I really loved the West of Ireland. I flew into Shannon, spent time on a walking trip of the Burren and Connamare and then rented a car and drove (my first time on the left) to Dingle, Cork, Kinsale and on to Dublin. I really enjoyed:
Ennis: Ennis, in County Clare, is a charming town with narrow winding lanes and painted storefronts. I stayed at the great Old Ground Hotel. It is known for its traditional Irish music. I enjoyed Brogans Bar and Restaurant on O’Connell Street for lunch. Cruise’s Pub was great for traditional music. I also enjoyed the Poets Corner Restaurant, attached to the Old Ground Hotel, for dinner. The town was charming and fun to explore.
Cliffs of Moher: Breathtaking cliffs of over 650 ft. that rise up from the sea. They extend for five miles and are well worth a visit. It is becoming more and more popular, so for a better experience, it best to go early or late in the day. You can now book your admission tickets on line.
Ballyvaughan is a charming fishing village. Monks Pub, now Monks Restaurant and Bar was fun for lunch.
The Burren: Exploring the Burren by walking was a great way to see it. It is a vast limestone plateau in northwest County Clare. It is very barren and desolate with few trees except the wildflower are amazing. I enjoyed seeing Poulnabrone Dolmen, a portal tomb dating back to 2,000 to 2,500 BC and an ancient ring fort. Don’t miss Corcomroe Abbey. You can also explore and follow the Burren Food Trail featuring local food producers and restaurants.
There is nothing like listening to traditional Irish music in a small village pub while drinking Jameson Irish Whiskey!! Vaughan’s Pub in Kilfenora, Co. Clare, was the best!
Corcomroe Abbey: Here you see the ruins of an early 13th-century Cistercian Monastery located north of the Burren and east of the village of Ballyvaughan.
Kinvarra: This is one of the most charming fishing villages on Galway Bay. It is colorful with a small harbor.
In Connemara, Clifden was very attractive. We stayed at the Ardagh Hotel just outside of town on the water. The seafood at the restaurant was quite gourmet. Mitchell’s Fish House Restaurant in Clifden was also good.
Omey Island: We were able to walk across a large sandy strand at low tide to Omey Island. This is a holy island and has an old monastery church ruin. The scenery and views were great.
Inishbofin: An island surrounded by reefs and islets, it has many stone walls and abandoned stone cottages. There is an old Cromwellian fort and an old monastery with old tombstones.
Rosleague Manor: This was a wonderful four star hotel with large rooms and nice antiques. The restaurant was also great. One of my favorite hotels of the trip!
Kylemore Abbey: Beautiful castle. Visitors are restricted to the grounds, restaurants and craft shop.
Killary Harbor: A lovely spot in Connemara. It is one of three glacial fjords that exist in Ireland.
Adare: Stopped by one of Ireland’s prettiest villages with colorful buildings and thatched roofs. Stop in one of the pubs for lunch!
Dingle: Dingle and Dingle Peninsula is a must. The town is popular with tourists and has brightly painted shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. I drove around the peninsula which has some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. It is a great way to spend a day. I stayed at Milltown House just outside of town. There were nice views of the harbor. It was fine for one night but I also saw and liked Benners Hotel in town which would have been nicer than being out of town. I really enjoyed my dinner at Fenton’s Restaurant in Dingle. Friends like Out of the Blue, for seafood in Dingle.
On the Dingle Peninsula drive, I saw Dunberg Fort from the Iron Age, the Blasket Center where I learned about the culture and life on the Blasket Islands off of the coast, Slea Head promontory, Gallarus Oratory on which a miniature church was built between the 6th and 9th centuries and is the earliest Christian church in Ireland.
Known for its stunning views, the Pax House is a B&B located a short distance from Dingle.
Kilarney National Park: This is a beautiful park with three lakes plus ruined castles and abbeys. I took a horse cart and toured the famous Muckross House which is a 19th century manor home overlooking the lakes.
Blarney: Seeing the famed ruin of Blarney Castle was interesting but what I really loved was Blarney Woolen Mills. It has a huge store in Blarney where I found Irish linens and Waterford crystal. I even ordered more crystal once I returned to Chicago. The prices were great!
Kinsale: Kinsale was by far one of my favorite places as it is one of the prettiest small towns in Ireland with its great harbor, attractive main street with shops and galleries, colorful cottages and great restaurants. I remember eating a crab sandwich on Irish brown bread at Kinsale Gourmet Store & Seafood Bar.
Rock of Cashel: This is a rocky stronghold rising out of the Irish countryside and was a religious center from 1101 to 1647. A good portion of the medieval complex is still standing. There is a cathedral, round tower, chapel and fort.
I met Darina Allen in a tapas bar in Spain a few years ago. I can’t wait to attend her well-known cooking school, Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork on my next trip. She is delightful! You can stay nearby at the Ballymaloe House Restaurant and Hotel.