If you’re just joining at the halfway point of our journey, take a quick look at the first 4 days of our road trip in Ireland itinerary.
Road Trip Recap: Rick and I spent the morning on Day 4 wandering all over the Dark Hedges, Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland. It was truly an explorer’s dream itinerary, and we covered 12,310 steps before 2 p.m. WHEW. We would’ve stayed even longer, but the rest of the day was set aside to drive our longest single distance of the trip: 211 miles from Bushmills in Northern Ireland down to Galway.
En route, we must’ve encountered 1,000 roundabouts. I couldn’t tell you how many times we went the wrong way, lead astray by both Google Maps and our in-car GPS. We crossed the border back into the Republic of Ireland and returned to paying in € and speed limits in kilometers. (Not that anyone pays much attention to the speed limit in these parts.)
After a full day of exploring and a full day of navigating, we were exhausted. We checked in, grabbed a quick dinner in the lobby and went straight to bed. I’m ashamed to say that the inside of The G (super stylish, shiny and Instagrammable though it was) was all we saw of Galway. I know, guys. We drove all the way there and didn’t listen to Irish music in a pub or slam down Guinness with rowdy locals while watching Quidditch. Wait, soccer… errr. Football? Wait. Where are we? I’m so tired.
Where we Stayed: The G Hotel
Day 5 | Galway to Tralee
After a very good night’s sleep, we woke early to be the first guests in The G Hotel’s dark, cavernous spa. We tromped from sauna to steam room to plunge pool and back. We really should’ve been on the road earlier, but after the full day we had before, it really felt smart to press pause and pamper. After all, this road trip in Ireland was meant to be a relaxing anniversary vacation in addition to a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle. (Meep.)
Back on the road, we wound our way toward the Cliffs of Moher, stopping to peek at crumbling castles, stone churches and a multitude of sheep.
Following a tip from Jess Lawlor’s blog, we drove past the main entrance to the Cliffs of Moher visitor’s center to Guerrin’s Path. There, you pay 5 euros per car instead of 6 euros per person at the visitor’s center. You leave your car in a gravel lot surrounded by happy cows, and wander up the hill to one of the most breathtaking vantage points on the whole Cliff Walk.
Breathtaking can have multiple meanings, I soon found out.
I did not anticipate the immediate visceral reaction I had to the Cliffs of Moher. It was not a reaction of awe and wonder, like when I visited the Na Pali Coast in a helicopter, or floated over Luxor in a hot air balloon, or climbed to the top of Mt. Sinai and shed tears of gratefulness to God for creating such majesty.
Instead, an unfamiliar paralysis washed through me, a zinging terror at the cellular level that made me want to drop to my knees and cling to the earth.
I wonder if I’d been alone if I would’ve felt the same way, or if it came on because of my darling husband’s lack of concern. Rick has no fear, ever, about anything, so his proximity to the edge caused me such palpitations and fluttering as I have never known. I had to deliberately tell feet to walk. Same with breathing.
Meanwhile Rick nonchalantly traipsed through the slippery mud puddles atop the Irish death cliffs, a place where tripping or stumbling could send you headfirst into the Atlantic Ocean 700 feet below.
I am not afraid of heights, so my reaction came as a shock to both of us. Rick looked at me sideways – where was the adventurous woman he married?! – and I took tiny steps and held his hand like a toddler learning to walk.
I admit I felt better when I noticed I was not the only person petrified. There were others gripping the stone barrier, set a comfortable distance away from the edge, as though their lives depended on it.
However unlikely a fall would be, it just seemed so possible up there on the razor edge of the island.
It seemed extra possible for the idiots climbing around on the edge!
Like… no. Just. You people. DOES YOUR MOM KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW?!
I told Rick that in order for me not to devolve into full-blown panic attack, I needed him to remain safely away from the edge. He was sweet (and smart) to oblige, but I still reached for him and gasped several times when I thought he was too close. Seeing strangers foolishly ambling at the edge to get the perfect Instagram shot was making me physically ill.
The cliffs were beautiful and worth a visit, but not worth dying over. My Instagrams reflect a very safe distance!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, mapping our road trip in Ireland was easy in theory, but once we were in the car and on the road, it was a whole other story. What should’ve been an easy little hop to Killimer was a slow race through the narrowest backcountry roads. Google Maps must have been set to “Shortest Distance” instead of “Smartest Route.”
More than once we had to drive into a ditch or up a grassy embankment (like the car pictured above) to avoid oncoming tractor traffic. I swear it had us driving through people’s yards.
I did happen to find a car ferry to take us across the Shannon Estuary over toward the Dingle Peninsula, so what time we lost on the way, we made up by taking this easy shortcut. We reached the boat just in time to catch a gorgeous sunset and 20 minutes of peace before driving into Tarbert and on to our next stop: Tralee.
