Chris and I spent a total of six weeks in Ireland: three weeks on our own, one week hiking with a friend, and the final two weeks sightseeing with family. It was a fantastic trip and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but was it “perfect”? Nope. Here’s a taste of lessons learned (in no particular order):
- Be constrained and slow down: We traveled by bus and train for the first four weeks which meant no side trips. We got to a destination and explored that place, usually on foot. It was slow, mellow, and allowed us to dive deep. Contrast that with our final two weeks. Since we had rental cars, we used them; boy, did we use them! Just because you can get somewhere, doesn’t mean you should. In retrospect, we spent way too much time in the car. I wish we’d stuck closer to home and tried to cram less in.
- Don’t travel on Sundays: Many walking and hiking groups meet Sunday mornings, and trad music sessions are regularly scheduled for Sunday evenings.
- Talk to people: Talk to anyone and everyone: B&B owners, shopkeepers, bartenders, fellow travelers, wait staff, tour guides, etc. This was a major highlight of the trip. We often asked for tips about where to eat or what to see, but mostly made small talk. No matter the topic, we always came away richer. Even if you’re shy, what better way to experiment than in a new country with folks you’ll likely never see again?
- Eat vegetables: And turn down the big Irish breakfast every now and then. I can handle “vacation eating” for a short period, but a 6-week trip requires better habits. By the end, I was craving healthy food, light meals, and regular exercise.
- Maintain routine: Again, this may not be necessary for a short trip; that’s one reason we vacation, after all – to break routine. I can’t help but compare the two halves of my trip though. I was very disciplined the first three weeks, our days tended toward a predictable structure, and I was healthy, productive, and energized. Over the last three weeks, things gradually got away from me and by the end, I had stopped writing and exercising, got little sleep, and ate way too much fried food. I do better with more order; even small nods to routine would have helped.
- Look up: This one is from Karen. On one Dublin walkabout she practically swatted my phone from my hand. I like the reassurance of using Google Maps to quickly get where we need to go, while Karen prefers to briefly look at a map to get bearings, and then explore using landmarks and “street sense”. I get it now! Since she was heads up the whole time, she had a much better grasp of the city’s layout and noticed more landmark details (we always turn at this store, this street leads to the river, etc). I always say I have a terrible sense of direction, but there’s one way to fix that – work on it!
This marks my second trip to Ireland, and I know I’ll return. There’s something about the island that speaks to me.
Moving on to the details, here’s our loose itinerary and associated blog posts:
- Flew into Dublin, then visited Battle of the Boyne and Newgrange on our way to Northern Ireland
- Explored Belfast
- Spent a day on Rathlin Island
- Hiked the Causeway Coast Way
- Spent a couple days getting to know Derry
- Visited all three of the Aran Islands via Doolin
- Spent a day regrouping in Tralee, then hiked the Dingle Way
- Tralee to Camp: Blennerville Windmill, then AMBUSH in the Slieve Mish
- Camp to Annascaul: Boreens are the Bomb
- Annascaul to Dingle: The Day I Realize I’ve Been Spoiled Rotten
- Dingle to Dunquin: A Dr. Dolittle Day
- Dunquin to Feohanagh: Where 13 Miles is 13 Miles
- Feohanagh to Cloghane: Into the Mist
- Cloghane to Fahamore: Surf City Here We Come
- Fahamore to Camp: Rain, Rainbows and Saint Brendan
- Spent a week touring Dublin, and took a day trip north to see Newgrange (again) and Trim Castle
- Saw Glendalough and Jerpoint Abbey on the way to our rental house in Kilmallock
- Spent our last week with family exploring sights in Counties Limerick, Tipperary, Cork and Kerry
- A Grand Day Out: Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle, and the Swiss Cottage
- Ring Around the Kerry: The Long Drive is Worth It!
- Our Epic Killarney Quest: 1) March through the Gap of Dunloe; 2) Navigate the Three Lakes; 3) Storm Ross Castle!
- Charles Fort: A Star on Ireland’s Southern Coast
- Ireland’s Hidden Gems: Bridgetown Priory and Ballybeg Priory
- The Donkey Sanctuary: Aww, Donkeys
- Ireland’s Hidden Gems: Glanworth Castle, Mill and Bridge
- Ireland’s Hidden Gems: The Labbacallee Wedge Tomb
- Ireland’s Hidden Gems: The Towers Loop Trail
- Ireland’s Hidden Gems: Lough Gur
- The Hunt Museum: A Personal Collection, Loved Deeply and Shared Freely
- Dropped family at the Dublin airport, wandered Carlow, and wrapped up our trip with a few days in and around Kilkenny