// I R E L A N D

the most epic roadtrip

IRELAND

I was once pitched this idea that Ireland was a desolate, drizzly gloomville where you sought safety inside and grew into the palest version of your human self. 

 

But since visiting, I’ve learnt that I was in fact sold a lie.

 

In one word, Ireland is … wild. In many words, Ireland is a green wonderland of lush fields, fresh air and oceans as charismatically blue as they come. It’s like a drug. Once your eyes unravel a little bit, you have a compelling craving to seek out more.

In my mind, there’s no greater way to enjoy Ireland than to walk along sheer cliff faces, through country fields dotted with lambs and amongst locals in some of the most lively cities in the world. We had one week set out for our adventure. And, because my adventure mind is far bigger than my time management mind, we ambitiously decided to do the whole of Ireland in this one week. I mean, in a perfect world I would have much preferred two weeks - one week to do the South and another week to explore the North - and had more time to explore the places we visited. 

 

I'm learning that the perfect world doesn't exist and, since it's pointless wasting time dwelling over it, let's jump into the itinerary!

DAY 1: Arrive in Dublin

We landed in Dublin around midday and hired a car. Turns out that renting a car in Ireland when you’re under the age of 25 is very, VERY costly. We almost had to sell a kidney to get a car with insurance for a week for our trip. My tip would be to either find a friend who is over the age of 25 to take with you or borrowing a book on how to hotwire a car (just kidding). Although we didn’t spend any time in Dublin as we wanted to hit the road asap, I did return to Dublin a year or so later and will write a ‘how to spend 48 hours in Dublin’ post and link it here if you are thinking of visiting for a weekend!

 

Dublin to Glendalough Ruins

[1 hour drive]

Glendalough, derived from ‘Gleann da Lock’, meaning ‘Valley of the Two Lakes’, is said to be one of the most beautiful corners of Ireland. Nestled in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains is the iconic Glendalough Monastic site which is steeped in ancient history and dramatic beauty. The substantial remains of the monastic settlement are impressive and represent deep tranquility and spirituality. And hey, upon seeing it, it’s not hard to understand why the monks came here in the first place.  

 

Along with being a holy site, Glendalough National Park offers a mix of natural, historical, archaeological and spiritual riches. Many and varied walking trails can be found to suit all levels of agility. We chose to do a two-hour hike around the valley and to the upper lake and were gifted with these ridiculous views.

Glendalough to Rock of Cashel Castle

[2 hour drive] 

The Rock of Cashel or Carraig Phádraig, also known as St Patrick’s Rock, is located about a third of a mile from Cashel Town, County Tipperary in the southern province of Munster in Ireland. It was where the powerful Gaelic kings ruled from for over a thousand years before the Norman invasion in the late 12th century.

 

According to Irish lore, St. Patrick was chasing the Devil across Ireland. In order to escape, the Devil bit off a huge chunk of a mountaintop, and, after he got away, he spit it all out creating the Rock of Cashel. 

 

We also came across this bunch of ruins when we were looking for the castle. To be honest, we probably had more fun wandering through the ruins and taking a couple (or a couple hundred) photos.

Rock of Cashel Castle to Killarney

[2 hour drive] 

We arrived at our accommodation quite late so had to check ourselves in for the night. We stayed at Killarney Railway Hostel for a bargain price of £15 per person. There was free parking, wifi and free breakfast! Here’s the link if you wanted to check it out.

 

DAY 2: Explore Killarney, Dingle and Cliffs of Moher

So yeah, we did pack our adventure sandwich with all the possible fillings we could ... and most our days were much the same. I mean you could definitely spread sightseeing in these locations over a few days to truly discover their wonder. Unfortunately, we were on a time limit and wanted to see as much as we humanely could in the time we had in Ireland.

 

After a quick run, some brekky and packing up the car, we hit the road and headed towards Killarney National Park. Killarney is Ireland’s Oldest National Park, formed in 1932 when Senator Arthur Vincent and his family entrusted Muckross House & Estate into the care of the Irish State. There is heaps to do here and the website is a great place to start to plan your Killarney itinerary. We adventured around on some trails, took some snaps and then hopped back into the car so we could make our way to Ross Castle.

