I’ve been a busy bee lately with blogging lots of sessions. But, today I decided to take a break from that and share with you all some photos and stories from my trip to Ireland back in February!
So, I LOVE planning things. Especially planning pretend vacations for all the trips that i’m hoping to one day take in the future.(I’m weird, I know it, but i’ve embraced it.) While idly web surfing, I ended up on Groupon checking out the deals they had for vacations. Up pops a deal for a 8 day trip to Ireland through a company called Great Value Vacations. This Groupon struck my interest because it was a “plan it yourself” style trip. The main aspects of the trip were included in the price (airfare, hotels, and rental vehicle) but the rest of the trip was yours to plan as you saw fit. You had to add the entire trip to your cart and begin to check out to see the final price, so curiosity got the better of me and I went ahead with this to see the cost.
Well, let me tell you it was A PHENOMENAL PRICE. So phenomenal in fact, that I pulled out my wallet and booked it then and there! Afterwards, I proceeded to have a mild panic attack about shelling out $2,000 without conferring with my husband. (Side note, this trip was bought with all my own personal money. I’m impulsive, not crazy!) But, I calmed down and decided that this would be a perfect Christmas present surprise for him and that I couldn’t wait to see his face when he opened up a present with the details on Christmas morning!
This grand plan lasted for maybe… 6 hours.
Something you’ll know about me if you know me at all is that i’m a terrible secret keeper, ESPECIALLY when it comes to presents! I was too excited to wait and caved and told Robbie about it the very same night. He was just as excited as I hoped, and I immediately got set to planning our itinerary. We were to spend 2 nights in each city, starting in Kilkenny, then to Cork, onward to Limerick, and finally ending our adventure in Dublin! After lots and lots of planning and anticipation, Febuary 13th rolled around. We hopped on board a plane, and off to Ireland we went!
Day 1: Travel to Ireland/Kilkenny
Day 1 was mostly a travel day for us. We flew overnight to Paris, and then caught our connection to Dublin. We arrived, got our rental car, and hit the road to Kilkenny! Then we proceeded to check into our hotel and PASS OUT for a few hours. It so happened that we arrived in Ireland on Valentines Day, so I did make sure we dragged out butts out of bed for a nice dinner, but I didn’t do any photo taking. We had an amazing steak dinner, then hit the hay early to prepare for our first full day in Ireland the next day!
Day 2: Kilkenny Castle and the Medieval Mile
We started the day bright and early, getting to Kilkenny Castle right as it opened at 8am. This was a more modern, well kept castle. I had been obsessively watching Downton Abbey during this time, so needless to say I was totally into it! I loved all the architecture and the features of the castle. (Had to take a photo of the first installed toilet in the castle, obv.)
After this castle we headed to breakfast, where Robbie got to experience his first “full irish.” You can see the progression of him trying black pudding. (Consensus: pretty tasty, but salty.)
Then we headed out to walk the Medieval Mile. A path through the heart of Kilkenny which hits tons of historic spots! While on our walk, we ran into two girls who were on the same trip we were! They recommended we head outside the town and check out Kell’s Priory, so after we finished up the Medieval Mile, that’s where we headed.
So, Google Maps was a lifesaver for this trip… except once. The entrance to Kell’s Priory is actually about 1/2 a mile walk from the parking area, but GPS took us in on the other side, where there was a gated off muddy road. After a bit of coaxing, I convinced Robbie that this was TOTALLY the right way, and we were meant to move the gate and drive in. Wrong! As we drove down this hill, three unhappy workers saw us coming and showed us how to come back in the proper way. This was the first real “ruined” castle we saw and this was exactly what Robbie was hoping to see during our trip!
Kell’s Priory was our last stop of the day, after that we headed to a quick dinner and back to the hotel to relax and pack up to hit the road the next morning!
Day 3: Travel to Cork/Spa Day
Day 3 was a travel day, so we gathered our things and hit the road for a 2 hour drive from Kilkenny to Cork. One of the things that’s really amazing about Ireland is that castles and ruins just pop up all over the place. We stopped at a few different sights during our drive, just because we saw them along the way! One of the best stops we made was at Dungarvan, the view was AMAZING!
I knew that we were going to hit a point where we were a little jetlagged and grumpy, and thus I planned accordingly. We arrived at our hotel early afternoon, got settled in, and then it was time for some pampering at the spa. I booked us some massages and facials. We spent the rest of the evening just relaxing and went to be early. (I am 90 years old at heart, what can I say!)
