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It’s been just over a year since we took our trip to Ireland, but we still think back on those memories all the time! Ireland was a place that I (Sarah) had always wanted to visit, and am fascinated by the culture (especially the pub music and Celtic dancing!), but even so, our trip to Ireland was actually supposed to be a trip to Hawaii. That was our original plan with the Air France points we had, but when dates and timing didn’t align, and there was a sale for flights to Ireland we jumped on that opportunity. I think we’d both agree that we are really glad we did! From the green and beautiful countryside (everything really is so, so green!) and the small quaint villages, to the mountains, and cliff sides – it was breathtaking!
We only had 6 nights in Ireland, and to some that might not seem like a lot for the distance we had to travel, but hey, we’ll take almost a week in Ireland over 0 days 😉 and we were able to fit a lot into our days while also not feeling overwhelmed by a super busy itinerary.
Day 1: Doing Dublin
We arrived in Dublin early in the morning after an overnight flight, and after dropping our luggage off at our hostel, headed straight to a cute little cafe called Queen of Tarts to get some much-needed fuel for the day. And pretty much the rest of day involved walking around the city, stopping in at beautiful and quaint shops (my favourites being Industry and Co., The Irish Design Shop and April and the Bear), exploring the neighborhoods including Temple Bar, and seeing some of the sights around town (St. Stephens Green, Dublin Castle). That evening we also dined on Fish and Chips, which was one of the things we were most excited about for our trip – we really like food, mmk!
Day 2: City to Mountain
We got up early and headed out on a half day tour to the Wicklow Mountains and to see Glendalough, an early medieval monastic settlement. It was a quick 45-minute drive from Dublin and we were soon in the midst of the mountains. Our tour guide took us to an overview of Lough Tar, a beautiful lake surrounded by green hills. It was quite windy that day (actually that was the story for most of our trip, haha), so we were glad that we packed a lot of layers with us. From Lough Tar, it was a quick drive through the picturesque countryside and we were at Glendalough. We loved walking through the settlement and seeing the old church and tower, and also walked up to the upper lake.
Once we were back in the city we went to the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology (which is free!), walked around Trinity College and enjoyed an amazing traditional Irish meal at a restaurant called Boxty. We also got our first taste of Irish music and dancing at a pub that night!
Nope, we didn’t go see the Book of Kells, and we didn’t go to the Guinness Storehouse and we are totally okay with that. Thinking back over our trip, one of the things we would do differently if we could go back is to only stay in Dublin one night, and head down to Killarney in the afternoon of our second day instead of waiting till the third. Dublin was great, but it was also a city, and for me, Ireland is so defined by the amazing countryside.
Day 3: Dunloe
After a successful jaunt back to the airport to pick up our rental car, we started our road trip down to Killarney. And can I just say that Ian killed it at driving, not only on the left side of the road but also using a stick shift and having to shift with his left hand – he was a natural!
Bonus Tip: We didn’t rent a GPS with our car (you’ll probably notice a trend of us being pretty frugal travelers!), but what we did use is the maps.me app on my phone. We were able to use it as a GPS while traveling even with our phones on Airplane mode, all I had to do was make sure that I downloaded the right map (which for us was Ireland) before we went on our trip.
We made a quick pit stop in the village of Adare, which is known for it’s thatched roofed houses, before heading out on the road again. On the road from Adare to Killarney we pulled over at a beautiful medieval castle to explore for a few minutes (I can’t even remember what town it was in, but it is hard to miss if you’re on the main road).
Once in Killarney, we drove straight to the Gap of Dunloe, where we got an amazing and beautiful three-hour hike in. SERIOUSLY, don’t miss this if you’re in the area. If I had just one favorite thing we did – which is extremely hard to narrow down – it would be this walk! You can drive it, but I had read some stories about how the road is super tiny and can be pretty treacherous, so we stuck to walking, which was perfect because it gave us a chance to really soak in everything that was around us. As we were walking through the valley, the views and scenery just kept getting more and more amazing. Pretty much try to envision a valley between two mountains, with lakes, sheep pastures, rugged rocks, and stone bridges, and then make it even 10,000 times more beautiful than that.
Day 4: Dingle
On our fourth day, we drove the Dingle Peninsula. We started on the north side of the peninsula and then drove down through Connors Pass into the town of Dingle. Connors Pass is a really tiny mountainside road with beautiful views (we didn’t get to enjoy the views to their entirety because of the weather, but we still got a thrill out of navigating the tiny road and passing cars). From Dingle, we drove Slea Head Drive, which is where you really get to see the rugged coastline! Along our drive we stopped at an old medieval ring fort, a beach, an abandoned ferry port, saw (from a distance) a Star Wars Episode VIII filming location, and hiked up to Eask Tower through some sheep fields.
After returning from our day out and stopping to pick up a hot-n-ready €3 pizza at a local grocery store, we headed into town and went to The Shire, a Lord of the Rings themed pub. So that was a fun little end to our night!
Day 5: Doolin
We departed from Killarney and headed north to Doolin. Along the way, we saw that there was what looked like a beach off the main road, but still accessible, so we went for it and found a beautiful hidden beach. Ian loves climbing all over any kind of rocks (especially if they’re right on the ocean) so this was the perfect playground! We continued on to Doolin and got there in time to walk the coastal cliff walk along the Cliffs of Moher, which was made even more beautiful by the clear skies and golden hour.
Day 6: Aran Islands
We took a ferry from Doolin to Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands. Once on the island, we had around two hours to explore. The island is covered in pastures that have stone walls all around them. It was fascinating to see! We made our way around the island to the lighthouse on the opposite end and then came back to catch the ferry.
Once we were back in Doolin, we drove to the southern point of the Cliffs of Moher – bypassing the busyness and cost of going to the visitor center – and found a place to park for only a few Euros that was just a short walk from the cliffs. After exploring the cliffs a little more we drove to the Burren, which is pretty much a large chunk of land covered in a rocky landscape. Which doesn’t sound exciting but it was really neat!
Day 7: Departure
We headed out from Doolin and drove across to the Dublin Airport to catch our flight back home.
We hope you enjoyed our Ireland itinerary recap – we sure enjoyed reliving all those memories! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!