Drive to Cobh
This morning we checked out of our hotel and headed towards Cobh. We had a lot of ground to cover today on our way back to Dublin to catch our flight early Saturday morning.
We had been pondering how they kept the roadside hedges so perfectly trimmed in Ireland. As he headed out of Kenmare, we got stopped in two hedge trimming zones. Workers stopped traffic as a big tractor with spinning blades cut the grass. It was like a vertical lawnmower on the end of an arm of a tractor!
We stopped to pickup lunch at a gas station cafe in Ballymakeery where we got a nice quiche and scone to share between us. Once we got to Cork, the highways got wider and busier, similar to what we were used to back home.
We ate our lunch by the ornate gazebo in John F. Kennedy Park by the water. A raven perched next to us begging for crumbs, making the most unusual noises I have ever heard a bird make! He looked me straight in the eye, clicking and gurgling with a beak much too large for his head.
We got a soft serve ice cream with a Flake bar, just like Gecko always gets in Gecko’s Garage, one of our son’s favourite TV shows. We took a selfie to send him and promised to pickup a Flake so he could have an ice cream cone himself, just like Gecko.
We stopped in the tourism office and a nice old lady recommended we go to the Bible Gardens for beautiful photos. I asked about parking as I was a bit confused with the signage. She said the first hour was free, so make sure to get a ticket only after that hour is up. I saw lots of City workers about, so bought a ticket at the first machine we found and popped it in the car!
The Iconic Cobh Photo: Deck of Cards Houses
I knew from my trip research that you had to prop your camera on a stone wall to get the iconic Cobh photo – but which stone wall and where exactly proved to be tricky! So here are the details:
- Street: Spy Hill (one street after the House of Cards)
- Wall: wall closest to the houses/cathedral
- Location: a couple houses down, you will see a wooden pole and the roof/back of a stone structure. There is a little groove in the top of the wall. This is where you need to place your camera. Too far left or right and you will get foliage or stone wall in your picture.
- Details: There are some footholds in the stone wall you can get some height (best to have someone to spot you). However, if you are average height like me, you may want to bring a fold-up stool to stand on to help get your height to properly frame the photo and focus your camera. I was taking my photos pretty much blind in the bright sunlight
After we got the shot, we walked down to the park beneath the wall where we took the photo at. We were smitten by the little old lady watch from her doorway and the old men making their way down the steep hills in their suspenders and tweed suits. I couldn’t imagine my dad doing this hill every day!
Drive towards Wexford
The day was getting on, so we decided to skip the Bible Gardens and Famine Memorial and head back to the car. We set our Maps to our evening’s accommodation – a renovated Norman castle and farm near Wexford. The drive was 2.5hr drive on major routes and country road.
We stopped at a gas station by Lismore Castle to get a picture of the castle, then carried on our way. We kept saying how Irish must think Canadians are such wusses with their 60km count road speed limits. Here you can go 80-120km on a windy, narrow country road with high hedges you can’t see over and no signage warning you of sharp turns! Back home, you can only go 100km on wide, multi-lane highways.
The Coal Bunker Pub
We stopped in a pub on Rosslare Road, a mere 3min drive from our accommodations. It was your regular ol’ roadside stop with Coors and Guinness on tap – nothing fancy. It seemed to be the spot people stopped on their way home from work, either meeting with friends or sitting in tired silence.
We each ordered the burger with a Smithwicks. The food was superb! The 6oz burger was topped with a fried egg, cheese, thick bacon and other toppings, with a side salad, onion rings and fried for just under €15! They had a huge covered patio out back full with sports memorabilia where old timers watched horse racing and Celtic tunes played on the speakers.
Killiane Castle Country House & Farm
Our final destination of the day was Killiane Castle, built over 500 years ago with a B&B in the country house next to it. It was decorated in a 90’s nostalgia farmhouse aesthetic that actually worked really well in a Victorian (?) home.
There was a working farm with cows, chickens, and donkeys outside, and children’s toys strewn in the lawn – toy wheelbarrow, John Deere tractor, and tricycle. The host’s children ran up the stairs when we arrived, sitting proudly at the desk. It really felt we were guests in a real farmhouse!
I went out on a sunset walk while Matt rested in our room. I watched the cows in the fields, then walked around the beautiful garden in the castle ruins. There was a little fountain adding to the serenity of the place. Doves cooed, birds sang, cows mooed, with the distant hum of cars on the highway the only reminder you were near the civilization.
Back in the hotel, I poured myself a glass of port from the ‘honesty bar’ and picked up a book on British birds. I worked on postcards and photo editing until it was time to do a video call with our son. I went upstairs to chat with our son, who could pronounce Ireland pretty well considering! I miss him…
The breakfast was the best we had all trip – and that is saying something! Matt is not a fan of porridge, but said it was the best of his life (I still think my Mum’s is the best). We started with yogurts and homemade granola topped with stewed rhubarb, strawberries, and ginger infused pears. Then we had the porridge which was served with a drizzle of whiskey and a tiny pitcher of cream.
I had the Mini Irish Breakfast after with black and white pudding, sautéed mushrooms, cooked tomato, sausage, back bacon, a perfectly fried egg, and toast. I’ve noticed that everything in Ireland appears to be topped with parsley – including breakfast!
Drive to Dublin
The forecast showed rain later today – the first rain of our trip! As we left, we heard the host say how they hadn’t had a proper rain since June and the ground is so dry there could be flooding! We had noticed the grass very brown and patchy during our trip.
