In today’s Ireland trip review post I’ll cover our adventure around the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher. Check out my thoughts on Dublin, Rock of Cashel, Kinsale, and Dingle in parts one and two.
Ring of Kerry
The second AirBnB of our trip was an authentic thatched roof cottage on the Dingle Peninsula. Let me just say that the pictures and description online did not make any mention of spiders!! We probably killed at least 10 rather long-legged varieties in the house during our two night stay (and by “we” I of course mean the fellas). It was awful. Ok, it wasn’t really that bad, but I really hate spiders!!
Outside of that minor “issue” the place was pretty charming. It certainly wasn’t a modern apartment, but it had all the amenities we needed and plenty of space to spread out. Our host also left fresh scones, butter, and jam for our arrival! I was absolutely delighted to find that special touch 🙂 I also spent one gorgeous morning running along the dirt road past fields of sheep and ultimately ended up at the river. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to exercise and enjoy God’s creation.
On our second day in this part of the country, we set off to tackle the Ring of Kerry. We left fairly early to avoid the massive bus traffic that plagues this route around the peninsula. Our first stop were the ancient stone ring forts near Cahersiveen. These are absolutely worth the ten minute detour off the main road. There’s a small parking lot where you can leave your car and walk to each of the forts, Leacanabuaile and Cahergall. Don’t mind the sheep, they’ll get out of your way : ) Believed to have been built in the 9th and 7th centuries, respectively, these small forts housed several clan families each. The views from atop their walls are also breathtaking.
Back on the main road, we set off toward Portmagee to find another Rick Steve recommendation, ancient tetrapod tracks. Rick’s directions aren’t exactly stellar, so we got a bit lost trying to find them on Valencia Island. Unfortunately that meant driving through what felt like jungle roads that barely fit our own car, let alone the 8-10 we passed coming the other direction!! By the time we finally found the tiny signs directing us to the tracks, we were praying this would be worth the effort. As these things sometimes go, it was comically disappointing. The tetrapod “tracks” are two chunks of stone with wavy lines in them. Apparently the lines are proof of their tails dragging on the stone as they came up on land from the water. Sure? There are lovely vistas, but let’s just say this is one of Rick Steve’s sites you can skip.
When we eventually made it back to Portmagee, we enjoyed lunch at The Bridge Bar before rejoining the road. A quick stop at the top of the mountains in the distance behind Portmagee resulted in sweeping views of the countryside and ocean beyond. Fun fact, the wind is INSANE in Ireland. Particularly anytime we were more than 5 feet above sea level, it whipped us around like crazy. Evidence in the pictures below : )
Since I can’t pass up a chocolate opportunity, I couldn’t resist forcing everyone to visit Skelligs Chocolate Factory. From their parking lot, you can easily see Skellig Michael in the distance. This jagged island is now famous since it served as the location for the last scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Inside the chocolate store, they offer a terrific sampling for free. Each person receives a bite of their most popular products. It was a surprising amount of chocolate. And apparently a good marketing tool because we bought a variety pack of truffles to take home. There’s also a café so the coffee addicts can get their fix (the two in our group were very happy with this arrangement).
For the rest of the afternoon, we continued our drive along the coast. There are a few smaller sites to see, but it was getting later in the afternoon so we worked our way back home instead of stopping. We also didn’t want to make the same mistake of attempting to eat past 8pm! So, making the full loop we stopped in Killorglin for dinner. There aren’t exactly a lot of options, but Bunker’s Bar served up delicious meals. Plus, they are located next to an Aldi so we had fun checking out the Irish version of the grocery store and stocked up on cheap drinks and treats.
Cliffs of Moher
The next morning we set off toward the Cliffs of Moher! Along the way, we stopped at a site of interest to our group in particular. O’Dea Castle is our friend’s family castle!!! She can trace her family history back to Ireland, when her ancient relatives owned this tower. It’s now open to the public, so we got to explore the different levels of the tower and even go up to the top! It was a unique experience.
We finished the two hour drive to the cliffs and ate lunch at the Puffin Café located in the visitors center. There’s a decent selection of prepackaged sandwiches, sides, and drinks. Upstairs you can get a heartier hot meal in their second restaurant. From there we ventured out to the cliffs. Talk about impressive!! This unique landmark is simple but breathtaking. All along the coast, you can view spectacular cliffs that drop straight down into the ocean. There’s a sizable section that is officially part of the attraction, but pathways continue further in both directions if you want to explore at your own risk. We spent close to 2 hours admiring the view and walking along the paths.
Our drive to Galway for our next AirBnB stay took about two hours due to some weekday traffic in town. We selected an AirBnb located just outside the city, about a ten minute walk from downtown. This two story, two bedroom house served as a great base for our two nights in the area. We actually appreciated the location even more when we discovered our door was just a few steps from the water. There are beaches and a pleasant walking path with benches along the ocean.
After a solid night’s rest and a lazy morning, we split up to explore Galway on our own. Jay and I walked along the water toward the Salthill District and ended up bringing books to read by the water for most of the afternoon. We spent maybe an hour walking around Galway, but I honestly didn’t find it terribly exciting. There wasn’t anything in particular we wanted to see or any attractions / local sites that interested us. In my opinion, the best part of Galway is Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop! It’s a truly massive collection of new and used books at great prices. Don’t forget to step outside to check out the bargain books!
That wraps up Part 3 of my Ireland trip review. My last post will take us into Northern Ireland where I’ll discuss the Giant’s Causeway, Scotland, and Belfast!