Exploring Southern Ireland
Oh Ireland! The land of sheep and of shades of green that are extraordinary. If you are looking of an adventure with beautiful scenery and kind locals, Ireland is a must. I tend to like to travel at a quick pace, wanting to see everything possible, yet in Ireland I found myself slowing down to enjoy the slower pace the locals share.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many places to stay in Ireland and no matter which city or seaside village you choose to reside in for your stay, it will provide it's own unique joys. My travel companions and I stayed in Adare; an adorable small town 20 minutes outside of Limerick. Known for it's golfing and the ruins of the Desmond Castle and Old Franciscan Friary; this small town feels like home. We personally stayed in the Adare Manor villas and I must say, it was amazing! 3 bedrooms, 4 baths, a full kitchen, 1 office, on-sight laundry and a sunroom to boot! It was beyond anything we could have hoped for since we bought an $800 Groupon. It is the best deal I have ever come across since it included our airfare, hotel and rental car for our 6 day stay. Amazing!
Any town in Irealnd would be a wonderful place to stay. However, if you want a more relaxing stay and a place way from crowded cities, I would suggest a place like Adare. That being said, this small town of a couple thousand residence explodes in the summer up to 20,000 during peak tourist season. I suggest going off season as you can enjoy the town and tourist attractions with little to no crowds.
THINGS TO DO IN ADARE
To get around, you'll definitely want/need a rental car. Locally in Adare, you can explore Desmond Castle (closed to the public until April), the Old Franciscan Friary and if you are a golf enthusiast, play a round at the Adare Manor Golf Club. Desmond Castle (the blog post header above) was closed since we were there in early March, so we were not able to explore the inside. However, traveling off peak tourist season has it's advantages. We could walk the grounds of most sights and attractions that where open with little to no tourists. This allowed us to get amazing photos without the crowds you usually see.
Don't forget to check out the Old Franciscan Friary while in Adare. The ruins are housed on the Adare Golf course and you can walk the sight if you ask the club house. Just remember, it's a function golf course, so pay attention to your surrounds as a golf ball can come careening out of nowhere.
ADVENTURES TO TAKE BY CAR
A car is the only way to explore Ireland. Well, it's the most flexible way to explore as long as you can cope with driving on the opposite side of the road. You can take day trips almost anywhere you want and explore destinations that aren't part of tours. We drove everywhere, and just driving through the countryside is magical. You never know what you might come across. There are ruins on peoples property that are haunting or old cemeteries that are just too cool to miss. Now, let's get to the meat of the topic. Here are my Top 3 Ireland Must Do Day Trips.
This is a must do activity in Ireland. It's a view like nothing else I have ever seen and it makes for a great photo session. My companions and I happened to visit this site on one of the windiest days of the year. Which made for quite the spectacle. People where being blown around like paper plates and it was too risky to get near the edge as you could easily get swept off. However, since the wind was so strong we got to see a unique event. Sea foam was flying straight up the cliff side (about 500 ft) and raining down like a slimy snow. It was too much fun!
In general, you should never get near the edge. The wind currents that come up the cliff face have literally pulled people off the edges. A tour guide told us about losing 2 tourist on his route the year before who crawled out to the edge of their stomachs and were sucked off the cliff edge by strong wing currents that come up and over the ridges. Their bodies where never found. This is a very real danger and you will see an "In Memoriam" plaque as you approach the viewing areas. So tread with caution!
This wasn't that far from Adare and it was one of my favorite stops. It was undergoing some renovations during our visit, but it's still a beautiful attraction. It sits on top of a hilltop and overlooks the quant little town of Cashel. It's one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland, but during off season we were one of a few groups walking the grounds.
If you have the time, view this attraction from afar. It is quite the looker (you'll know what I mean when you approach it via car). We had other destinations we wanted to visit that day, so we didn't have a ton of time in Cashels. The town looks like it would be a fun place to explore for an afternoon, but we wanted to visit other ruins in the near by areas, so we hit the road after a few hours. Learn more about the Rock of Cashel here.
I hope you read that with an Irish accent because it 10 times more glorious with the accent. Dingle is part of the Ring of Kerry which is a beautiful tour. We opted to explore the Dingle Peninsula instead of the more mainstream Kerry side. I would suggest taking a tour since the roads are very narrow (one car wide in most places with cliff drop-off on the left hand side) and there are buses you will have to try to get around. Plus you want to see the scenery, not be white knuckled driving. Ask your local heritage center to schedule a tour. We used PaddyWagon and were very happy with the service.
Be aware that this tour is an all day tour. I'm not sure on the duration of the Kerry side, but we meet our bus driver at 7:00 AM and didn't get back into town until about 7:00 PM. It's well worth dedicating an entire day for. You'll see beautiful ocean views, amazing countryside, with a quick stop at the seashell covered Inch Beach, followed by an hour in a fun little fishing town for lunch.
Those are my big three must visit, yet there are so many to choose from you really can't go wrong. I want to share a few more fun excursion as alternatives. Don't worry, I won't ramble on, but rather give you a glimpse.
There were so many places we wanted to visit, but there are only so many hours in the day. If I was to return once more, I have a whole list of different places I want to see. If you are planning a stay in Ireland I suggest doing some research so you can plan your days to the fullest and see what sights you can. Then again, you can always go the more relaxed route and enjoy a few things here and there and just enjoy the Irish countryside.
Enjoy your stay in Ireland and safe travels!