A few weeks ago Wendy and I took a week long trip that I've been wanting to take for 16 years.

You see, 16 years ago, when we were fresh faced college kids, Wendy had the amazing opportunity to study abroad for the summer as part of her degree in international business and marketing. Throughout her time living in London and traveling almost weekly to other European countries, I had the unique experience of learning of the places I'd never seen in person through a recounting of her adventures. That summer I had landed a great opportunity in a tech internship that I was very grateful to have, but it also meant I was stuck at a desk while Wendy was enjoying an experience that was more of a "once in a lifetime" type of adventure, rather than my "what will probably be the rest of your lifetime" summer.

I can still remember calculating the time change, determining when Wendy would be able to chat with me before she went to bed, and trying to make sure I got home in time for her planned call in order to hear what she'd experienced the past few days. I was living vicariously and hoping I'd some day have the opportunity to experience these places that sounded so great.

One of the descriptions I remember most vividly from Wendy's study abroad excursions was the summary of her whirlwind Paddywagon tour of Ireland. 

After 16 years, frequent mentions of sheep and just how green all of Ireland actually is, and seeing the country out of the window of a plane on several other trips over the pond, we finally had the opportunity to experience Ireland together. I'll tell you one thing for sure, it didn't disappoint. Here's a quick recap of our journey and a few highlights.

We started our trip jet lagged in Dublin, but knew we didn't have any time to lose. We'd coordinated to meet up with a friend of ours, Katharine, who lives in London. Katharine, the same friend we'd met up with in London when we were there for the 2012 Summer Olympics, made the relatively short trip from London to Dublin to show us around for the day. Her timing was impeccable as she met us in the lobby of our hotel as we were checking in. This was perfect as it meant we'd be able to hit the ground running and power through any desire for a nap.

We stayed in the Buswells Hotel in Dublin

One of my favorite tourist parts of the day was the library at Trinity College, which was the inspiration for the Jedi library in the Start Wars prequels. As a serious Star Wars nerd, I recognized it right away. 

We spent most of the day walking around Dublin and jumped on a double decker bus to take a quick tour of the city.

This included many of the various must see items in Dublin, such as the Guinness brewery.

After a quick trip back to the hotel to change, as the sun set we met up with Katharine again for pints of Guinness before heading off to meet up with a few more of her local friends for dinner. We ended up going to a simply amazing place for dinner. It's call Fade St. Social, and if you are in Dublin, I'd absolutely recommend you stop by. The food was absolutely delicious. Everything we had was perfectly prepared and we both talked about that meal for the rest of the trip. One funny bit about the meal was our server. She was also an actress and had an amazing knack for picking out the accents of each person and where they were from. At our table we had two British people, one Irish, a German/Polish person, and us two Americans. She was able to nail the English, even down to where they were from in England. She basically said which town outside of Dublin the Irish guy was from, and got it perfectly. She guessed Polish correctly for the final European person, but thought Wendy and I were either Canadian or from the very northern US. Apparently our Cleveland accents are so generally generic that she couldn't pinpoint American vs. Canadian. We were very impressed, to say the least.

After dinner we capped our night at O'Neill's pub for more pints. As they say, when in Rome Dublin. Eh? (Because we're now Canadian)

We enjoyed Dublin like we enjoy almost every major European city we visit. We generally feel comfortable walking everywhere, and love the look of the old cities that have evolved so organically over hundreds (or even thousands) of years. 

The next day we headed out of Dublin for a whirlwind lap around southern Ireland. This all started with renting a car. Knowing I'd have to drive on the left side of the road from the right side of the car was a little daunting at first, but I think it drove Wendy a little more crazy. She sat shotgun, where the driver normal sits, but felt so strange not having control of the wheel. 

It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it, but the guy at the rental car location said something that made a lot of sense to me and really helped. He said, "Just remember, always stay in the middle. As long as the driver is in the middle of the road, you're doing it right." 

Our drive took us across the country from the east coast in Dublin to a west coast stop in Galway. 

All of Ireland is about the size of Indiana, so the drive from coast to coast was pretty quick all things considered. But having driven across the flat expanse of Indiana many times in my life, I can tell you one thing for certain, Ireland is beautiful in a way Indiana can never be. I've yet to see a castle ruin anywhere in corn fields of Indiana.

