Craig and I have wanted to visit Ireland for as long as I can remember, and somehow a trip just kept getting pushed back for other international travel. We both have a strong ancestral connection there, Craig’s grandmother was a first generation Irish immigrant coming to the US, and my paternal grandparents are both 100% Irish, on one side coming from a small island off the coast of Sligo, Mulligan Island (their surname). There were so many places in Ireland we wanted to visit during our trip, but we didn’t want to be rushed, so we settled on doing a road trip on the Wild Atlantic Way, specifically the stretch of coastline between Shannon and Galway. We rented an airbnb in the tiny coastal village of New Quay, and set out each day to explore a new town driving up and down the coast. Ireland truly is a magical place, and gives you a feeling that’s quite honestly hard to describe in words. It feels like home in a way no other place I’ve traveled to has ever felt. It’s new and yet familiar. I’m excited to finally share this travel diary with all of you including my suggestions on what to see, where to go, some of our favorite places to eat and at the very bottom some general tips for traveling in Ireland. We loved it so much we are planning a trip back for next summer. Make sure you check out our travel vlog on my Youtube channel here.
Cliffs of Moher, Doolin and Fanore
We kicked off the trip by heading to the Cliffs of Moher. We woke up to fairly sunny skies and very light winds so figured it was a good time to go. Unfortunately that also happened to be a Sunday, so the Cliffs were really crowded. If you can go mid-week I definitely recommend doing that. We still managed to get some great imagery and avoid the crowds a bit by walking far to the left (if you’re afraid of heights don’t even bother doing that). After we spent some time at the Cliffs, it was cloudy, rainy and sunny in the hour timeframe we were there, we headed to Doolin for lunch. Doolin is such a quaint little seaside village. On the way, we pulled off on this road because we thought we saw a castle on our drive to the Cliffs of Moher. Sure enough, just a few hundred feet ahead was Doonagore Castle. There was no signage and it wasn’t mentioned on any of the maps we had but it was a breathtaking sight to see. We made our way to Doolin and had lunch outside at the Ivy Cottage, the fish & chips did not disappoint! After lunch we hopped back into the Wild Atlantic Way and made a stop at Fanore Beach. It’s famous for surfing and there were tons of surfers and swimmers there when we went. I was bundled up in a sweater and jacket and locals were swimming in shorts and bathings suits!
Ballyvaughan, New Quay, Kinvarra, & the Burren
We stayed in New Quay so had several days to explore Ballyvaughan, Kinvarra & the Burren. One of our favorite places to eat, Monks at the Pier was in Ballyvaughan. A super cozy pub on the water with really good fish & chips and a roaring fire going when you walk in. We went to Kinvarra a few times to eat at several cafes and pubs, and we got lucky and stumbled upon their Farmer’s Market on our first day. Kinvarra has a beautiful harbor with lots of wooden boats and Dunguaire Castle just a little ways down the road from the center of town. We made our way to the Burren Perfumery which is a small family-owned company that makes perfumes and cosmetics using organic ingredients. They incorporate a lot of herbs and plant-life from the Burren into their products. I bought some serums and candles that I absolutely love. We had a great dinner at Linnane’s in New Quay just down the street from our airbnb. A little past Linnane’s is The Russell Gallery, an adorable bookstore, art gallery and cafe where we bought a few books and some artwork.
Towards the end of our trip we headed to Galway for the day. What an incredible city. I did some serious shopping, mainly at O’Maille’s a pretty well known Irish knitwear and blanket store. I stocked up on some knits, blankets and sheepskins. After exploring much of the city on foot we stopped for lunch at Ard Bia Nimmos right on the river. The food was incredible, so good that I bought their cookbook while we were there. I recommend parking in one of the garages (if you have a car) and then walking everywhere. It’s easy to get around on foot.
What to Pack
I got a ton of messages about what to pack for Ireland. Honestly I feel like this is maybe the first trip where I actually brought the proper clothing. Ireland weather is unpredictable. September is usually one of the best months for weather, and we had pretty good weather, but it still rained almost everyday and when it was windy it was cold. If I could give one recommendation it would be to pack warm layers (and bring rain gear but that seems obvious). This is everything that I packed in my suitcase (and wore) on the trip:
Traveling through Ireland was for the most part very easy. Everyone is friendly and ready to help, and navigating with phone GPS is pretty reliable. That said, driving in Ireland was terrifying. The roads are incredibly narrow, there is no shoulder, and both sides of the road have huge stonewalls. If you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road it adds another element of difficulty. And we rented a manual transmission car so the shifter was on the left, needless to say I never drove the entire time, Craig to the rescue on that one. There are automatic rental cars which I recommend if you’re not confident driving a manual with the shifter on the left. I also recommend getting the rental insurance. The car is almost guaranteed to get some sort of damage driving on the narrow, windy roads (at least where we drove for the majority of the trip). In terms of airports, Ireland has several, we flew into Shannon and out of Dublin. Shannon was a super easy and small airport and I highly recommend it if you’re able to fly there. We stayed at an airbnb during our trip but Ireland is known for it’s bed and breakfasts. They are everywhere, you can basically drive into any village and you’ll find several. This is another great option and a nice way to be immersed into the local culture. We decided on an airbnb because we are early risers and like to wake up, make our own breakfast, etc. Next summer we are headed to Cork and then to explore the Ring of Kerry. Already looking forward to our next Irish adventure.