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Navigating in Ireland

Bob Little (Bob the Navigator)

It was my first visit to the Emerald Isle, but my wife spent some time there when our daughter was in graduate school in Dublin in 1993. I must admit that I had been procrastinating due to two factors that had me somewhat apprehensive - driving on the "wrong" side and the unpredictable weather. We had only a total of twelve days to see the highlights of Ireland. We selected dates in late September and flew into Shannon and home from Dublin. There were two couples for this trip, and we rented a Ford station wagon on arrival in Shannon and kept it the entire itinerary. It was a great trip.

Overall Observations

The Irish people are wonderful! We have never enjoyed such genuine hospitality in our 16 previous trips to Europe. They all must first kiss the Blarney stone and then go to a class on how to be nice to tourists.

The food was a pleasant surprise. I must have expected Irish stew every day, but we ended up eating wonderful near gourmet cuisine at several locations. See the list below.

As I suspected, the weather is a major variable. We spent the first 6 days on the spectacular west coast and had rain about half the time. Since we live in Florida we were concerned about the threat of hurricane Isaac before we left home. Well, it did miss Florida but it followed us up the gulf stream and gave us two days of gale force winds and horizontal rain at the Dingle peninsula. Weather is a definite factor.

Driving in Ireland is not for everyone. We got along just fine, thanks to the skill and nerve of our companion Ed (yes, the same Ed from the southern Italy sojourn), but I would not suggest it for those who are not confident drivers in foreign lands.

The scenery and natural splendor made the trip worthwhile. The colors are spectacular - from the varied shades of green and gray to the bright pastels of the shops and pubs - be sure to take your camera.

Trip Highlights

  1. The Slea Head drive on the Dingle. It reminded me of the Big Sur but with a whole lot more history.
  2. The Cliffs of Moher. We got lucky and hit them in the late afternoon sunlight.
  3. The village of Kinsale. This small port city near Cork was a delight.
  4. The traditional Irish music in Doolin. We were there on a Saturday night and were totally captivated by the people and the sounds.
  5. The Rock of Cashel, Glendalough in the Wicklows, and the crosses at Ahenny.

Good Eats - In Rank Order

Chez Hans, Cashel: In the shadow of the Rock and wonderful.

Man Friday, Kinsale: Great view back to the village.

Skippers, Ventry (near Dingle): French cuisine on the Slea Head drive.

Mitchells, Clifden: The best we found in the Connemara region.

Monks, Ballyvaughn: Great seafood chowder for lunch.

Favorite B&Bs

We stayed at six - these ones were memorable.

The Mallamore Country House, near Clifden

The Mt. Eagle Lodge, Ventry:  Perfect location for Slea Head drive.

Conclusions

It was a memorable experience; you have to like Ireland. My advise is to pick your time well and do not try to drive too far any given day. You should double the time you think it may take. Take your time and savor the Irish experience, it will reward you.


Bob the Navigator is a retired IBMer whose passion for European travel has evolved into a hobby and trip planning business - www.bobthenavigator.homestead.com (Slow Travel Classified Listing). See Bob's Slow Travel member page for a list of his articles.

© Bob Little, 2001

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