Castle Road Trip in Ireland – Part 2

After exploring Dublin, Sligo, and the precious city of Galway, we’re off to take in some of Ireland’s mystical destinations!

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Day 4 – The Burren National Park and Cliffs of Moher to Adare (F – G)

The Burren National Park

I attempted to plan our trip to the Cliffs and the Burren, but since there seemed like too much to cover and we were limited on time, I decided to do a tour. I went with the Burren and Cliffs of Moher tour, where a local guide would walk us through a “maze of archeological and historical sites.”

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In reality, it felt like we walked up a hill, made a wish on a fairy tree, walked down, said hello to a goat, and paid for cake and hot chocolate. While the cake was yummy and our tour guide was knowledgeable, this “maze” wasn’t what I came to see. I was really disappointed, feeling like I had missed out on a better moment connecting with the Burren. If you take a Burren/ Cliffs tour, I would suggest doing one where you have the opportunity to swap this “Burren Walk” out for a visit to the caves or something else.

After the walk, we were dropped off in the heart of the Burren. The Burren National Park had a glacio-karst landscape with more than 90 megalithic tombs. The limestone formed 350 million years ago and suffered from a glacial period, causing this fascinating cracked-stone landscape. On the day I was lucky enough to see it, fog gently grazed the stones, setting a dramatic scene photographers could only dream of.

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We made our way to the Poulnabrone Dolmen. The “hole of sorrows” was a megalithic tomb dating back to around 2500 BC. There are some places in this world that move you, without knowing why or understanding its history. This was definitely one of them. It’s hard for me to explain what happened inside of me exactly, but I felt overwhelmed, like I was in the presence of something incredibly important to our world. I had a difficult time leaving, as I wanted to stay lingering in its beautiful intensity. I doubted that I would see anything like it again in my lifetime.

The Cliffs of Moher

The panoramic of the Atlantic Ocean meeting these majestic cliffs was an image I would always fondly remember. It had rained earlier that day, and the fog managed to cover most of our visibility but I believed it added to cliff’s dramatic nature. There was a grandness sure to make you feel so small yet blessed to be a part of it.

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My boyfriend and I strolled over to the castle, and happened to see two four-leaf clovers in the same green patch. I read that the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are one in a thousand, convincing me that the two rare leaves together were a sign – that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

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Dunguaire Castle

This castle in Kinvara was built around 1520, giving it that good ol’ rustic charm. You wouldn’t spend much time here but if it were nearby, it’d be a beautiful place to take a thirty-minute break and a gorgeous picture or two.

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Adare Manor

Pulling up to our next castle, Adare Manor, was a memory in itself. Not only was the manor spectacular but there seemed to be other details to discover. The red vines that decorated the back, the swans that glided down the adjacent river, and the colorful gardens all added their part with an interior qualified to match.

This was by far the most amazing place I had ever stayed. Every inch of the dazzling manor felt enchanted, like the historical furniture could come alive at any moment.  During my stay I felt super rich. Not Kim Kardashian rich but old school Rockefeller rich.  Despite our normie status we were treated like the royalty who once roamed these chandelier-filled halls.

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We were going to have dinner in Limerick but a local told us not to, since it was a “dodgy” place. We opted for the more relaxed Carriage House restaurant in the manor. I apologized to my entree but this badass sundae, pictured below, was the only thing I remembered about my meal. My entree should understand, as this sundae was the prettiest icy treat to have ever graced my presence.

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Breakfast was included and worth it just to have the toast holders. Who knew individual slices could be shown off so beautifully? The menu was filled with mouth-watering options leaving our stomachs feeling spoiled. Our table was next to the window, reflecting the breathtaking courtyard.

The Adare Manor, the perfect middle point, gave us a convenient drive to some incredible destinations in Western Ireland. I soon realized the West Coast was the best coast, and although Dublin was nice to see, I’d be fine missing it on any future Ireland trip. Dublin just didn’t leave an immediate impression on me like Galway and it’s intimate surrounding towns. When we return, I’d like to experience this castle again as my rich-spirited home base.

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Craic at Bill Chawke’s

Bill Chawke’s was a deceivingly small pub that somehow could fit the whole town and then some in the back patio. They had both live music and DJs. The night we went the town was celebrating a sport’s related victory, and boy this place had craic overload. When you think of stereotypical drunk Irishmen, you might think of happy people exchanging stories, singing to the top of their lungs while pounding their feet into the wooden floor, shaking down the place. Your imagination would be correct. While fancy pubs are nice to look at, they’re not what would make your night memorable. The Irish are truly the greatest people alive, and somehow even more so after they’ve had a few pints. Bill Chawkes was probably a mediocre bar but I certainly didn’t’ notice.

Day 5 – Blarney Castle and Cork (H – I)

Blarney Castle

A friend of mine skipped this because she thought it might be overrated. It’s definitely not and you could seriously enjoy it for a good half day. Where else could you lean off a tower, kiss a stone and receive the “gift of gab?” Besides obtaining my new super power, the castle mostly in ruins, amazed me. Each room had its own vast story to tell. The most interesting of which being the eerie underground labyrinth of tunnels and chambers in the dungeons. My pictures unfortunately didn’t do it justice.

