Month: September 2012

Trip Report – Ireland: Day 4 – Kenmare to Kinsale

After a very pleasant evening in Kenmare my wife and I departed around 9:30 for our trip down the coast to Kinsale.  Leaving Kenmare we were presented with two options, an inland route and a coastline route.  We decided on the coastline route and are very thankful we did, it was absolutely beautiful and you have to cross a small mountain range prior to arriving at the coast which is amazing.  Here are a few pictures of the pass:

N71 Roadway Towards Bantry

Another (with me standing on a rock)

One more….(As I am sure you can see, the road was what I would deem “narrow”)

After crossing through the mountains (not truly mountains but not sure how else to describe them) we made our way through some small towns (Bantry, Skibberreen) before proceeding to the tiny coastal town of Castlehaven (* purely because it is a untouched Irish town).  It was set on a very steep hillside that led down to a small bay off of the Atlantic.  It probably isn’t worth a stop but it was fascinating to get to see a “working” fishing village and watch one of the locals prepare his boat. Here is a picture of the small harbor:

Castlehaven Harbor

After stopping in Castlehaven we decided to make our way towards Kinsale as we wanted to be able to spend the afternoon there.  We did make one stop on the way to Kinsale at an abandoned Abbey near the water’s edge.  It really wasn’t all that remarkable but the setting was amazing and it is on the way to Kinsale so that is no reason not to stop.

Abandoned Abbey

Kinsale was approximately 15 KM past this Abbey and we were definitely glad to arrive.  We found a parking spot in the center of town at the parking lot on the water’s edge.  It was approximately 3-4 Euros for 2 hours.  There is a “2-hour limit”, however, if you come back to the Car Park and pay for another parking ticket you can indefinitely stay in the lot as I didn’t see anyone marking cars.  Here are some pictures from Kinsale:

Kinsale Harbor (**** – One of the favorite small towns I have visited)(You can see the tide moving out)

Kinsale Harbor looking out to sea

Street in Kinsale (with my wife posing by flowers for the benefit of my mother-in-law)

We spent approximately 3-4 hours strolling around town and had a late lunch in town at Blue Haven ($$ – Decent food, but not incredible) as the hotel we had booked for the evening was out of town and would not have anything close to it.  As we were leaving town we did notice how much the tide had gone out in that short time period, it was pretty incredible.

As a side note, it is probably not the best idea to try and buy original artwork in Kinsale as it is tremendously expensive.  We went to several different shops and nothing was priced lower than 200-300 euros which I find to be quite high for pretty basic paintings of the town by unknown artists.  Maybe I am just cheap but it might be better to look around elsewhere for paintings of Kinsale.

Low tide Kinsale, Ireland

On our way to the hotel for that evening, The Carlton Kinsale Resort & Spa, we stopped at Charles Fort.  We lucked out in that admission was free the day we were there (first Wednesday of each month) and toured the grounds.  It was a pretty neat ruins from the 1700-1800’s.  There were some good views looking back into Kinsale, see below:

From Charles Fort looking into Kinsale, Ireland

From Charles Fort

After leaving the fort we made our way to the hotel at approximately 4 PM. (The drive from town takes approximately 5-10 minutes)  We had worn ourselves out the previous 3 days so we were looking forward to a quiet evening of relaxation.  This hotel was perfect for that as it was in the middle of nowhere.  The rooms were clean and the staff was friendly.  My wife and I used some AA miles to book the hotel as I was looking to get rid of them.  Below is a picture of the exterior and a picture of our room:

Exterior of Carlton Kinsale Resort and Spa ($$$ – Would recommend for those looking for a relaxing stay)

Our room (I showed the bathroom cause it was really nice and I appreciate a nice bathroom after traveling)

Looking back at the trip, this day was probably one of our favorites as we really liked Kinsale.  In fact, we talked about going back to Kinsale even before we left the city.  I think that says something.

My next post will cover our trip through the heart of Ireland, including Cashel, the Sally Gap and Powerscourt Gardens before I go into detail about our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt.  Look forward to that next week!