Galway is a moderate sized coastal city with a great pedestrian area. Of many things it's known for, the salmon fishing is season is one of the more interesting things. Though we saw no fisherman, we did have an opportunity to walk along the river and enjoy the roar of the water.

You hear that Ireland is green, but until you see how green it is, you really can't imagine. Everything is so very lush and soft. You hear Ireland is also rainy, but we were extremely fortunate and didn't see a drop the entire week we were in the country. Instead, we enjoyed 60 degree days and sun almost every day of the trip.

After our brief stop in Galway we went onto stay for two nights in Clifden at a "castle" hotel.

Clifden is a sleepy fishing town just off of the sea. It is breathtaking in so many ways. 

It's nestled into Clifden Bay where the Owanglin River flows into the ocean, and has a peaceful feel. We were there during the Super Moon, so the low tides were very low, and high tides very high.

The place we stayed even had a resident African grey parrot named Froda in the lobby that liked to forage for crackers from the guests. She was very curious, very chatty, and very cracker hungry, so she loved hanging out by the peat fire.

One of our most adventurous events of the trip was the several mile hike we took along the coast. Though it was billed as a "trail" it was more of a rough path through a bunch of farmer's fields.

We had to climb over several gates, and noticed a few local residents spying on us from above.

We enjoyed looking at sheep and horses grazing over the coast...

...and ended up walking around in a castle ruin in one of the most picturesque settings we've ever been.

As we walked to the castle another hiker who look a less rustic route said "Did you see the Bull?" We laughed it off as a joke, but when we got to the other side of the fence, this was what we saw.

Luckily, we hand't had an encounter. Though thinking back on our walk, we did see quite a few giant cow pies that would have been far more intimidating had we realized their source.

Later we learned this was all private property and we likely shouldn't have been walking there, but we were following a map the hotel provided that clearly marked the path. So I think this is a case of Ireland just being a little more casual about some things.

After Clifden we drove down the coast toward Dingle. But before we reached Dingle, we stopped off at the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher is one of the many things I heard so much about 16 years ago from Wendy and was simply looking forward to seeing for myself.

The scale of the cliffs is difficult to understand until you're there in person. I could never wrap my head around it from photos. Again, we were beyond fortunate with the blue skies and warm weather, as we could see for miles, including the nearby islands off the coast.

And there are plenty of reminders of just how far down it is if you get a big gust of wind or take a wrong step.

Rather than take the long route around to get to Dingle, we opted to take the ferry and save a little time. This only allowed us to see more of the Irish coastal beauty. It also allowed us to arrive in Dingle before sunset.

We checked into our hotel and almost immediately fell in love with the town. Dingle is a special place, without a doubt. We just felt at home and completely comfortable right away. If you're going, our hotel was the Greenmount House, and we recommend it 100%. The staff were unbelievably accommodating and helpful, and it was a short 2 minute walk to the town's main street. Just look at the amazing view of Dingle Bay we had from our room.

We quickly headed out into the town to walk around. While walking we came across one of the coolest things that simply warmed our DIY hearts. One of the shops in town is a hardware store by day, and a classic Irish pub with live music by night! How awesome is that?

Dingle has about 3,000 people, but about 50 pubs. The town is a sleepy fishing town that is a quite spot for relaxing fun.

We only stayed one night in Dingle and have our biggest regrets of the vacation about that decision. We absolutely should have stayed two nights, and hope to some day remedy this mistake with a return trip.

Our time in Dingle was capped with a drive around the breathtaking Dingle Peninsula. 

As we left Dingle and County Kerry, we headed towards the southern coastal town of Kinsale in County Cork. However, we broke up the long drive with a stop at the Muckross house in Kilarney. I feel like no vacation of ours is complete without a tour of a truly historic home. In this case, the Muckross house is an Irish equivalent to Downton Abbey.

The beautiful home is a stately manor house that once played host to Queen Victoria for a few days. Quite simply, it was impressive in pretty much every way.

After Muckross we headed off to the town of Kinsale where we hoped we'd experience all of the culinary delights of southern Ireland as this is what Kinsale is known for. Kinsale would be our final city on our trip before heading back to Dublin on our way out of town. 

