IRELAND: FATHER AND SON

I told my Dad as his Christmas 2018 gift I would take him anywhere in the world he wanted to go, and he chose Ireland (his family lineage stems from the southwest part of the country). Admittedly, this was not high atop my list of places to visit (while I did at some point want to get there), but his wish was my objective, so I set out to make this an incredible experience for us both.

THANKS FOR COLLEGE DAD. HERE’S A TRIP TO YOUR MOTHERLAND:

PLANNING:

If you’ve been reading about my adventures thus far, you know I have used some travel services and guides for some locales and have also done some research on my own and kind of “winged it,” too. This trip, however, would need to meet my own lofty expectations as Dad has taken me on some pretty amazing trips (Labrador, Amsterdam, Alaska). So, I contracted the services of Stephanie at Infinite Ireland (https://www.infiniteireland.com) who after a call and a TON of emails, put together an extremely comprehensive guide of where to stay, what to do, where to eat, things we have to see and even people to help us accomplish this along the way. For what I thought was an extremely reasonable price we were well on our way, custom 15+ page instruction manual in hand. Stephanie, her services, and her dedication to creating an incredible experience for her clients in Ireland is well worth whatever she charges.

I’M NOT DRIVING…

The next decision was how to navigate our voyage, beginning in Shannon and travelling north and east to Dublin with a multitude of stops along the way. We could: a.) rent a car, fight over who “got” to drive (on the wrong side of VERY narrow roads), and the most efficient way to see everything we hoped to experience, OR, b.) hire a driver/guide. Dad and I agreed that the longevity of our relationship would be benefitted by a third party host and navigator, and thanks again to Stephanie, we hired Ronan from GanTours (info@gantours.ie) who met us at the Shannon Airport as we deplaned in his shiny and spacious Mercedes tour vehicle and became our welcome wagon and designated driver in Ireland for the next three days. Ronan is everything you would want in a tour guide: he was prompt, organized, extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and it was clear he was highly invested in our enjoyment of his country.

WHERE TO SLEEPOFF OUR HANGOVERS

We decided we would need two different accommodations: one on the western side of Ireland from which we would tour for half of our stay, and a hotel in Dublin. The latter was easier to decide on, as, well, Dublin is a large, modern city with options galore. As for the more rural portion of our visit, we chose Doolin and The Sea View House bed and breakfast as our base of operations (thanks, again, Stephanie). Here we reserved an almost pristine, newly remodeled two-bedroom house (a portion of a house which is now divided into two suites) complete with a kitchen, living room, outdoor patio, and separate bedrooms and bathrooms. This property is just down the road from the primary bed and breakfast but offered all of the same amenities as the main location (breakfast delivered each morning, cleaning service, etc.). We LOVED this place and found Doolin to be picturesque, quaint, and well positioned for our exploration to follow. I highly recommend Seaview! Naill and Darra are the proprietors and they were welcoming and helpful. Doolin proper is steps away with restaurants and bars, including Gus O’Connor’s Pub where we may have had our favorite meal of the trip.

Ronan picked Dad and me up from Seaview each day and drove us to see the sights, before returning us to Doolin in the evening for this part of the trip. (In Dublin, we fended for ourselves, but not before Ronan generously gave us a detailed driving tour of Dublin)

For Dublin I chose the Westbury Hotel near Temple Bar. It was a more traditional “high end” hotel property. I wouldn’t say it “felt” like Dublin, per say, while it was well appointed and highly recommended by travel sites and travelers alike. The location was central and near to all of the sights, shopping and restaurants, and the service was tremendous. I loved the lobby bar and the property’s proximity to stuff we wanted to see and do, but you could probably spend less and be just as happy. This is NOT to say don’t stay there, but, if you’re budget conscious you can save by choosing another place to sleep.

