A Beautiful Ring of Southern Ireland

It took us approximately eleven minutes to drive from Derry into Donegal in Southern Ireland. If even that. Suddenly the units on the road signs changed to kilometres and currency into euros. But luckily driving is still on the left side in Southern Ireland. I guess they figured it would be too confusing otherwise. Another big change I noted was the amount of tractors.

We seriously saw about one hundred of them all driving along the side of road. Who knows why?

After a massive day of driving (our longest day of the whole week), we finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher just in time for dusk. It felt good to walk off our sore bums.


This cow guarded our car parked for free on the side of the road


This is my ‘trying not to fall off the cliff’ pose

A nosy cow along the cliffs


Some rock art. The challenge was the amount of bravery/stupidity in how close you built your art to the cliff edge

Both me and Steve agreed the Cliffs of Moher were more impressive than the Giant’s Causeway. We were lucky enough to have a clear day as the cliffs are often misty. Plus we liked that the National Trust wasn’t in charge of this site. It had a similar setup with the parking right next to the cliff access costing something like €5-6 per person (which includes entry to the visitor centre). Or you can park for free on the side of the road 10-15 minutes walk away, and enjoy the public right of free access to the cliffs law.

We spent a couple of hours walking along the clifftops. They were so spectacular that neither of us realised how long we’d been there until it was suddenly dark. We drove to our nearby hostel in Shannon feeling dog tired after such a long driving day.

The next day we spent driving the Ring of Kerry. The Ring is a circular road 179 kilometres long in the Kerry County that passes through some rather beautiful Irish countryside.


So green. Reminds me of home. This is Torc Waterfall


Steve found a ruined castle


And then we found a lighthouse. What. A. View!


Steve’s mascot for the trip – Mr Bobblehead


‘That looks deep’


Skellig Michael – a 6th century Irish monastery is in the distance on those two remote islands


One of the views while taking a short-cut through the mountains in the middle of the ring


Driving though Ballaghbeama Gap


Our ride for the week 


Running out of daylight. This was the view in Glengarriff

After we finished circling Kerry’s Ring, and run out of ring jokes, we headed down to the south of Ireland to Sheep’s Head Peninsula in Cork County to where we’d booked our very own Airbnb apartment. The place we stayed in was fantastic. I highly recommend it. Very isolated in a beautiful setting. Views over the sea to one side and surrounded by hiking trails. The link to the listing is at the bottom of this post if you’re interested.

We spent the next day relaxing, walking, and having a car-free day. It was just what we both needed after the long driving hours over the last few days.

 


The lighthouse on the very tip of the peninsula

Okay we did cheat and do one small drive to get groceries




The view from our apartment

Our time on Sheep’s Head Peninsula was over far too quickly and we headed up to Dublin for my last night in Ireland. We stopped at a cute tearoom in Cork called The Workshop for lunch. They had pet chickens in the carpark :D

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Unfortunately I forgot all about the Blarney Stone which is near Cork so didn’t go visit it. Perhaps on my next visit to Ireland I’ll remember to squeeze it in.

Dublin was only a quick overnight stop. By the time we’d arrived at our accommodation, had a nap and caught a bus into the centre, the attractions were already closed for the night. We had a final meal together in Temple Bar. One of the most memorable meals of the whole trip for me that I ate so much that I couldn’t move without pain for a few hours afterwards. It was a big food baby. But the meal was sooooo delicious that I couldn’t not finish it. It was also too delicious to stop and photograph it.

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The only photo I took in Dublin of River Liffey.

My flight was at a stupidly early time the next day. Waking up to the dreaded alarm at 4am in the morning reminded me that it is indeed worth paying more for a later flight to have a sleep in. I was also really sad to leave! Ireland is surprisingly big and Steve and I had only covered a tiny fraction. One week was nowhere near enough. I had been super lucky with the weather the whole time too. A fact that Steve kept pointing out. Sunshine is not normal Irish weather apparently.

There were a few tears at the airport and sad hugs. Goodbyes suck. I was very tempted to miss my flight after such a great week. Steve had made it very special and showed me the benefits of travelling with a local. He could actually understand the other Irish people when they talked! But as any traveller knows, the open road calls.

And I must answer.

 

 


 

Where we stayed (first night): Ferry House Hostel Tarbert (in Shannon)
Price: €15 per person in an eight bed dorm
Overall: Great just for an overnight stop. Probably not so great for anything more than that. But it was clean and warm. And we had the dorm room to ourselves. Bonus!

Where we stayed (second and third night): An Airbnb house on Sheep’s Head Peninsula
Price: £30 (at the time) a night for the whole apartment
Overall: Fantastic place. I highly recommend it. Good value for money and the isolated peacefulness made it feel like a wee getaway. The views are really to die for. Check out the listing here.

Where we stayed (fourth night): Marilyn Mansion
Price: €50 for two adults in a twin room
Overall: One of the great things about having a travelling companion is being able to split room costs which makes private rooms suddenly comparable with dorm room prices. This hotel was basic but again absolutely fine for a short stay.

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Hiking in Northern Ireland

One super cheap Ryanair flight later and I was in Ireland. As much as I’m not a fan of the dreaded Ryanair with their strict rules and steep fines, it is hard to resist some of the deals. For September the majority of flights from the United Kingdom to Dublin were priced under £20. Gez. Guess I had to visit Ireland now.

I was picked up by my Irish mate Steve and we were away on my second roadtrip of the year. We headed north to Steve’s home territory for the first couple of nights.


Some sheep by a dam on the first evening. My first hint that Ireland might be rather pretty


We went hiking up Northern Ireland’s highest mountain – Slieve Donard. I think Steve was trying to kill me


We ate a picnic with this view on our way up the mountain


Aw pretty Steve!

It was a little bit foggy at the top


The Titanic museum in Belfast is most definitely worth a visit


Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s more fun if you bounce across to the island


Then we headed to the Giant’s Causeway. This is the view from above if you walk along the cliffs


Up close it becomes much more impressive


Sitting in the wishing chair


Mandatory selfie


The view walking back to the car was gasp-worthy


A giant sunset

Some issues that we had with the Giant’s Causeway is the lack of parking. Well there is parking at the visitor’s centre, but with a price tag of £8 per person, we weren’t so keen to park there. Access to the cliffs and causeway itself is free as per Ireland’s public right of access laws. But the way the National Trust have set up the site next to the cliffs and strictly enforce no parking on the sides of the surrounding roads.. well there isn’t many happy reviews on Trip Advisor about them. The set-up makes it look like you have to pay to see the cliffs when in fact you don’t. Even if you don’t care about the visitor centre, you still gotta pay the steep £8 pp just to park. We ended up parking in a nearby pub (with a promise that we would buy a drink post-cliffs) and then walked over the visitors centre’s roof to get to the cliffs. My opinion of the National Trust was significantly lowered that day. I’m sure anyone else who has visited will agree too.

But that was the end of our sight-seeing in Northern Island. We went to sleep that night in Derry ready for the drive into Southern Ireland the next day.


Where did we stay: In various places belonging to Steve’s family for free! Perks of travelling with a local ;)