We voted to keep on the major routes for Dublin instead of taking a scenic route along the water. We were hoping to still see some of the sea and the Wicklow Mountains, but it was too far away. We put another €10 gas in the car to get us to Dublin (spent €40 on gas so far in our hybrid) and arrived in Dublin just after lunch.
We got a bit lost in Dublin having missed our exit and ended up driving through some very sad residential areas. The area around the Guinness Storehouse was very austere and industrial, not at all built-up like I’d expect a major tourist destination to be! Matt started signing the Pogues’ tune, “This dirty old town…” as we walked through the grey, dirty streets looking for a place to eat.
The Malt House
We found a bare bones pub to order a drink and some food – not a tourist trap by far! Most of the menu items were under €10 and I ordered a half serving of a roast beef with cabbage and potatoes for €9. The food was nothing to write home about, but it got us fed.
Guinness Brewery Tour
The parking lot off of Crane Street is free with admission to the Guinness Storehouse. The parking spots were very tight and you must back in.
Silly me, forgot my mask in the car – and my oh my, how I regretted it! The Guinness storehouse was a crowded and tight museum – and a sensory overload to boot with loud audio and video screens everywhere! I kept thinking “If we bring COVID home to our 3-year old, this is where it’s most likely to have been contracted.” which definitely put a damper on the experience for me.
The advertising and cooper history section of the ‘experience’ was most interesting to me. We learned how to pour a perfect pint (look at the gold harp logo for guidance on pour) and went up to the Gravity Bar to view Dublin from above. It was absolute bonkers up there – sardines in a can with disco music blaring. We left swiftly after snapping a few pics of the view overlooking Dublin.
After Guinness, we went on a mad search for a toy puffin for our son. Went to Carroll’s, Penny’s, Weavers of Ireland, and some other shops before finding one for €11 at Arnott’s department store with the help of a friendly sales clerk. Most of the shops closed at 7pm on Friday!
We walked through the Temple Bar neighbourhood, which was a lively place on a Friday evening! We didn’t have the time (or energy) to go into any of bars, so just took a look around. We took a taxi back to our car as we were a half hour walk by then. We just wanted to sit down and rest.
Fatigue and lack of routine led to some stress today. I lost my beret, the Guinness tickets, failed at navigating the roads of Dublin, then forgot my phone at the toy store. Fortunately we got my phone back, but it lead to a stressful end to the trip.
Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport
I had paid extra so we would have air conditioning – we had really suffered with the lack of A/C at the indie accommodations I had booked this trip. The hotel was super busy. We slipped the car into a tiny parking spot (1200km on the car this trip!), dropped out bags in our room, and headed to the hotel restaurant to get some food. We were exhausted and ready to go home.
After dinner, we went to our room to pack our bags for the flight, then flopped into bed to sleep. We had an ok sleep, getting up at 5am to head to the airport. It was raining – our first raindrops all trip!
We dropped off the car in the Sixt car park, then went through security, which was a breeze. On the other side of security were crowds galore. We checked out the chocolate at Duty Free then went to the airport lounge (turn left when you get out of security on Terminal 1 and look up for the signs).
Our flight was delayed half a hour, so we were extra greatful for the lounge access included with our travel credit card. The lounge just had cereal and milk or granola with yogurt available for breakfast, but it was a much quieter place to sit then down below! Even at this early hour, people were already enjoying mimosas and beer! We kept to tea and coffee ourselves.
As it was daytime in Ireland, it was hard to sleep on the flight. We ordered celebratory Prosecco and I did some photo editing and illustration. I had the Pogues ‘Dirty Old Town’ stuck in my head the whole flight.
Halifax airport was a ghost town compared to Dublin airport and we made it through customs in no time! We were so happy to get back to our own car after driving around the Nissan Note with Japanese buttons for 5 days! We hopped in our car, put on jazz radio, and headed towards Moncton to see our little boy! This marking the end of another spectacular trip overseas.
Reflections on Our Trip to Ireland
We both agreed that trip lacked the magic of our 7-day Scotland trip (but the roads were much better!). Matt wanted to do less driving next trip. We crammed far too much ground into this 5-day trip, clocking over 1200km on the car. We never got to really know a place, felt rushed to get to our new accommodations each night before sundown, and didn’t get to candidly explore an area as much as we would have liked.
I regret we didn’t see more of Dublin. It was me who wanted to skip Dublin all-together, but I found my curiosity grow about the city after our short, speedy walk to the Temple Bar neighbourhood. Next time, I’d like to make a point to schedule in more ancient sites, as that is a really interesting part of Ireland’s history we didn’t get to see. I’d also like to check out the Dublin contemporary art gallery too!
My favourite part of the trip was the Cliffs of Kerry. “Grandeur is good for the spirit.” Matt had quoted an astronaut taking about mountains while there, and I kept thinking of that as we were there. I enjoyed visiting the quaint tourist town of Portmagee and driving the Wild Atlantic Way. Our favourite accommodation was the Killiane Castle – it had character, food was superb, and the prices were reasonable. My favourite day was Limerick as we really got to explore the downtown, relax, got chatty with a nice bar tender, and have some fun drinks at a real Irish pub. I felt like we got to know Limerick well!
Now I sit at home, awake at 5am listening to the rain tip-tap outside my window. Our son is asleep in the next room. He was thrilled with the wool lamb plushy we bought him in Sneem and the ‘Peppa Pig goes to Ireland’ book we picked up for him up in the airport. He was happy to see us – but I think Mummy and Daddy were more excited to see him! He had a great time spending 5 whole days with Grammie.
Thanks for travelling with us to Ireland, dear reader! I look forward to taking you on our next trip – wherever that might be.