Day 4: Blarney Castle, and the Jameson Factory
Day 4 was another jam packed day of activities for us. We began the day at Blarney Castle! This whole property is beauuutiful! Unfortunately it was actively raining, so we didn’t take the few mile hike around the entire property that we planned, but we still got to see a lot! We took our time climbing the castle, and yes, we DID kiss the Blarney Stone when we got up there! (Fun fact, it’s TERRIFYING. You literally hang off the side of the castle upside down. There are bars to protect you if you fall, but still not as comforting as i’d have liked.) Also at Blarney was a poison garden which was really interesting!
After Blarney Castle, we headed over to the Cork City Gaol which was really cool! So much history! We took an audio tour of the Gaol (aka jail) and if any of you reading this are Gilmore Girls fans, it was very reminiscent of the Stars Hollow Museum, but in a good way haha!
After leaving the Gaol we did have a mishap and lost our passenger side mirror. Thank god for full coverage insurance amiright!? We got some duct tape which obviously solves all problems and we were good to go. We stopped at a place called The English Market for lunch which was sooooo good. It was a huge market of fresh local foods and it was by far the best food we ate while in Ireland.
From there, we headed on a drive out to Midleton to take our tour of the Jameson Factory. This was, in my opinion, the coolest thing we did on our trip! I’m not a whiskey drinker at all, and I was a little skeptical of whether or not I would enjoy this, but it was such a cool experience and Robbie even got to pour his own personal bottle of whiskey from the cask!
Day 5: Travel to Limerick
Another travel day for us lead us to find all sorts of really amazing places along our way. First was Ballybeg Priory, where I was super pumped because I made friends with a horse. Then we ended up going for a hike at a place called Lough Gur, which was so beautiful! We hiked along the path which had these adorable little fairy houses painted all along the way. Then we hit Grange Stone Circle, which is the largest standing stone circle in Ireland. Used for prayer rituals back in the day!
We arrived in Limerick late in the afternoon, so we just checked into our hotel and headed out for some dinner. After that we walked along the river and had a really nice relaxing evening.
Day 6: Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty, & Durty Nellys
The thing I was most excited for when planning this trip was the Cliffs of Moher. (For my fellow nerds, this is Harry Potter filmed the cave scene when Harry and Dumbledore retrieve the locket, and it’s also the Cliffs of Insanity in the Princess Bride.) But, as life often does, a wrench was thrown into our plans when it was THE FOGGIEST DAY OF THE YEAR. Literally could not see in front of us more than 5 feet. We headed up to the cliffs first thing, and explored the gift shop and museum area, in hopes that the fog would burn off. Soon we realized it wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, and left a little defeated.
We headed back to our hotel unsure of what to do, as our main plan for the day was the cliffs. The clerk at the hotel desk suggested to us we check out Bunratty, so off we went. This was such a cool castle and i’m so glad we found time to see it! This castle and surrounding area is set up to emulate how an entire village would have lived, so it was like walking through an entire medieval city!
After that we headed to eat dinner at Durty Nelly’s, which was another recommendation from our hotel clerk. A+ irish pub atmosphere, with great food!
Day 7: Dublin and the Guinness Factory
Day 7 was another travel day, as we headed from Limerick to Dublin! On our drive we had some crazy weather, pouring rain one minute and totally sunny the next. This weather gave us an authentic irish rainbow so I was pretty pumped. No pot of gold located, but there is always next time.
We also took a few stops along this drive, the best one being to check out Nenagh Castle, which had the best sign on a plaque. It read “Someone tried to rid the place of sparrows by putting gunpowder in the walls. He did not succeed in stopping the birds but he did manage to blow a hole in the wall.”
By this point in our trip, I was definitely losing steam with keeping up on taking photos. I spent more time just experiencing and enjoying our last few days which is why there are less!
We arrived in Dublin, got settled in, and headed out to tour the Guinness Factory! I may not be a whiskey drinker, but i’m definitely a beer drinker so this was a really cool tour. The 360 degree view at the top of the factory is amazing, but much too crowded for a good photo.
Day 8: Dublin and Tattoos
Our final day in Ireland was reserved for something i’d planned for Robbie as a birthday present. He’s a tattoo kinda guy, so i’d reserved a time for us to go and get tattoos! I wanted something small to commemorate this once in a lifetime trip, and Robbie went big! His tattoo artist did an absolutely phenomenal job, and pictures really don’t do his tattoo justice!
This adventure took most of the day, so afterwards we headed back to our hotel. We spent the night relaxing and preparing for our VERY early flight the next morning.
This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am so thankful that I decided to be impulsive for the day and actually book it! We had such an amazing time and I hope that one day life brings us back to this gorgeous country!!