It was dark when we arrived at the Ashe Hotel, yet another darling property with cozy nooks and thoughtful touches. The peacock feather wallpaper in our room made my day! The quiet streets, wet with recent rain and sparkling from the streetlight reflections, were perfect for a romantic stroll. And after the day we’d had at the Cliffs of Moher and the ensuing stand-offs with tractors, I’d never been so happy to be inland, at sea level, and not in the car.
Where we stayed: The Ashe Hotel
Day 6 | Tralee to Dingle to Killarney
Due to time constraints, we had to choose between driving the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula – two items on any must-see road trip in Ireland itinerary. Because Dingle was closer, it won out. Sometimes, you just can’t fit everything in!
Our first stop on the peninsula (once we finally found it no thanks to the good-for-nothing GPS) was Glenteenassig Forest Park.
Glenteenassig translates to Valley of the Waterfalls.
There’s nothing like a road trip to highlight any differences there might be between you and your husband, am I right, wives? It took us forever to actually find the entrance to the park, so we were behind schedule before we began. The whole time we were there, I was looking at my imaginary watch and thinking, “Ok, let’s get a move on. This is just supposed to be a quick stop and look around, not a time for lollygagging.”
Rick wasn’t thinking of anything other than what kind of fish might be in the lake. (Answer: Trout)
I’m not sure that “wandering aimlessly in nature” is something I would’ve put on a list of requirements for my husband, but I know I go farther and see more when Rick is around than when I travel by myself. He’s insatiably curious and not bound to a schedule.
A quick pitstop on road trip in Ireland turned into hours of aimless hiking, flying the drone up a rocky mountain dotted with confused sheep and frolicking on the narrow, uneven wooden walkway encircling the lake. We had the whole place to ourselves, something I didn’t appreciate until I turned off my mental schedule and self-imposed road trip demands.
Given my heart was still recovering from the Cliffs of Moher the day before, we opted to skip the famous Conor Pass and take a less harrowing route to Dingle. My intention was to spend the majority of our day in the seaside town because everyone raved about it. It was cute and colorful, and there’s nothing I like more than being by the water. But in the end, I’m glad we spent more time wandering Glenteenassig instead. Unscheduled time in the wilderness isn’t something we get to do very often, and it was refreshing.
By the time we reached Dingle, we were hungry and tired in a way you only can be after a morning out in the woods. We tucked into a pub for our umpteenth Guinness pie, wrote our names on a dollar and stapled it to the wall and wandered the narrow streets for a bit. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for our road trip in Ireland.
Now, for the drive to Killarney. After winding through country roads for almost a whole week during our road trip in Ireland, we were snapped to reality when we arrived in Killarney to find miles of backed-up traffic. Our impatience was tempered by the GPS shouting, “At the roundabout, continue straight onto The Ha-Ha.”
Any town with a street named The Ha-Ha is bound to be an adventure.
It’s said the only place in Ireland with more hotel rooms than Killarney is Dublin, so choosing a place to stay on our penultimate night was tough. Eventually I settled on The Lake Hotel on the edge of 25,000 acre Killarney National Park. The room itself was probably the least exciting of the whole trip. Our room was tiny and overlooked the hotel entry.
I wish we would’ve splurged a bit for a view of Lough Lein because it would’ve saved us having to sit outside all night to soak up the scenery and watch for the famous local residents, but sit outside we did.
The hotel itself, in business since 1820, was fascinating. I wish I had more time to explore the long, shadowy hallways lined with antiques, creaky old staircases that seemingly go nowhere. Oversized portraits and locked doors most certainly hide secret passageways and forgotten treasures, but with a limited time to visit, we had to choose exploring the inside or the outside. And since Rick was with me, you know where we ended up!
We ordered dinner and wine in the casual dining room overlooking the lake, and listened to the loveliest voice singing Irish tunes in the bar area. Afterward, it was time for bed. NOPE. It was time for even more adventures. Rick was eager to spot the local red deer, and since we just so happened to be in town during rutting season, there was a good chance we’d get our wish.
That night it was cold enough to see our breath, so of course we were the only goofballs sitting on a bench in the dark, overlooking the 12th century McCarthy Mór castle ruins at the water’s edge. My husband has clearly turned me into a country girl, because it wasn’t long before I pulled up deer calls on YouTube to see if we could attract wildlife.
We heard bellowing far off at first. We moved closer to the edge of the woods and tried not to make a sound. The bellowing was a little closer. Then a little closer. Then a little too close. We ducked behind a fallen tree and peered into the darkness.
There are no photos of this ridiculous adventure, because we were sitting in the dark, trying to breathe without making a noise, waiting to encounter excitable, possibly aggressive deer.
The deer are clearly smarter than we are, because though we heard them, we never saw one. At least not that night.
Where we stayed: The Lake Hotel
Have you ever visited any of the places on this part of our journey? What did you think of the Cliffs of Moher?
Up next: the last post from our road trip in Ireland, featuring the night we had an ancient castle all to ourselves and the time we almost died on a carriage ride. Oh yes. We saved the craziest story for last!