On our recent visit to Ireland, we decided to take a six-day driving tour of the central and western regions of the country. We arrived in Dublin, rented a car and immediately set out for our first stop of the trip.
An easy 90 min drive outside of Dublin puts you right in the heart of Kilkenny. It’s a lively Irish town that has embraced its medieval roots and in doing so has managed to retain a great deal of its charm. With a population of roughly 9,ooo Kilkenny has everything you could be looking for. The city center consists of a triangle created by High Street, St. Kieran’s Street and Patrick Street (R887). There you will find Kilkenny Castle with its expansive grounds and a blur of color that makes up a variety of restaurants, pubs, and shops. For all you beer lovers Kilkenny is also home to Smithwick’s, my all time favorite Irish beer, and they recently started giving tours of the facility.
Kilkenny was home to some of my distant relatives, and that played a significant role in its addition to our road trip list if you would like to read more about that head here. O’Malley’s Bed & Breakfast served as our base camp for our time in Kilkenny; they were over the top helpful with every question we had and beyond friendly hosts. We would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to stay in Kilkenny. Kyteler’s Inn received the honor of being our favorite restaurant in Kilkenny. Made famous by its original owner Dame Alice Kyteler whom was born in Kilkenny in the year 1263 and later accused of witchcraft in 1324, she was forced to flee to England and leave her inn behind. Today it is known for its nightly live music ranging from traditional to modern, and its great tasting food. When you go, take a minute to explore the multi-level establishment and then grab a pint and join in on the singing in their marvelous courtyard.
Rock of Cashel
A quick hour outside of Kilkenny to the west puts you in the town of Cashel, home to the famous Rock of Cashel. Also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock it is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century. A tour of the rock will fill you with great stories, legends and a good sense of the history of the area. The round tower still stands high in its original 12th century home, and the surrounding chapel and cathedral are in pretty good shape with many thanks to the Office of Public Works for its restorative efforts. Before leaving the rock look in the fields to the west and you can see the remains of Hore Abbey, which is worth a stop over before leaving the area.
Cliffs of Moher
Another 2 hours to the northwest puts you at the much-famed Cliffs of Moher. The sheer cliffs rise dramatically up from the Atlantic Ocean between 400-700 feet. Originally named after an old fort called Moher that once stood at Hag’s Head on the cliffs southern most point that has since been demolished. The park is superbly designed with almost no man-made structures interfering with your views and a well-placed self-sufficient visitor center below the hilltop. The views from the cliff walls are spectacular but extreme caution should be exercised at all times. There are two sets of paths that follow along the cliffs, one behind a protective wall and another that is to be used at your own risk. We cannot stress enough how important it is if you choose to walk on the other side of the protective barrier to maintain complete vigilance. There is nothing to stop you should you take a misstep; in the few hours that we were there we almost witnessed the horrific sight of a young lady falling off. Please be safe while enjoying this wonder.
Ninety minutes up the coast puts right in Ireland’s cultural heart. With a population of about 75,000 and a host of festivals, celebrations and events, not to mention history Galway is a must do for any trip to Ireland. Among the stream of B&B’s on College Road, the Ardawn stands alone. Welcome doesn’t even begin to describe the way Mike and Breda make you feel when you are a guest. Avid travelers themselves I would be surprised if there was a question they couldn’t answer. Our stay with them was one of the best we have ever had anywhere. Quay, High, and William Street create a vibrant pedestrian zone full of restaurants, shopping, music and street performers guaranteed to satisfy all of your needs. If you fancy some traditional Irish dancing and a little song to go with it, then a visit to Trad on the Prom should be added to your list. The show can feel a bit as though it is geared towards tourists, but it is one of the best ones running. Our favorite place to get some grub, have a pint and listen to live music was The Quays. A multi-level establishment with something for everyone I am sure The Quays won’t miss the mark.
Check back for Road Tripping Ireland Part 2 as we head further north for Kylemore Abbey and then make our way west towards Dublin.
The Rock of Cashel – Heritage Ireland site with hours and admission details
The Cliffs of Moher – Official site with all the necessary information
- O’Malleys B&B – Contact and Booking information
- Kyteler’s Inn – Hours, Menu, and Upcoming Shows
- Smithwick’s Experience – Tickets and Hours of Operations
- Ardawn House – Contact and Booking information
- Trad on the Prom – Official site for showtimes and tickets
- The Quays – They don’t have an official site, but the Facebook page will get you there
5 out of 5 Travelationship High Fives – You can’t beat the open road especially when there is a Smithwick’s waiting for you at the end of the day.
Type of traveler rating – adventure, romance, relaxation, partier, historical, bucket lister