Beer, Fog, and More Beer: Four days in Ireland

Recently, my family and I did a tour of Ireland, trying to see as much of the country as we could in a few days. Here is a rundown:

Sunday - arrive in Dublin, see as much of the city as we can.

Monday - Cliffs of Moher, driving to the start of Ring of Kerry.

Tuesday - Ring of Kerry.

Wednesday - Blarney Castle, Cobh, Cork, and back to Dublin.

Thursday - Fly to London.

This trip was very different from my other European excursions. This is the first time I've rented a car - all other trips have been a combination of planes, trains, subways, and my feet. Ireland itself isn't a big country (my cousin kept quoting a stat that it is about the size of the state of Indiana) but even Indiana takes a few hours to get around. Lots of car time on this trip. And reminder: Ireland is one of those 'other side of the road' countries.

Temple Bar: the name of a Dublin city district and, you know, a bar.

Temple Bar: the name of a Dublin city district and, you know, a bar.

Dublin, in general, was a nice European city. There was the modern bits - excellent shopping district with pedestrian access, fancy bridge and waterway action - but also rooted in history you can't get back in the States. Included is the oldest book, a castle, and fancy historic churches. It was a city we probably should have spent another day or so in, to be honest.

As for Temple Bar, a great place for the tourist to start. It has everything - good food and bars, shopping, and exciting nightlife. We came here multiple times, both for dinner and lunch, and also topped off our Ireland souvenir shopping before heading over to London.

PS, I have been doing way too much documentation at work - I kept typing 'Template Bar' instead of 'Template Bar'.

If you go to Dublin and don't get to Guinness, did you really go to Dublin?

If you go to Dublin and don't get to Guinness, did you really go to Dublin?

Ah, the Guinness Storehouse. The most essential of Ireland tourism. And, honestly, the people at Guinness have done a fantastic job of putting together a fun experience. And I say this as someone who isn't a Guinness fan. There's an exhibit on making the beer, including real-life hops and barley (I legit had no idea what hops looked like - it was a plant?!?) as well as a general history of the brand. Then there's a tasting room, where you can smell the different ingredients, and a great summary of the truly excellent advertising from the brand. At one point, there's a fish on a bike. Don Draper would be proud! Finally, the tour finishes with a tutorial on how to poor the perfect Guinness and a chance to test it out yourself. It was funner than I thought it would be and afterwards we took our self-poured beers up to the top floor and sipped with a great view of Dublin.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. We never actually made it inside the thing. The hours were odd. The outside was pretty at least? This is where I realize I don't have many pictures of Dublin. We also visited Dublin Castle and Oscar Wilde's house.

Cliffs of Moher. They were truly breathtaking. In addition to just snapping some pictures, there were also exhibits on the Cliffs at the visitors center and a puffin viewing spot.

O'Briens Tower. When taking this photo, the Cliffs were behind me. You can pay a couple of Euro to climb to the top of the tower but I can't imagine the view is much better.

The Cliffs of Moher tourism folks had roped off much of the site for liability reasons. Luckily, the ropes were easy to get around. Just a few meters after the rope, you come across this great view. A theme of my time in Ireland: we didn't have nearly enough time here. I recommend wearing some hiking-adjacent clothing and spending at least half a day, really checking out the sites at the Cliffs.

Burren National Park: a detour on the way to the Cliffs from Dublin.

At some point we took a ferry!

Roadside Pictures: Get ready for a lot of them.

Roadside Pictures: Get ready for a lot of them.

And now we get to the Ring of Kerry. Per Wikipedia, the Ring of Kerry is a 179 km route in Kerry, south-western Ireland. Basically, you drive in a circle and stop at various points to take pictures. We did it in a day, which meant about 7 hours or so in a car, occasionally get out for photo opportunities or food. Honestly, don't do this. It was a very rushed, long day. There were several places we could have spent more time at and those guide books that say spend a few days on the Ring really mean it. Sure, it's not a big space (about 111 miles) but there are lots of places to stop and explore. Also, a big chunk of the roads were tiny. Be prepared to go slow or pull off to the side frequently to let a car coming the other direction pass. Two-lane roads, my ass.

Look! Another place we pulled off the road to stop. It was, unfortunately, seriously foggy that day. At some places, the visibility was impressively limited. This is nice, but imagine if there wasn't fog!

