Jet Set Candy charms (c/o) to add to my travel charm bracelet!
Hotel: Sheen Falls
After a leisurely morning at Mount Juliet, we packed up and headed to Cobh for lunch. I don’t think this was originally on the itinerary, but I’m glad we stopped. It felt like the New England of Ireland! Very coastal and colorful. It was also the last stop that Titanic made.
We got back into the car and headed straight to Blarney Castle. This was a highlight for me. We put on our tourist hats and kissed that Blarney Stone like there was no tomorrow. It was also the most perfect weather ever and the grounds felt downright majestic.
We headed to the hotel to check in and change for dinner. We rented a cottage at Sheen Falls, and it was really more like a house. I was happy that we had the extra space and to be under the same roof for two nights. Every night, the boys would light a fire, and we’d all find a spot to cozy up and work from.
DAY THREE // Kerry
We were very ambitious about getting a lot in on Day 3. My advice is to factor in a lot of extra time for stopping and to not try to fit in too much. Julia and Thomas were constantly tempted by views (rightfully so), but it made the Ring of Kerry extra tough to squeeze into a day.
The first stop was a small beach that we had followed signs for. This was a chillier day but definitely still a “beach day” for the Irish. The locals were bundled up, picnicking and practicing their hurling game; only the bravest dipped into the water.
We then continued along the Ring of Kerry, eventually stopping at the Kerry Cliffs. 100% a tourist trap (“MOST SPECTACULAR” the signs all read), but I think we all believe that it was still worth the stop and cash entry fee.
Before heading back to Sheen Falls for the night, we stopped at Ballycarbery Castle. I think this was one of the coolest ruins we saw. You could actually climb a few stories up!
DAY FOUR // Kerry to Ballyvaughan
Hotel: Gregans Castle Hotel
I had proposed that we do the Gap of Dunloe on our way to Dingle. I’m so glad we did. This was hands down my favorite landscape of the entire trip. If I close my eyes and picture “Ireland,” Gap of Dunloe is exactly what I picture. Lambs and sheep dotting the plots of land, windy roads that twist unexpectedly, and rocky hills as far as the eye can see. We didn’t have enough time to enjoy it. (At one point, we had to set a timer on our phones to keep J&T on schedule; I think they could have stayed there all day, and I don’t blame them one bit.)
We popped over to Dingle for lunch and ice cream (Murphy’s!) and a tiny bit of exploring. Dingle was a spot that a bunch of people had recommended, and I don’t think we had enough time to truly enjoy the town.
Then we were back on the road and made the long journey to Gregans Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughan. This was my favorite hotel. It’s family and pet-friendly and just stunning. Also, the fastest wifi of the entire trip, just saying. It was a hotel I wish we could have stayed at for more than just one night.
DAY FIVE // Ballyvaughan to Cong
Hotel: The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Our first stop of the morning was one that we were all looking forward to: The Cliffs of Moher. Despite some fog, it was an absolutely breathtaking view. (I would recommend getting there as early to the opening time as you can… when we were leaving, droves of tour buses were pulling in.) I spent the whole time trying not to throw up from fear, to be honest. It’s so high, and there’s very little stopping you from falling over the edge. Sadly, it’s a popular suicide spot, and I genuinely had a pit in my stomach the whole time we were out there.
On our way to the next hotel, we stopped in Galway for lunch and shopping. We had read about a great place to buy authentic hand-knit Irish sweaters. We were not disappointed by Ó’Máille’s selection.
We drove to Ashford Castle in Cong for a slower paced afternoon and evening. It was a welcomed reprieve from long drives and constant movement. The actual castle was unfortunately booked up, so we stayed at The Lodge. Let me just say, unless you’re really trying to save money if you can avoid the Lodge, avoid it. It was strange. The only benefit was having access to the castle grounds (although they wouldn’t let you inside, even though they assured us we would be able to over the phone when booking). It was worth it in the end, but I think we all would agree that we would have preferred to stay in the actual castle.
We toured the grounds by bike and explored the gardens. It’s a spectacular castle. (You can rent the whole thing out for a wedding!) We ultimately ate outside around dusk, pulling sweaters tighter as the temperature dropped while still enjoying the taste of an Irish summer night.
DAY SIX // Cong to Bushmills (Northern Ireland)
Hotel: Bushmills Inn
Ashford Castle offers a ton of activities and we opted for a quick one-hour horseback riding tour. I suggested it and ended up being the most terrified out of all of us once I got on the horse. I had never ridden “English” style but got the hang of it and eventually– sort of– relaxed. (“Relax your shoulders!!!” they kept reminding me, haha.)
Then we were back in the car on our way to Northern Ireland. We stopped in Donegal for a few tweed pieces from Magee’s and a quick, easy lunch.
We eventually made our way to Giant’s Causeway. This is a natural formation of rocks from volcanic activity millions of years ago. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it as you walk around. The formations look manmade with perfectly hexagonal tubes stacked like a child’s playground.
It was insanely foggy the evening we went. I’m sure the views would be better without the fog, but it ended up setting a creepy scene for us. It also ensured that it was pretty empty, so it felt like we had a private tour.
We popped over to the inn for dinner and then wandered over to the pub for a few drinks and live music before heading to bed.
DAY SEVEN // Bushmills to Magheralin
(Still with me here??)
Hotel: New Forge House
We went to Carrick-a-Rede first thing in the morning. It was one of my favorite spots throughout the whole trip. I wasn’t looking forward to the actual bridge crossing part, but it ended up being totally fine. (Apparently it’s extra scary when it’s windy!) The water here was crystal clear and seriously looked like we should have been somewhere in the Carribean!
Julia’s sister and boyfriend live in Ireland and would be nearby for a wedding. I’m so glad we had the chance to have lunch with them in Belfast. We had such a good time that they caravaned with us to New Forge House for afternoon tea and coffees.
We had dinner downtown in Magheralin and basically crawled home to bed we were so tired!
DAY EIGHT // Magheralin to Dublin
Hotel: The Merrion Hotel
We packed up the car early and left for Dublin. I wish we had more time to explore Dublin. I LOVED it. Really, really loved it. Unfortunately, not only were we exhausted, we got poured on which kind of put a damper on the day. We still managed to go to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, do a touch of shopping, and take a tour of Guinness Factory. Trinity College’s library was unreal; think Harry Potter in real life…. times 100. Guinness tour, although not something I’d personally do on my own, ended up being quite a fun afternoon!
DAY NINE // Fly Home 🙁
I hope I didn’t forget about anything and, again, I’ll be posting more details about individual days coming up. This was just the outline of our trip and the big general things we did. Happy to answer questions via email if you have any specifics. Here are a few extra notes:
Weather– The weather is crazy. I think it was between 60 and 70 degrees every single day… but it felt vastly different depending on where you were. Some places (like the Cliffs of Moher) felt like a balmy 85 degrees, and some felt like a cold 50 with an ocean breeze. I’m doing an additional “what to pack” post, but the short story is that you should pack for and expect everything.
10/10 would go again 🙂