From Dublin head south through the Wicklow mountains stopping at Glendalough, seeing an old round tower and old cemeteries and the beautiful valley of the two lakes at the base of the mountain.
Drive on to Waterford for a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory, they mostly make rare one off pieces there now so it’s quite interesting to see them at work in the factory. Bring a few quid for the shop though!
Travel on down towards Cork. Outside of Cork is Cobh which was the last stop of Titanic before it sailed across the Atlantic, it’s a pretty town with colourful houses with some titanic stuff to see. Also outside of Cork is Blarney, with the famous Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone. Cork is Ireland’s second biggest city after Dublin, has a nice city centre area with plenty of pubs, the English Market is worth a visit. I don’t find much tourist things to do in the city centre but is has a nice pub scene.
Head west to my favourite part of Ireland County Kerry, a night or two in Killarney is a must, a very friendly and beautiful town, plenty of pubs, music and American tourists. Killarney National Park is nice to take a horse and carriage ride through. It’s the base to drive the Ring of Kerry which is doable on a day trip, make sure to take a detour through the Gap of Dunloe, jaw dropping beautiful but watch out for the stray sheep.
A short drive from Killarney is the Dingle Peninsula stop off at Inch beach for a drive along the beach (yes even in your sedan) and drive along the coast into Dingle Town, it’s a much smaller town and less touristy but full of colourful pubs. There is a road at the tip of Dingle called the Ring of Dingle, in my opinion is much better drive than the Ring of Kerry, more scenic and much smaller, can drive around it in an hour or two depending on how many stops to make. Dingle Bay is also home to a famous resident Fungi the dolphin.
Leaving Dingle take the road over the mountain called Connors Pass, it’s a bit of a hair raising single lane down the mountain. Follow the road through some small towns to Tralee an on to Listowel, take the car ferry across the Shannon River. I’d give Limerick a miss unless you really want to go there, it’s known as stab city and not much to see.
Once across the Shannon River head on over to the famous Cliffs of Moher for a stop. The Cliffs are free to see but the parking lot isn’t. There is a new museum they have built there; if you have the time is worth a look. North of the Cliffs is Doolin, a great little town to stay if you are in the area in the afternoon. Gus O’Connor’s pub has great food and even better Guinness. You are in the area called the Burren, this is the area hit hardest by the famine you’ll notice all the rock fences that were built during this time.
Galway is the next biggest town heading north, again many pubs, it’s a University city so can get a bit rowdy in the evenings. But is a nice town to wander through plenty of nice places to eat.
Westport is a lovely town heading north, full of pubs and great craic, Matt Molloy’s is its most famous pub owned by a member of the Chieftains and has a Grammy on display is always full of people and music. Driving into Westport you may pass Croagh Patrick a mountain which many people make a pilmirge to climb as it is said St Patrick fasted on the mountain, it is a 760 metre climb and I’ve heard its pretty tough to climb, one of my regrets is that I never attempted to climb it.
Head on up to Donegal and Killybegs, this is where the big deep sea fishing is based in the Atlantic. Outside of Donegal are the biggest sea cliffs in Europe, it’s not sign posted very well so look out for the turn off. Drive as far as the road will take you, otherwise it’s a long walk up the hill.
From there I would head over to Derry (Londonderry). You are now in Northern Ireland; you will notice everything changes from kilometres to miles, the currency euros to pounds etc (if you have Northern Ireland pounds make sure to spend them all in Northern Ireland as they are not accepted as currency in England, you can spend English pounds in Northern Ireland). Derry was the scene of the Bloody Sunday murders; the city is ringed by a stone wall which you can walk around. You can see the Catholic area displaying the tri colours and Irish flags and the protestant areas displaying the union jack, it’s a bit scary to see but worth a guided tour or a walk around the walls.
Head along the coast to the Giant’s Causeway, also in the area is Bushmills whiskey, if you have time they have guided tours. If time permits drive along the Antrim Coast to Belfast is a lovely scenic road. Otherwise head on straight down to Belfast. The Black Cab tour is a must in Belfast it takes you around the areas of ‘The Troubles’ and you see how the city is still divided. The murals on the buildings are good to see. The taxi drivers talk about the history.
Belfast is where the Titanic was built and they have an area called the Titanic Quarter which has a new museum, which is well worth visiting. In the city there is also a famous pub called the Crown Liquor Saloon which is full of snugs and has furniture in it from the titanic and its sister ships.
Head on back down south through the Boyne Valley. Newgrange is worth a stop it’s a 5000 year old tomb. Head for the visitor centre and book on to a tour, they sell out pretty fast but there are other monuments worth visiting if you can’t see that one and the museum at the visitor centre is very good.
From there head on back to Dublin having satisfied a great appreciation of Eire’s countryside, cities and most importantly great craic!
Lived and travelled Ireland: 2007 – 2013