We spent our last few days in Ireland meandering around the gems that are North Tipperary and East Clare. During the month of June, I took the time to write a little about our experiences on Facebook.
I’ve been recapping the posts here on the blog for you. This is #3/3. Did you miss the first two? No worries. :-) Here are the posts about our arrival (including traveling with a baby!) and the Dingle Peninsula.
Without further ado…
As sad as we were to leave our cozy cottage on the Dingle Peninsula, we packed up our things and headed north. Our destination was Sixmilebridge, a tiny village about 20 minutes north of the Shannon Airport. We still had a few days left in Ireland so I used this day as an opportunity to take our time and explore while we repositioned.
We left mid-morning with an entire list of things to do—several of them north of Dingle town, but still on the peninsula (Castlegregory and walks along the Maharees). Alas the weather was not our side this time as Conor Pass was entirely clouded over. We could hardly see the car park at the top to turn around let alone think about going down the other side.
Side note tip: Conor Pass gets a bad rap for being difficult to drive. Going up from Dingle town is fairly easy and there is a parking lot at the top where all the great views are. No need to traverse down the steeper and narrower side toward the north if you’re not comfortable with that quite yet.
So back down to Dingle town we went. We took the quickest route to Tralee on the N86 instead. I am glad we did because I had forgotten that there is an amazing view at a bend in the road just before Camp. And as you can see the weather was already back to blue skies about 30 minutes later.
We also stopped at Ardfert Friary, which is outside of Tralee. It’s a 13th century monastic ruin and there is a cathedral only a couple of miles away. We had it all to ourselves!
Finally we continued up the coast of County Kerry then along the Shannon Estuary. Before we found ourselves at Mount Cashel—more on that to come on Monday. Enjoy your weekend! I hope you get to do something fun!
You can only read this if you promise not to take any dates at Mount Cashel Lodge that we may want in the future. ?
The final place we stayed was Mount Cashel Lodge just outside of the village of Sixmilebridge. It’s in a fantastic location, north of the Shannon Airport, south of Ennis and west of Lough Derg. You know it’s in a good spot when the directions tell you to turn right “at the castle.”
I looked for a place we could make a base close to the Shannon Airport for our return flight, but I also wanted somewhere that we could explore for our last couple of days. It worked out perfectly for both.
We stayed in Lodge 1 which is a converted coach house—as you can see in the photos we were in want of nothing here. I loved the airy rooms and the exposed beams and you can bet I definitely took advantage of the patio when Alexander was napping. Unfortunately I did not get to use the trampoline (ha!) but I did enjoy a cup of tea on the pier while cute baby cows grazed nearby.
Like everywhere else we stayed, they also had a Pack ‘n Play (known as a Travel Cot in Ireland) and a high chair for us. Pat was a fantastic host and a delight to chat with. My only regret is that we didn’t have longer to stay (Ok, super cliché thing to say I know, but it’s true. I promise).
Of course we paid for this place along with everything else in Ireland ourselves. I don’t accept sponsored posts or payments for reviews. I just generally like to spread the word about great places we find.
One spot I knew I wanted to check out while we were in Sixmilebridge was Quin Abbey. It’s one of those places I have talked about many times with people I work one-on-one with but hadn’t actually experienced it myself. We had a beautiful day to explore so we hopped in the car and drove about 15 minutes to the sleepy town of Quin.
The Friary is a 13th century site in the middle of the town and there is parking on the street. It’s a neat place to walk around. I think the reason why I liked it so much (and many other sites like it) is because while it is an OPW Heritage site, it is also still a place where people are laid to rest next to their kin who passed many, many years before.
I said a little prayer as we walked past a marker of a woman who had died just days before we arrived. She was laid next to her husband who had been buried there for decades already. While quite saddened by the fresh soil on the ground, I thought that she must be happy to be with her hubby once again.
Goodness. You didn’t see that coming did you? Death and dying in your Facebook feed. Gosh. Me either. Enough sad stuff! The friary is beautiful. You should visit.
There is also this fantastic little tea shop right across from the entrance called Quinn’s Tea Rooms. If I were flying into Shannon and feeling a little peckish, but wanted to dive right into seeing something, I would stop here for bite to eat and explore the Friary before moving on with my day. We had lunch but I suspect that it would be as delicious for breakfast (and those pies! Yumm!!).
On my own admission, the midlands are my weakest knowledge area of Ireland. This is primarily because we just haven’t spent much time there. That is going to change.
As we were traveling around Lough Derg, I kept thinking to myself how much I’ve missed all these years. The hills are extra puffy like someone put a pillow underneath the already rolling hills. Lough Derg was captivating. It’s not necessarily tranquil more like it was alive, full of life and excitement, begging to be sailed/paddled/swimmed (I’ll put a video of the water at Mountshannon Harbor in the comments so you can see what I mean). I’ve had more than one person mention this is where the Irish go for a weekend getaway. I totally get it.