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Aside from the glorious castle, the grounds were exquisite. There were a few different paths to take, giving you the opportunity to visit various gardens, and waterfalls. Any picnic basket would be honored to touch a nook on this estate. We paid a visit to an ancient sacrificial alter, a Druid’s Circle, the Witch Stone, the Witch’s Kitchen, and the Wishing Steps. Supposedly, if you walked backwards down and back up the dangerous steps while thinking of your wish, it would come true within a year. My wish hasn’t come true yet, but I know my near-death efforts of blindly stumbling down slippery rocks will soon be recognized. If faeries did exist, the rich and famous ones definitely resided here. There’s definitely something in Blarney’s air, making it easy to get lost in the enchantment.

Cork

I heard that Cork was an underrated city, which I was initially excited about. We had lunch at the English Market, a colorful indoor market flowing with local produce, cheeses, puddings, and of course delicious pastries. We ate in the cafe upstairs overlooking this lively place. Despite its name, the food didn’t taste “English,” and was actually tasty.

After lunch we explored the city and shops, but after an hour we unfortunately felt underwhelmed. This city was just missing something other Irish destinations naturally exuberated. If I had the choice again, I would have opted for Cobh or Killarney.

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Balleybeg Priory

We were so fortunate to spot this priory on the right side of the road, driving back from Cork. These 13th century ruins were exquisite and free to explore about. There were some ruins that are gated, but it made me happy to know that some aren’t and yet still graffiti free.


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Dinner and live music at Sean Collins Bar

I didn’t remember much about the food here, good or bad, but I remembered the small folk band, who made my night heartfelt.

Day 6 – Rock of Cashel and Jameson Distillery (J – K)

The Rock of Cashel

“Thin places” were said to be spots where a divine presence was a little closer to earth. Like Stonehenge, the Rock of Cashel was an intense mystical experience, making its visitors overwhelmed by the holy ground. Pulling up to Tipperary road, I gasped at the ancient medieval structures on the hill. The surrounding cemetery complimented its magnificent grandeur. We hopped onto a tour, hearing some amazing stories of the cathedral and twelfth century tower – battles and heartbreaking defeats. While the Rock of Cashel was an impressive sight to remember, it was really a thin place to be felt, maybe even making the cynic believe in a higher power.

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Jameson Distillery Bow Street | Smithfield Village, Dublin 7, Ireland

By the time we made our way to Jameson, we had already developed a deep respect for Irish Whisky. When previously asking the bar tenders for a Jameson/ diet, we received the two substances separately. We now understood that it was a travesty to mix soda with a glass of Irish love.

The Jameson Distillery was both fascinating in aesthetics and history. We were fortunate enough to get picked for a free taste testing. Whisky enthusiasts would be sure to fall in love with their gift shop, containing special reserves and the finest gold and black labels. Since then, I’m proud to say we always have a bottle of imported Jameson in our decanter, connecting to this amazing place if only for a moment, splashing soda very infrequently.

Gallagher’s Boxy House

Gallaghers was a restaurant where we happily indulged in savory Boxty pancakes and dumplings. Now having the gift of gab, we started talking to two sister travelers at the table next to us. We shared stories and experiences and our yummy food when it came. I wore a plaid dress that day and Americans kept walking up to me, hoping to talk with an Irish girl. They looked slightly disappointed when they found out my dress wasn’t in fact traditional. However, it’s truly beautiful that this country really encourages friendship.  You somehow become open, letting go of intimidation and personal space. My motto became, “Don’t take candy from strangers, unless you’re in Ireland.”

Temple Bar

Temple Bar Street, probably the most energetic area in Dublin, beckoned for our company. The Temple Bar Pub was a charming loud tourist trap that I couldn’t pull myself away from. The soulful live music hypnotized me and everywhere I looked, cheerful people were getting giddy. The atmosphere, though a little snug, was well worth the crowds.


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To be honest, we ended up getting sloppy at Temple Bar. If our new Irish friends knew, they would be rather disappointed, but we were new to their level of tolerance. In any rate, this was my intended bar hop, based on general consensus opinions. Hopefully someone more worthy could use it:

The Quays Bar – O’Donoghue’s – Messrs Maguire – The Porterhouse – Whelan’s – The Village – Against the Grain

Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Our last castle stay was unfortunately at another fake impostor castle outside of Dublin. Again, I would have skipped this and stayed in the city. It was nice but didn’t offer any sort of experience and the drive was too far from anything appealing.

Day 7 – Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and Departure

Lime Tree Café

We enjoyed a yummy breakfast and a great pot of fresh tea directly across the street from the jail.

Kilmainham Gaol – Inchicore Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland

The tour of this historical gaol (still pronounced like jail) transported us to another time, when the charged were actually treated like criminals. Our guide did a fantastic job explaining some of the occupants’ stories and their horrifying conditions. I daydreamed only to wonder how we could start using it again for the deserving few.

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Unfortunately, that was the last stop of our adventure. We reluctantly returned our car and the Dan Dooley shuttle dropped us off at our terminal.

As we stood in the airport whiskey taste testing, sadness settled in. We soon would be leaving good craic, enchantments, and talks with strangers. Streets with no names would become defined.

We sighed and my Irishman asked, “Can we stay? Can we figure out a way to live here?”

My background probably wouldn’t find a means here but I would’ve exchanged it to become a turf burner. “We’ll be back,” I said with certainty.

“You promise?”

I knew one day my soul would need to reconnect and I’d find myself here without a GPS. Besides, I didn’t get the chance to see the Ring of Kerry or the Giant’s Causeway. “I promise,” I said with a sad smile. I looked at my claddagh ring and hoped the four-leaf clover drying out in my wallet would bring me enough luck to board another Aer Lingus plane.

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