On our first night out we stumbled on another amazing restaurant called The Black Pig. The food was absolutely delicious in every way, and the environment of the restaurant was perfect. I took a few quick iPhone photos inside because the decor is what Wendy want's our home to feel like.

Our full day in Kinsale was full indeed. After morning walking tour of the city we decided to take the long Scilly Walk out to Charles Fort for a late lunch. We stopped off in the SuperValu to pick up a few sandwiches and drinks and took off on the several mile walk along the bay to reach the fort.

The walk was lovely and took us away from the city for some wonderful views. 

Once we reached the fort we settled in for lunch at a picnic table. I don't know what it is, but Wendy and I absolutely love picking up a few sandwiches and bags of crisps for lunch while on vacation. It never fails to live up to our expectations.

The fort itself was impressive and we spent a few hours walking the walls and taking in the sights. Truth be told, this is one of those vacation things that I really like but Wendy doesn't much care for, but she's a good sport and makes the best of it. 

After we were done at the fort we started on our trek back into town but decided to stop off at a little pub in the nearby village called The Bulman Bar & Restaurant. 

We're so happy we made the stop for pints of Bulmers Cider (which we learned is Magners outside of Ireland) as it was probably one of the absolute highlights of our entire vacation. We sat out front, watched the sun begin to fall towards the bay, saw dogs playing with each other in the water, and enjoyed a quintessentially Irish experience.

The following day we headed back toward Dublin for our final night in Ireland. But on the way we made two brief stops. The first was in the town of Cashel in County Tipperary to see the Rock of Cashel.

The Rock of Cashel is a must see if you're nearby in Ireland. It's stunning in both its magnitude and the state of its preservation. When walking around inside of the ruin you can almost feel what it may have been like many hundreds of years ago.

After leaving Cashel we continued along and made a final stop in Kilkenny. This city was far larger than we expected, and also has a rather grand and completely intact castle. We didn't have any time for a tour, but it does seem like it's something we missed out on in our trip. The winding streets of Kilkenny were filled with shopping and packed with people.

We made a few stops along the way and had a late lunch before we headed out. In a way, after having so many great stops in such small towns, Kilkenny was almost a little bit overwhelming.

Our final night in Dalkey outside of Dublin was bittersweet. We met up with friends for drinks at a local pub and went over our excellent vacation in our heads. This was certainly one of the consistently best vacations we've ever had. We're only back a few weeks now and I'm already itching to visit all of Northern Ireland and Scotland. After enjoying nearly flawless weather for the entire week, I fear our luck can't possibly hold out for another trip.

Have you been to Ireland? If so, what were your favorite stops and sights? Would love to hear if you share any favorites with us.

Comments 17


10/16/2015 at 5:12 PM

Oh thank you so much for sharing. I loved looking through all the beautiful pictures. I can't wait to go back, it truly is that colorful and beautiful. Everyone thought I had enhanced my photos but it truly is that colorful there!

10/16/2015 at 6:23 PM

Ireland....I love it....everything, the lush green, the sea shore, the music, the easy-going attitude of people we met, the sheep, I even love the shamrocks and leperchauns.... we'll be back!
Regarding good food, we had a brilliant evening with great food at The Roast in Ballsbridge/Dublin. We also really enjoyed "The Bridge", a great restaurant also in Ballsbridge.
Best coffee we had in Dublin was at Hänsel&Gretel near Merrion Park- such a cute shop with great coffee and snacks.
Slán a fhágáil ag duine
Lis from Vienna, Austria

10/19/2015 at 7:33 PM


I love your blog..I found you when I was looking for help with our new butcher block countetop. My husband and I followed your advice.Thanks to you our grandchildren can spill and eat on our counter tops worry free.
I apologize I know this is your trip to Ireland blog.However I'm new at this blogging..but fully intend on reading this blog as my family is from County Cork.

Just wanted to thank you for butcher block tips.

A New fan


Little Red
10/16/2015 at 8:28 PM

Never been there but it's on my bucket list.

10/17/2015 at 3:34 AM

been there last summer for the sixth time. Well, living in Germany it's not that far or expensive to get there.

My all time favorite city is Galway. Hubby and me bought our first rings there back in 2001 and in 2010 went there with just 2 things on our minds: to eat pizza at Fat Freddies and to buy our weddingrings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claddagh_ring

I also like Kilkenny, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry. And driving through this beautiful country on my motorbike no matter where I am.

