After spending two car-free days in Dublin, Chris and I were rested, well-adjusted to the time zone, and ready to hit the road! I went against all of the advice I read about staying put in one or two areas of Ireland and instead planned a route that would take us from Dublin to all along the west coast and then up to Belfast. We braced ourselves for some early mornings and late evenings, rented a too-big-for-narrow-roads Renault Fluence (next time I know to ask for a small car!), and headed in the direction of County Kerry to start our crazy coastal tour.
Our first day of driving included a little under four hours to get from Dublin to Killarney. With so much scenery and plenty of photo-op stops, the time in the car flew by quickly. We stopped at the cute little town of Cashel to have lunch and to see the Rock of Cashel. I instantly got to snapping photos of the cheerful colors and thriving flora. Maybe my black thumb and I should move to Ireland – it seems like plants do really well there!
We arrived at the castle around the same time as hundreds of other people (lunchtime on a Sunday in late August), so we decided not to tour the inside. Instead, we took a walk down a gravel path behind the castle where we found peace and quiet, breathed fresh air, and soaked in some incredibly gorgeous views all to ourselves. We had a clear line of sight to Hore Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery, and we enjoyed the company of some farm animals nearby. I’ll take a serene travel moment over a crowded tour almost every time.
The weather held up for our entire time in Cashel, turned to light sprinkles for our drive to County Kerry, and stopped raining just in time for our arrival in Killarney. We settled into our B&B for the next two nights (more on the Irish bed and breakfast scene in a future post) and walked into town. I read in several places that Killarney feels a bit touristy, but we thought it was a lot of fun. Yes, there are a ton of shops aimed at tourists and most of the people we saw milling about looked like vacationers, but the area is cute and we loved trying the different pubs.
We specifically set out to find the “craic” (Gaelic for fun/entertainment) in the way of traditional music, and we found exactly what we were looking for at O’Connors. Chris and I squeezed into the pub along with a mixture of other visitors and locals, and we stalked a seat towards the front so we could easily see the band. Listening to upbeat folksy tunes and trying new local beers (my new favorite is Crean’s!) was the perfect end to our first day on the road.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of our coastal tour: the classic Ring of Kerry drive and our adventures exploring the Skellig Ring.