The summer before our wedding, Ryan's parents took Ryan and I to Ireland with them, and we met up with Ryan's sister, Katie, who was in Europe traveling already. Over the years, Ryan and I traveled to many countries, but this was our first big trip together and my first trip to Europe!
We left LAX on Aer Lingus--seriously one of the nicest airlines I have ever flown! Here we go (me in the back, Ryan pretending to read, and Ryan's mom in the front):
We didn't go up north into Belfast. We went north on the west coast and worked our way down and around the coast, ending in Dublin. The trip ended with a few days in London, but that is another whole post and set of pictures.
Our first stop was at Bunratty Castle, where we had pub food at Durty Nelly's. It was the first of hundreds of castles we would see on our trip.
We stayed in Ennis our first night, at the Temple Gate Hotel. We loved the cute little town, but we were late in arriving and everything was closed. Our 9:00 pm dinner was forced to be Chinese food, which I've eaten in almost every country we have visited!
Our Hotel in Ennis (Susan, me, Ryan and Katie)
A funny picture in Ennis
We had a nice all day drive up to Clifden (the farthest north we went on the west coast). We drove past their famous mountains--the Twelve Pins. We also stopped at Aughnanure Castle and got a Heritage Pass--a great price saver if you are going to see a lot of the tourist attractions. The weather was just gorgeous! I wrote in my journal that an Irish man told us at the end of the day, "That was our summer. Hope you enjoyed it!"
We stayed at Abbeyglenn Castle in Clifden. They served us tea and scones when we arrived, and then we went on a walk where we stopped to skip rocks into the Atlantic Ocean.
Our hotel in Clifden--Abbeyglenn Castle
Tea and scones at the castle hotel
Skipping rocks into the Atlantic Ocean in Clifden
Getting ready to leave the hotel in Clifden
We left Clifden the next morning and drove to Connemara National Park. We saw a bog museum and did a mini-bog hike. Just so you know folks, bog is like a swamp/peat. It stinks. It is important in the history of Ireland, but I am glad we don't survive off bog now.
We also stopped at Kylemore Abbey and took pictures. We drove to Doolin for the night, which is near the Cliffs of Moher (we say Moor). We stayed in a working farm B&B.
The Cliffs of Moher took my breath away--I can't explain how amazing they are! It was one of the most beautiful spots I have seen--so green and filled with the sheer majesty of God's creation.
Cliffs of Moher
We then drove toward Kilarney the next day. Thankfully, we decided to drive around the Dingle Peninsula. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we stopped in Dingle for ice cream. We drove to Slea Head and saw sheer drops, narrow roads and sheep everywhere! If you are a nervous driver, don't go around the Dingle Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry. There are some CRAZY spots where only one car can go by at a time. I witnessed tour buses backing up around winding, sheer drop roads. Yikes!
We went to Killarney where we were staying. It was the quintassential Irish town. The narrow streets were lined with flowers and colorful buildings. We stayed at the Caraglea B&B, which was really nice. It was right next to the National Park, which was gorgeous. While in Killarney, we took a jaunting car around the national park (a horse and carriage is a jaunting car). We saw the Abbey, the laakes, the Torc Waterfall and Muck Ross House.
We also drove the Ring of Kerry while we were in Killarney. Like the Dingle Peninsula, their were many ruins of the old huts people owned during the Potato Famine. They dotted many of the hillsides. Jim really wanted to go visit a Bog Museum in Glenbeigh called the Kerry Bog Village. I have already shared my love of bog in this post (ahem). The highlight of the museum was the huge pile of dung/bog in the middle of the village. That night we enjoyed going to a touristy shop and trying on silly hats.
The Jaunting Car in Killarney's National Park
The Bog Museum--Ryan is pretending to eat it, and Katie is holding the bog cat we saw.
We had to take this picture, because I am known for stopping at any available restroom when I travel. You never know when you'll find the next available restroom, right?
The Kerry Bog Village
We had our first day of rain when we drove away from Killarney. We were heading to Kinsale--a darling, seaside town. This was where I discovered that they like malt vinegar on their fries. I picked up what I thought was a ketchup packet, only to pour malt vinegar all over my fries. Ummm--not a fan.
We walked to Fort St. Charles from Kinsale. It was a great fort in the shape of a star. The walk was beautiful--the path looked like heaven to me.
Cute Irish storefronts
The infamous lunch where I poured malt vinegar all over my fries
Hydrangeas were EVERYWHERE in Ireland. They are thick and huge there--I had to take a picture of this person's driveway filled with hydrangeas.
We left Kinsale for Dublin. It was a little over 4 hours to get there, and it was finally really raining on our trip. We were staying in a hotel near Temple Bar. We had Boxtys for dinner--little potato crepe like wraps. They were filled with things like filet mignon, irish stew, or corned beef.
The next day we toured Dublin Castle. The word Dublin comes from the Viking word Duv Lin--Dark Pool. We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral and took a hop on/off bus tour of Dublin. We stopped in Grafton street and shopped. We also went to Trinity College where we promptly got kicked off the steps where we were sitting and eating lunch. People don't like you to sit on steps in Europe--I got kicked off similar steps in Italy.
The BEST part of Dublin was seeing the Books of Kells, the gospel artifacts from the Bible, dating back to the 8th century.
The nicest meal I ever ate was in Dublin. The last night, we met one of Jim's business friends, who was from Dublin, who treated us to dinner at Shanahan's. I can't begin to explain the generosity of this man I didn't know. It was an amazing meal and experience!
Now I look like I'm in Ireland!
A break in the rain and a stop at Trinity College
JP and his wife, from Dublin, took us all out to the nicest dinner I've ever had. Scrumptious!
So, that is Ireland in a nutshell. If you ever have thought you'd like to visit there, you should go! It is such a friendly, beautiful country. We traveled all over Europe before we had kids, and Ireland was one of my favorite spots. I hope this little tour of our Ireland trip got you ready for St. Patrick's Day!