 

Ross Castle is a tower house on the edge of the lake with horses and carts that can take you around the grounds. You can even hop in a boat to see more around the lake.

Ross Castle to Dingle

[1 hour drive] 

Dingle is a small town where there is around 1300 residents and a whopping 52 pubs. It's safe to say they have their priorities right and you can easily find yourself a drink. From Dingle, we made our way along the Wild Atlantic Way to Dingle Peninsula. The roads leading to Dingle Peninsula are very narrow, winding and, at times, a little bit challenging. That said, the views at Dingle Peninsula are very much worth every tight turn.

Dingle Peninsula to Cliffs of Moher

[3 hour drive] 

We arrived quite late to the Cliffs of Moher. Luckily for us, it was peak summer and the sunshine hours in Ireland were stretching themselves out until around 9:30 pm. This meant we still had a few hours of sunshine up our sleeves.

 

A little tip: don’t go to the visitor centre because you’ll find it tricky finding a car spot and it also costs quite a bit for parking. Instead, take the turn about a kilometer before the visitor centre and look for a sign that says ‘parking here for the Cliffs’. We followed the sign, parked at this quiet parking lot that had only one other car there, and spent the next few hours mesmerized by the cliffs. It’s no wonder Harry Potter was filmed here (the sixth Harry Potter film if you were wondering).

Cliffs of Moher to Dunguaire Castle

[1 hour drive] 

So, in true ‘jam as much as you can into one day style’, we headed towards our accommodation via Dunguaire Castle. Dunguaire Castle is a 16th-century tower house on the southeastern shore of Galway Bay in County Galway, Ireland, near Kinvarra. We caught the castle just in time for sunset and we were so lucky to have seen it what I think is one of the most spectacular lights.

Dunguaire Castle to Claremorris

[1 hour drive] 

We stayed in a family run hostel in Claremorris. It was a beautiful property in the country that had several different rooms for the people who stayed there. It felt much more homely and comfortable compared to the hostels I had stayed in before. The property has a shared lounge and kitchen, free WiFi, on-site parking and, when we visited, there were LAMBS!

DAY 3:  Gleniff Horseshoe, Donegal Castle, Slieve League and Assaranca Waterfall

Claremorris to Gleniff Horseshoe

[1 hour drive] 

Set amid the stark, barren drama of the Dantry Mountains lies a place called the Gleniff Horseshoe. Driving into the area makes you feel like you’ve landed yourself in a land made for giants. The dramatic masses of rock in the form of precipitous cliffs have been in place for thousands of years and offer many hiking trails branching up into the hills that entice your explorative inclinations.

Gleniff Horseshoe to Slieve League

[1 hour and 35 minute drive] 

The resplendence of Gleniff Horseshoe was a warmup for our eyes as we travelled towards a range of sea cliffs collectively known as Slieve League. The most spectacular view of the cliffs can be seen at a designated viewing point. To get there, drive past the visitor centre and head to the ‘Bunglass car park’. Here, you can choose to either: 1) park your car, pass through the gate and follow the fairly narrow road leading to the viewing platform, or 2) drive past the gate and follow the winding road to the top. Each option is equally as beautiful!  

Slieve League to Assaranca Waterfall

[30 minute drive] 

We had come to the decision to skip out Assaranca Waterfall because we were running tight on time. It was at this moment where we were contemplating driving straight to Kilclooney that we actually and accidentally stumbled upon the waterfall. Though I wouldn’t have been devastated if we didn’t make it to Assaranca Waterfall, I am happy that the fortune cookies were crumbling in our favor that day that we did get to see it.   

Assaranca Waterfall to Kilclooney More

[20 minute drive] 

Kilclooney More was an adventure that truly tested our determination, durability and, at times, the bonds that interlace to tie together our primary school found friendship. I don’t really remember how I came across this place, or why I had such a need to see it, but I have since found out it was constructed as a tomb to mark the death of a person, or persons, of note, and to act as a spot in which the spirits of the deceased would be identified in generations to come. Two 1.8 metre high stones support a massive roofstone that measures 6 metres across, making a shape that I think resembles a frog. 

