A year ago today, we finally made it to Ireland and spent ten amazing days wandering through multiple cities. The first few days were spent in Dublin, and the rest of the time we hopped around through Cork and Kerry counties. We abided by one of the most important rules of travel: never pass a bar that has your name on it. Marrying a McCarthy made that rule the most fun in Ireland. With my two Timothy McCarthys and my best friend Devon (who joined us all the way from Atlanta), we had the best time pub hopping and crossing a new country off my list. Of all of our trips in Europe, our roadtrip through Ireland was one of our favorites!
Days 1 – 3: Dublin
A few days in Dublin is all you really need, but it is definitely a city to see. It’s different from other big cities that we’ve visited, but I can’t really put my finger on why. It has that classic, old Dublin charm mixed with the tech/finance/young professional business hub of Silicon Docks. There are classic Irish pubs mixed with newer diverse restaurants. We had fun walking around on Friday afternoon and seeing the city come to life as work weeks ended and Dublin’s happy hour began.
A few must do’s: The Guinness Storehouse, of course, which is cooler than your typical museum and the Gravity Bar at the top has stunning views of the city and some of the best Guinness you’ll ever taste. Stag’s Head is probably my favorite pub in Dublin, where you’ll also get some of the best pints of Guinness and undoubtedly make a new friend. Wander through the Temple Bar area. Stop into the St. Patrick’s Cathedral – which is over 800 years old and is the largest church in the country. There is even an interactive area for kids.
Food recommendations: Metro Cafe for their phenomenal Irish breakfast sandwich. Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland, for some traditional pub fare. Cafe en Siene for cool vibes, Instagram-worthy interior, and really delicious [European but not Irish] food.
Where We Stayed: This Airbnb – decent price, good location, easy to walk everywhere
Day 4: Cork
After a few days wandering around Dublin, we took an easy train ride from Dublin to Cork. Our first stop: the English Market for some delicious sandwiches and freshly shucked oysters. You already know I’m a sucker for food markets. Next up, we went to the Franciscan Well brewery for a tour and a tasting. We actually ended up staying for more beers and the authentic wood fired pizza by Pompeii Pizza. They have an awesome outdoor area. Finally, we wandered around Cork a little bit more before stopping into The Thomond Bar to watch the Manchester United game. Well, Timmer went to watch the game…Mac went to nap, and Devon and I went for their amazing chicken wings. I’m not sure how we were still eating, but we ended up getting a second order of their wings, they were so good!
Food Recs: English Market for fresh seafood and an assortment of food choices, Pompeii Pizza at the Franciscan Well Brewery, Thomond Bar for amazing wings (and I guess to watch sports)
Lodging: the Maldron Hotel, Cork
Day 5: Blarney Castle, Cobh, and Skibbereen
Okay, so here is the true start of our roadtrip through Ireland. After a quick breakfast at the hotel (our first of many full Irish breakfasts – SO GOOD), we loaded up our rental car and headed to the Blarney Castle. The Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s biggest attractions, mostly thanks to the Blarney Stone, but for us it was even more special because the castle was built nearly 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains. It was the first of many McCarthy stops. The castle gardens were fun to explore with a little toddler tottling around, and there was so much to see.
After a few hours there, we drove to Cobh. Cobh is a cute harbor town lined with brightly colored buildings and homes, and was the last port of call for the Titanic. It was also the departure point for millions of Irish who emigrated to North America. A charming colorful town, rich with history, Cobh was one of our favorite stops on the trip!
Finally, we drove to Skibbereen, another cute charming town in West Cork. By the time we arrived, the shops were already closed, but we passed by so many cute boutiques. We stopped at our hotel bar for a quick happy hour drink before heading to dinner. Church Restaurant in Skibbereen is a must! Originally a Methodist church, it retains the character of a church, but serves up some of the most delicious food. Using locally sourced ingredients, the menu includes upscale Irish fare and also Thai food. The Pad Thai was some of the best we’ve had in awhile!
Lodging: West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen
Food recs: Church Restaurant, Skibbereen
Day 6: Gougane Barra, MacCarthy’s Bar, Kenmare
We began our day with another delicious full Irish breakfast at our hotel, and then drove to the Gougane Barra for a morning hike. It was such a beautiful hike with the mossy forest and the lake and the chapel in the background. It felt like a fairytale – I thought trolls or hobbits or fairies would pop out at any moment.