JUST GIVE ME THE ITINERAY, ALREADY

One more thanks to super-guide Ronan, as at the end of our time with him he provided me with a rundown of how we spent our two and a half days with him. This meant that I didn’t have to take notes. If you’re going to explore Ireland in just 4 days and choose to do so by navigating it in a similar manner, we were really satisfied with the following itinerary (and, yes, of course we missed stuff, but I felt we were efficient given our timeframe and the essentiality of eating and drinking fully at every opportunity):

Day 1 –

Arrive Shannon, scenic drive via Ennis town, Corofin, Limhnemanagh Castle ruin, pass by Caherconnaill stone circle and sheep herding, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Ailwee caves and Bird of Prey attractions. Stop Ballyvaughan at Tea Room Cafe, drive Black Head coastal drive to Lisdoonvarna. Lunch Roadside Tavern. Check into accommodation. Afternoon visit Cliffs of Moher. Evening Gus O’Connors for food in Doolin.

Day 2 –

Tour south past Lehinch (Lahinch), Miltown Malbay (Statue of Uilleann Pipes player), Quilty, Trump International Hotel to Kilkee town (Che Guevara connection). Drive via Carrigaholt village, Kilbaha to Loop Head Lighthouse. From there, visit Bridges of Ross (short walk) then Kilkee Cliffs. Lunch Kilrush at Crottys Bar. Return to Doolin via Ennistymon. Evening dinner at Vaughan’s Anchor Inn.

Day 3 – (on the way to Dublin)

Depart Doolin via Lisdoonvarna, corkscrew hill, Ballyvaughan, Kinvara (picture of Galway Hooker Boats) motorway to Dublin. Stop off at Sean’s Bar dating from 901AD in Athlone town. Continue to Dublin. Tour through city seeing Guinness, Micheal Collins Military Museum, Jameson area, lunch Brazen Head Pub. Continue by St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Temple at, St Stephens Green, Merrion Square (Oscar Wilde Statue). Trinity College, O’Connell Street, Parnell Square to Hotel. 

Once in Dublin we walked to most of what is mentioned above to see it up close including the Trinity Library (BUY TICKETS AHEAD ONLINE AND SAVE A TON OF TIME!). We took the Jameson tour in Dublin, visited the Guinness factory and Gravity Bar with its’ incredible views of Dublin, and checked out the variety of vibrantly painted doors in Merrion Square. No two are alike, and each door is registered to ensure a lack of repetition.

WHERE TO “REFUEL AND HYDRATE” (EAT AND DRINK EXCESSIVELY)

I was told ahead of the trip not to expect much from the food in Ireland, but I was pleasantly surprised. I suppose some of it could have used a little more salt, but this is coming from the American who eats salt-bombed food, daily.

In Dublin we dined at a variety of pubs and restaurants, all of which we liked for different reasons:

Brazen Head Pub: Ireland’s oldest pub. It is definitely a tourist attraction, but the food was delicious, and it was my favorite place for fish and chips (and I ate that for lunch everyday)


The Bank (https://www.bankoncollegegreen.com): We ate dinner one night at the bar. This place is as advertised: an old bank. It has a beautiful dining room and the food was updated Irish and was tasty.

The Hairy Lemon (thehairylemon.ie): You can’t miss the place as it is bright yellow. This pub was energetic and fun, and the beer and food were on point. We also experienced some live, traditional Irish music here, as well.

VCC (Vintage Cocktail Club: https://vintagecocktailclub.com): A friend told me to have drinks here, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll miss it. There is no sign, only some letters on a door and a bell to ring. Once inside, enjoy mixologist prepared cocktails in a “speakeasy,” 1920’s inspired venue. I loved it. My Dad, who drinks Jameson, neat, was less impressed. Make a reservation.

WE DONE?

In all? My favorite part of this trip aside from the memories made with my Dad, was the Irish countryside. Sure, The Cliffs of Moher and Trinity Library were stunning, but I am talking about the normal farmland and geology of western Ireland. A few snapshots in my mind are as beautiful as anything I have on which I’ve laid eyes: colorful, relatively undeveloped, vintage and historic, fresh and rolling. When you make it to Ireland, don’t just go to Dublin, make sure you see what’s outside the city limits. Ireland should have been higher on my list and is one of the first I can’t wait to revisit.

Enjoy my photos below! Thanks for reading and follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more on my journeys: FredOnAir. Now, on to the next…

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