Author: Alyssa Johnson
Date of Trip: June 2016
Traveling in Ireland met and exceeded all of my expectations. The country is beautiful, the Irish are so friendly and the craic is always good.
Added bonus: Using and hearing the word craic regularly in conversation with no relation to drugs.
Ireland was great and road tripping our way around gave us flexibility and more time for exploring. Not to mention it was warm and sunny almost every single day. We were even told that summer rarely ever lasts this long in Ireland. And by ‘this long,’ I mean it had been less than a week. So, we got pretty darn lucky.
We started in Galway and made a U-shape, through Kerry to Killarney, over to Cork, down to Tramore, up to Kilkenny, Glendalough and finished the week in Dublin. Whew.
We also stopped at plenty of places in-between. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as exhausting as it may appear in writing. We never felt rushed and had time to enjoy every stop along the way.
Here are the highlights of our road trip. It ranges from big cities to tiny villages and from the mountains to the coast. I would highly recommend driving this route and visiting each of these places!
Day 1: Athlone, Galway & Upper Salthill
We planned on starting in Galway but the round-trip flights from Dublin were dirt cheap (thanks Ryanair!). So, we flew into Dublin Airport and adjusted accordingly. After landing early on Wednesday morning, we picked up a rental car and set out towards the west coast.
Conveniently enough, I had recently stumbled upon a fun fact about an Irish pub. Sean’s Bar, in Athlone (just about halfway between Dublin and Galway) is the oldest pub in Europe. Dating back to 900 A.D., the pub is still thriving and we had to check it out.
It was worth the stop. The old bar was practically breathing antiquity. The walls are covered with ancient artifacts and the floor sprinkled with sawdust. The bartender was friendly and the sunny beer garden was the perfect place for our first pint of Guinness.
We wandered along the river for a while before lunch and then we were back on the road to Galway with our new friend, Dustin…from Kansas City! No joke. The only other person in this little pub in the middle of Ireland was from the same city as me. How do these things happen?! Anyway, he needed a ride and we were driving that way.
After saying goodbye to Dustin, we wandered around Galway and caught an impressive street music performance before checking into our Guesthouse in Upper Salthill.
Oslo Bar: The home of Galway Bay Brewery. If you’re a craft beer fan, this bar is a must. Tons of craft beer, great food (even for vegetarians) and outdoor seating.
O’Connor’s Famous Pub: They have live music during the week and at the very least, it’s worth checking out the quirky, eclectic decorations that fill the pub.
Day 2: Galway to Killarney & Cliffs of Moher
We took the coastal road to the Cliffs of Moher and wandered around soaking in the views. Then we continued on to the town Ennis, where we stopped for lunch and popped into Ireland’s best coffee house on our way out. Suas Coffee House uses coffee beans directly from Bolivia, resulting in the best mocha ever (so I heard). But they also served matcha! It was the first and only time I found matcha during this trip and it did not disappoint.
We arrived in Killarney in the late afternoon, checked into our next Guesthouse and made our way into the city center for dinner and an evening filled with live music.
McSorley’s Bar & Night Club: I’m not a big fan of night clubs but this place was too much fun. The cover band, Switch, was incredible and merged from one song to the next without stopping in between.
Killarney National Park: We spent the next morning/afternoon cycling around the national park and it was stunning and a trip highlight for sure. Renting bikes was a great way to see a lot and get some exercise at the same time.
Muckross Abbey: A stunning Abbey within Killarney National Park
Day 3: Killarney National Park & Cork
After the afternoon of cycling around the National Park and exploring the sites within it, we were off to Cork. We spent these next four nights staying in Air B&B’s and it has been such a game changer for me. I’ve had so many great experiences with them!
We spent the evening walking around Cork, dined at an amazing vegetarian restaurant and soaked in some sunshine in the grass, drink-in-hand.
Quay Co-Op: An artsy vegetarian restaurant with amazing food! Even the meat-eater loved it