Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ireland: The Mountains, the Sea, and Bunratty

Monday morning my Dad and I picked up our nine passenger rental van. My Dad rented through Sixt Rent a Car - they were very nice and quick. Here, Americans...take this large van and good luck driving on the other side of the road. If you rent a car abroad, do yourself a favor and pay extra for the full insurance. It will make you feel better as you're clenching your buttcheeks on the narrow roads.

Day 2 Itinerary
Powerscourt Waterfall in the Wicklow Mountains (about an hour from Dublin)
Glendalough (40 minutes from the waterfall)
Curracloe Beach (1.5 hours from Glendalough)
Hotel Curracloe - About $91/night, they book rooms via phone/email, no online booking

We were moseying along the highway until we got off for the Wicklow Mountains. The roads were hilly, full of bikers (Halloween is a bank holiday) and plunged us right into Irish driving. Thank God my dad was behind the wheel. We rented a GPS from Sixt but it proved worthless, even with GPS coordinates. MFD navigated with satellite and paper maps for the rest of the trip.

Powerscourt Waterfall is Ireland's highest waterfall. It's a nice little spot, pretty bare in the off-season.
We made our way on to Glendalough, a monastic city founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century. Most buildings still up on the site date from the 10th to the 12th centuries. It was cool to wander here on Halloween.
Once we walked through the Monastic City, we took a stroll down to the Lower Lake. It was like a fall lover's paradise.
After picking up some chips (read: fries) for the car, we headed on through Wicklow down into Wexford with a quick stop in Avoca. On the way there we saw the mythical Toilet on the Street Corner, that we never found again.
We finally made it to Curracloe around 4:30 I think. In the off-season, it's a skeleton crew, and in small towns like this one, the hotel is the place where a lot of people come to eat and go to the pub. So we did the same. Peters and I took a post-dinner walk and there was absolutely nothing going on save for kids trick or treating.
Day 3 Itinerary
Ballinesker Beach (part of Curracloe Beaches) - where the opening Normandy scenes of Saving Private Ryan were filmed, 10 minutes from our hotel
Hook Lighthouse on the Peninsula (one hour from Curracloe)
Ring of Hook drive
Breakfast at Wild Rose Cafe in Duncannon
Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet
Bunratty Manor - another family owned place, probably my favorite hotel of the trip. Really cozy with a sitting room, restaurant, pub. Loved it. You can book this online, but they still really do everything by hand in a large book like Hotel Curracloe does. The food here is actually excellent for dinner.

There were super cute houses on the beach road in Curracloe. Carol and I had to dip our toes in. The wind was crazy but the water wasn't too bad. The sand was soft and golden and the dunes were impressive.
The roads to the end of the peninsula and the Hook Lighthouse were fucking TINY. I kept thinking christ, this better be worth it. And it was. The Lighthouse itself is a 13th century Norman structure and at around 800 years old is the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world. I love old things. We had a wander, and then a snack and some coffee and did some shopping. There was a local man there with his little daughter and he said recently she's wanted to come every morning to sit in the chairs and say good morning to the ocean before breakfast, so that's what they've been doing.
We drove around the Ring of Hook, saw ruins (of course), had a great breakfast in sleepy little Duncannon, and lit candles in church.
Our first stop on the way to Bunratty after breakfast was Tipperary. I wouldn't really stop there again. It was, how do you say... not very nice? I drove from there to Bunratty since it was mostly highways. Oh, and 489 roundabouts right in a row. Seriously though, the first day I drove there were like seven in a row within the first 20 minutes and one of them was a DOUBLE ROUNDABOUT. You have not lived until you've nearly shit your pants while driving on the wrong side of the car AND road with your family's fear palpable in the air around you. One thing I loved throughout the country and remember from my previous trip there: the colored doors.
I had no idea what to expect from the Medieval dinner at Bunratty Castle. It was actually a load of fun, aside from the warring family from Long Island next to us where the dad was a drunk dick dropping F bombs immediately and the daughter told him she'd probably enjoy it there if she was with people she liked and then her and the mother took off and he sat there woodenly with us. Family vacations, amiright? Since you're sitting across from each other packed in on benches banquet style, not paying attention was not an option. It was great to be able to walk five minutes to and from the hotel to the castle and the food was really good.
To be continued tomorrow.

See also: A day in Dublin


  1. I love your vacation recaps so much - they're always so detailed (I pinned Yellowstone forever ago, should we ever actually GO!). This looks like such an awesome trip.

  2. The Lower Lake scenery is gorgeous...
    Ruins are so eerie. My mind just whirls with stories of who lived in the stone walls or what caused them to abandon the structures. It's so crazy in old countries like Ireland!
    That family at the medieval dinner... Whoa.. Haha!

  3. I had to laugh at the family vacation, amiright... been there & done that with family after spending LONG TIMES with them. haha
    It all looks so beautiful...
    I think we need to take their cue - I like Halloween is a bank holiday - everything should shut down & just fun & candy all day long!

  4. It would be so weird to drive on the other side of the road, yet alone in a huge van on narrow streets. I am clenching for you! So cool that you got to see things from the 10th to the 12th centuries. You don't get that around here! And I am always down for any waterfall or beach scenes during a trip! And food. I want that food!

  5. 800 years old?! I can't even fathom that. The sign saying drive clockwise on the roundabouts stressed me out just looking at it.

  6. Your pictures are stunning girl.
    I'm impressed with the driving tips the rental place gave you. Normally it's "fend for yourself" at car rental places. I cannot imagine driving a big ass van around but also on the WRONG (;) side of the road. Good for you. Roundabouts are great if everyone knows what they're doing, otherwise they're a straight up pain in the ass. We have a few here and I think I must be the only person that can navigate one without having to come to a crawl. Lol

  7. I got mildly confused just reading about driving on the opposite side of the road. I can't get over all the gorgeous scenery-- how incredible to see the oldest operational lighthouse in the world!

  8. I can't imagine driving that big of a vehicle on the wrong side of the road! I'd probably want to get the full insurance too! Everything looks absolutely stunning and like a post card!

  9. gosh, driving a car in a new country is freaking stressful and i don't think i could do it. i mean, i feel comfortable doing it here and home, and ireland theoretically would be the same as home, but i get so stressed out in a new place that i wouldn't do well. especialyl a large vehicle. KC wanted me to drive the truck we rented to move and i was like lol NO.
    bahahaha the bullshit corner!
    there was a ... triple? maybe? roundabout at home that i would go out of my way to avoid. i like single lane roundabouts. i drove to virginia the other weekend and came across a roundabout and straight up forgot what to do. that was embarrassing.
    i can't believe that family next to you at dinner. wow.


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