Today I’m continuing my trip review of our 11 days in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland with an overview of the Rock of Cashel, a night in Kinsale, and the Dingle Peninsula. To go back and read Part 1 first, head here!
Escape to the Countryside
Putting Dublin behind us, we picked up our rental car and set our sights on the gorgeous Irish countryside. The Rock of Cashel, located about two hours from Dublin, was our first stop of the day. The small town of Cashel features a few pubs and stores, but the highlight is the ancient stone site overlooking the surrounding area. For lunch, we parked in town and ate at the first pub we came across, John J Feehan’s. Luckily the lunch rush was just ending and we snagged seats at the bar. The food was well priced and delicious, so it’s an option I’d recommend if you want to stay close.
Money Saving Tip!!! – If you eat or shop at one of the participating businesses in town and spend at least 15 EUR, you can ask for a voucher that provides free entrance to the Rock of Cashel for 2 adults and 2 kids!! How amazing is that? Our pub had a sign on the door advertising this deal, so keep an eye out!
It’s a lengthy walk from town up to the Rock of Cashel, so you may want to use the parking lot for a few Euro at the base of the hill. From there a short, but steep, uphill walk takes you to the entrance. We used our vouchers to bypass the 8 EUR entrance fee and were informed the last tour of the day had just started. These tour times seem a bit haphazard, but they’re a requirement if you want to learn anything at all about this collection of buildings.
There are no helpful signs or plaques throughout the site to tell you what you’re seeing. So, you may want to arrive earlier in the day to ensure you can take the guided tour. This ancient site includes an interconnected round tower from the 1100’s, a cathedral, and a chapel. Beautiful view of the countryside in all directions are a feast for the eyes as well.
Once we wrapped up our visit, we set off for our first AirBnb near the coastal town of Kinsale. Along the ride, I regaled the group with fun facts from Rick Steve’s travel guide, much to everyone’s amusement or annoyance (I’m sure feelings changed during the trip hehe). Let me take a minute here to provide a warning about driving in Ireland, because it was a bit of a harrowing experience on the road to our house.
While the highways and larger roads provide no challenges, Ireland is littered with tiny country roads that barely fit one car. In addition, they’re often full of blind corners and high hedgerows, making every turn a bit of a life or death experience. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to creep into a nearby pull-off to allow oncoming cars to pass you, but otherwise you’re stuck just slowing down and inching by each other. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart!
So, after experiencing this madness for the first time, it’s safe to say we were relieved to arrive at the house. We rented the entire place with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a full size kitchen. The location is perfect, surrounded by farmland and only a ten minute drive to Kinsale.
For dinner, we set off into town and walked around for a while before settling on Jim Edwards restaurant. The food was a bit finer than pub grub, so we thoroughly enjoyed our meals. There’s also a small grocery store nearby, so we stocked up on a few breakfast supplies before driving home. To our horror, the sun was now just low enough to completely blind everyone in the car. I have no idea how Patrick got us home without being able to see, but he was our hero! Gotta love Ireland.
Tea Break & Mountain Paths
The next morning we left our AirBnB early to get a jump start on our drive to the Dingle Peninsula. Along the way, we stopped for a brief tea break in charming Kenmare. Jam was our coffee shop of choice and they served up delicious tea, coffee, and pastries. From there, we drove through Killarney National Park on our way to Dingle. Although you’re going to experience ridiculously tiny roads, the scenery is breathtaking along the way.
We stopped at various lookout points to savor the views. Although the dense cloud cover and fog hung on throughout the morning, the sun just started to break through by the time we reached the other side of the mountain. Although we didn’t take the tour, we stopped at Muckross House to stretch our legs and enjoy the view. The grounds are beautiful, especially with the sun shining.
Off to Dingle!
Back in the car, we continued on our journey toward the town of Dingle. Along the way, we visited The South Pole Inn for a late lunch. Tom Crean, an Antarctic explorer, originally owned this restaurant/pub. So, it contains a plethora of memorabilia about his journeys. The food was tasty and the atmosphere is even better. There’s barely anything nearby, but it’s worth a stop if you’re already driving the Dingle Peninsula.
We eventually reached the town of Dingle and stopped for an hour to explore. There’s plenty of parking along the waterfront for a minimal hourly rate. You’ll find plenty of cute shops, souvenir stores, a book store, and places to eat on the main street. Take note, Murphy’s Ice Cream is a must-stop. Murphy’s is a local ice cream shop renown for their creative flavors, including caramelized brown bread, Dingle sea salt, and Dingle gin. The flavors change daily, so you never know what you’ll find!
There’s a small coastal road you can follow that will take you on a loop around the peninsula and land you back in town. We followed Rick Steve’s directions and stopped at a few lookouts to take pictures. While the sites along the way aren’t spectacular, the peninsula itself is gorgeous. As usual, we also appreciated Rick’s historical facts and sense of humor : ) For Star Wars fans, one of the stopping points features a location that was used in the filming of The Last Jedi!
Our next AirBnB was located in the middle of nowhere, so we drove an hour back along the coast to check in for our two night stay. By the time we settled in and decided we were hungry, it was close to 8pm. Here comes a warning: apparently it’s not a given that pubs will serve food all night. We just missed the 8pm cutoff for dinner, so we were out of luck at our first choice. Since there are only tiny towns nearby, that didn’t leave many options. Luckily, a pub about 5 minutes away served pizza and sandwiches all day. Murphy’s Bar wasn’t flashy (dust literally covering every shelf and every chotski), but they had food! As an added bonus, they were a finalist for Best Country Bar in Ireland a few years back. Their slogan is “Once visited – always remembered” and I can’t deny that’s true!!
In Part 3, I tackle The Ring of Kerry and The Cliffs of Insanity!!! (I mean, The Cliffs of Moher) 🙂