 

The internet was very vague on how one could reach the monument. Such ambiguity led to an adventure entailing trespassing someone’s property, falling into muddy puddles, jumping over barbed wire fences and being judged by some seriously curious cows. All this, thankfully, ended in us finally reaching the stone structure… and we returned via a much simpler and recommended route to the car.   

Kilclooney More to Buncrana

[1 hour and 30 minute drive] 

We stayed at Tullyarvan Mill Hostel in Buncrana in Northern Ireland. It was tucked away in the country and offered free parking, wifi, a communal kitchen and towels (which, sometimes, can be make or break when you stay at a hostel… I mean who on earth wants to fork out 4 EUR for a towel). Follow this link if you want to find out some more.

DAY 4:  Explore Northern Ireland!

Buncrana to Mussenden Temple

[1 hour drive] 

Mussenden Temple, at Downhill Demesne in County Londonderry, was built for Frideswide, the niece of the Bishop of Derry. There’s a bit of a scandalous history behind the temple that stands on the very edge of the cliff above Downhill Beach. The temple is part of the Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House National Trust property and costs £6.50 (adult) for entry. You can of course enter for free if you are a member of National Trust. I did a post on National Trust locations here if you’ve got some spare time.

Mussenden Temple to Dunluce Castle

[30 minute drive] 

Dunluce Castle, famous for its place in history as the seat of the Earl of County Antrim and, more recently, it’s feature in The Game of Thrones series, sits perched on the edge of a rocky outcrop of headland overlooking the North Channel. Entry to the castle itself is via a drawbridge  and the charm continues as you wander through the ruins and catch a glimpse of the view this castle offers.

Dunluce Castle to Carrick-a-Rede bridge

[20 minute drive] 

Another famous feature in Game of Thrones series is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in County Antrim. The wire rope spans the chasm between the sea cliffs and the island of Carrick-a-Rede. Carrick-a-Rede origins stem from a fisherman’s tale as fishermen once flocked to this area to catch salmon. Back in the 1970s, this crossing comprised just one handrail and a handful of gapped wooden planks. Today, although there’s a subtle shake to this sturdy bridge – just enough to thrill you – you’re in far safer hands. 

 

The bridge is part of National Trust and is free for members! Here’s the website if you want to find out more.

Carrick-a-Rede bridge to the Dark Hedges

[20 minute drive] 

As if we hadn’t already packed our day enough, we decided to stop by the Dark Hedges on our way to our accommodation. Usually the Dark Hedges, also known for its part in the Game of Thrones series, is overcrowded with tourists. The silver lining to going when the clocks are nearing dusk is that there wasn’t really anyone there and we easily snagged a spot to park the car!

The Dark Hedges to Bushmills

[20 minute drive] 

Perfectly located right next to the Giant’s Causeway is the Finn McCool Hostel where we chose to spend the night. We paid around £20 each and there was free parking, wifi, free breakfast and self-catering facilities to cook up a feast for dinner. Apart from the dorms being on the smaller side and a very loud snorer in our room, it was a convenient place to stay and meant we could start adventuring around the Giant’s Causeway early the next day.

DAY 5:  Giant's Causeway, Belfast, return to Dublin

Bushmills to Giant's Causeway

[5 minute drive] 

The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places. It reminded me of one of those dancefloors where you have to jump on the spots that light up. 

 

Much of the Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.

For the next day and a half we treated our bodies to a little rest so they could recover after our rollercoaster roadtrip through Ireland. Writing this post makes me fall in love with Ireland all over again and I can't wait until I can visit again and explore some more! 

 

Stay wild, 

 

Nat xx

 

Giant's Causeway to Dublin (via Belfast)

[3 hour drive] 

After seeing the magic of the Giant's Causeway we made our way back to Dublin via Belfast. The three hours weren't overly exciting as we followed the motorway, ate snacks and unashamedly listened to old school Justin Bieber.