you can and can’t park in Ireland. The small towns that dot the countryside have cars parked up on the sidewalk…or sometimes two wheels are on the curb…or they’re almost completely blocking the road. I didn’t want to end up with a ticket, so if I was ever unsure aka there wasn’t a clearly marked area, or a garage, I pretty much skipped it. If anyone can explain the rules of parking in Ireland, let me know. As for now it remains a mystery that gives me anxiety.
The next day I drove to Dingle where I caught my boat tour to the Blasket Islands. The very handsome, red haired, blue-eyed Captain Billy showed us a few dolphins, a minke whale, and a few different species of seabirds before dropping us at the Great Blasket Island.
We only had a few hours to wander and enjoy the incredible views, so I immediately headed for the beach where he pointed out some grey seals had congregated. I sat with them for a while, just watching and taking photos. They were very focused on me, some leaving the comfort of the sun-soaked sand to take to the water where they could keep a better eye on me from a closer distance. All I could see where these heads bobbing up and down in the turquoise waters. I loved being able to see them in their natural environment-no walls, no barriers. It was such a treat.
I walked back up to where I started, cliffs full with the remains of old stone buildings overlooking the blue waters. I continued on a trail leading me to the northern tip of the island. Unfortunately, I was running out of time and had to turn around before reaching it. This was definitely my favorite excursion while in Ireland because of it’s diversity. Animals, exploring the land, and being surrounded by water-lots of fun!
I spent the night at my next AirBnb after having quite a time finding it. There wasn’t an actual address for the beautiful property. My directions were, no joke, to take the right after the curvey bit in the road, pass a pub on the left, then take a right after that. Thank goodness my host was easy to reach and friendly. I was afraid I wasn’t going to find it before sunset, but I spotted the house with the red door from the photos I had seen and arrived during golden hour. Kathy and I sat down with some tea and biscuits, admiring her insane view, and discussing lots of things as she was from the US. She had lots of tips for me on what to see in the area, roads to take on my way out of Dingle, and ways to get around paying $30 for a adapter/converter while in Ireland. The day at sea and hiking an island left me exhausted and ready for a sleep. My room was so lovely and plush. It was beautifully decorated, with a fluffy bed and fancy chandelier hanging above, and a nice spacious bathroom. It was definitely the fanciest place I had stayed in.
After a great nights sleep and breakfast provided by my host Kathy, I excitedly drove to see the Cliffs of Moher. To go there was a dream come true. They were just as I had imagined they would be when I’d finally get to visit. The sun was out and the end of the day’s high contrast created some even more dramatic views. I walked to the north of the visitor’s center for around an hour, at times walking uncomfortably close to the edge and watching a few people who were lacking good judgment, climb down parts of the cliffs. I then walked the path south of the visitor’s center to Moher Fort Site Telegraph Station and back which was a little less than 5.5 miles. I was holding onto hope that I’d get to see some puffins, but never got the chance because they had migrated about a week before I arrived. This was another theme of my trip…missing things I wanted to see by a week or two ie. – Aurora Borealis show, Puffins, waterspout, supercell storms. I’ll have to try again for those darn puffins next time I visit.
My final Irish AirBnb was a two night stay at the Blue Ivy B&B owned and run out of the Whelehans’ home. Situated right on the coast and only 20 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher, it was the perfect place to end my stay in Ireland. I almost didn’t make it as I had horrible service for most of my stay in Ireland. The number I copied into my planner wasn’t working so I found a number for AirBnb customer service and they were able to connect with my host Fiona and had her get in touch with me. The Blue Ivy B&B was another place without an actual address, and Fiona drove to the gas station I parked at since it was nearly dark and I didn’t want to give myself another opportunity to get lost. We arrived to the beautiful house and property where I met her three boys and one exchange student from Spain. We talked and they played video games and listened to Justin Bieber tunes. They then made ‘pancakes’ that were more like crepes since they were so thin. I tried a favorite topping of theirs that I’ve never had in the US, which was fresh lemon juice and sugar (a nice healthy dousing of both). It was delicious! An idea for a blog on The Everyday Chef and Wife came to mind with this one…
I spent time with the family off and on during my stay. They were all so wonderful and the boys were SO polite. I met their dad the following day, as he was away on business. He made the most wonderful breakfasts with toast made from the bread by local bakery, locally sourced meats, black and white pudding, and grilled tomatoes. I think back on their breakfast often and wish I had some black pudding (also known as blood sausage…yes, blood). Never thought I would long for that.
I took off on one of the days to take a boat to one of the Aran Islands called Inis Oírr (Inisheer). It is the smallest of the islands and I covered much of the island in the brief few hours I was there walking to Cill Ghobnait, the old lighthouse, Tiemphall chaomha, and Obriens Castle. It was a pretty quiet place and it was a nice place to be alone and with some thoughts. I wandered the dirt roads to the other side of the island admiring all the stone walls before coming to the beach.
I had a great time in Ireland and after a week I felt really comfortable on the roads whether it was a highway or a one-lane blind road (had lots of little roads the last few days-made for exhilarating driving). My favorite part was the people…always helpful, warm, and a bit cheeky. It’s a country that isn’t stingy with its beer or smiles…maybe the beer is the reason behind that, lol. I can’t wait to go back and revisit some of the AirBnbs and explore new and uncharted territory!
On a side note, thanks for being patient with me. Lots of life changes happening and the travel is continuing, so I keep adding to the stories and pictures instead of editing and finalizing drafts! I hope to be posting more frequently and on topics outside of the specific places I traveled, but still related to the traveling theme. I have some exciting things in the works for next year, so make sure to follow me here, on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat (girlencompassed)!
Peace and love!!