After the hike we made our way to Castletown-Bearhaven to go to the iconic MacCarthy’s Bar (it’s on the cover of McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy). The food, the drinks, the camaraderie was everything we could have dreamed of. We had the fresh crab sandwich + seafood chowder and Guinness of course, while Herbie the pug kept Mac very happy.
After lunch, we drove to Kenmare, and walked around a little bit before finding live music at P.F. McCarthy’s. Yes, two MacCarthy/McCarthy’s bars in one day! The first one was a classic Irish pub and the latter was a more updated, trendy bar. We stayed for dinner, and then called it a night and settled into our B&B.
Lodging: O Donnabhain’s in Kenmare
Food Recs: MacCarthy’s Bar of course! And P.F. McCarthy’s.
Day 7: Cromwell’s Bridge, Molly Gallivans, Sneem, Ballinskeligs, Portmagee
Our B&B above the pub in Kenmare had its own breakfast room, with a cold buffet, delicious coffee, and a hot menu. We had some Irish breakfasts and scones, before doing some shopping in the cute boutiques. Then we walked to the end of “downtown” Kenmare to Cromwell’s Bridge. You’ll see the bridge from the water, but keep walking around to the left and you’ll be able to actually walk right up to it. It’s a peaceful serene grassy area, perfect for a picnic or a morning meditation. On our way out of town, we stopped by Maison Gourmet for some delicious pastries and coffee.
Fifteen minutes outside of Kenmare is Molly Gallivans, a 200 year old cottage and traditional farm. We explored the old cottage, bottle-fed baby lambs, and shopped at the Irish craft store. It was a fun stop, and it was a great way to let Mac get out some energy.
Next we drove to Sneem, a cute village with bright buildings and tons of restaurants. We ate at the Village Kitchen, which had great views of the water, and really delicious ciabatta sandwiches.
After lunch, we drove over to the Ballinskeligs, a long beautiful beach. It was super windy, so we didn’t stay long, but we made sure to admire the McCarthy’s Castle in the background. This tower house was built in the 16th century to defend the bay from pirates.
Finally, we drove to Portmagee, our destination for the night. We stayed in a super cute B&B overlooking the Iveragh Peninsula. Our rooms were huge with waterside views, and once we arrived, we grabbed a few drinks at the bar below. For dinner, we split one of the most amazing seafood platters that I’ve ever had and would 100% recommend to any seafood lover passing by.
Lodging: The Moorings in Portmagee
Food Recs: Maison Gourmet, Kenmare; Village Kitchen, Sneem; Fisherman’s Bar & Skellig Restaurant, Portmagee
Day 8: Cliffs of Kerry, Tralee, Ballyseede Castle
I am always happy when I wake up to the sight of water, and it was no exception in our sea facing room at the Moorings in Portmagee. We made our way down to the Moorings Restaurant for breakfast, where we had – you guessed it – full Irish breakfasts. There is nothing better than a menu for hot foods, and a buffet of yogurt, fruit, and bread as well. Their scones were so delicious and honestly so was their coffee.
With full hearts and full stomachs, we checked out and made our way to the Cliffs of Kerry. Mac was not interested in being in the carrier but it was way too windy to let him try to walk. After a 5 minute freak out, the bebe was asleep on my back, and we were able to enjoy the undeniably breathtaking view of the Cliffs. There are many viewpoints, and quite a few steep hills to walk up, but they are all so worth it. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
We made a quick stop over to Rossbeigh Strand, a cute rocky beach off the Iveragh Peninsula.
Next we drove over to Tralee, which was less charming than the other towns we visited, but is known for their International Rose Festival. Sadly we missed the festival by a month, but we ended up finding the cutest beer garden connected to a really cute/trendy bar and outdoor patio. The beer garden was part of Benners Hotel, and the outdoor patio was at Molly J’s Courtyard Bar. If you’re in Tralee, make sure to check those two places out!