We drove all around the lake and hit up a few sites like Portumna Friary and several scenic look out points, but there is far more that we didn’t get to see (like Brian Boru’s Fort, the Irish Workhouse, Portumna Castle and about 12 dozen other things). We stopped off at Larkin’s Bar for a yummy evening dinner in Garrykennedy before heading back to Sixmilebridge with a sleeping baby in the backseat. Ahh to be there now…
Hat tip to Irish Fireside Tullaun Castle Tony2Phones for this leg of the trip. Their posts and recommendations (whether they know it or not) sparked an interest in exploring this area. I really can’t wait to get back. Follow them if you aren’t already. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
On our very last day in Ireland we did something really special. Something I was looking forward to the entire trip to Ireland. We went to a castle. I know, I know. There are hundreds of castles in Ireland and we’ve been to quite a few of them. Why was this one so special? This one has our name in a window.
What?? I know. Eeee!!!
Ok so here is the back story. I’ve been working with Sonja and Kevin for almost two years now. They are an amazing couple doing amazing things—specifically they are restoring a 16th century tower house castle in the rolling hillsides of North Tipperary. Let that just sink for a second. Restoring a castle. By themselves. Seriously. #Lifegoals
I had been stalking their Facebook page for a while and then I remembered that people behind Facebook pages are real people (like me! Hi, I’m Stephanie). So I decided to reach out to them to see if I could help. We started donating a little to their castle restoration fund each time I worked with an Ireland travel coaching client. It hasn’t been much, but it has been fun seeing the progress and knowing that we’ve been a part of it just the tiniest little bit. Anyway, last year they did a big Indiegogo campaign and one of the “rewards” for donating was an etching in one of the castle windows. So neat!
Beyond having our names in a window (which might be reason enough for anyone to visit), touring the castle is basically the coolest thing we did in Ireland. If you aren’t familiar with tower house castles, they are typically lived in floor by floor. The bottom floor might be storage or a place for animals, the next might be living space, the next, bedroom, etc. Sonja and Kevin are working their way through each level meticulously preserving the castle back to its original form.
You guys. It is amazing. They have the Great Hall completed with not only floors and ceilings and walls, but a huge fireplace and period furniture that can only be described as immediately transporting you to the 16th century. Yet it is light and airy and somehow homey too. They have been very careful not to “over restore” so that you get the real authentic feel of being in a true castle. With as many updates as they will eventually finish, there will always just be candle light and firelight in the Great Hall. I love it (ha, can you tell?).
On top of it all (as if that isn’t enough), Sonja and Kevin and their lovable dog, Tilly, are a true delight. Sonja and I hit it off from the very first email two years ago. I knew we would get on swimmingly, but we ended up chatting for hours. If we didn’t have Alexander I have a feeling the conversation would have ended at the pub for dinner and a pint. ? ? ?
There are way better photos on their AirBnB page (mostly because I was too busy chatting than taking pics). If you are going to be in Ireland in August, you can stay in the Great Hall for a night if you can snag one of the weekends open. All the proceeds will go directly back into the castle renovations. I am so jealous I’m not one of them. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/18193217?s=51
Pretty much the best last day in Ireland. ?
Thanks so much for following along with me this month. It has been so much fun sharing our experiences with you. I thought I would leave you with a few fun (perhaps random) things we did/ate/saw. Descriptions are on each photo.
As always if you have a question or two about planning your trip to Ireland feel free to email/message me. I’ll be gearing back up for travel coaching soon (my “behind the scenes” projects are slowly coming to fruition! I can’t wait to share them with you!). Thanks again for being a part of our Ireland travels!
Hanging out with mom on our “secret’ beach (Wine Strand, Dingle Peninsula)
Joe smelling the calla lilies (my favorite flower!) behind St. Mary’s Church in Dingle town.
Seriously does this view from our little snug at Tigh TP in Ballydavid get any better? Plus seafood here…sooo good!
Alexander liked our snug too (by the way a snug is a small room off to the side of a bar where women could drink back in the day). — at Tigh TP.
I just loved this display of eggs at the Dingle Tesco. I always think you get one of the best educations about a country’s culture in a grocery store. Also, the eggs were huge and delicious! — in Dingle, Ireland.
Having fun with mommy’s scarf! — in Ballyferriter.
A very windy day on the beach! — in Ballyferriter
Cathair na BhFionńúrach, a stone fort just under Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula. If you feel like you are traveling down a farmer’s road to get to this, then you are on the right path. :-) This site has a great description of it: http://irisharchaeology.ie/2013/09/an-ancient-stone-fort-on-the-dingle-peninsula-cathair-na-bhfionnurach/ — in Ballynavenooragh, Kerry, Ireland.
Murphy’s Pub in Ballyferriter. Go, you will not be disappointed. :-) Pictured here is seafood curry with monk fish, sea bass and salmon. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? :-) Joe had the duck. It was amazing.
The lovely Dingle Harbor (even in the fog).
Hey, I know that guy! Joe getting haircut in Dingle.
Loved this little spot in Dingle town. Its a casual lunch breakfast/lunch place. The staff were fantastic, entertaining Alexander while Joe and I ate and even making special arrangements to change his diaper upstairs since there wasn’t a spot in the restroom. The food was super fresh and delicious too! I highly recommend!
Even the cows didn’t want us to leave. :-)
Thanks so much for traveling along with us to North Tipperary and East Clare! I hope these stories help you plan a few new experiences on your next trip to the Emerald Isle. Any hot spots we missed? Feel free to share in the comments. There is always next time!