Ireland: A Visit to the Land of Poets, Music, Legends, and Cheer

Here is a travel plan for Ireland from Sharon Slayton. Enjoy!

Day 1: We arrive at Shannon Airport, one of the 3 largest in Ireland, and a good starting point for our summer vacation in County Clare. Fortunately, there are a number of car rental agencies here to choose from for our drive to the coast.

We won’t spend much time in Shannon, but our itinerary does include an overnight stay at the fabulous Dromoland Castle, about 6 miles from the airport. The Castle, built in the 16th century, sits on a 400+ acre estate of herb and rose gardens by noted Versailles designer Andre Le Notre. Overlooking the Dromoland Lough, this luxury hotel was refurbished in the early 1960’s. The decor is exquisite with antique furnishings, oil paintings, chandeliers, and hand carved paneling throughout. There is no lack of modern amenities, however. Guests can enjoy a variety of activities during their stay including golf, fishing, horseback riding, archery, boating, swimming, and spa treatments. We indulge in an excellent, yet expensive, dinner from a menu of gourmet cuisine and an extensive wine list. Rates are high, as might be expected from this type of accommodation, at over $500 per room and up. We certainly recommend the Dromoland, however, for honeymooners, romanticists, or for anyone else, budget permitting.

Day 2: We pick up our rental car and head for our main destination, Doolin on the western coast of the Emerald Isle. A short but scenic drive, about an hour and a half, takes us past the ruins of 18th century farmhouses and thatch roof cottages through the picturesque Irish countryside to the quaint, small village of Doolin. Often regarded as the capital for traditional Irish music, Doolin is popular with surfers, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, or people like us looking for something unique in vacation planning.

Among the several charming B&Bs here, we have chosen the Seaview House for its location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Allie River, and the Doolin countryside. Each of the four guest rooms is comfortably and nicely furnished, with multi-channel TV, and Wi-Fi available. The view from the sundeck is spectacular, and the rates are very reasonable at $40 to $70 per person, which includes breakfast. We highly recommend the Seaview.

Time for lunch in the village at the Stonecutters Kitchen, a family style restaurant with an extensive menu of everything from sandwiches and chowders to full course meals. After lunch, we stroll through the village, which has one main street, and wind up back at the Seaview to relax before dinner.

A glorious sunset and we’re ready for some evening entertainment at one of the three highly publicized pubs in Doolin — O’Connor’s, McGann’s, and McDermott’s — all offering great food and nightly live music sessions. Irish music and cheer are traditions and definitely not to be missed. We spend a delightful few hours at O’Connor’s, just a few hundred feet from the Seaview House.

Day 3: After a hearty Irish breakfast, we plan on spending most of the day exploring some of the Burren “rocky place” region of archaeological and botanical interest. The Trail through the Burren takes us past limestone underground caverns, burial sites, and ruins of Celtic forts. Located about two miles from Doolin are Aillwee Mountain and the Aillwee Caves. Hiking up the mountain, we see wild goats, peregrine falcons, and rare species of orchids and other flora. Tours through Aillwee Cave and the Bird of Prey Center are priced at $25/adults, $12/children. We end our tour with lunch in the Cave tearoom.

We have reservations for dinner tonight at the Ballinalacken Castle nearby, where the food is somewhat expensive, but well worth the price. The Castle is also another accommodation option in the area, with rates from $100 – $200 (breakfast and dinner usually included).

Day 4: Today, we are going to visit the Cliffs of Moher, a designated conservation site and a must-see attraction in the Doolin area. Five miles long and 800 feet high, this is the home of Ireland’s largest gathering of an estimated 30,000 species of sea birds, including the legendary Atlantic Puffins or sea parrots. For the avid bird watcher, this is a real treat where gulls, kestrels, and thousands of lesser-known varieties come to nest in spring and summer. This too might well have been the inspiration for Shelley’s “Ode to a Skylark,” as their delightful songs can be heard all year round. Other interesting sights along the Cliffs are O’Brien’s Tower and Hags Head, an unusual rock formation named after the witch from Irish folklore.

We take the ferry from Doolin’s pier for a one-hour cruise. The ferry sails two to three times a day from April to October, and a shorter tour to the three remaining Aran Islands is available. These islands are gradually eroding into the sea, but for now, the islanders still speak the Irish language, and continue to plant crops and fish along the shores to supplement the tourism income. Ph: (065) 7075949 for rates, booking, and sailing times.

We decide on dinner in Doolin at the Roadford House, where the reasonably priced menu includes Thai seafood, lamb, duck, and chicken. Accommodations at the Roadford range from $50 – $70/person, as well as self-catering packages.

Day 5: Our last full day in Doolin, and time to take more photos and do some shopping. Doolin Crafts Gallery has a great selection of sweaters, jewelry, pottery, leather, and unique Irish gifts. You can also stay for lunch here at their restaurant. Next door to O’Connor’s pub is O’Brien’s Crafts with a large selection of crystal, silk, clocks, and knitwear.

Our vacation would not be complete without indulging in fresh seafood, Doolin’s specialty. We have an early supper at Cullinan’s Restaurant in the village, and return to the Seaview to enjoy our last evening in Ireland.

Day 6: Regrettably, our all too short vacation has ended, and the drive back to Shannon seems much longer than we remembered. As we wait at the airport for our flight back home, we’re already planning our next visit to this fascinating country.

(Note: Summer weather in Ireland is unpredictable, but for the most part, sunny and mild. There are, of course, the occasional rain showers rolling in from the Atlantic, but these fail to dampen your enthusiasm. You’re sure to find a cheerful pub with a genial host, where you’ll enjoy a mug of Irish coffee or a pint of Guinness Stout, some lively music, and friendly conversation.)

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  1. nina says:

    I have been wanting to take a trip to Ireland for the last couple of years . I will be 53 this year.

    so i am planning to take my trip next year.

    i would like any information about Ireland that would help me .

  2. kathi says:

    I went to IR when I was 25 & my mom was 50. Dad didn’t want to go. We had a ball. We did a tour through a group in Fall River, MA. That is the easiest way to travel such a large place for the first time. Our plane arrived at Shannon airport. Our tour driver was very informative daily. We saw the Cliffs, the Waterford crystal place, bunrattys, kissed the blarney stone, ate dinner in a castle, stayed in abt. 3 hotels, saw Dublin. We laughed the entire time. Go with someone you get along w/. We horsebacked thru Kilkenney. Beautiful. We could have taken a boat to the Aran Is., but thought another trip. We bought beautiful white sweaters and bedding. Best trip of my life!

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