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Trip Report – Ireland: Day 3 – Dingle Peninsula (Tralee to Kenmare)

After a disappointing stay in Tralee (read more about that in my previous post on Day 2), my wife and I departed around 8:30 for the relatively short (1.5 hour) drive to the town of Dingle located on the Dingle Peninsula.  The drive from Tralee crossed completely across the Peninsula and it was quite an amazing landscape.  Here is the only picture I took of the drive (picture taken about 20 KM outside of Tralee prior to reaching center of Peninsula):

View of Bay of Tralee from Northern Side of Dingle Peninsula

I guess at this point it would be prudent to add that my wife swears she thought we were going to die about 25 times + since I continued to pull off on the shoulders of these narrow roads to take pictures.  I think it was absolutely worth it……..

After crossing the peninsula we arrived in the town of Dingle around 10 AM only to discover that since the tour buses had not arrived there was nothing open (quite disappointing to know that the shops only open up once they know buses are scheduled to arrive, takes away some of the authenticity of the place, but I guess it makes sense from a business perspective).  We made the decision to drive up to some of the viking forts established on the peninsula around 800 AD.  The forts are about 10-15 KM west of Dingle but they are worth the drive as it is inexpensive (3 euro per adult) and a pretty interesting look at how they lived.  Here are a few pictures from the fort on the edge of a cliff:

Viking Fort on Dingle Peninsula (**** – 3 euros per person)

One more of the fort

Sheep on the path down to the fort

Looking over the edge of the cliff next to the fort

After spending approximately 45 minutes at the Viking Fort we made our way back to Dingle and discovered that the shops were now open as the tour buses had arrived, lucky us :(.  There is nothing worse than watching a bus disgorge 50 American’s straight into the least appetizing looking restaurant on the entire street but that was the scene that played out in front of us for the next 30 minutes.  Oh well.

My wife and I did enjoy the time we spent in Dingle as it was a very charming town with a great location.  We managed to get away from the coast somewhat into the interior of the town and found some really neat places that were less crowded.  Here are a few pictures from Dingle:

Foxy John’s Bar and Hardware (with my wife in front)

Dingle Waterfront

Chowder ($$ – Would highly recommend eating here, specifically 0ff the specials board. Near the waterfront – blue sign)

After spending about 3 hours in Dingle we began to make our way to Kenmare, our final destination for the night.  The drive took about 2 hours and resulted in us getting quite lost at one point but, no worries, we made it eventually.  We had booked a room for the evening in Kenmare at the Brook Lane Hotel based upon reviews from TripAdvisor.  I must say that this time TripAdvisor completely lived up to the hype and the hotel was all that we had expected.  Here are a couple of pictures:

Exterior of Brook Lane Hotel (145 Euro per night) from walking path into town (5 minutes to city centre)

Room Interior ( Brook Lane Hotel)

Creek on the path into town

Kenmare, Ireland

One more picture of Kenmare, Ireland (*** – Nothing really is a “must see” here but it is a fun town to stopover in)

We did have one frustrating episode in Kenmare that I feel like I should disclose.  When we checked into the hotel the proprietor recommended a restaurant for us that evening.  When we went into town that afternoon we looked over the menu and decided that it did look quite good so we made reservations for later that evening.  After dinner, we decided to have a few pints in a local pub and got to talking to some locals and it turns out that the owner of the hotel also owns the restaurant.  While we had no complaints regarding the restaurant (The name of it is No.35 and it was fantastic) we would have appreciated it if the hotel proprietor would have disclosed this to us when we checked in.  It probably wouldn’t have affected our decision on dinner and may have convinced us to try the restaurant had we been wavering.  I guess my complaint is that I felt it was quite deceptive, and quite frankly bad business practice, to not inform us of this fact when making the recommendation.

However, I tried to not let this cloud my judgement as I truly did like this town and would recommend it to anyone as a good overnight spot.

Look forward to the next installment coming this Thursday: Day 4 – Kenmare to Kinsale (Kerry Peninsula).