I loved all of the B&Bs we stayed at so far, but I was most excited to stay in a castle. Our lodging for the night was in the Ballyseede Castle, and after setting down our bags, we had a short promenade through the gardens (Bridgerton fans, you know what I mean). Before dinner, we had a drink at the Paddy Bar and then walked down the hall to the restaurant. We had a five course meal (only 54 Euros each, but still our most expensive meal of the trip), which was delicious, made better by the gorgeous dining room we were in. Our actual rooms were in the family lodge a short walk away, so after dinner we rolled our overstuffed selves back to the room after a quick cuddle with the castle dog.
Lodging: Ballyseede Castle
Food Recs: Benners Hotel/Molly J’s Courtyard in Tralee, and the Ballyseede Castle Restaurant
Day 9: Killarney, Gap of Dunloe
We woke up to the sound of birds chirping, and walked over to the main castle for a scrumptious breakfast. Timmer had his favorite full Irish breakfast of the trip, Devon had the vegetarian one, and I had a cheese omelet. After showing Mac the horses and donkeys in the field across the castle and letting him pet the dog one more time, we headed into Killarney to explore one last city.
Killarney is cute and charming, and filled with a lot of fun pubs. We walked around, bought some books at the local bookshop, and ate the famous Dingle ice cream at Murphy’s. Murphy’s ice cream, not to be confused with Murphy’s bar where our B&B was located that night. Murphy’s has fun local flavors like Dingle Sea Salt, Irish Brown Bread, Dingle Gin & Pink Peppercorn. We were on our way to grab lunch at a beer garden, when we heard local Irish music playing in O’Donoghue Public House. We decided to pop in there for a drink, but ended up staying for lunch. The music was the perfect way to top off Devon’s time in Ireland!
After dropping Devon off at the Kerry airport, Mac was finally napping so we decided to keep driving for a bit. We drove through the Gap of Dunloe, which was honestly the prettiest drive I had ever experienced in my life. Pictures will never do it justice, so trust me and just make that drive. Next time, when we aren’t trying to let Mac nap, we will definitely end up parking the car and hiking it. It was so gorgeous, with the huge rocks and the water and the sheep and the bridges!
Lodging: Murphys of Killarney
Food recs: Murphy’s Ice Cream for some delicious unique flavors, O’Donoghue Public House for some live local Irish music, Murphy’s Bar
Day 10: Troc Waterfall, Muckross House & Abbey
We ate one last full Irish breakfast at the Murphy bar, packed up our bags and drove a few minutes out to the Troc Waterfall. It’s an easy 5 minute walk to the waterfall from the parking lot, and it’s a beautiful view. From there you can continue on on a few different loops if you are looking for a hike. We didn’t have enough time for a full hike, but we climbed up a huge set of stairs to get a view of the lake.
The Muckross House is only 10 minutes away from the Troc Waterfall, and it was a fun stop on our trip. It costs 8 Euro to go inside for a self guided tour of the old manor, but we both thought it was worth it. The house was built originally by William Burn and then gifted by a wealthy American couple to their daughter on her wedding day (come on mom and dad). I loved seeing their wine cellar and their kitchen.
The craft shop on site is also cool, because it’s where they make their Muckross pottery and Muckross wool items. Their gardens are beautiful and free to explore. The Muckross Abbey is also a quick 15 minute walk away and is stunning to see.
Sadly it was time for our last meal in Ireland, so we found Kayne’s which was on the way to the airport, and it was way better than we were expecting. I ordered their lamb flatbread which was heavenly and an amazing way to have lamb, Mac had their pasta carbonara and almost ate the whole thing (I say almost because mom & dad had some too), and Timmer had their fish & chips, which was also equally as delicious.
Roadtrip Through Ireland
Our ten day roadtrip through Ireland was absolutely magical. It was a few months prior to our van life trip, and it helped solidify our decision to live in a van for 30 days. Ireland would be a wonderful country to rent a van and drive through! But I’ve got to say I loved B&B hopping and I’m not sure any other country does B&Bs as well as Ireland. No country can top the Irish breakfasts, that’s for sure! I truly hope you are able to explore the beautiful country of Ireland one day, and I hope you’re able to stay at some beautiful B&Bs, eat all the Irish breakfasts you can handle, and visit an old castle as well. It’s been a full year since our trip, but we already can’t wait for the next one – this time with another little McCarthy in tow.
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