As I was writing this post, I had gotten to our 3rd destination and realized wow this is really long already. So in order to make this more organized information and easier to read I have decided to publish these posts in a series. Here is part 1, the overview and beginning of our trip to Ireland.
Céad Míle Fáilte translates in English to land of a hundred thousand welcomes, and nothing describes the country of Ireland more perfectly than this phrase. I have never felt so welcomed in another country before and our trip to Ireland truly became a trip of a lifetime – and a place we dream of going back to as soon as we can.
I have been been working on this travel guide pretty much since the day I got back from Ireland, which was in September of 2019. There is a lot of information and I hope our trip and experience will be able to help you plan your trip of a lifetime to the Emerald Isle too. I also have a separate Ireland Travel Essentials post available here, see everything you will need for your trip.
The most important part when it comes to planning your trip, is figuring out where in the country you want to visit and the transportation you want to use. We went for 11 days and knew we were going to rent a car so this helped us to really customize our itinerary.
Here is the map of our itinerary, it was called “The Best of Ireland Tour” and was the southern half of the country. We do plan on returning to do the northern portion of the country as well as Northern Ireland. Also, if you plan on doing both, do not forget they are separate countries. Currently there is no border, but with Brexit that may change, so always keep up to date on this sort of information when planning a trip.
The list of cities we stayed in and accommodations, the package we chose was for 4 star hotels and manor houses.
– Kilkenny – Butler House (1 night) County Kilkenny
– Kinsale – Actons Hotel (2 nights) County Cork
– Killarney – The Lake Hotel (2 nights) County Kerry
– Doolin – Ballinalacken CastleHouse (1 night) County Clare
– Galway – The Hardiman (formerly Hotel Meyrick) (2 nights) County Galway
– Dublin – Trinity City Hotel (2 nights) County Dublin
Pro Tip: Google Maps has an offline map use function where you can download maps onto your phone and use without wifi or data. This was the best thing we did, before going we downloaded the maps of all the areas we would be visiting.
We landed in Dublin at 7:00 am their time, we picked up our rental car in the airport and headed to our first destination. The drive from Dublin to Kilkenny is approximately 2 hours, we first stopped in the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough inside Wicklow Mountains National Park. There are many different ways to get from Dublin to Kilkenny, so finding sites you want to see on the way will determine your best route.
Pro Tip: Make sure you get change for tolls before heading out, the M50 is billed to you directly using the card reserved for the car, but for others you will need euros.
Roads are often named with letters M, N, R & L in front of them.
M – Motorways
N – National Roads
R – Route Roads
L – Local Roads
*Think from the top to bottom is from busy (interstate, parkway, turnpike) down to rural neighborhood roads.
Glendalough/ Monastic Settlement:
Kilkenny – County Kilkenny
After spending time in the Wicklow Mountains we headed straight to our first hotel Butler House in Kilkenny.
The Butler House is an 18th century Georgian house located right in the heart of the city and across the street from Kilkenny Castle.
Kilkenny is a medieval town consisting of the Medieval Mile and is a great city to walk around and explore that will have you feeling like you went back in time. Other attractions include Rothe House & Gardens, Smithwick’s Brewery, Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice Church & Cathedral and Black Abbey. If you are looking for day trip ideas, the Rock of Cashel is about 45 mins away from Kilkenny.
We were only in Kilkenny for one night and very jet lagged, so we grabbed a drink at Left Bank walked around the city when we first arrived, took a tour of Smithwick’s Brewery and had an early dinner at Kytelers Inn.
Our first picture in Ireland, awake for over 30 hours and very jet lagged, but happy to finally be here!
We did not pre-purchase tickets for the Smithwick’s Tour, but we were the only ones there so we ended up getting a private tour.
The next morning after going to bed super early, we were up and ready to go. We headed over to Kilkenny Castle for a guided tour. Kilkenny Castle was my favorite castle we toured. This tour was available to be pre-booked, or paid for upon arrival.
After our tour of the castle, we headed onto the road to Waterford. We spent the day in Waterford on our way to Kinsale.
Waterford – County Waterford
We only spent a few hours in Waterford City, but kept saying we would have loved more time and to spend a night there as well. Waterford is a Viking City, known for the Viking Triangle. The triangle is the shape the walls make from the Viking village and is the historic part of the city. Waterford is also famously known for the Waterford Crystal Factory.
We found Waterford to be a really cool city, super easy to walk and a lot to do, both historically and not. My husband is very into history and the Vikings, so we did a lot of Vikings related things this trip.
Reginald’s Tower is a popular attraction part of the Viking Triangle, but it was under renovation when we were there. We went to the Waterford Crystal Factory, but did not take a tour. We did go on a tour at the Medieval Museum. There is also the Bishop’s Palace, King of the Vikings virtual reality and Christ Church Cathedral to name a few other popular attractions.
We had a delicious lunch in Waterford on a rooftop at The Reg. My husband had a fish special over potatoes and I had a beef and mushroom stew in a bread bowl.
After our meal we walked around the outdoor mall area of the city, then got in the car and headed to our next destination – Kinsale, County Cork.
Pro Tip – In the first few days of you driving on the “opposite side” for us right siders, just remember to be patient. Round abouts will turn out to be something you enjoy, being from New Jersey we have circles so they were easy for us. I found myself saying to Sean “turn right, keep left”, “turn left, keep left” to remind ourselves we needed to be on the left side as we maneuvered. He really was a champion of the left side of driving.
There is so much to see and do and so many places to go, but don’t forget to stop, look around, smile and remember – you finally made it to Ireland!
Part 2 County Cork – Coming Soon.
Ireland Travel Essentials – Available Here.