Trip Report – Ireland: Day 2 – Galway to Tralee

After a fun evening in Galway my wife and I woke up early the next morning to get a jump-start on the day as we wanted to make it to the Cliffs of Moher fairly early before the larger crowds arrive.

We departed Galway around 7:30 AM and drove south towards Lahinch, Ireland (near the Cliffs of Moher).  The drive took about 2 hours even though our GPS indicated a drive time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, guess it didn’t account for the cliffs/stone walls/hairpin turns on the roads to Lahinch!  The scenery on the way was amazing though as we passed through the Burren (extremely rock landscape) and across some large hills lining the coast.  Here is a picture from our drive near the top of one of the hills (if you look closely you can see the hairpin turn):

Lahinch is approximately 4 KM from the Cliffs of Moher and there is a don’t miss attraction in Lahinch, the golf course (luckily you drive right past it on the way to the Cliffs of Moher!).  The Lahinch Golf Club is ranked by Golf Digest as one of the Top 50 Courses in the World.  It was amazing and I tried to snap as many pictures as possible while we drove past it (I know I shouldn’t be taking pictures while driving but it was so cool).  Here is the best one I got but it is still hard to see how impressive this course is:

Lahinch Golf Club (*** – Beautiful course and luckily it is on the route to get to the Cliffs of Moher)

As I mentioned above you have to drive about 4 KM past Lahinch to get to the Cliffs of Moher visitor center.  I am not sure if there is another place along the cliffs that doesn’t charge to take in the view but the price was 6 Euros per car to park and that included tickets to the Museum (we didn’t go since it didn’t look like it had that much to offer.  The parking lot for the cliffs is directly across the road from the visitor center and the walkways to the cliffs.  I must say that the Cliffs of Moher might be the most visually stunning natural formation I have seen in my life.  It was incredible.  Here a two pictures and I know they don’t do it justice but it is incredible, trust me:

Cliffs of Moher (***** – Absolute must see in Ireland)

After leaving the Cliffs of Moher around 10 AM (we spent approximately 45 minutes there, no need to stay too long) we drove towards Limerick with a stop in Bunratty (50 minutes from Cliffs of Moher) to view the castle there.  We had browsed through a few guidebooks prior to our trip and some highly recommended it while others said to avoid Bunratty.  After visiting and paying the 15 Euro per person entry fee to the Bunratty Folk Park (should have been my first clue) I can certainly agree with the books that say to avoid it.  It may be one of the worst tourist values in the entire country, if not Europe.  I can’t even explain my dismay upon entering the castle and seeing plaster on the walls from the “restoration” in the 1970’s.  This is definitely a stop made for mass-produced tour buses.  However, if you are looking for a picturesque (from the outside) castle to photograph it isn’t a bad idea to stop by as it does look real from the outside and it is right off the motorway into Limerick.

Bunratty (0 stars – not deserving of time or money)

After leaving what had to be the biggest disappoint of our trip we made our way into Limerick (15 minutes from Bunratty) to have lunch.  Limerick was interesting in that it was not a touristy town so we got more a perspective on Irish life outside of tourist zones.  The city had a nice walkable area downtown and we quite enjoyed the few hours we spent there.  We had lunch at O’Connor’s ($$) which was pretty good (we picked it due to the number of local businessmen inside).

O’Connor’s in Limerick ($$)

After lunch, we strolled through Limerick some and the atmosphere was quite good, I guess being sunny and upper 60’s will bring the crowds out in Ireland.  Around 2 PM we decided to make our way to Tralee.  We had decided on Tralee due to the convenience of its location at the beginning of the Dingle Peninsula.  Unfortunately, that did not translate to a very vibrant town.  When we got there around 4 PM it seemed as if everything was already shut down for the evening and later that evening the only restaurant in town that was open was the one attached to our hotel, luckily it was quite good.  We booked rooms based upon reviews from Tripadvisor and this may have been the first time I have been let down by Tripadvisor.  The room was adequate and clean but did not meet the expectations I have for how positive the reviews were.