I love the pubs, the music (I even startet playing the tinwhistle and low whistle several years ago).

Don't get me startet, I could ramble on forever.

Asiyah Kurtz
10/17/2015 at 7:27 AM

I have never been but am saving your post for future reference. Ireland is one of the places I've always wanted to visit. Although I haven't made it yet, I keep my passport updated just in case. Thank you for sharing about your adventures!

10/17/2015 at 3:01 PM

Love..love Ireland. The music, beer and people. Kilkenny was one of my favorite places to visit! My checks hurt so much from laughing, everyone was friendly and amusing. It also didn't hurt that I looked like a local (red hair, hazel eyes (green/blue). The beer and food were also yummy. I intend to return to both Ireland and Scotland to explore more of the countryside, so much to see, so little time. Great pictures, it brought back wonderful memories of the trip I had with my siblings. Thanks for sharing.

10/17/2015 at 5:02 PM

I sometimes feel its such a small world. I live in Australia and remember being surprised to see your London olympic pictures as I was there at the same time. We stayed in Oldtown last year after all your wonderful pictures and now I recommend it to everyone. I just gaped when I saw the Cliften castle hotel as I had a Christmas dinner there about 20 years ago and ended up in the bar with the locals until around 5am the next day LOL

10/17/2015 at 5:05 PM

Ah, I loved this! This July I was lucky enough to be involved with the Ulster Project (Cincinnati) where teens from Northern Ireland (Enniskillen) stayed a month in Cincinnati. The idea is to bridge the Catholic/Protestant divide. It was a month I will never forget and I hope to visit Ireland next year. I will have to keep this post in mind for the trip, you guys seemed to have done it right.

10/17/2015 at 7:41 PM

Marc, interesting to hear your comments about the Ulster Project. Wendy's Mom and Dad (me) are from the Nati.(EHS '68) We traveled to Ireland several years ago, saw many of the places Wendy and Alex visited, and absolutely loved the country. You won't be disappointed. Mike

10/17/2015 at 6:12 PM

My mom is from Dublin and I spent a year at Trinity College so I get over to Ireland quite a bit. I was just there in September touring with my husband though we did the northern half rather than the southern. I highly recommend the Giant's Causeway, Connemara, the Burren, and Sligo. Westport is a lovely town, and the Wild Atlantic Way is a great drive. The next time you are in Kilkenny, check out the Kylter's Inn- hundreds of years old and even a historical connection to a witch!

10/19/2015 at 1:17 AM

Oh, I would love to/do plan to visit Ireland some day. I lived in northern Scotland (Aberdeen area) for three years as a girl, and took my husband when I got to go back and visit in 2006. Really special to go back and visit places you remember as a 7-9 year old! So your pictures bring back memories and that area of the world holds a very special place in my heart.

10/20/2015 at 1:32 PM

I just got back from a visit to Ireland last week. I lived in Clifden for a few years when I was growing up (you actually included my house in one of your pictures). Glad you made the hike around Clifden castle, the last time I did that I ended up to my calves in muck, but the view of the town is great from the top of the hill.

10/27/2015 at 12:03 AM

It was so much fun reading about your trip. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon and LOVED it. I'm trying not to get the travel bug reading this.

Next time you go, make sure you visit Ireland's islands. We visited the Aran Islands, the Skelligs, and Valentia Island, and they were all treasures and completely unique. Other highlights were the Burren, the literary pub crawl in Dublin, and...actually, everything was great except for the hangover in Kilkenny. ;)

10/29/2015 at 7:14 PM

Loved reading this post after talking through it with you guys. So glad we got to meet up at the pub in Dalkey on your last night. I'm definitely going to cross-reference this post when we decide to visit Dingle.

Art is Beauty
5/19/2016 at 10:02 PM
we went for our 20th wedding anniversary and IRELAND has our heart. We loved it so much...I am going to try and find my picture of what I am pretty sure is the same building!
Art is Beauty
5/19/2016 at 10:02 PM
http://www.artisbeauty.net/2013/08/20th-anniversarytrip-to-ireland.html Yes it is...I found it...I loved that building so much I took a picture of it too! Oh man reading your post made me miss it even more!! :)
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