The Magical, Green Island – A Road Trip in Ireland!

Living in Europe has many benefits.   One of my favourites is that you can jump on a plane for a long weekend and escape to another country with a different history, language and culture!  This is totally the opposite of living in Vancouver.  The closest country with a different language and culture is Mexico, and that is still a 6 hour flight away!  I digress.  We decided to use the October ‘extra’ long weekend Berliners enjoyed for the German National Holiday (Oct 3rd) to explore the land of sheep, Guinness and green pastures: Ireland.  The plan was to rent a car in Dublin and explore for 4 days.  Our itinerary and more pictures after the jump!

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Our rough itinerary:

  • Wed night:  Arrive in Dublin
  • Thurs: Check out Dublin in the morning and then drive to Dingle Peninsula in the afternoon; stay night in Dingle town
  • Fri: Explore Slea Head Drive and walking trails on the Peninsula, stay Fri night in Ennis
  • Sat: Head to the Cliffs of Moher and check out the Burren National Park, drive back to Dublin and stay Sat night in Dublin
  • Sun:  Explore Dublin; fly back home

Arriving in Dublin, I was surprised by how mild the weather was.  I guess I expected fairly chillier temperatures for the beginning of October in Ireland, but the weather was truly lovely fall weather, around 15 degrees Celsius.  We stayed at the Leeson Guesthouse which was comfortable and affordable at 75 Euros including breakfast.  The one thing to note is that it is hard to get food after 10pm in Dublin (or Ireland on the whole, for that matter).  We were constantly struggling with this as we sometimes eat late when on vacation.  That just doesn’t work in Ireland.  We found a pub the first night and they looked shocked when we asked for some food at 1030pm.  Luckily, the Irish are so nice that they put together some sandwiches for our sake and we weren’t left to go hungry our first night in Ireland.

We explored Dublin the next day and just walked around different areas.  The center of the city is really compact and easily walkable.  Parking is a bit of a nightmare so would suggest leaving the car (if you have one) at your hotel and walking.  There were some gorgeous little streets on both sides of the River Liffey: Capel Street, Henry Street, Temple Bar area (famed for nightlife but during the day, it’s very pretty), St. Andrew’s Street, Trinity Street, William Street, etc.

We had lunch at a great, authentic Dubliner pub called Doheny & Nesbitt on Baggot Street Lower.  Delicious food and great, authentic atmosphere.  (P.S. We never really figured out tipping in Ireland but usually left a couple of Euros after each meal, whether at a pub or restaurant.)

When it started raining, we decided to jump in the car and head towards the coast – we wanted to see the famous Dingle Peninsula.  (P.S. A note on driving on the other side of the road – I was the driver for the trip and had never driven on the other side of the road before.  It wasn’t too bad – it takes a bit at the beginning to figure it out, but you get the hang of it pretty quick.   Whenever I made a left turn, I had to constantly say out loud ” LEFT is LEFT” so I remembered to stay in the left lane after the turn.  Oh and we rented an automatic car to make it that much easier.)

After a scenic 3.5 hour drive, we arrived at the Peninsula.   We took a windy, small round for another 30 kms to reach Dingle town, stopping along the way for pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

We found a bed & breakfast in Dingle town (The Lantern Townhouse) for an affordable 70 euros including breakfast, and headed out to find a bite to eat before the pubs/restaurants stopped serving.  Dingle town is a small, picturesque town on the water.  Its two main streets are lined with beautiful traditional storefronts and houses.  Beyond the town are green pastures and rolling hills.  The scenery and salty fresh air instantly made us relax.  We definitely weren’t the only ones there.  Dingle is quite the tourist town and the prices at the restaurants indicate the level of clientelle they are used to.  Plenty of high-end fish restaurants with fanciful fish creations at Manhattan prices.  We walked around until we found something a bit more authentic and sans white table clothes.  Boy, did we ever hit the jackpot.  The sign outside “If we don’t catch it today, we don’t serve it” caught our attention, as well as the promise that everything is served fresh and not frozen.  The restaurant is called Out of the Blue.  We ordered a fish chowder, and some hake and Pollock, I think.  It was by far, the best fish I have ever had in my life.   I would travel to Dingle again just to eat dinner here.

Harbour in Dingle Town

The next day, we drove out of Dingle along the Slea Head drive, a well-known beautiful drive.  We hopped out at various points to just go on a random walk or enjoy the scenery.  It was truly stunning – green, rolling hills spotted with puffs of white sheep and a beautiful blue sea in the background.  I felt alive and revitalized!

Slea Head Drive

We went back to Dingle (you kind of have to after doing the highway loop) and drove out towards Ennis.  We wanted to cover some ground on the way to Cliffs of Moher.  After a few hours drive, we arrived in Ennis and had a really tough time finding a place to stay.  The old town has no hotels or B&Bs – you have to stay further away and drive into town (only 5 mins) when you want to walk around the old town.  We found a room finally at Westbrook House, which was decent and affordable again at 70 Euros, including breakfast.  The owners were really nice and welcoming.

We used Ennis essentially as a launching point to get to Cliff of Moher, which is only 40 minutes drive away.   After a hearty breakfast the next day, we set out for the cliffs!  Upon arriving, the parking lot was already pretty full and there were swarms of tourists everywhere.  If it was this busy in October, I can only imagine how busy it gets in July!  We only had a couple of hours here but would have loved to stay longer and do some more of the walking trails.  You can actually walk from one little village to another along the cliffs, but we just didn’t have the time!

A beautiful shot of the cliffs from Martin Benke

Us at the Cliffs

We headed off to check out one last stop before heading to Dublin.  I had heard lots about the Burren, one of the largest areas of Karst in Europe, and since it was supposedly a 45 minute drive, we thought it would be a great way to spend the afternoon before heading back to Dublin.  It didn’t exactly turn out that way.

We had beautiful glimpses of this amazing national park and landscape as we were driving.  The only thing was that we didn’t have too much time to explore.  There seemed to be only one designated parking area and then you had to spend a couple of hours hiking or walking to get anywhere interesting.  We thought we could just get a quick walk in but instead we had to settle with a beautiful (yet long) drive through.

The Burren thanks to Holliston Reporter

We drove back to Dublin to enjoy one last night in the city before heading back to Berlin.  Just like the rest of our trip, our last night was filled with lovely and polite people, great food and a lively atmosphere.  I think the best thing about Ireland, in addition to its magical landscape, is the warmth of the people.  They were nicer, friendlier and more polite than Canadians …..and that is really hard to imagine!!!

I’m looking forward to another road trip in Ireland – maybe next spring or summer, this time to check out the north! 🙂  Happy travels!

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