Interior of Room at Grand Hotel Tralee (90 Euros per night)

That was all for Day 2 adventures, please look forward to Day 3: Dingle Peninsula, being published early next week.  Cheers!

Trip Report – Ireland: Day 1 – Dublin to Galway

My wife and I arrived into Dublin around 11:30 AM local time on Sunday, September 2, 2012.  We were quite tired from traveling but we had made our first nights destination Galway, on the west coast of Ireland.  After an on-time arrival into the airport we had an approximately 35 minute wait to get through immigration due to extremely low staffing levels at the Dublin Airport.  Makes for a rather lackluster first impression of the country.  After making our way, finally, through customs we began to search for the SIXT Rental Car Desk.  Unfortunately, the rental car desk is located in Terminal 2 and we had flown into Terminal 1. (As a side note, when you think you can’t go any farther and that the SIXT rental car desk is not there, turn the next corner.  It is hidden back there).  To continue with our first day misery we had to wait about 55 minutes at the SIXT desk prior to being helped.

After all of that wasted time spent in the airport we were very excited to finally be out of there (we did have a 15 minute wait for the rental car shuttle bus but that is besides the point).  Here is a view from the rental car shuttle bus pickup point of Dublin Airport:

After retrieving our car from the off-airport lot, we made our way to Galway.  Driving on the wrong side of the road was quite challenging on that first day!  However, we made it safely and checked into our hotel, The Galway Harbor Hotel ($$$$).  The hotel is located approximately 3 minutes, on foot, from the old city centre.  The hotel itself was nice enough but was nothing remarkable.  It was clean which for me is honestly one of the most important things.  Here is a view of our standard room:

After getting checked into our room we made our way into the city centre which was quite lively, even for a Sunday evening.  We strolled for a bit through some of the old town and eventually decided on having a pint or two in a few of the pubs (obviously that is not Guinness, it is Smithwick’s):

Our dinner was nothing special that night so I won’t mention it other than to say that it is recommended not to wait too long to eat dinner on a Sunday night in Galway or you may risk all the good restaurants being closed for the night.  Eat prior to 8 PM!

Overall, I must say that I was slightly disappointed with Galway.  Everything I had read or seen recommended it so strongly but all we saw were approximately 2 streets worth of old town with a large industrial center surrounding it.  Maybe we were there at a bad time or missed seeing what makes Galway special, not sure, but for right now I probably wouldn’t recommend people to stay here unless they are looking for a good jumping off point for touring the Cliffs of Moher.

My next post will cover Day 2: Galway to Tralee, with stops at Cliffs of Moher and Limerick.

Trip Report – Ireland

In what I hope will be a continued series going forward I am going to give a full trip report of our recent 8 day trip through Ireland.  I plan to do a day-by-day account of our trip with tips on sightseeing, hotels and dining options in each place we visited.  I will also try to include as many pictures as possible in order to illustrate what I am discussing.  Today’s post is just the outline for the future posts and I will try to get them up here in a reasonably timely manner.  Here is the daily itinerary for our trip and also the order of the posts:

Day 1, 9/2 – Arrive in Dublin, rent car and drive to Galway

Day 2, 9/3 – Leave Galway early AM and drive to Cliffs of Moher.  From there a quick stop in Limerick and on to Tralee.

Day 3, 9/4 – Depart Tralee early AM and tour Dingle Peninsula.  Spend night in Kenmare.

Day 4, 9/5 – Travel from Kenmare to Kinsale, stay near Kinsale that night.

Day 5, 9/6 – Depart Kinsale early AM to travel to Powerscourt Estate with a quick stop in Cashel. Spend night in Powerscourt.

Day 6, 9/7 – Depart Powerscourt and return rental car, spend day in Dublin and stay in town.

Day 7, 9/8 – Spent the entire day in Dublin

Day 8, 9/9 – Early morning departure for return flight to States.

Look for each day to be a detailed post in the coming weeks!