When Jody, Nathan and I sat down to create their Custom Ireland Itinerary, I knew their three weeks in Ireland was going to be a special experience.
Not just because these two architects had a mind for the details which my planner heart loves, but because they were focused on the little things. The everyday experiences. The walks. The landscape. The people.
They didn’t want to rush through the whole country in the three weeks they had. Instead they traveled slowly and captured a few iconic sites along with incredible walks, conversations and fun finds.
Jody has an incredible blog, which you will absolutely want to read for way more detail than what is presented here. But because these two are so fabulous, they sat down and answered a few questions about their three-week adventure along the Wild Atlantic Way for us.
Tell us a little bit about you two. Why did you two decide to go to Ireland? What were you most excited/nervous about?
I went to Ireland right after graduating high school and always wanted to take Nathan there. We had planned to go for our 10th anniversary, but we celebrated 14 years this past March, so missed it by a bit.
I was nervous about Nathan driving a stick shift on the “wrong” side of the road – but he rocked it!
We were super excited about 3 weeks to ourselves – this never happens accidentally. No kids, no work, just play and exploring.
Where did you go?
We did an abbreviated loop of the island, missing the southwest corner and Northern Ireland: Dublin, Kilkenny, then over to the west coast and up the “Wild Atlantic Way” to Donegal.
Nathan REALLY wanted to go to Giant’s Causeway and tried to shoehorn it into one of our driving days, but it was dark – which means it was really late (the sun sets around 10 pm in June) and we were hungry.
With the freedom of having a car and the relatively small size of the country, you can make each day as local or as adventurous as you like. We recommend trying both types of days.
Favorites & Why:
- Places to visit – the gardens at Kylemore Abbey. The gardens were good, but the stories about the place and the people who lived there were great. And the ½ mile walk from the manor to the gardens was calm and pretty.
- Tenement Museum in Dublin – we’re very aware of what a housing shortage can look like to a city here in Portland, so seeing how it played out for people 150 years ago was fascinating.
- We really enjoyed following the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s fairly well marked and there are info signs along the road, places to stop – small and large. Compared to an American’s idea of density and space, Ireland is FULL of historical significance and beautiful things to see. Like every 15-20 minutes on the road.
- Synge Street Airbnb in Dublin – one bedroom apartment centrally located (but not too central) and a good place to adjust to the time zone. Good breakfast place right around the corner (Meet me in the Morning).
- Lawcus Farm, for the people (Robin!) and being a hub to explore small but interesting Irish things – like round towers and abbeys and water wheels and bridges.
- Screebe House – one-night treat for halfway through the trip. No agenda for sightseeing that day for us. Amazing food, friendly atmosphere, last minute scheduling of a spa massage for Nathan’s shoulder because even when you’re left-handed, shifting with a new side is no joke.
Places you ate/drank:
- Boxty in Dublin! We saw it on Somebody Feed Phil and it more than lived up to the promise. I can still remember the goodness of that potato pancake wrapped around the chicken/bacon/cream concoction.
- This crosses over to accommodation but the breakfast at Castle Murray (Dunkeely/Donegal) was oh my goodness. The scones, the granola, the options! We were kind of done with the “full Irish” by then, but breakfast was our favorite meal of the day here.
- Screebe House – see above.
You did quite a bit of walking on your trip. Did you have a favorite? Any tips for the first timer walking in Ireland?
We weren’t too hard core – we just wanted to throw in some natural exploration with our cultural exploration.
- Walk anywhere in the Burren – they have the craziest rock formations all up and down the coast and even inland. Visiting the Poulnabrone Tomb was interesting for its Neolithic history – but even more for the rocky ground around it. We’ve never seen anything like that!
- Cinnamon buns walk – Mullaghmore Mountain. We’re originally from the rolling hills of the south, so a nice low sloped hill walk is welcome to call itself a mountain.
- Be aware that the walking guide from the 90’s you find sitting on the coffee table at the B&B might not be totally accurate. There was one point where we climbed over a fence following the walking guide’s directions and saw a warning sign for the bull… in the pasture we just finished crossing. But maybe that’s exactly the kind of unexpected day trip you’re hoping for.
- Slieve League was amazing. More effort (to get to and to hike) but no fancy shoes or trekking poles needed. Youtube “One Man’s Pass” – we made a slight detour around that bit – lower down on the non-water side of the cliffs.
- No matter how fast you think you walk, the pace of the average Dublin local will leave you in the dust.
Did you run into any fun surprises, finds, snafus or unexpected issues during your three weeks in Ireland?
The original flight was not awesome – apparently, they cancelled everyone’s seat selection for the Aer Lingus flight so there was a huge line at the desk for everyone to ask for seat assignments with their travelling companions and not end up in the middle 2 seats. We paid the extra $60+ for the economy plus seats on the way back – just to make sure we had seat assignments. Felt like a racket.
- Oh – I could have bought out the whole store at Roundstone Ceramics. It’s a place owned by a couple that have been working out of this small odd shopping center-type place since the 80’s? They have hand painted mugs and vases etc. that they fire IN the shop. I bought two of the mugs (one for home and one for work) and remember our fun trip every morning as I sip my tea.
- With a manual transmission, thankfully the break and the accelerator are not mirrored (Nathan had this last minute worry the night before we left).
- We didn’t sign up for the GPS option on the rental car, but found out we had it about 2/3rds of the way through the trip. Which was great because the travel internet was spotty every now and then.
What advice would you give family and friends heading to Ireland soon?
Make it as long as you can afford (time and money-wise). We were there for almost 3 full weeks and we had things we skipped (like Giant’s Causeway) or felt like we short changed (like the southern loop near Kilkenny). On the other hand – our trip felt like a good length for us, finishing with Newgrange and then a relaxing walk in Skerries.
Stay two nights in each place – or three if you can make it work. As mentioned above, every corner of Ireland is thick with things to do and see so you will not be bored staying for more nights in one place. Not everything is amazingly popular and impressive (like the Cliffs of Moher) but your memories of the small things will be just as rich – and maybe more.
Thanks again Jody & Nathan for working with me on your Custom Ireland Itinerary and for the peek into your three weeks in Ireland.
I am telling you, dear reader, if you like trip reports and want a few more ideas for your trip, you should head over to the Portland Orrisons to do a little more
drooling/dreaming/takingallthenotes reading about their trip.