More scenic views along the Ring of Kerry. It's not clear in this picture but there were a couple of waterways coming together in this area. It was noisy, cold, and beautiful. Here is where I recommend layering for Ireland - depending on proximity to the coast, it could be cold. But you're also sitting in a car all day, so dress accordingly.

This might be a specific thing but I really think we juts pulled off to the side of the road when something was extra-picturesque. So here I am going to ramble about driving! This was my first experience driving on the other side of the road. I was surprised to find that the hardest part was getting used to the car itself. Spatial awareness was really tough - you're used to the car being on the other side of you! It was especially alarming to be in the backseat. My tip for driving: give yourself time to get used to the new car layout. Once you've figured out spacial awareness, the other side of the road thing isn't  bad. There are lots of signs everywhere, both for drivers and pedestrians. They're used to tourists coming in and being idiots.

The other thing about driving in Ireland: those are some tiny, tiny roads, with lots of corners and hills, making it difficult to see if anyone is coming your way. And the speed limit is much, much higher than you're going to think it should be. At one point, I was driving up and down very steep inclines with fog to the point that I could barely see the car in front of me. It was tense. Also, manual cars are way cheaper to rent than automatics. Only get a manual if you can really drive one! Our rental car guy asked us multiple times if we could drive a stick - apparently people lie to get the cheaper option, thinking it will be easy to manage, only to come back and ask for an automatic because they really can't handle it. Also, be prepared to continually move to shift with your right hand even though it's on your left.

A slate quarry along the Ring of Kerry. It was a weekday so there were workers. We took pictures and climbed some of the rocks. I bet they hated us.

There was a lighthouse near here... But pretty rocks!

There were a few beaches along the Ring of Kerry. This is one of them! Too cold to actually get in the water but a nice stop for some pictures and to pick up some sand or seashells.

The Staigue fort. According to Wikipedia, it was built around 300 or 400 AD for a local lord or king. After lots of impressive nature along the Ring, it was interesting to get in some history/human accomplishments. Also, you could climb up to the top for a good photo opportunity.

I can't find this online. Google has failed me! One of the towns along the Ring that we stopped at had this stone structure. Nearby was a 'wishing' tree: write your heart's desire on a piece of paper and tie it to a tree. So we were good tourists and did as told.

Literally just pulled off to the side to take pictures. Here is where I also note that there were sheep everywhere. Some we interacted with - at one point a herd rushed us when stopped near their fence. Others fled at our approach. Most did not care. Sheep have no fucks to give.

I know what this one is! This is Ladies View, named after Queen Victoria visited in 1861 and this view impressed her ladies in waiting. It was a breathtaking view. Here is an excerpt of it.

Pretty! Another perspective on Ladies view.

Torc Waterfall. This is another place you really could have spent some time, as there was plenty of hiking nearby. Also, I lived in Oregon for a year and, in general, Ireland reminded me so much of the Pacific Northwest. Mountains? Check. Lots of greenery? Check. Awesome waterfalls? Check. Cold but pretty beaches? Check. So, if you want a poor man's Ireland trip, go check out the Columbia Gorge and Cannon Beach.

That's it for my Ring of Kerry pictures. Places we also stopped to check out that I don't have pictures of (sometimes I forgot my phone in the car where it was charging, sorry friends): Muckross House (we did a very quick stop, it's a nice place you could spend an hour or so walking around), Derrynane House (house itself is interesting but the nearby view is excellent), Ross Castle (it's on a lake, lots of fishermen nearby), and lots more 'stop and take a picture' spots.

Blarney Castle. This was an interesting and eclectic stop - there was the Stone of Eloquence, which you can kiss and supposedly it grants you eloquence, there was a very interesting and informative poison garden. The grounds are immense with lots of different points of interest and various gardens and waterfalls. We didn't get the chance to spend much time here, unfortunately. I would recommend dedicating at least a half day to the Castle.

Next, on our way back to Dublin, we stopped by Cobh. Here, we had lunch and checked out the harbor, the Titanic's last port of call before it headed across the Atlantic. We didn't have time to go through the Titanic museum/exhibit but we did pick up a couple of souvenirs (all huge fans of the film, obviously). After Cobh, we took a detour to drive through Cork, then headed back to Dublin. Summary of my time in Ireland: not enough actual time spent anywhere, instead just rushing from one spot to the next. Do not recommend! Instead, I suggest spending closer to ten days to see the stuff that we did or cutting back on stops.

There's always cider. One more at the airport before I head back to Germany and switch to hefeweizen.